This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Mark Harris, the principal and owner of Armidale Home Loans, a long-established business that has recently headquartered in Armidale. Mark specialises in home and investment home loans.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Brisbane and lived there for the first 52 years of my life. I met my wife, Donna, in high school and we have now been married for 34 years. While we don’t have kids, we are on dogs number 5 and 6, all of which have been much-loved fox terriers. We stuck to fox terriers as we thought we’d managed to get a handle on the first one. We are big caravanning fans and love travelling Australia in our van, parking on creeks and watching the world go by. So much so, we stopped travelling overseas well before the COVID pandemic. After I left school, I joined the Commonwealth Bank and also completed a Bachelor of Business (Accounting).
What does Armidale Home Loans do?
We are a mortgage broker that specialises in home loans and investment home loans. As well as myself, there are eight other brokers, all of whom have been in the industry for a very long time. We have access to more than 40 lenders, which allows clients to get the solutions that are right for them, not just a cookie-cutter result.
I’ve been a mortgage broker since 2000, and after selling my business in Brisbane I moved to Armidale and started up as Armidale Home Loans 3 years ago.
What led you to Armidale?
We had decided we didn’t need to live in Brisbane anymore after selling that business. When looking at moving we had a lot of ‘wants’, the main one being that we wanted to go somewhere that had seasons. We also wanted to live somewhere that didn’t have lots of traffic or heat or pollution. Our new home had to be accessible and offer a fairly high level of amenities such as health care. And great coffee shops – and lots of them – was a deal-breaker for us. In fact, while researching life in Armidale, we made sure we went to all of them! After that, we said, ‘Yes, we can live here!’
What we’ve found is that the seasons here in Armidale are sensational. And while we have all four seasons, it is still a relatively temperate environment. The average temperature is only 27 in summer and it cools down at night.
Armidale is very much home for us now, although I must admit to still being a Brisbane Broncos fan and a Lions supporter.
What have been some of your challenges in restarting your business in Armidale?
Networking! Getting to know people, without a shadow of a doubt, has been my biggest challenge. To help address that, I recently joined BNI All Seasons, which is the local chapter of a business networking group. I sought them out as I have had staff in Brisbane be members of other chapters before, so I knew what it had to offer. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Armidale group holds hybrid meetings, both online and in person, which allows me the flexibility I need. The ability to join via Zoom has meant that when I am in Sawtell next week, I can still attend the meeting. This has allowed me to get to know a group of like-minded business owners really well and has opened doors to me more quickly. In fact, BNI has helped out of sight!
What do you like most about running your own business?
I like the freedom whereby whatever amount of effort I put in, I get results commensurate with that effort. I really like that I get to run my own race. My own race, my own hours, and that I’m not required to go to an office for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. My job is out there, meeting people at homes, coffee shops, helping them buy a home. Sometimes it is stressful but, by and large, I find my work very, very cool. I get paid to drink coffee and talk to people. There are certainly worse jobs than that. And it’s not a manual labour job, so I can do it forever.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Put together a business plan with where you are and where you want to be. Set achievable goals and reward yourself when you get to those goals.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who have a passion for what they do, whatever it is, whatever the industry. If you have a passion for what you do, you are not really working.
What is your secret for success?
I tell people when I started my business, I bit off more than I could chew, and I chewed very, very quickly. The bottom line is that it was hard work and the harder I worked, the better the results.
What’s next for Armidale Home Loans?
We are very close to the point where I will need to put on additional locally-based staff. The key is finding someone with industry experience who can deliver the service I expect from my team as a matter of course.