Small Business Spotlight

Notaries on call with Signature Closers

By
From the March 2014 issue of Columbus CEO

A creative approach to a summer job and teaming up with the right partner has helped Mark Fleming Jr. build a notary-support company with clients across the country.

When Mark Fleming, Jr., was in college, his father encouraged him to get his notary license.

The Miami University finance major took his dad’s advice and in 2006 started performing real estate closings through his newly-formed business, Signature Closers. Initially, his dad, who works in real estate, helped him find clients.

“It was a good way to make money as summer job, and I always had an interest in real estate,” he said.

Eventually, Fleming’s willingness to attend closings at off hours or in out-of-the-way locations and his attention to detail earned him some regular clients. Signature Closures became a regional company earning $150,000 in annual revenue.

After college, he decided to continue to operate Signature Closers as a side business while working full time as account executive at Accelerated Benefits, an employee benefits consulting company.

Fueled by dropping interest rates and a booming refinance market, the business kept growing. Signature Closures began helping title companies and lenders across the country manage their real estate closings. The company maintains a database of reliable notaries around the country that it sends to closings upon the request of a lender, title company or asset management company.

In 2011, Fleming teamed up with Chris Schapman, a business process improvement consultant who knows how to write software. They began to look at ways to automate the business and improve the process for managing and facilitating real estate closings.

Schapman created a software platform that allows Signature Closers to assign notaries to closings, quickly send and confirm receipt of closing documents and track the completed paperwork that must be returned to the original title company.

Schapman also designed software to interface with popular real estate management programs that many title companies already were using. The ability to interact made a huge difference, Fleming said.

“That shot our business through the roof,” he said.

The company’s annual revenue rose to nearly $4 million in 2013.

Having a programmer on staff who can automate and constantly improve the process has been instrumental in the company’s growth, Fleming said. Schapman not only implements Fleming’s ideas and suggestions, he can develop individualized solutions to address clients’ needs, he explained.

“It’s such an advantage to be able to move so quickly and also customize processes,” he said.

The technology coupled with the company’s openness to suggestions and customization sets it apart from others in the field, added Kevin Alexander, president of Search2Close, a title and closing company in Powell.

The company is “very receptive” to new ideas and quickly finds ways to implement them, Alexander said.

“Mark’s a very forward-thinking guy,” he said. “He’s always trying to improve his company.”

Signature Closers has an excellent system in place to vet the notaries and attorneys it hires, which dramatically impacts the level of service clients receive, said Tim Padgett, director of title production and quality control for Premium Title in Atlanta.

“He does a very good job of sending the right person to the right location for the right type of transaction,” Padgett said. “We’re only as good as the folks you’re sending out to meet our clients.” Fleming thinks the company’s sophisticated approach to real estate closings will continue to attract new customers, especially now that the mortgage industry is facing new regulations.

Some states have begun to require notaries who assist in real estate closings to undergo yearly background checks. Lenders and title companies also must have proof that the notaries they are doing business with have valid licenses and have met all of the state’s licensing requirements.

Many companies are finding it easier to hand off those details to a company like Signature Closers, which will take on the responsibility of making sure all the conditions are being met.

Signature Closers’ software keeps track of all of the notaries it works with and will not assign someone with an expired license or missing documentation to a transaction.

The software really is incredible, said Tom Wagoner, president of Accelerated Benefits and Fleming’s mentor and former boss. He has encouraged Fleming to look at other uses for it.

“Their system of matching demand with supply has universal applications,” he said.

Wagoner said he was not surprised when Fleming left Accelerated Benefits to run his company full-time. Fleming has the drive and intelligence to run a successful business, he said.

“He has tremendous follow-up skills. He’s organized and persistent,” Wagoner said. “He has a really great personality.”

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.