In this series, I speak with entrepreneurs who have successfully scaled their business. They reveal the strategies they used to grow their company and the behind the scene stories that got them there.
1) What is your backstory? How did you become an entrepreneur?
Growing up, my parents were either self-employed or earned through commission only. So, they either had good years or bad years, depending on how they did. I took notice of this as I hit my teenage years. Good years there were lot’s of extras and bad years we got one gift for Hanukkah. I also noticed that they seemed to be more flexible with their schedule being home at times when other parents were at their jobs.
My first jump into entrepreneurship was at age 18. I was a competitive tennis player from my early teen years. A friend of mine in high school (also a tennis player) and I identified a need in the local tennis club industry for needing their tennis courts cleaned. We did the research and found several different (reasonably priced) tennis court cleaning machines.
So, we purchased two of these and half a dozen hoses. Then we were in business! Within a few weeks, we had several large tennis clubs under contract (this was in 1976). We spent weekend mornings cleaning clubs.
We didn’t see the vision for the future, so the business lasted only about eight months. Though, I did realize that I could make more money weekly, working weekend mornings I made more than most kids made working 25 hours a week while going to school. I was then hooked on being self-employed.
2) How have you been able to scale up your company from the idea stage to where you are now?
I had 27 years of background in the Real Estate and Mortgage industries (mainly self-employed, always on commission). So, getting into the Small Business Loan arena was a natural.
We planned the type of loans we wanted to offer. Then we got set up with the wholesale lenders to make it happen. From there we took care of all the legal matters and opened the doors!
From the beginning, it was just my mom and me. My mom was the expert in marketing the organization. She was on the verge of retiring but changed her mind. She wanted to be more involved in the business.
From our humble beginnings to our current business where we have 165 agents. And a small but powerful support staff that keeps everything going smoothly. Progressing from the start to today was just a matter of “Doing it.”
3) What has been your biggest challenge thus far in your entrepreneurial journey?
I think the biggest challenge for us is the state of the small business arena in this Country. Small business loans are nothing new though many new players have jumped into the field in the last ten years. When you have huge growth, there is also plenty of room for scammers as well. There can be a lot of money earned in this field, so you have a lot of individuals that flat out mislead prospective borrowers.
It is only a tiny part of the industry as a whole though it is a challenge in the sense that we do lose prospective borrowers sometimes due to the unrealistic loan quotes from other companies. We know the borrower is getting scammed though if the borrower doesn’t understand it, we lose prospective good clients.
4) Can you share your best advice with potential entrepreneurs?
Once you envision your dream (company, idea, service), act on it. Some people are great about getting their plans on paper and then implementing. Others take a long time.
I say to jump in and get going. Of course, if you are working or need funds you don’t have or (pick the reason), you could get delayed.
Though, the quicker you get organized means, the faster you can get going with your idea. There will always be bumps along the way. However, getting started faster means hitting the bumps quicker. Which will result in overcoming any bumps in the road you hit.
5) Regarding marketing your business, what have you found to be the most effective?
We have a proprietary way of marketing that we do not share though LinkedIn has been very good to us. We also have had success in dealing with any agents (real estate, mortgage, insurance, CPAs, bookkeepers, consultants….) that have clients themselves.
It only makes sense that the type of agents mentioned has some clients from time to time that needs a small business loan. This has been an excellent source of referral business as well.
6) Is there anything you would do differently from your start that?
We would not have spent some of the monies we did on courses and webinars, etc. as (in hindsight) we would have learned these things as business continued forward. As a new company, you obviously have to watch your capital and spend wisely.
7) What’s the next step in your journey? What does the future hold?
Over the last several months we have had huge demand for additional products in the Real Estate lending field. We added Business Purpose Real Estate loans into our portfolio. This means that we now offer Real Estate loans for investments (meaning nothing for owner-occupied loans).
We now offer:
- Fix & Flip 100% LTV loans for purchase and rehab
- Bridge loans for many types of commercial properties,.
- Ground Up construction
- Very competitive Fix & Flip financing both for home and 5+ Units.
The future is bright as we can adapt quickly to borrower needs. If we don’t have specific financing, we have the contacts to get the deal done. Right now, our Real Estate loans are hotter than our small business loans.
Who knows what will happen with the very hot Real Estate market? Though whatever the future holds, Centex Funding will continue to be a Leader in the field.