Starting a Mortgage Company

Interview with LionSaves Founder Mike Sweeney

This interview with LionSaves founder Mike Sweeney offers some great entrepreneurial tips. We asked him about his mortgage company, LionSaves, including how he started it and what he's learned along the way.

If you are thinking about starting a business, you need to go for it.

That's just one piece of advice offered by LionSaves founder Mike Sweeney, whom we interviewed recently.

Mike, thanks for participating. Let's start with the basics. Where is your business located?

Our office is located in Denver, CO.

Tell me about thet business. What are you doing exactly?

We're a mortgage company with a very unique approach. LionSaves is a cutting-edge mortgage calculator that gives free, accurate quotes - anonymously. Its focus is on refinancing debt.

When did you start the business and what were you doing before this?

The site launched in September 2007.

I've owned a mortgage company for the past eight years and the new company is an evolution of that company.

This is the third company I've owned.

Where did you get the startup money?

This company is 100 percent bootstrapped. Sold my Harley, my '66 GTO and cashed in the equity on my rental properties to build it.

Is this a competitive space? Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?

We don't have any online competitors. No site does what we do and with the approach we have.

There are plenty of sites with mickey mouse mortgage calculators and plenty of sites like LendingTree and LowerMyBills who will take your name and number and sell you off as a lead, but nothing like us.

Our site gives accurate answers while the user remains anonymous.

Sounds like a great offering for consumers. So, how has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

I would say building trust with the consumer has been a big challenge in the mortgage industry lately, especially online.

Many consumers are gun shy from their previous online dealings with mortgage sites. I think you build trust by giving accurate information and treating the user with respect, it just takes time.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

One thing would be to quickly get rid of employees who cause trouble. There's no pussyfootin' around with it. If they cause trouble, boot 'em quick, watch them clean their desk out and walk 'em to the door. Otherwise, you've got poison in your well that can and will do irreparable harm to what you've worked so hard to build.

As business owners, I think we've all become frightened to fire people because of labor laws, unemployment insurance, and frivolous lawsuits from ex-employees. I've learned all of that is a lesser evil than trying to work around the problem employee. It's your company and you have the right to hire or fire anyone you want at anytime for no reason.

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

Be different and focus on a niche.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Whatever you've budgeted to build a custom website, double it. However much time you've planned to build it, double that. Well, almost. The point being it takes a lot more time and money than you'd think.

Other than that, go for it! You're better off to execute a good plan today than the perfect plan tomorrow.

I completely agree. Many folks get so mired in planning that they never actually get started with their ventures. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, and good luck in growing your business.

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Conversation Board

What's your perspective on this entrepreneur interview? We welcome all comments, questions and suggestions.

  • Jim Wiedenhoeft posted on 10/27/2009
    Jim Wiedenhoeft
    Mike should have learned that you can't make a computer do what a competent sales professional can.. It's not just about cost, people want to interact with a human.

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