Pete Gabrione is co-founder and managing member of Midwest Equity Mortgage, a leading mortgage lender based in Oak Brook, IL. He has a B.S. in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and lives with his wife, Jana, and four children in Naperville, IL.
Tell me about your early career.
I started out in the mortgage industry as a loan originator in San Diego, CA. Coming from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I was totally comfortable selling and finding solutions to make the customer experience as positive and stress-free as possible. I think that background gave me a HUGE advantage because many clients I worked with have never been treated that way before. It was just in my DNA. I didn’t think of treating them any other way.
After being the top-producing loan originator for two different mortgage banks in San Diego, the idea to start this company with my high school friend really blossomed.
How did the concept for Midwest Equity Mortgage come about?
I was working for my current business partner and co-founder, Dave Hansen, in the mortgage industry. We both felt we could do it better and were eager to try it out on our own.
How was the first year in business?
The first year was 2007, the start of the “housing meltdown.” To say there were days of worry would be putting it mildly. However, we started the business with one saying in mind: “Failure is NOT an option.” We didn’t care what road blocks or challenges were placed in front of us. We were going to figure out a way to succeed.
What was your marketing strategy?
Mainly direct mail.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Not much. During the meltdown, we like to joke that we were “in the fetal position.” We were small and knew we could take care of ourselves, pay all the bills, and have a decent life if we both delivered.
How do you define success?
Being faced with a challenge or problem, being forced to come together with your co-workers to figure out a solution, working HARD to put that solution into place (the hardest part by far), and then being disciplined enough to see it through when problems arise.
What is the key to success?
Never feeling like you are “working” while doing things 99% of the population would dread.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
No matter how much you think you know, there is ALWAYS more to learn.
What are some of your favorite books?
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is my all-time favorite. His concepts were documented a century ago and still apply today.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I honestly can’t recall any specific days I would view as “the toughest.” I’ve had PLENTY when I drove home and collapsed from mental exhaustion or just the feeling of being over-burdened. I’ve always felt starting this business was a blessing for me and I’ve been lucky to be a part of it.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My family. I have a wife and four young children. I am motivated to provide an unbelievable life for them. I want to be the person in my family who changes the generational trajectory of everyone else.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. If you pick a business partner, choose someone who balances you out and excels in areas where you may struggle. If you aren’t happy with what you are doing, then it is work and you are in the wrong field.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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