How to Get a Mortgage as an Entrepreneur with Greg Giniel

Summary of Episode

#31: Greg Giniel  joins Annaka and Ethan to talk about his company Giniel Financial Group, a mortgage company that puts people first. Greg explains why it can be difficult to obtain a mortgage if you are a self-employed business owner, and we discuss the importance of establishing your business’s values.

Greg Giniel is the founder of Giniel Financial Group, a real estate startup focused on simplifying the process of getting a mortgage for entrepreneurs. Having worked in the industry for quite some time, Greg decided he wanted to create his own mortgage business with a people-oriented approach to mortgages. While Giniel Financial Group currently operates in five states, Greg plans on expanding to be in every state by 2029. 

Read our guide to the Best Mortgage Lenders for LLC Owners!

Podcast Episode Notes

Providing a better mortgage experience [4:21]

Why is getting a mortgage hard for self-employed business owners? [8:49]

If you can, make major purchases before leaving your job and starting your business [15:02]

Prove where the money comes from, and keep your personal and business funds separate [17:43]

Plan out your future, and try not to change your business’s structure multiple times [22:12]

If you own a business, talk to a mortgage brokerage (an expert) to make sure you do things correctly [24:41]

Greg’s mobile lifestyle while operating his own business [25:13]

Greg’s 4-day work week and the importance of utilizing your teammates [31:47]

Setting boundaries — “If you are on vacation do not answer your phone” [36:38]

What does scalability look like for Giniel? [39:25]

Have a system for how to run your business, and establish your business’s core values [41:38]

Using EOS to help efficiently run your business [48:08]

Need a mortgage? Give Giniel a call [51:13]

Full Interview Transcript

Annaka: Hey everyone and welcome to Startup Savants, a podcast brought to you by TRUiC. I'm Annaka.

Ethan: And I'm Ethan.

Annaka: If you're a returning listener, welcome back and if you're new, this podcast was about the stories behind startups, the founders who run them and the problems they're solving. Today, we're joined by Greg Giniel, founder of Giniel Financial Group. 

We talked about kinda his crazy expedition into hacking his work-life balance and I learned by BHAG means.

Right, BHAG. So, any entrepreneur who's been in the game for a few years understands how hard it can be to apply for a mortgage when you’re not a W2 employee and Greg shares the goods on how you can make this happen without pulling your hair out. 

So, if you’re in the camp of founders who are interested in getting a mortgage, head over to to get a quote. We’ll pop that link in the show notes but for now, let's jump into our conversation with Greg Giniel. 

Annaka: Hey Greg, welcome to the show. How's it going today?

Greg Giniel: I'm doing well, thank you. How are you guys?

Annaka: We are living the dream.

Ethan: The dream.

Annaka: I just said the most cliche thing ever on the planet. I mean the only thing that came to mind.

Ethan: That sounds about right for this podcast.

Annaka: Alright Greg, tell us about how you started Giniel Financial Group and the problem you're solving.

Greg Giniel: Well, I would say it kind of goes back to when I started in the industry and that's why we'll follow all the way through. So I'll give it as brief and concise as possible. I started in the mortgage industry in 2003, I was doing witness only closing so I would be the person that would go to the home and notarize the closing package for other lenders, and I will never forget this. It was 2005 or 2006, and I drove out to I think Bath, Michigan, which is in the middle of nowhere and I'm in a Ford Aspire, and I'm pretty sure that the driver's seat was an option on that car and the loan officer pulls up and on Lincoln navigator, and he meets me at the door though and he goes, "How well do you describe the fees?" And I said, "Well, I see your fees on the settlement statement and they were insane." They were just really raking these people over the coals. As an independent third party, I could not say, "Hey, you guys are worked over here."

And so I went inside and I'll never forget it. I was sitting across from the loan officer and the borrower was to my right and his two beautiful daughters were playing in the back room, and his beautiful wife was standing over his shoulder, and he's rubbing his face and he is rubbing his eyes and she goes, "Honey, what's wrong?" And he goes, "I know if I sign this mortgage now, we're going to lose our house in two years and if we don't sign it, we're going to lose our house in six months." And the loan officer was sitting across from the table, just sitting back, going, "Well, what are you going to do?" And he made probably about $20,000 off these people and I was sick to my stomach, and at the time, my wife was pregnant and I left and I called the person I was working with.

And we're still friends to this day, she's wonderful and I said, "Mary, I have a baby on the way, we're building a house. I just have to stop doing this and I just was sick to my stomach." So the reason I got into the business and why I started my business was this. I knew I could treat people better and I knew I could treat them the way I would want to be treated, and so that's why I started Giniel Financial Group was to provide a better experience and we do all of our business through what our core values are. Our core values are our clients first, making things simply easy, getting better every day, family and fun. So that is why I started Giniel Financial Group.

Ethan: So here's just a very simple question. What does Giniel Financial do?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, so we are mortgage brokers. We are the truest form of mortgage brokering where we find loan applicants that want to buy a house that necessarily don't have enough money to buy a house, whether it be a self-employed person or an employee, and we help them obtain a mortgage to buy that house and we use a multitude of different lenders that specialize in different things. So not every lender is perfect for everyone and we team them up with the best lender and really try to advise them on what is the best mortgage for their situation to reach their goals.

Ethan: So is that your target audience? The folks who may have a harder time finding a loan, going to a more traditional lender or bank?

Greg Giniel: No, I wouldn't say that's our target audience although we can help those people. We are really good with people that are traditional shopping really, but we really help people that are just unsure. You can get a mortgage from a very well known mortgage company and you can push a button supposedly and do this, but at the end of the day, how do you know what is the right mortgage for yourself? So for instance, one of the very first questions everyone asks is, "Well, what are your interest rates?" The reason they ask this question is they don't know what else to ask about mortgages, right? They just know that there's an interest rate involved and they want to get a good deal so what are the interest rates? And I always ask them, "What is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish?" Because you may want to keep a lot of money in your pocket and cash is king especially when you start to go through down times.

Well, that's not going to get you the lowest interest rate, but it may give you a peace of mind elsewhere. Are you trying to pay your house off early? What are the things that you're trying to accomplish in life? Let's start from that point and then the interest rate kind of follows, and so that's what's really good is really helping people navigate and understand what they're trying to accomplish and how they can use a mortgage as a tool in order to get where they want to go. So for instance, you may want to take advantage of equity in your house, and this is huge right now. Even though the interest rates are a bit higher and people are really scared because the interest rates are high. They're not high overall historically because they're still in the fives. My first loan was 6.5%.

And if you were alive in the 80s, you're going to know that they were in the teens, talk to your parents, they're going to go, "Oh yeah, my first interest rate was 17%. It was blah." And so it was insane, but you can take that interest rate now, and I've helped people save two or $3,000 a month in payments by utilizing their mortgage and taking that additional money that they're saving per month and applying it towards a mortgage and paying their house off in 10 years as opposed to 30 years with all the credit card debt. So you can use this as a tool to get where you want to go. It's not necessarily just to buy the house and then forget it.

Ethan: That's such an important thing is to know what the goal is, and just like what you said, that kind of entry point of what's the interest rate? That doesn't include term, points, fees, credits. Just any of those things that can go on top of that and really, none of those matter in themself if you don't understand what that user's goal is. So I can really appreciate. This is not just true for mortgages, this is true for everything. So businesses out there, if you don't truly understand what your user's goal is, take a step back, take some time. Go find that and then work from that point, and that leads me to another question, which is, this is something that we actually see in the business owner, entrepreneurial space quite a bit is that getting a mortgage for business owners or just self-employed people in general is really tough. What do you see as the specific roadblocks for people when they try to get that mortgage as opposed to somebody with a traditional nine to five job?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, this is huge. It's funny, I'm going through that myself right now and I do this for a living and so this podcast probably couldn't come at a better time. As a business owner, we have a ton of expenses. Typically, if you're a business owner and you're working hand in hand with a good CPA. A CPA's job is to expense out all that money that you can in order to save you on taxes, right? So their job is okay, can we expense this out? Can we use this? Can we use that? They're trying to get your tax income down to the bare minimum because that's your job. That's why you're paying them to do that, right?

As you're getting a loan, it's our job to find usable money. So now we are at odds here where we are trying to find money we can use. The CPA is writing off money and typically, the CPA comes before the loan officer because you have to have two years of being in business in order to do this. Well, that means you have typically two tax returns. Well, if I see a tax return where there's $1 million in revenue and there's $950,000 in expenses that are written off overall, this is an extremely simplistic way of looking at this. I have $50,000 of usable income that I can work with and then I work into what is called a debt to income ratio. Well okay, that's great, but a lot of times, we're expensing out a lot of things that maybe it's just nice to be able to expense it out.

And so working with the CPA and talking to them in regard to, "Hey, can we not expense out this? Can we depreciate this? We can add back in depreciation. We can't add back in expenses." And so working with your CPA in tax planning I think is absolutely the key in order to having the process go smoothly when you're looking to buy a house. So you can't just go and say, "Oh geez, it's Tuesday. I'd like to buy a house." There's a little bit of planning involved for us entrepreneurs, but a lot of us entrepreneurs are quick start, let's go, I want to move on this now and so for me at least, I'm a very high quick start. I need very little information. I can cut through the chase and let's go, but it does require a lot of planning and so working with a mortgage professional in order to do that is key and going to the banks is probably not the best bet.

Loan officers at banks, they're paid a salary. They're going to make their money regardless if you close or not. Working with a mortgage broker, we make our money when you close. So we're going to do everything we can within our power and reason in order to help you reach that goal, but that's just one aspect of the process that can be a barrier. There's multiple mortgage products out there that could help an entrepreneur in a multitude of ways, but typically, the big one is having everything expensed through your tax returns and making sure that your tax returns are actually filed, making sure that taxes are actually paid. So these are all things… bookkeeping. So I could go on and on here, but there's a lot to that question.

But I would say making sure your books are up to date, this is huge. Especially a lot of startup companies. We just jump in and let's make revenue because that's the whole point. You jump in, you start to make revenue and we'll worry about that in a little bit. We'll worry about this in a little bit and having a good CPA, perhaps a good CFO and making sure all that is taken care of and having all your books together is 90% of the battle.

Ethan: All right. You heard it here first folks. Keep your books in order, pay your taxes.

Greg Giniel: Yeah.

Annaka: Do those things, you'll be fine.

Greg Giniel: You'll be fine, yeah.

Ethan: All right. So you mentioned two years. I mean do I need to know two years in advance before I go to buy a house? Or is there a possibility that I can look at some of these things in six months or less?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, so the whole thing with lending is anytime that you're looking to borrow money, underwriting is going to look at, is the income likely to continue? And so, if there is no two year history of this income, how are they going to get the idea that it's likely to continue? So I'm going to tell you what I did and people thought it was crazy, and I'm very crazy all the way around. If you really want to hear some just crazy stories, let's just talk about my life and you will get a bag full of cats, but I went and bought a 44' Fifth Wheel and F350 right before I quit my job.

Ethan: A bit of an investment.

Greg Giniel: Yes because I knew once I had quit my job, they were going to ask how long I was in business for, and because I was a loan officer previous, it's not as risky as it may sound because I was a loan officer previously, going into the scene just on my own, I had that track record, but when lenders look at it, they're going to go oh, you're a new business and so I made sure I had all my ducks in a row financially and made sure that all my big purchases I was going to make was done before I left my position.

Ethan: Was there a bit of the think and grow rich mindset in there, if I know that I put my feet to the fire, I will perform type of thing?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, I mean that's every day of my life. That's a lot of just visualization knowing where you want to go and knowing that if your back is to the wall that the only consistent thing I know besides my wife is I know I can rely on myself and I have full faith that that can be done, and I think most entrepreneurs feel that way, that no matter how crazy the idea that push comes to shove, I'll fight my way through it.

Ethan: All right. I have one more question on the mortgages for business owners and I'll get off my soapbox. Okay, I'm a new founder or somebody who's about to start a new company. Besides doing my taxes, keeping my books straight, is there anything else that I need to do in order to make this dream of home ownership happen?

Greg Giniel: I think that's going to be the biggest thing is having those items in order and making sure that you're planning this out with your CPA. When I started Giniel Financial Group, I made sure that I spoke with my CPA to make sure that I was going and starting, and doing the research, right? And starting to make sure that I had the right corporation set, that I understood how that was going to work. I think that's really the key is it's not that complicated. It's just the only thing you're really trying to do is prove where the money came from. If you remember before the Great Recession, there was stated income, stated assets where you didn't have to prove your income. So as long as you can prove your income, as long as you have some sort of paper trail that, "Hey, this is a track record of my income."

You're going to be okay. There's bank statement loan programs out there where you can use just bank statements instead of going to the CPA route and the IRS tax returns, but again, it's making sure that you're doing things in the right order. Not commingling funds. Not commingling your personal with your business. How can you tell what is what when a lender's looking at it? So I would make sure that corporate veil is very consistent and you have your business here and your personal here and do not mix them. Keep them as straight and separate as possible, and try not to do very confusing things. If you start to have money coming from this way and you're moving money all the way around, you start to create this just web of paper trail that you have to then explain to someone. So that's sitting there looking at this paperwork going, "What am I supposed to do with this?" So just keep it simple. Just keep it as simple as possible.

Annaka: All right, so two years. Is that from the ink on the paperwork is dry? You can't go out there and be like, "Cool, I've been running an Etsy shop for two years without any legal paperwork associated with it." I mean, it has to be legit business plan, LLC, all of that stuff, or do you just have to have the paper trail for it?

Greg Giniel: You have to have the paper trail. So if for instance, you have an Etsy shop and you're putting that on a schedule C on your personal taxes, and there's a two year history of that being on your schedule C, you can absolutely use that. They want to just see that there is some sort of history of consistent income from this business that they can reasonably rely on and reasonably predict, which is funny, but reasonably predict that income is likely to continue because the whole idea is they want to make sure that you are likely going to be able to stay in your house, right? They don't want to write loans and put families in bad situations where you are just stating your income and all of a sudden, you're in a house that's way above your head and there was no way that you were going to be able to afford it. That would put you in a bad situation.

It puts them in a bad situation and that's why some of the laws that came about in 2009 and 10 that were protecting consumers in the mortgage industry came out because of you have to make sure that the borrower can afford that payment and if they cannot prove that in writing in a file, then if for instance, you get foreclosed upon 10 years later and you can reasonably argue that you could not afford that house and your lender did not do their due diligence in a court of law, that lender would have to make you whole. Meaning they would have to repay you every dollar that you sent them.

Annaka: Wow.

Greg Giniel: And so they don't want that legal responsibility, and so that's why underwriters will make sure that if they say, "Well, I don't understand. Where did this deposit come from?" They're going to make sure it came from a legitimate source because they have to sign on that and their job is on the line every time they do that. Now, I'm not telling you I love all underwriters. I'd love to close every loan that we write and we do close almost all of them, but it's because we know how to set them up. So does that answer your question?

Annaka: Yes and I had a great lender. Great lender when I bought my house and I'm still unsure if I can afford my house.

Ethan: You can afford more than you think.

Annaka: Oh my God. So as far as business structure, does that make a difference?

Greg Giniel: It really does not. The only thing that I would say is that again, plan out the future a little bit, do yourself a favor and plan out the future a little bit and what I mean by that is try not to change the structure of your company from 2020 to 2021, and buy a house in 2022 because it starts to become a little bit difficult on how that income is actually calculated. If you're going from an S Corp to a C Corp, and you can do it, but just make life easier on yourself. I'm not saying make life easier on the lender. I'm saying make it easier on yourself, but try not to change corporate structures on a regular basis because it's going to go, "Okay, so what are they doing? They went from a schedule C, an LLC, schedule C to a sole proprietor, to a S Corp." It just becomes very confusing.

So just imagine yourself. If you are looking at paperwork. The paperwork that you turned in and you know nothing about this person's history, does it all line up? That's what they're looking at because remember, I'm going to tell you, underwriters, we are in the mortgage mecca of the United States, Southeastern Michigan, right? We have the biggest lenders across the country. They're right here and the Southeastern Michigan account book, there's not a school where you go to school and just learn underwriting. Did anyone take that in college? Yeah, I'm in underwriting 101. 

Annaka: Sounds awful actually.

Greg Giniel: It does. There's a lot of pain in this industry. So these are people that have come from different careers that may not understand taxes completely and lenders try to train them up to that point, but again, it has to make sense and underwriters are just regular people like you and I just trying to do their job. Does this make sense? Does this documentation prove that this person is making this income on a regular basis? And I think that's the easiest way to look at it.

Ethan: All right. Anything else you want to say on entrepreneurs getting mortgages?

Greg Giniel: It's not impossible. I tell people to talk to a mortgage broker. They have the most flexibility. They have the most products available and they can really help you navigate those waters, and I would talk to an expert. I'm not going to go and have brain surgery done by my family physician. I'm not going to do it. I'm going to go to an expert. Go to a brain surgeon, go to someone that literally works on mortgages 100% of the time.

Ethan: All right, let's move on a little bit. I want to ask you this because I've heard that you have a bit of a unique living situation, especially for somebody who runs and operates a mortgage company, and it might even come back to that Fifth Wheel that you talked about. Tell us about your unique living situation.

Greg Giniel: Yeah, so I'm crazy. No, my wife and I, so we full-time RV. We have four boys. One is turning 16 tomorrow, 13 year old, 11 year old, and eight year old and a dog because four boys wasn't enough and we live in a 48' Fifth Wheel and we go between Michigan. So currently I'm in South Haven, Michigan. So we live by the lake.

Annaka: Good choice.

Greg Giniel: And we go between South Haven and Tampa throughout the year, and last year, we spent a month in Arizona. So we'll go to different areas, but my wife and I both own our own businesses and yes, we sold our houses in ‘18 not because I don't believe in real estate. It was just because it was a little cumbersome dealing with rentals and two businesses and living in an RV. So yeah, it's fun.

Ethan: Yeah, just to give people a bit of context on that, 48 feet is huge and if you are driving down the road and you see a semi-truck and trailer, those trailers are 53 feet long. So there's your size comparison right there. So you are literally pulling a house in a truck the size of a house. You have two houses already. It made sense that you sold your real one.

Greg Giniel: Yes and my wife tows the other trailer that is a traveling garage.

Ethan: Oh my God.

Annaka: Toy Hauler, yes.

Greg Giniel: Yeah, it is. We are like the circus when we pull up into a campground.

Ethan: Where do you keep the boat?

Greg Giniel: That came out of left field. We have a boat slipping in South Haven.

Ethan: Oh, there is a boat, fantastic.

Greg Giniel: Yes. Oh, I thought I may have put that on there. I'm like, "No, I can't believe I put the boat on there."

Ethan: You can't have two trailers, two trucks, and no boat. I mean it just doesn't make sense.

Greg Giniel: Yeah no, the boat is currently in the slip about a mile away from me, and unfortunately, I haven't been able to use it all that much this year, but yes and it stays in Michigan. I don't want it in the salt water.

Ethan: All right. Well, we're in Michigan too so we'll give you some good excuses to use the boat next year, how about that?

Greg Giniel: Come on out, it's a good time.

Ethan: All right. So you said that you and your wife both own and run your own businesses. I mean are there any major roadblocks to doing that in what is essentially a small-ish living space with what did you say? 12 kids and six dogs?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, 34 kids and 18 dogs.

Annaka: Just getting worse.

Ethan: Kids are great. It's better.

Greg Giniel: Yeah, of course there's challenges, are you kidding me? But we figured it out. I don't want to get into too much detail because it does get kind of crazier, and yeah, so I have a very successful business. So it's very interesting, but yes, there's some challenges for sure and Florida's very nice. You end up working outside a lot throughout the winter and I'm actually working from a coworking space in South Haven currently.

Annaka: Nice. Well, it's got some nice ambiance back there.

Greg Giniel: Yeah and the owner of the coworking space is very nice, and so it's a good work environment.

Annaka: Ethan just said hashtag cancel winter.

Ethan: There you go.

Annaka: You're living the dream between Michigan in the summer and Florida in the winter.

Ethan: It's the millennial way to say snowbird.

Greg Giniel: Well, I will tell you. This is one of the things. So my wife is absolutely amazing and I really owe everything to her because of her support, but we did not want to wait till retirement to do some of the things we're doing. I mean how many times have you heard Bob and Susie working until they're 65 and then they're going to start retirement and traveling, and then Bob comes down with cancer two years later and keels over. There is no time like the present. I will tell you and with your children, you can pay interest on money. You can pay interest on anything. I do not care what you do, you cannot get your children's childhood back.

Annaka: Yeah.

Greg Giniel: You just can't. So that's why we did some of the things we did.

Annaka: And when you were thinking about, dreaming about starting your business, did those wants and desires for your own life, did those play in as factors that got you to make that jump?

Greg Giniel: What really did was I just genuinely wanted to provide a better experience and help people, and I felt like the place I was at, I had moved around to a couple of different places and I was really thankful for those because I got to understand what I really liked about some of those places and what I wanted to take with me, and what I thought was horrible, did not want to take with me. And really kind pulled it all together, but it was much more that than I mean being the president and all that stuff, I don't care. It's more about my team and the people that surround me than anything else and the difference that I can make in their lives and I assure you, this is not just talk for a podcast or this is genuinely who we are and so that's what played the biggest difference.

Annaka: Yeah and to segway just only slightly awkwardly, you mentioned in your company profile that you opt for a four day work week, which to millennials is the dream, but that's not a usual situation for founders. How did you end up going for four days?

Greg Giniel: Well, it really has to do with... I mean think about any athlete, think about horse racing, think about anything that you can't do all of these things seven days a week, you cannot. I used to do all that and my health has suffered. You just burn out faster. You cannot just go 100% of the time. You need rest and one of the things that I found was, and I'm a thinker and I go a million miles an hour, and I know someone in your company that thinks a million miles an hour and you just need to have a mental break because as the business owner, as the leader, your job is to lead. If you cannot think clearly about how to handle situations, I don't know how you do it, and so typically when you get off, say do a five day work week, Friday, you're like, "Okay, the weekends here."

Saturday, you wake up and you're kind of still thinking about what happened last week and then Sunday, you're starting to think about what's ahead for the next week. So where is your mental break? There's no mental break and I've seen it. Actually, there's a coaching program that I just joined and I was in a room of 40 other highly driven, highly successful people, and their biggest complaint is I don't have enough time. They're trying to work on what are called free days. Free days are no work at all. No talk about work, no reading about work, nothing in regard to work from 12:00 AM to 12:00 PM, and they're trying to get to that point, but how I was able to do that, it was not because I just didn't do it. It was because I put a team together. I have a leadership team. I'm not the only one that runs this company anymore.

And I will tell entrepreneurs you do not have to do this alone. I mean it's the craziest thing in the world. We all think we're Superman and we can do all these things all the time, and we have 80 hours in a day. I'm sorry, you don't and you don't have to do it alone, and when I realized that and when we started to institute a structure to our business, we used a system called EOS. It really gave us a way to structure our business.

I realized I had my wife sitting here and she was highly talented at what she did, and I was not utilizing that. I had Josh at the office. He's highly talented and I was not utilizing him to his abilities, and when we put that structure together, they got to grow in what they love to do and do a lot of what I didn't like to do, and that's things they love to do, and now we're all doing the things that we really like doing. I like going out, I like inspiring. I like talking to other entrepreneurs. I like talking to loan officers. I like talking to realtors. I like to inspire people. I like to share my story with them and really help them grow what they want to do. So that's how I got to the four day work week.

Annaka: Yeah, it's like dividing the household chores between spouses. If you hate vacuuming and your wife likes vacuuming. Don't suffer through the vacuuming. I don't know, do the dishes or something in exchange for the vacuuming. You don't have to just suffer through it.

Greg Giniel: Yeah, I remember that when my wife and I first got married, we're in our apartment. I'm like, "Okay, I don't like doing this. I don't mind doing that. All right well, I don't like paying bills. Yeah, that's easy. I can do that." And so literally, you just divided your roles.

Annaka: Yeah and as far as the work week goes when you're explaining the weekend, it's like, "Oh, is that it?" Well, I have two hours and laundry does not count as a mental break. It just doesn't.

Greg Giniel: Right.

Annaka: Or you spend all of your Saturday catching up on, like I haven't wiped the countertops down in two weeks. That's not a real break, come on.

Greg Giniel: I will tell you one of the great things about living in an RV. I have not cut a lawn in five years. I mean think about this for a second. My weekends, when I just want to leave, I don't have to do anything. It is like just go.

Annaka: Go.

Greg Giniel: You just go and do whatever you want.

Annaka: I thought you were going to say that if you take the corners fast enough, the counters clean themselves off.

Ethan: That's exactly where my mind went.

Greg Giniel: Well, they could. Yeah, they will. Floor might be a little messy but.

Annaka: Yeah. I mean that's what brooms are for, right?

Ethan: Exactly.

Annaka: Get it off the counter and onto the floor, and then you can just sweep it up. So does four days apply to the whole company then?

Greg Giniel: Well, it's up to them. Most of our team are loan officers and they write their own schedule and they can absolutely do that. I tell people if you go on vacation, turn off your phone. My team will not hear from me and I will not answer the call. I do not care. If the office burns down, I will find out on September 6th. I will find out that the office is burned down and everything has been laid to waste and then I will deal with it then, and I'll have a clear mind to do that, but that's up to them.

I would love for everyone to work four days a week and if they wanted to do that, then we could structure it to do that. I have no problem with it, and when they go on vacation, we tell them, "Turn off your phone. Do not answer emails." And we bark at them for answering emails. What are you doing? You're on vacation. Be present with the people that you love. They need you. Be there. We do not need you here all the time, and so yes, if they want to do that, we would absolutely find a way for them to do that, but most people just they're just like, "It's all right."

Annaka: Well, we've had this discussion before and some people don't want to work four days a week. Some people are going to show up anyway, whether you tell them to stay home or not. The people that are working through colds or flus, or they are on vacation, but they leave their cell phone at the bottom of the email. No, I really am available and it's like, "All right, that's your personality." I'm one of those people that has no tech hours where it's like I'm not looking at a screen.

Greg Giniel: Sure. 

Annaka: It's more like 15 minutes these days. I have 14 different devices that go off at any given time, but yeah, it comes down to personality. So the flexibility is I'm sure greatly appreciated.

Greg Giniel: It's whatever works for you. I just got to tell you, back in 2008, I've been working since I was 13 and back in 2008, I worked four jobs. I literally worked four jobs to make it through. How we didn't go bankrupt, I have no idea. I literally have no idea. I just don't. I mean Southeastern Michigan writing mortgages in 2008 full time. Okay yeah, I made three bags of peanuts and four potatoes. I mean it was nothing, but yeah and so I have nothing to prove. Working 80 hours a week is not a badge of honor. It's okay. You do what you can and I see that I'm way more productive maybe at 32 hours a week. I get more done because your work will expand to the time that you allow it.

Ethan: All right, so your services are available in five states right now, is that correct?

Greg Giniel: Yes. Yep. That is correct. Michigan, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Ethan: All right. So what's next for Giniel? What does scale look like?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, so our BHAG, big, hairy, audacious goal is... I may have broke her.

Ethan: I think you killed Annaka there. She fell out of the chair.

Annaka: I was like BHAG. I was like, "Am I supposed to know what that is?" And then you said it and I was like, "Oh my God." Now y'all are going to hear this from me every single day.

Greg Giniel: I wish I could say I came up with it, but I did not, but our 10 year target is to be nationwide by 2029. So that's what that looks like and having offices and locations and other services. So we could be a one stop shop to really holistically look at the individual and make sure that they're covered all the way around if it's financial planning or insurance or what have you. Ultimately, that's the goal because at the end of the day, my passion is not mortgages. It's not. It's just what I do. My passion is to help people achieve their goals and that's the best way I figured out how to do it.

Ethan: And are you going to bootstrap that scale or do you think that you'll look for outside capital?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, I believe at this point, we'll bootstrap it. I don't see why we wouldn't. We've done everything like that from the day that we got our license to working on the back of an RV and in my driveway to where we've been over the last six years. So at this point, I don't see any other... We've gotten business loans and as far as capital's concerned, but it's not huge.

Annaka: Yeah.

Ethan: Cool.

Annaka: Cool. What is your number one piece of advice for early stage entrepreneurs?

Greg Giniel: Well, I could probably go on for two hours here. There's a lot. I would say the one thing I wish I would've done early on was having a system in how to run my business. We instituted EOS three years ago. I wish I would've done it six years ago. It has been a life changer. We have gone from putting up dumpster fires on a regular basis to focusing on growth, and it is the number one thing that has brought clarity to the company. It has brought clarity to the people in the company. Everyone knows what direction we're heading in and people are your greatest resource. I don't care, even though I know we're talking to a technology company, but there's people developing that technology and having everyone on the same page, growing in the same direction and knowing what our goals and passions are and having that set of core values that we literally filter all of our business decisions through, I think is the number one thing.

Because once you figure out who you are, know thyself. Once you figure out who you are, you will never lose your direction. You will always have your direction and so when you start to go, "Hey, why are we in?" Well, we put clients first. So if we end up losing a deal or you're putting your partner first, your client may be your partner. Your partner may be another business and if you are looking out for their best interests and yours, and those are aligned, there's nothing that will stop you because everyone will give you maximum effort to help grow that as long as they share those core values and so I would say that is the number one thing and making sure everyone knows what those core values are and if they're not the right people, they'll self select out and the right people will stay and they will help you with that passion for what you're trying to accomplish.

And you have to sell anyone on this. They will believe it as much as you believe it and you have to follow your core values. If you do something that contradicts your core values, your team will call you to the carpet and good, they should because if you start to make a decision and that'd say, "You know what? Forget that client, they're just a pita anyway. Let's just break them over the calls." Which you can't do anyway legally, but your team members are going to look at you and go, "Wait a minute, you're just full of crap." This is a gimmick and what's unique is you will have your team members start to go and say, "Hey, I would like to do this or here's an idea for this, and this is why I feel like it fits our core values."

And they'll argue based off your core values, and then as long as it doesn't violate another core value, then they go for it and it's so amazing in that freedom, it allows your team to know that there won't be any recourse. Even if you screw up, it allows them that freedom to fail, but it allows them that freedom to grow, and in as long as you are heading in that direction and in those core values of for us, clients first, simply easy, getting better every day, family and fun. If any of those, our guys say, "This is why I did it and here's why." Okay, I would've done the same thing, and when you have a company full of people that are making decisions that are making the same type of decisions that you would make, you don't need to be everywhere all the time.

You can go out and grow your business and know that when you come back, everything's going to be fine. I had COVID for a month. I was out, I was really sick. I was very sick. I couldn't wait to get back. So I rushed back and I go, "Hey Josh, what's going on? Tell me what's going on." He goes, "Nothing." I go, "All right no, for real, tell me what's going on." He goes, "Nothing man." I go, "What do you mean nothing?" He goes, "Well, I mean we're closing loans." Okay, so is there any issues? He goes, "No." So wait a minute, I was gone literally and I turned off my phone for a month. I was so sick. I was a step away from the hospital, sick and there's nothing? "No, we have a business." I can step away from this company for a month. Now I stepped away against my will, but they ran that and I had no issues whatsoever. It's because of those core values and everyone being in alignment with those core values.

Annaka: Yeah, everyone understands kind of what the next step is. No matter who's in charge of it.

Greg Giniel: And even if they don't know, even if they're unsure, they can filter that decision making through those core values. So even if it's wrong, they go, "You know what? Here's the reason I did it." And what am I going to say? Well no, I wouldn't have done it. You know, you'd make a coach. Okay. Well, that's an interesting way of seeing it, but I'm going to tell you, I can't think of one time I've ever looked at my team and go, "What are you doing?" Because everyone is on the same page and that's a powerful thing, and when you get a group of people that are on the same page, they're all rowing in the same direction. I don't care if you're building widgets, building rockets, or selling life insurance, baby, watch out. You're going to catch fire.

Annaka: Yeah, that's really good advice. Okay, so you've mentioned EOS a couple times. What is your experience with EOS and why have they been as helpful as they have for you?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, I could go on and on about EOS. My wife goes, “you should sell EOS” and I think it's powerful that I don't because I'm very passionate about it. It literally gives you the framework to run your business, and it's an operating system for your business, but it's not a piece of software. It's a way that you identify who you are, the core values and then you track certain things, data, people, process, gaining traction and IDSing, which is identify, discuss, and solve issues and we have something that is called level 10 meetings. And at the end of the 90 minutes, we start on time, we end on time and at the end of the 90 minutes, everyone rates the meeting and if it's at eight or lower, we have to go, "Why did we rate that at eight or lower?"

And sometimes it is, and you go, "Well guys, we were on a lot of squirrels. We were on a lot of tangents, man. We started on this issue here and we squirreled off to this issue." No, you talk about a topic, whatever it may be. It might be loans. How many leads are coming in or how do you structure leads flowing into a system, right? And you don't get off that topic until you solve it, all right? There's some sort of action that comes out of that and then the next week, there's a to do created on that. So that might be to say, "Okay, Greg needs to talk to so and so at such and such place about this issue." So that's a to do. Well, the next week I come back and it's on my to-do list, and that level 10, all right, so Greg talked to so and so and such and such place, done or not done? Well, if it's not done, now you have to explain why it's not done.

And it may be, "Hey, I reached out to so and so three or four times, couldn't get a hold of them, I need help finding another person at this such and such, okay?” But it's a way to gain traction and systematically always be moving forward, and it is outstanding. I could not sing the praises enough about EOS and it's so simple. I mean literally, these tools are just on an eight and a half by 11 inch piece of paper, but once you master that tool and you keep to the purity of EOS, I'll tell you, it's game changing.

So I'm the president, I'm the visionary. I have an integrator, Josh. Josh, I can tell, I know my people, I can tell he's struggling with something. We have a same page meeting. Again, it's a tool that we use in EOS. After that same page meeting for two and a half hours, I spoke to his wife. I've known them for six and a half years and she goes, "Oh my God, thank you for having that meeting. He came home a different man." It's just amazing and so it's just bringing clarity and making sure everyone's on the same page and gaining traction, and that's the 80,000 foot view of EOS. I could go on for days. I know we're short on time.

Ethan: This has been great Greg. Thank you so much for coming on, sharing your insights, sharing your 112 kids and 78 dogs. This has been a lot of fun. I do have one more question for you.

Greg Giniel: Yeah.

Ethan: What is a way that our listeners can support Giniel Financial?

Greg Giniel: Yeah, absolutely. If you're looking at getting a mortgage, if you have questions about a mortgage, whatever mortgage related, finance related, give us a call. We'll absolutely help you out. Actually, one of our faults is we spend so much time on the phone with people and it's a good problem, right? It's because we have people that care. There's someone at the office and I swear, every deal he sends in, it's a marriage. It spends that much time on it, but we really care about our people. We are real people advising, and so yeah, give us a call, definitely. And one of the things I've said more times I'd like to admit is hey, I make money when I write alone, but I wouldn't do this and here's the reason why because I don't necessarily want to get your loan. I wanted to get your loan, your referral in your whole family, and we really come from that aspect. So however we can help you succeed, we're going to do that within reason.

Ethan: Awesome, thank you. We will put that in the show notes along with everything else that was mentioned today, but that is going to be it for today's episode of the Startup Savants Podcast thanks for hanging out with us.

Hey, if you like this episode, share it with someone else who you think would like it as well. That's the best way we can find more ears to live in. Wait, hold on, that sounded weird. Just share the podcast. We'll stick with that, and if you didn't like it, tell us why. Leave a comment over at We'll read it, discuss it, talk to our therapists about it and then try to make it better. All we want to do is make great podcasts for you. For tools, guides, videos, startup stories, and so much more, head over to, that's, Bye everybody.

Annaka: Bye.

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