On this episode of Expert Insights, our host Joe Welu is joined by Melissa Wright, chief sales and marketing officer at American Pacific Mortgage (APM), a top 10 independent mortgage banker with more than 200 branches across the United States.
Melissa is a highly regarded business leader and entrepreneur, joining the APM team in 2015. As a vital executive team member, she now leads both the corporate retail channel and the marketing organization. Before joining APM, Melissa served as president and CEO of Axiom Financial, a company she co-founded and led for over 18 years.
In this episode, Melissa shares how she and the team at APM cultivate a culture that supports being comfortable in the uncomfortable, as well as discusses how embracing this framework can give businesses a competitive edge in rapidly changing markets.
Focus on Your Mindset
As an entrepreneur in the ‘90s, Melissa built her business, Axiom Financial, from the ground up through a turbulent market while learning a brand new industry. As Melissa explains, this led to days where she became so stressed that she threw up in her garbage can, but she was able to lead the company through and even find opportunities to grow in a down market.
Similar to the many banking professionals across the country who have struggled with uncertainty throughout their careers, Melissa now looks at uncertainty with a different perspective. When navigating an uncertain economy and changing market conditions, Melissa advises leaders and their teams to work on their mindset and to remember that the situation is often not as disruptive as it may feel at the time.
Growth Through Relationships and Mentorships
When looking back on how she led Axiom Financial to become a company earning more than $1 billion per year in loan volume, Melissa attributes a large part of her success to the relationships she formed along the way. For example, Melissa made a few strong connections with some business partners on the real estate side, who were then able to connect her with real estate agents, wholesale execs, and credit vendor partners that helped her learn the business from the inside-out.
And as an industry leader in a sector that remains predominantly male, Melissa certainly knows a thing or two about overcoming fear and not letting it prevent her from pursuing opportunities and projects. But while she has certainly gained confidence over the years, she acknowledges that this fear is extremely valid.
According to Melissa, “I’m not saying that fear doesn’t exist, because it absolutely does. I just don’t allow it to stop me. And each time, it gets easier. I’ve had several experiences where I was scared to death but did it anyway, and it was successful. Now I use it. I have more belief than fear.”
Similar to her experience growing Axiom Financial, Melissa knows the right relationships can help navigate challenges and overcome fear and uncertainty. And for those earlier in their career journey, it’s important to find people who will believe in your growth and want you to succeed. A formal coach can be helpful to help stay disciplined and organized, as well.
Product, People, and Profitability
Melissa recommends that leaders and sales teams looking to navigate the changing market try to focus on effective strategic planning. She and her team at APM typically find the best success planning in 90-day sprints, with everyone from the leadership team to the loan officers having a plan for the next three months.
Looking at the current contractions in the market, Melissa and the APM team are still planning for growth. At the end of 2021, they established three key strategies for organizational growth – prioritizing production, people, and profitability.
According to Melissa, growth shouldn’t just be focused on the numbers. “People are a key component of our growth. We’re looking for entrepreneurial-minded, self-starters, and people who have good solid reputations and create opportunities.”
Listen to the full Experts Insights episode for more of Melissa Wright’s insights.