While eating lunch with his daughter one day this past summer, Mike Meena scrolled through his text messages, shooting off notes between snatches of conversation. His daughter, who had taken a temporary job in operations at his company, asked what he was doing.
“I’m texting some agents, just saying hello, checking in on them,” Meena recalled. “That’s the easiest part of my job — just text seven or eight people every day. If you do that consistently, you contact 200 people in a month.”
There’s not a lot of down time lately for Meena, president and CEO of Augusta Financial, a mortgage bank in Santa Clarita, California. His wife told him that he hadn’t taken a day off since Father’s Day. He told her that he would take some personal time around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Until then, he had work to do.
Just text seven or eight people every day. If you do that consistently, you contact 200 people in a month.
“We’re going to keep working until we’re caught up and until we’ve got every loan closed that we need to,” Meena said. “We’re helping families right now. We are really helping people save a lot of money by helping them get refis or purchases, for that matter.”
This doggedness produces results. Meena typically lands among the nation’s top loan producers in Scotsman Guide’s annual Top Originators rankings. In 2019, Meena closed 651 loans for $286.7 million in volume and appeared in no fewer than six rankings categories. He finished No. 16 for Total Loan Volume, No. 27 for Top Purchase Volume and No. 44 for Top Refinance Volume.
Meena got into the business 30 years ago. He had been going to college at California State University, Northridge, when he left school without a degree to work full time as a liquor-store manager. He bought a home and thought the loan officer did a poor job. Then he refinanced his mortgage and felt misled. He knew a mortgage company owner and thought he could do better.
“I said, ‘Let’s try the loan thing. I think it’s Monday through Friday, 9 to 5,’” Meena said. “What it turned out to be is 24/7. It absolutely abuses my life. But it has been profitable.”
Although he believes there are many well-run professional mortgage companies today, there was a Wild West element to the industry in the 1990s. Some ownership groups weren’t trustworthy. He was hired at one company, where he was told the top producer made $250,000 a year. Meena approached the guy a week into the job.
“I’m like, ‘This is so exciting. Hey, Steve, I’m Mike. Nice to meet you. I heard you had a great year,’” Meena recalled. “The guy said, ‘Yeah, I almost made $70,000.’”
In 1995, Meena started Augusta Financial with a computer and a desk in a bedroom of his home. The company has grown to employ 125 people today. He said he tried to build the business the right way, without smoke and mirrors. There’s marketing — his company owns an ice cream truck and a limo that he makes available for real estate agents and other referral partners. But he said he believes in being honest and working hard.
“It’s [about] picking up your phone at 7 o’clock on a Friday night and picking up your phone at 7 o’clock on a Sunday night,” Meena said. “It’s doing what you say you’re going to do and doing it now, not waiting until tomorrow.”
He has maintained his origination duties even as his company has grown. He has thought about pulling back. Then the phone rings and it’s an agent he has worked with over the years, someone he has built a relationship with over time.
“Eighty percent of my life is spent in this office,” Meena said. “At some point, we’re just going to have to, you know, call it quits. I’m going to be flat like Forrest Gump and stop running.” ●