Mike Hardwick is a Nashville native who took an idea he was confident in and cash-flowed it to success. If you’re a Dave Ramsey listener, you have almost certainly heard of Mike’s company, Churchill Mortgage, who Dave endorses often and has since the beginning.
Mike is currently encouraging more entrepreneurship in Middle TN through the Churchill Mortgage Young Entrepreneur Contest. The Young Entrepreneur Contest will provide over $30,000 in cash and prizes to a young Middle TN entrepreneur. If you have an idea and have been looking for your chance to get some cash, office space, and a ton of great resources to launch your business, you can enter the entrepreneur content for free here.
To stay in business for over 20 years, it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and leadership. Learn how Mike used these qualities to get from launching a start-up to relaxing in Cabo.
How long have you lived in Nashville? What brought you here?
60 years. I was born here!
What did you do prior to starting Churchill Mortgage?
I was a Founder and Director of Franklin National Bank in Franklin, Tn.
How did you know at the beginning that the Churchill Mortgage concept was strong enough to pursue? How long did it take for you to feel confident you had a sustainable business?
Home sales were strong nationwide and especially here in Middle Tennessee. I had been heavily involved in the start-up of Franklin National Bank and its mortgage division and knew loan lending was a strong and vibrant business opportunity. I knew within 6-12 months that we would do well as we were profitable within that time frame.
What’s the story behind the name Churchill?
I have been a real fan of two historical political figures, Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill. Reagan Mortgage just didn’t have the same “ring” to it that “Churchill Mortgage” did!! Further, the name connoted strength and soundness to me.
Churchill Mortgage is celebrating 20 years this year, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about running a business over the past 20 years? (and/or the more important tip for new entrepreneurs?)
Getting fully involved in every aspect of the business initially so that you completely understand what it takes to make it run well. Especially understand the cost side of running a business! Further, understand that doing anything well takes time. Too often individuals try something, but don’t stay with it long enough for the idea to fully develop and come to fruition.
When you doubt yourself/business like most entrepreneurs do at some point, where do you turn for inspiration?
I have often over the years taken other successful business people to lunch, spending a couple of hours with them just asking loads of questions and picking their brain for how they did things. I like to really dig into their “thinking” to learn how they view things and how they make decisions. Learning from the mistakes of others has helped me minimize a lot of lessons I would have learned the hard way!
What is the hardest part about starting your own businesses? What would you tell someone who wants to quit their corporate job to start their own business?
Having both the financial AND the emotional “capital” to fully develop a business idea, staying with it long enough. Oftentimes we get emotionally negative too quickly and end up making bad decisions from those negative emotions. Spending the time to work “on” our business instead of just spending all of our time working “in” the business is critical to ultimate success.
Pick one: College or Experience?
Both!! Seriously, I am very thankful for having 2 undergraduate degrees as well as having worked on an MBA. While I had to discontinue my efforts towards my MBA when about 60% completed due to financial considerations, it was still a very good experience for me. If I had to make a decision between college or experience I would have to say experience, but there is a huge price to pay in learning from the many bad decisions one will almost always make when depending solely on gaining experience without the benefit of the tremendous added-value of “book” knowledge gained from college.
How do you keep your focus on one business at a time, not swaying to other new ideas or ventures that often jump in the way of entrepreneurs?
That is a very good question!! It is very easy to get distracted by so many “voices,” meaning other opportunities as there are always countless opportunities available. I have often said it is very important to keep “blinders” on at some level and just stay focused on doing your job. As I mentioned in my answer to an earlier question, most really good business ideas take so much time and effort and too many people don’t stay with an idea long enough to allow it to fully develop.
Why is Nashville a great city to do business? If you could change something about Nashville to make it a better place for entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Nashville is so diverse. It is a significant employer for Health Care, State Government, Automotive, Music Industry, Education (15+/- major colleges and universities), Banking and Insurance, Pro Sports, Tourism, etc. All these various industries/businesses drive solid employment and bring significant overall stability to our Middle Tennessee region. Further, it continually helps create a need for yet more companies and entrepreneurs to come up with increasingly more businesses and employment opportunities! In some respects it feeds on itself!! By some estimates there is now almost 2 million people living within a 60 mile radius of Nashville. If I could change one thing it would be to vastly improve our transit abilities meaning bring high-speed rail and/or other improved transit to help minimize traffic issues which are increasing almost on a daily basis.
What community groups or organizations in Nashville are important for new entrepreneurs to be involved in?
I always encourage involvement in community organizations such as Kiwanis/Lions Clubs, Chamber of Commerce and BNI groups, primarily for networking and meeting others. It provides a great structured way of meeting other business people within our community as well as forcing a certain type of discipline on oneself to regularly do this, otherwise it is very easy to “intend” to get out and meet with other business people and prospective mentors but end up not doing it much at all. Further, I have always gotten involved in industry specific groups such as the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American Bankers Association, etc.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to maintain a work/life balance?
Absolutely must really strive to keep a solid balance between work, family, personal health and community involvement. I strongly believe that you simply have to make it a high priority to stay balanced in all these areas of your life, or at some point you will burn out in one of more of these areas. Divorce, health issues, and other things almost always come up at some stage in a person’s life unless they truly make a commitment to maintaining a balance in all these areas. What good is it to have a great business but have extremely poor health or go through a terrible family issue!
What’s your favorite area in Nashville and what restaurant/shop/bar is your favorite?
I live in Brentwood and love it, but always enjoy downtown Nashville and parts of West End. I am a member of Richland Country Club so we are very involved in many things there. We enjoy so many wonderful restaurants from West End to East Nashville, from the Fleming’s on West End to the many different and diverse restaurants and bistros all over Nashville.
What’s one book, blog or magazine you are reading right now?
I am reading “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy” at the moment. I have on my desk “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” and “The 7 Laws of Highest Prosperity” which I plan on reading by year end.
What’s one thing you want people to know about you as a person aside from your business?
I love my family! I have 4 incredible children, 3 amazing grandchildren and a wonderful and beautiful wife! I enjoy golf and snow skiing, as well as travel. We just got back from a great 3 week trip to England and Ireland, and are soon traveling to Cabo for a week and Hawaii for 2 weeks!! I guess after working hard for almost 37 years now I can relax and enjoy a little more travel!!!