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A Thank You Letter

It’s been a wild ride, but one Rob Garrison and Dave Lehner will remember forever.

As we close out their 25th year in business, they wanted to take a few moments to say, “thank you!” to the many people that made their journey remarkable.

To Our Employees

Rob: When we started this 25 years ago, rates were 10 percent, applications were hand-written and we wore pagers! Some of you guys were here in those early, early days. To you I say thank you for hanging in there when we had no clue what we were doing. Thank you for your loyalty, patience, and confidence that we were on to something good. For the rest of you, thank you for committing your time and talents to help drive us into the future.

Dave: I would like to thank all our current and past employees from day one until now for trusting in us and believing in our vision of this company. Without your hard work and dedication, we would not be where we are at today. There has been a crazy ride over the years, a lot of ups and downs, smiles and tears but our staff is the best and has weathered thru all of it.

To Our Business Partners

Rob: We talk often about relationships and supporting local businesses. We are so grateful for those businesses, Realtors, title companies and appraisers that have supported us over the years and have become not only partners, but friends.

Dave: Twenty-five years ago, I had no idea the relationships I would form and all of the great people that would come into my life from this business. I have so many stories and friends from all involved: realtors, appraisers, inspectors, title companies, insurance people, clients, employees and so many more.

To the Community

Rob: One of our Core Values is Serving Hearts. Included in that mix is always giving back to our community. We love our schools, places of worship, restaurants, and places of recreation. For everything they give us, we are proud to give back to them.

Dave: I love my community and all the people in it! I love that we give back and help guide people home in this community and the surrounding areas. This is the best area in Michigan in my view and my heart is and always will be here.

To Our Families

Rob: A Specific thank you to Jill and Rhonda for guiding us and encouraging every day. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without you. We are blessed beyond measure!

Dave: My family raised me here and taught me values, work ethic and respect to all. Without the support of my family and wife, I would not have been able to do what we have done. They covered me and supported me through the hard times and good times.

To Each Other

Rob: Dave has been the best partner I could image.  So many partnerships fail for myriad of reasons. While we rumble through things quite often, we always remember that this is about clients, partners, and employees. With this philosophy in mind, often we land at the correct decision.

Dave: I am very thankful for Rob! Twenty-five years ago, we both had a vison/goal and together we went for it! Rob, you have been a great partner and together we worked to find common goals and I am so thankful for our friendship.

There are so many people we need to thank!

From the first Realtors that trusted us when we were brand new in the business, to the underwriters who took time to stop and help us figure out the rules, to all the people we leaned on in the business, to our trusty beepers, Nextel flip phone and fax machine.

We are so honored to know all of you and will always remember the journey!

Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.

The Value of Business Partners

Relationships give meaning to our work.

“Relationships are everything in this business, over the years we have worked to grow our relationships with Realtors, title companies, insurance companies, builders, home inspectors and many other vendors,” Dave Lehner said.

We work together to help guide our clients home. It’s a joint venture.

“It’s all about client experience,” Rob Garrison added. “We want to work with the best so that our clients have the best possible experience possible. That is why we strive to work with the best appraisers, title companies and Real Estate Agents in the business.”

“We want to refer reliable, trustworthy people to our clients because we want them to have a great experience from beginning to end,” Dave said.

“Because clients remember how they FEEL about a transaction it is important that everyone involved is professional, fair, and provides great service,” Rob continued. “If everything goes great during the transaction but something gets tripped up with title or an appraisal or a home inspection it is a reflection on everyone, and the client doesn’t have that exceptional experience that we are hoping for them.”

Together, we aim to go above and beyond for our clients.

Our employees are an integral part of that. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do every day.

“We view our employees, clients, and Realtor partners as our highest priority,” Rob said. “While we always strive to provide the best possible service, it is the relationships that we build as a byproduct of that service that is most meaningful.”

We need to give special recognition to our Realtor partners as well.

“We work with so many great Realtors that go above and beyond to help the client,” Dave said. “They will work early, late and weekends to provide the service needed.”

“Realtors are an important part of who we are and the service we provide,” Rob added. “So many things in life are contentious and viewed as a zero-sum game. We believe that loan transactions can be a win, win for everyone. Realtors are so closely intertwined in the transaction that they can often dictate the tone, pace, and feel of how the transaction will go. Communication is key.  It’s important for us to be aligned with the real estate agents and keep them informed of where the financing stands.”

Our community is so special. We look forward to 25 more years of service!

Dave and Ronda

Married to Mortgages: Ronda Lehner’s Perspective

Dave Lehner has been in the mortgage business for 25 years. He started as a one-man team.

For the past 14 years, his wife, Ronda, has helped navigate every transaction. She’s the love of his life, his best friend, and the glue that holds Team Lehner together.

“When I started working with Dave all of those years ago, I was very unsure about being together Dave and Ronda24/7,” Ronda said. “He talked me into giving it a try and I’m so glad he did! Don’t get me wrong, it was an adjustment for the first couple of years, but we made it work and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”

“I love what I do and to do it next to my husband and best friend is truly the best,” she said.

For those of you who know Dave, you recognize his dedication and commitment to his clients. He works seven days a week and is always available via phone or email.

“Dave always wants to make sure he has happy clients,” Ronda said. “He has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. He truly does what is best for his clients. He takes the time with them to make sure they are comfortable with the numbers and the loan process. He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met…almost to a fault!”

Dave’s work ethic has allowed him to guide more than 5,000 families home. He celebrates at every closing and calls each client to congratulate them on their new purchase. Ronda is so proud to stand beside him through it all.

“To see Dave’s growth over the last 25 years is amazing to me,” she said. “I am so proud of the company that he and Rob have built together. Dave has so many memorable accomplishments, but one I will never forget is his willingness to get involved in the ‘Homes for Heroes’ program (now called Service Rewards and #MMGivesBack).”

“When Dave was approached to be part of this program, he didn’t hesitate. It’s true to Dave’s nature to ‘give back’ so to be involved in this program that gives back to those that give so much was never a question.”

Dave always has other peoples’ best interest at heart.

Rob and Jill Garrison

Married to Mortgages: Jill Garrison’s Perspective

Rob Garrison has been in the mortgage business for 25 years. His wife, Jill, has been by his side for every transaction, milestone, achievement, and celebration.

She truly is his biggest cheerleader.

Rob and Jill Garrison“Working together is one of the best parts of my life,” Jill said. “Rob has such a zest for life, for learning and improving and inspiring others to believe in themselves and their dreams. His growth mindset coupled with his ability to be so present is a gift to me, as it is to our family and our Michigan Mortgage team and our Realtor partners.”

“I love how much he himself gets inspired and excited about working with his amazing team. We both kind of think of ourselves as the Mom and Dad to these amazing humans that we get to work with and have fun with each day.”

At Michigan Mortgage, the work is never done. Rob works nights and weekends to help his clients achieve the American Dream. His cell phone is never far from his hip – he is happy to educate and serve at all times of the day.

We believe his communication and commitment to our mission has helped him guide more than 5,000 clients home.

Rob gets excited about every single client that he and his team have the privilege to serve,” Jill said. “Underlying each mortgage, he has a deep belief that having a home is a foundation that family and security is built on. I think his knowledge and integrity along with his willingness to go to bat and dig deep for each of his clients sets him apart and is the reason he has built such a wonderful, loyal following.”

Rob and Dave have built something really special here at Michigan Mortgage. Jill is the first to recognize the accomplishment and celebrate the achievement. She is so proud of her husband!

“I am proud of Rob for many things looking back on the 25 years he and Dave have been building Michigan Mortgage,” Jill said. “Rob has such a strong desire to make Michigan Mortgage a workplace that provides an incredibly supportive and empowering environment. Maybe more importantly, he is driven to make Michigan Mortgage a place that spills over into our employee’s lives…in a way that enhances their lives at home, with their families, and in the community.”

“I am probably most proud of the team that they have built over the years,” she said. “We seriously have the most amazing humans that come to work with such exuberance, commitment, and enthusiasm for what they do. They all work so hard, are committed to excellence, positivity and serving our clients so that they have an exceptional experience. So, the culture that they have built and continues to grow and cultivate is extraordinary and extra special.”

Rob and Dave

Celebrating 25 Years of Success in the Business

When Dave Lehner and Rob Garrison teamed up to service West Michigan’s mortgage needs 25 years ago, they developed a plan to be the best in the business.

Their goal: focus on customer service to build trust with borrowers and business partners.

We dug through our archives and found the “How to Obtain Business” plan Dave created in 1994. It is safe to say they achieved their goal and so much more.

Rob and DaveHere are a few excerpts from the plan that highlight exactly who Rob and Dave are as Mortgage Lenders and Leaders.

Service: Service is the most important tool you will have. By taking care of the people that are using you, you will build a trust. Letting them know that when you say or set an appointment you will be there.

Returned Phone Calls and Pages: This goes along with service. When you are just starting out in the business, you must “Break Through.” One of the ways to break through is to call the person RIGHT BACK within 15 minutes! It doesn’t matter what it is regarding – always call back.

People Buying from People: Do not try to be a salesperson. Relax and be yourself. You do not have to always talk about work

Habit: They say it takes 90 days to make something a habit. If you keep going every day, even though at times it is very frustrating, you will notice that things will start happening. You must have faith, desire, and commitment. “Thick skin” is essential in this business. You have got to put your fears or emotions away! It takes four no’s to get one yes, so every time someone tells you “no” you’re that much closer to a “yes.”

Salesmanship: This is a tough thing to teach. You are not going to know everything in this business. Some people think they have to know everything before they can talk to a customer because they are afraid they will be embarrassed. Just get in there and get the deal, you will learn as you go. Being a good salesperson (not a liar) has to do with being sincere and truthful. Do not try to be a chameleon changing your colors to fit in, people will see right through you and will not trust you. It takes time and understanding of people. Always try to remember to put yourself in their shoes when you are talking to people and be straightforward and business will grow.

These words ring true today, 25 years after they were originally written (except for the mention of returning pages, of course). If our team can continue to focus on customer service, we will see success for many years to come.

Staff Photo

An Employee’s Perspective: Growth & Change

Throughout 2021, we are celebrating Dave and Rob’s 25th year together in business. As their longest standing staff member, I’m reflecting on how our staff and office have changed over those years.

I started with the company in 2002. Our office was downtown Muskegon in the Noble Building on W. Western Avenue, which is now home to Pigeon Hill Brewery. Now, when you’re sitting the brewery enjoying a beer, that’s where our desks used to be. It’s a cool facility now, but back then it was…not as ideal.

Staff PhotoWe had a shared bathroom with the entire first floor, and the bathroom also served as our kitchen for washing dishes. When Dave’s long time processor Tiffanie started with us in 2003, we made an office space for her in what was previously a broom closet. The walls may have been moldy, but luckily, she stuck with us.

We moved into our current location on Harvey Street back in 2004, which I believe is the only full location change we’ve had. Our sign has changed a few times though, as we moved through a few different company names. We had some growing pains finding the right fit, but as Michigan Mortgage we have seen an incredible level of success and growth and are here to stay for many years to come.

Our staff has been the most notable area of growth. Back when I started, I was one of only two staff members. At the time we also had about five Loan Officers (plus Rob and Dave). You don’t always realize how much we’ve grown until we look at group photos. Getting a photo of the entire staff went from 4….to well over 24!

Rob and Dave realized early on that growing their teams with additional support staff was a successful business model, versus attempting to add and support more loan officers. I say without a doubt that the staff we have now in 2021 is the best staff we have ever had. Our focus for each job position is laser sharp, our closing and marketing departments exists where they didn’t before, and the best part — we all genuinely enjoy each other and the work we do for our community.

We also have five staff members who have been with us for over 10 years (myself, Tiffanie, Joslyn, Ronda, and Hayley). When we talk about the growth of our staff, part of that means adding staff. But perhaps the best part is seeing the growth of the staff members themselves.

Joslyn started as a teenager, and now runs the entire office as our Operations Manager. Tiffanie and Ronda have perfected the loan process as part of Team Lehner, and their clients rave about them. And Hayley transitioned from a valued Loan Officer Assistant to an incredibly successful Loan Officer in Holland.

Opening an office in Holland was one of the biggest steps we made toward growth. Adding a location can be a risky decision: going into an unknown market, adding additional office expenses, transitioning two full time staff members to loan officers, etc.

From day one, there was no doubt Amy and Hayley were going to be successful in leading our Holland branch, and they certainly have been. They are both President’s Club members (loan officers who close at least 100 units each year) for two years running and have garnered many Best of the Best Awards in the Holland market.

It can be mind-boggling to imagine where Michigan Mortgage will be 25 years from today. I have no doubt that our trajectory will continue to upwards, and we’ll continue to serve the West Michigan community for a long time to come.

The Grimm Family

Success Story: Thom & Tiffany Grimm

When it comes time to purchase a new home or refinance your current mortgage, there are hundreds of lenders available and ready to serve you.

Talking about income, credit score and debt is challenging, and may be even more difficult if you have a personal relationship with the lender.

The Grimm FamilyThom and Tiffany Grimm had no concerns when they called Dave Lehner and his team.

“Our family has known Dave for several years,” Thom said. “We have always entrusted the entire Michigan Mortgage team as they work with us and give us the most professional work.”

Earlier this year, Thom and Tiffany capitalized on low interest rates and refinanced a home loan they closed on in 2016. Dave and his team worked on that mortgage as well.

“There are lots of financing options available in West Michigan,” Dave said. “I am very thankful for those that have trusted my team and I to guide them home.”

Anytime a friend (or a new customer) reaches out to Michigan Mortgage, we count our blessings.

“We will continue to use Michigan Mortgage in any future transactions,” Thom said. “We wouldn’t think of using any other Mortgage Company.”

At Michigan Mortgage, our goal is to provide the best possible mortgage experience in a fun and friendly environment. When we’re able to do that with long-time friends and family members, the end result is that much sweeter.

“When friends and family reach out to me, it shows that they trust in me for advice and to take care of them,” Dave said. “When they do call, I let them know upfront that our relationship or friendship comes first. That is more important than business.”

“But I do promise to take care of them,” he said.

He appreciates their friendship and their willingness to put their trust in him.

“I want everyone to have a positive experience working with Michigan Mortgage,” Dave said. “My team works hard on every file because we take pride in what we do.”

“Our experience using Michigan Mortgage has been extremely enjoyable,” Tiffany said. “Working with Dave and the staff has been simple and easy. Dave is friendly, approachable, and understanding throughout the entire process.”

“They always exceed our expectations,” she continued. “They put us at ease making the process seamless and effortless on our end.”

We are so thankful that the Grimm family trusted us to guide them home (again)!

Impact Report

Impacting Our Local Community

Rob Garrison said it best.

“2020 was quite the year. Between a global pandemic, rioting in our cities and a contentious Presidential election, we know that everyone was tired and frustrated and perhaps ready for 2020 to be over. The uncertainty that the pandemic has placed on so many families is disheartening. We are saddened by the medical, financial and personal suffering that so many have endured in 2020. In that vein, we at Michigan Mortgage have doubled our efforts to make the most impact in areas that we can control: our clients, our employees and the community.”

As we work our way through 2021, we wanted to take a moment to pause and look back on all of the good that happened last year.

Impact ReportHere are a few of our favorite highlights. If you’d like to learn more about 2020 community involvement, click here and flip through our Impact Report.

#MMGivesBack – Honoring Our Local Educators

Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we launched #MMGivesBack – Honoring Our Local Educators to give back to those that give so much to our local community. Three times in 2020, we recognized a West Michigan educator that went above and beyond in the classroom and donated $1,000 to their school.

We surprised the following teachers, delivered a gift basket and thanked them for their dedication to their students.

Rosanne Willard, Oakridge Elementary in Muskegon
Tammie Thompson, Griffin Elementary in Grand Haven
Julie Anderson, Beach Elementary in Fruitport

Each woman (and their school) was deserving of our Outstanding Teacher Award and $1,000 donation!

As part of #MMGivesBack, educators that financed their mortgage – purchase or refinance – with a Michigan Mortgage Loan Officer received $100 worth of school supplies and we donated $50 worth of school supplies to another teacher on their behalf. In total, we donated supplies to 75 classrooms in more than 20 West Michigan school districts.

Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship

In conjunction with our #MMGivesBack and Service Rewards programs, we launched the Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship in hopes of recognizing High School Seniors with dreams of pursuing a career in service.

Careers Include:

  • Military
  • Teachers & Educators
  • Government & Politics
  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • First Responders
  • Doctors & Nurses

We will award two $1,000 scholarships to West Michigan Seniors in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Dancing with the Local Stars

Our very own Dave Lehner competed in the 2020 Dancing with the Local Stars event in Muskegon. This event was pre-pandemic and one of the last times our community was able to gather for a great cause.

Dave and his team spent hours practicing their routine and gave a flawless performance. We were so happy to be in the audience cheering him on!

Standup for the Cure

This is one of our favorite local events and we were disappointed to miss a fun-filled day at the beach, but our employees stood up and participated at their own homes. Some hiked and explored outdoors while others kayaked, swam and played basketball in their backyards.

Shawn Norden, one of our fabulous Loan Officers, worked hard to raise awareness and get people involved in the 2020 fundraiser. We are always excited to support her and the local food bank and food programs in our area.

“While 2020 was challenging in many ways, it has taught us many lessons that will affect our business for years to come,” Rob said.

Thank you for taking this wild ride with us!

Rob Garrison

Who is Rob Garrison?

Rob Garrison is a husband, father, brother, son, and a Mortgage Loan Officer.

Rob GarrisonHe’s also a leader, learner and business partner. This year, he’s celebrating his 25th year in the Mortgage Industry with his partner and co-branch manager, Dave Lehner. Together, they’ve formed an unstoppable team.

In honor of their 25th year in business, we sat down with Dave to talk more about the “outgoing guy” he met back in high school.

Join us as we get to know Rob Garrison from Dave Lehner’s perspective.

Michigan Mortgage: What was your first impression of Rob?

Dave: I thought Rob was a sharp, outgoing guy. I remember hanging out with him when we were with mutual friends and we got along great even though I was from the rival school. I soon learned that Rob was very motivated and he had so many great traits.

Rob is very detailed and organized. He’s a forward thinker and I could tell right away he was a self-starter and had potential to be a great leader and owner.

MM: You’ve been in business with Rob for 25 years. How has he changed? What has stayed the same?

Dave: In the beginning, we both worked out of our homes. We were trying to build a clientele and bring in business. Rob was always there for me and we’d brainstorm to figure out ways to make the mortgage process better, faster and easier.

We learned the business without much training so we leaned on each other for support. Rob has been the best business partner I could have! He has not changed in his/our vision, his commitment and his desire to keep growing the company the right way.

MM: What makes Rob a great Loan Officer?

Dave: Rob is an honest person with a big heart! He is there for his clients to help guide them, educate them and make sure they are doing the best thing for their unique situation. When he looks at mortgage loan options with clients, he always acts as a friend looking out for them.

MM: What makes Rob a great Leader?

Dave: Rob is a reader! He loves to read and he reads a lot of business books and brings the ideas he learns to the company. We have implemented many of those ideas to make us better personally and professionally. Rob has a clear vision and is very good at expressing that vision to the staff. He leads people by empowering them in their roles at the company.

MM: I’m sure 25 years in business together has created a few good memories. Can you share your favorite?

Dave: I have so many stories and they all make me smile. When we first started having Christmas parties, we hosted them in the basement at my house. One year we played “Let’s Make a Deal” and both of our wives bought goldfish as one of the prizes behind the doors. We had a little too much to drink that night and ended up tipping over the fish. Rob and I tried to give a speech and it turned out so bad! It was a fun night and I remember it like it was yesterday.

I am so thankful that I met Rob when I was 16 years old! And I’m so thankful he is my business partner; I consider him a true friend and will for the rest of my life.

I would not be where I am today without you, Rob. I love you!

Dave Lehner

Who is Dave Lehner?

Dave Lehner is a husband, father, son, Papa and a Mortgage Loan Officer.

Dave LehnerHe’s also a leader, encourager and business partner. This year, he’s celebrating his 25th year in the Mortgage Industry with his partner and co-branch manager, Rob Garrison. Together, they’ve formed an unstoppable team.

In honor of their 25th year in business, we sat down with Rob to talk more about the “hard-working guy” he met back in high school.

Join us as we get to know Dave Lehner from Rob Garrison’s perspective.

Michigan Mortgage: What was your first impression of Dave?

Rob: I knew Dave a bit from high school. We went to rival schools and played sports against one another. I knew Dave to be fun and outgoing and engaging with people. What I did not know was that he was such a hard worker.

Dave initially worked the Grand Rapids market. He would drive to Grand Rapids every day and knock on Realtors’ doors until they gave him a deal. Before long, they LOVED him and they were knocking on his door! In short order, Dave was working with some of the top agents in the business! A few years into our partnership, Dave began working more in Muskegon. Dave seems to know everyone in Muskegon and it was natural to work where he lives and plays.

MM: You’ve been in business with Dave for 25 years. How has he changed? What has stayed the same?

Rob: In the beginning, we worked mostly independently. We hired many loan officers and tried to teach them the business and had very little support staff. As our branch grew, we decided that we should build more of a cohesive branch where we played the role of managers and developed teams of support rather than multiple loan officers. This was the best move we ever made. We were able to build Core Values, Culture and a brand that we had not been able to achieve previously.

MM: What makes Dave a great Loan Officer?

Rob:  Dave loves people. He loves helping folks buy their first home, save money in a refi or access equity. He thrives when he can meet face to face and develop long lasting relationships. Clients love working with him because they trust him.

MM: What makes Dave a great Leader?

Rob: Dave has the ability to take the perspective of the employee and anticipate how they will feel about policy changes. He fights to keep the culture fun and personal even as we grow. When things get too “corporate” Dave keeps it real.

MM: I’m sure 25 years in business together has created a few good memories. Can you share your favorite?

Rob: When the mortgage market collapsed in 2008, we transitioned from a Mortgage Broker to a Mortgage Banker. In pursuit of that we flew to Dallas to discuss working for a large company headquartered there. When we arrived, we were immediately picked up by their recruiter and headed to the bar. From there we went to another bar and then another. In Dallas you go big or go home.

Dave was there for the FULL experience. The next morning, we had six or seven meetings with different department heads. I was asking every question I could think of and by the second or third meeting, Dave glared over at me as if to say, “I am dying here, if you ask another question, I will kill you.” He then ended the meeting abruptly and ran to the nearest trash can. He blamed the sushi but it was definitely the drinks.