His story is certainly one for the books and one to look to for inspiration:
After a brief stint as a sales rep for Procter & Gamble, Doug Schukar, then in his mid-20s, found himself living in his parent’s basement as he tried to figure out what direction to take with his life. “At one point, I had $900 to my name,” he said. “My dad came downstairs one day and said, ‘Douglas, what are you going to do with the rest of your life, and how are you going to support yourself because you can’t live in our basement forever?’”
With a few friends working in the mortgage industry, Schukar decided to apply for a job as a loan officer. That decision changed his life.
After getting his first position in 1989, Schukar quickly became one of the top loan officers in the region. After spending time with a few different firms, he decided to launch his own mortgage business in 2001, when he bought the remaining assets of a dormant online mortgage firm, LoanSurfer.com, which also owned the name USA Mortgage. After purchasing the name, Schukar slowly began building the business.
Today, USA Mortgage ranks as Missouri’s #1 home lender and is among the 60 largest home lenders in the United States. The company nearly doubled its loan volume in 2020 to a record $4.8 billion. USA Mortgage now has 1,000 employees on its payroll and operates from 185 locations in 25 states and the District of Columbia. This full-service mortgage originator performs all loan processing steps – from origination through closing and funding – all in-house.
According to Schukar, the key to the company’s growth starts with Linda Pring, USA Mortgage’s current president and the person who hired Schukar to his first mortgage job back in 1989. “We’ve been a team for a long time,” Schukar said. “We’ve been a great team together. We are like brother and sister. We finish each other’s sentences. Linda Pring is one of the secrets to our success. She’s helped grow this business into one of the top firms in the industry.”
Another key to success for Schukar was bringing a sophisticated sales system to the mortgage industry. “When I was at P&G, sales was a process,” he said. “I took that process into the mortgage industry. Not many were doing that at the time. Most folks in the industry were like your stereotypical used-car salespersons. The P&G experience was a lifesaver for me because it helped me learn how to sell and build a process. I knew one thing: We would be better trained and more sophisticated than our competition.”
One of the turning points for USA Mortgage came in 2017, when Schukar decided to institute an employee stock ownership plan. The business has doubled its headcount since that decision. “Achieving the 1,000 employee-owner milestone is particularly satisfying because creating jobs as an outgrowth of delivering a superior customer experience stands as a pillar of our corporate culture,” said Schukar, who is now chairman of the company. “Over the years, high-performing, customer-facing, and backroom professionals have found us to be an attractive employer.”
Looking back over the last 20 years of growth, USA Mortgage has won many awards and honors. Schukar said he is proud of all the honors. However, one stands out more than the others.
“We’ve been named as one of the best places to work,” Schukar said. “I am most proud of that honor. That’s when you realize what you are building is working. It’s no longer about me. It’s about the 1,000 people rowing in the same direction. At the end of the day, there is a much bigger picture for these employee-owners.”
Without his incredible leadership, motivation, and strong work ethic, USA Mortgage would not be one of the MOST successful companies in St. Louis and now the COUNTRY.
Find the full article in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly magazine here.