Overcoming Challenges for Female CEO’s
Neena Vlamis is the President and Owner of A and N Mortgage Services. She helped grow A and N from a handful of employees 19 years ago, to more than 100 now. Being a female leader in the mortgage industry has taught Neena several valuable insights, many of which came from her longtime friend and mentor, Millie Rosenbloom, Broker with Baird & Warner. “It always helps to have other female leaders in your corner simply to talk about issues and realize that no one is alone.” Neena says, “It is a matter of fact that up until 1975, a woman couldn’t even sign a lease on a car or get a credit card without a male co-signer.” And here she is, with a billion-dollar book of business and a successful mortgage company in eight states.
While growing up, Neena’s mother worked in the mortgage industry and her father was a refugee from India who taught her early on that building wealth is a gift. Her father also made it clear that it requires hard work and dedication. Describing her challenges during her journey to becoming a successful female business owner, Neena states, “During one of the many busy seasons, I was pregnant with my youngest. I was told I had to be on bedrest. I had a bed installed in the office, worked from home too, gave birth and closed more loans. You figure it out, you face a challenge head-on and always come out stronger for it.”
Different Approach to Leadership
Neena believes that leadership doesn’t stop with her and she wants to foster more leaders within A and N. A and N works with the motto, ‘With our loans, you’re not alone,’ and the company’s employees take this to heart. A and N is not a company that is looking to make deals, rather they are working to build relationships. The company has a fantastic culture and employee camaraderie where everyone is encouraged to contribute, grow, and strengthen their skill sets. Neena believes that a negative mind will not give you a positive life, so when she encounters sexism or racism, blatant or microaggressions, she moves forward.
Turning Negatives into Opportunities
COVID-19 brought the opportunity to hire several new team members who lost jobs in other industries and help get them started on a new career path. Neena says “Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and learn. Once you are up and running, pull someone else up! Grow the people around you and teach one another.” Neena encourages her team to not just make a living but aspire to make a difference. Neena realized the success of A and N afforded her an ideal chance to give back to the community by partnering with Habitat Chicago this year.
A and N’s Continued Growth
Neena aims to expand A and N’s reach by increasing the company’s state licensing and recruitment practices and will be opening a new branch in Michigan. Neena adds that the company is collaborating with other industry leaders on exciting outreach programs and 2021 promises to be A and N’s busiest yet! Neena states, “Women have come a long way and have a long way to go, and she is excited to help pave the way for future generations.”