Values, ethics are Burnsville businesswoman’s ‘Cornerstone’
Carrie Guarrero guides mortgage company through credit crash
While many mortgage businesses disappeared during the recent mortgage collapse, Carrie Guarrero and her associates at Cornerstone Mortgage Co. in Burnsville were able to survive by doing business as they always have – adhering to the highest ethical standards.
“We’re doing what we’ve always done and it’s why we’re going strong when so many loan officers and mortgage companies have disappeared – willingly or because they can’t meet the standards to do business today,” Guarrero said.
Guarrero, who has been with Cornerstone Mortgage Co. since 2004 and currently is senior vice president, has seen the marketplace take a radically different turn. She has quickly adapted to the changing marketplace by focusing her business on what today’s economy demands: rehabilitation loans, credit-challenged situations and help with short sales and foreclosures.
She said she chose her career path when she was 11, learning from her loan officer mother.
“When other little girls were dreaming of becoming ballerinas, I wanted to do home loans,” Guarrero said.
Guarrero, who spent much of her childhood in Burnsville, has strong ties to the community. She returned to her hometown in 2007.
“Dakota County is where I grew up, and returning here for business in 2004 after nearly a decade in Scott County was a thoughtful process for me,” she said. “The central location and surrounding resources allowed for easy access for my clients throughout the Twin Cities.”
Guarrero has a lot of responsibility as a top executive in a turbulent industry, but she also has a busy home life – she and her husband have seven children.
“As a wife, mother and business owner, balance is tough,” she said.
Her advice to other women in leadership roles: “Have faith in your own unique abilities and the difference that you can make in your family, your community and your business by fully utilizing them.”
When Guarrero came on board at Cornerstone Mortgage Co., it was the first office to open in the Midwest and she had to build her business from the ground up.
Guarrero has not only grown her own clientele despite an industry bust, she also manages 26 employees in sales and operations. Other responsibilities are recruiting, training, hiring and coaching her team.
“I have built a great practice and a great team,” Guarrero said.
She plans to continue growing her business by attracting high-quality expert loan originators who share her same vision and values.
“I don’t want to be the biggest,” she said. “Quite simply, I want to be the best.”
She credits her mother for being her inspiration and teaching her the importance of hard work, education, accountability and personal responsibility.
She said her mother has been her greatest mentor for many reasons.
“She is strong, independent, tenacious and a tremendously talented businesswoman,” Guarrero said. “In business, she gave me my start and taught me how to do things right – no shortcuts to mastering my craft. More than anything else, she taught me that if I wanted to see change, I needed to get involved; sitting around and whining won’t get you anywhere – do something.”
Guarrero also believes in giving back. Her team financially supports the Dakota County CAP Agency Food Shelf, the ALS Foundation and Spare Key. These organizations her team supports help local residents with the basic needs of food, clothing and household items; offer support to patients and families while battling a disease; and provide monetary support with mortgage payments when children are critically ill and hospitalized.
She also donates her time to her church and leads a group called Financial Faithfulness. The group is held at her office in Burnsville and is open to the public.
Guarrero also maintains leadership roles in the mortgage industry.
“Each of these organizations has touched my life personally or I’ve seen the impact of their work firsthand in the lives of others,” she said. “I am truly blessed to be able to use my God-given talents to be a small part of making a positive difference in others’ lives through my involvement.”
Her long-term goal: “To be instrumental in building worth and wealth in my community and beyond,” she said. “Mortgage is so much more than a transaction people engage in a few times in their adult lives – it truly affects personal finance and growth.”
Guarrero’s advice to other women in business: “Do what you do with passion and excellence. If you’re passionate about what you do and you do it exceedingly well, the rewards are immeasurable.”
Stacey Ackerman is a freelance writer from Lakeville.