JL Llavina

Be more patient with those around you. Have your team respect you and love you because you love and respect them.


JL Llavina was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina 60 years ago at a time when Argentina was going through major political changes. Public Education was not the best option so JL’s parents sent him to Catholic School. Jose Luis went to this school from the age of 7 until his graduation at the age of 17. At the age of 14, JL met 2 young missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He learned more about what they were and loved what they had to say, it was not long before he became a member of the Church. The Church owns several schools, including Brigham Young University or BYU, JL was able to secure a scholarship to attend BYU.

Due to the unrest in the government in Argentina, JL worked hard to save money so that he could buy a plane ticket to America. He arrived with only $200 in his pocket and knowing very little English. JL was able to attend Brigham Young University (BYU) and graduating in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science with an emphasis in Finance. Going through his University experience, JL did everything he could to make ends meet. He even started to make Beanie Babies with the BYU logo on it. He now wishes he stuck to that idea after seeing the success!

His early work was very particular. He had interviewed and was accepted to work with IBM, Northrop, and the CIA. These job opportunities would take him to live outside the U.S., which although provided amazing opportunities, he was ready to settle down in the US. With his keen entrepreneurial mind, noticed an area of opportunity within the insurance industry. Through a friend that was in the industry, JL came to learn that cars were often considered totaled when they were in fact a vehicle to could be repaired to full and safe operation. JL could not understand how these vehicles with no structural damage could be thrown away so, with the help of a Credit Union that believed in their idea, JL and his friend started to buy these vehicles and resell them to body shops. This business had locations in Salt Lake City and Orem Utah which lasted for 11 years.

During this time, one of JL’s employees worked as a loan officer for the mortgage department at a bank that JL was using. He introduced him to the mortgage business. By this time JL’s family had grown to 4 children and the traveling was making it difficult to be away from his family. JL started a new company that eventually became American Loans and has been in operation for over 25 years. At the present JL Llavina is the Operations Manager for American Loans and Mortgages for residential loans, and Private Funding for the Commercial Loans.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

The idea for American Loans and Private Funding began because I noticed that many people did not qualify for the cookie cutter loans that the banks offered. I saw the need for a client who sometimes needed a different approach to purchase or refinance their homes or business.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

We work with over 48 lenders with different guidelines, qualification criteria, and loan terms. We look to see what loan product works best for our clients as our loan officers can provide different options.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by taking into consideration the needs of our clients. If someone has excellent credit and qualifications, we will provide the best price available. We post our rates and the closing costs right on our site without the need of for client to give us any personal or confidential information. Other times, when someone doesn’t have the best qualifications, we provide them with programs that banks, or credit unions do not offer.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Let me illustrate this with an example: One of our customers heard about us on the radio. She had a home in Alpine Utah that appraised for $460,000 it was sold to her by her mother years ago and she only owed $200,000. Due to health reasons, she had been let go to her job the year before. She was able to get another job, but she struggled for 8 months to make her monthly payments. She survived on credit cards which at this point were $42,000. Her credit was not very good. The payment on her home was $1,956 a month, the payments on her credit cards $1,211.78 so her total payments were $3,167. She was making $3,800 a month and barely had enough money to buy groceries and gas. She came to talk to us on a Friday and she was talking to a Bankruptcy Attorney on Monday. She felt desperate at the realization that at this point in her life, after her kids were grown, she would have to declare Bankruptcy.
We did a private loan at a high rate of 10%, her payments dropped to $2,058/month, she could now save $1,109a month. She could not believe we could do this when the bank she had been with for over 20 years (and had put her in two of her credit cards at 17% interest) would not even consider a loan for her. Within six months we improved her credit score to the point that we could give her a NO Cost FHA Loan and lower her interest to 3.75% with a total payment of $1,457.88—all her debts were paid, she was saving $1,700 a month.
That what excites me. To make a difference in someone who had no other solution.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am very passionate about my work, so when I believe in the idea or the product, I will not stop until everyone around me sees the positive of what we have to offer. You must trust in yourself and others will start to trust you too.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be more patient with those around you. Have your team respect you and love you because you love and respect them.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I believe that we all have a purpose in this life, that we are not the product of a few rocks jumbled together, and that through time we became to be the wonderful world we are today. Just by accident. There is a reason for us, for you and me. Beyond the fun, the entertainment, and the suffering. If you do not find that reason, that purpose, your life has little meaning.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

There are very few who make a homerun like Google, or Amazon or sell a company for hundreds of millions. Just like the lottery – some people win it, most lose it. We are the losers if we keep hoping that luck will come to us. Most of us need to be consistent in what we do, improve, but consistency is the secret. Greener pastures are not always the answer, make your pasture greener.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Try not to be a Jack of All Trades and Master of None. Embrace what you are good at, improve on what you do and grow. Be great at what you do. 23 years ago, I decided to advertise on a local radio station called KSL Radio. Our advertising was different from only two other competitors. Our ad mentioned an interest rate for a 15-year loan: 5.875%. Nobody would do that because rates can change so fast. What if you advertise a rate and rates go up and you can’t do the loan for what you are advertising? We made the commitment to honor our offer, even if we lost money, but I wanted to tell people the one thing banks were not willing to provide so openly: the cost of borrowing money at their bank. We wanted to let the public know what we could offer. The result was that we had SO many calls! We have kept that same format for 23 years. Now others have copied what we do. We, in exchange, have improved in other ways.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In 07 the mortgages business was slow and then things got difficult with all the mortgage companies going out of business. I invested in building 24 homes, then the market dropped. I didn’t stay the course. I lost money as did everybody else, but I was one of the very few developers that didn’t give the properties back to the bank. We finished them, we sold them, we lost money, but we kept going. We stayed in business while other companies much larger than ours have become history.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’d love to create an app that would list all the doctors and dentists and other health care providers in my area and how much they are willing to charge for a certain procedure if I pay cash (usually they discount 30% to 50% of what they charge insurance companies). Do you know how much a knee replacement cost? No, you don’t. Nobody knows except the doctor and the insurance company. Why not? Because the insurance pays for it. But what if you decided to only have catastrophic insurance and save money in health accounts (tax deductible) and use that money when you need your knee replacement and now you have an app that you can shop (just like a car) for which doctor will give you a better deal. Also, if doctors know that other doctors’ costs will be published, we can create a little competition. And why shouldn’t we know before a procedure how much is the cost; can we get a better deal? I need a partner so we can do this!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought a penny for my wife. It was in Israel at an antique shop. It was dated at about 2,000 years ago. I couldn’t resist the thought that some regular person, that went to work every day, perhaps had a family, had minted this coin I had in my hands 2,000 years later. That I was connected to someone who had made this so long ago. It was also the theme on one of the stories in the New Testament when Jesus Christ talks about the widow’s mite, the penny she gave and was all she had, she gave of her want while the rich man gave more but gave of his excess.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I’m 60 years old I used to have a brick phone that lasted two hours. I had to catch up with the new technology. In our business, we have something called Calyx software where all our client’s information goes, and we can process the loans in a much easier way. But the one I love the most is the text on my phone, I can communicate with someone at that current moment and give or receive answers anywhere I have reception.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Bonds that make us free: Healing our relationships, coming to ourselves”. By C. Terry Warner. If we understand and apply the words in that book, our relationships at work and at home would be all we want them to be because we look at ourselves differently.

What is your favorite quote?

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Key Learnings:

  • Always understand your strengths and pursue them
  • Believe in yourself and others will too
  • Appreciate those around you and never take your team for granted