What started with the founding of one business, Approved Mortgage Corporation, more than 20 years ago, has branched into a multitude of privately-owned companies.
While a lot may have changed for Derrick Christy since he stepped into the entrepreneurship world, he says that he is proud to continue operating from the Center Grove area where he grew up and giving back to his Indiana community.
“We really want to have the companies continue to prosper to bring in new jobs here and expand our market share here in Indiana,” Christy says. “We have a lot more to do. We try to really give back to the community and the team members, too.”
Christy graduated from Center Grove High School, where he met his wife, Jeanene, in his sophomore year. Christy sold insurance for a year after college, which he said taught him a lot in a broad scope about financial services, insurance and investments. He started Approved Mortgage in 1994. In the beginning, they were brokering loans out. Now, they fund their own loans, which Christy says gives them a lot more flexibility to offer better rates and programs.
“I always loved financial services,” Christy says. “Dealing with people’s home, they are usually excited about it. It’s usually the largest investment they have made and it’s fun to be a part of that, helping them achieve their dream of home ownership.”
Christy purchased his first property in 1998. In 2000, he constructed a three-story, multi-tenant office building at 107 N. State Rd. 135. Greenwood.
While Christy had a goal to grow and expand the mortgage company from the beginning, what he says he didn’t expect was the compliment of the additional companies he now owns. Other businesses under Christy Ventures include Approved Credit Solutions, Distance Learning Systems Indiana, Inc., Coastal Educational Institute, Bayside Educational Institute, Dialing Innovations, Wild Buffalo Media, Jena Mae, Horizon Property Group, Ben Franklin Finance and Ben Franklin Insurance & Investments.
“I try to spend my time in vision meetings, strategy meetings and helping direct the company,” Christy says. “I manage the company in more of a committee-type atmosphere, making sure we’re executing our strategy. I can’t do it all. I have an excellent team of staff that runs the day-to-day operations. They have tons of great ideas. You try to empower your people and it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”
Christy says he has 140 employees and nonemployees between his Indiana and Florida-based businesses.
“The most important thing is surrounding yourself with people that are better than you,” Christy says. “I might have some skillsets, but having a variety of people with different skills and talents is important. We know our job is to attract the talent that compliments the rest of the leadership team. I’ve been very fortunate to have fantastic people around me.”
To improve upon the daily work atmosphere for employees, Christy says they installed a bright, cheery break room where they provide free healthy foods and beverages They recently finished construction on an outdoor conference area, complete with a solar table where they can plug in mobile devices and conduct meetings outside. They have two charging stations for electric vehicles.
“We try to do things to be more cutting-edge and more progressive than a lot of companies are today and hopefully other companies will follow suit,” Christy says.
Christy still resides in the Center Grove area with his wife. They have two children, Blake, 23, and Jena, 16. Christy Ventures is a member of the Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce. Christy has served as a member of the Johnson County Community Foundation. His company sponsors many youth activities and scholarships.
Christy says the business continues to see continued, moderate growth. The future looks bright, although he says he’s always cautiously optimistic.
“There’s a fair amount of risk,” Christy says. “We went through a difficult period, during the financial crisis. I think business is made up of cycles, just like life. Some are more challenging than others. In many ways going through that time period, with the risk we’ve had in business, it makes you a better manager. You can draw strength from that.”
Getting to know Derrick…
- I value my faith in Jesus, family, friends and business. My moral compass is guided by the bible and I do my best to apply these teachings to my daily personal and business life.
- I have been blessed to experience adventures like skiing in the majestic mountains of Beaver Creek, Colo., riding horseback along the Caribbean Ocean in Mexico, swimming with dolphins, along with swimming and boating in the volcanic caldera of the Aegean Sea in Santorini, Greece. At these times I have been in awe of the splendor of these sites, animals and experiences. I am intentional not to take these creations for granted or the ability for modern air travel to reach these destinations.
How Derrick did it?
Best advice: I resonate with Richard Branson who by his Virgin brand owns approximately 400 various companies. This is a complex labyrinth of companies but creates stability by diversity which I too have enjoyed but just not on as grand of scale as Sir Richard. There are leverages that can be obtained by applying success principles across multiple brands. I operate approximately 10 unique brands and 23 companies.
Worst advice: …to borrow or utilize highly leveraged debt to grow. There are certainly opportunities that require and warrant debt. I deem myself fairly risk averse. I try to take calculated risk with minimal downside but with substantial returns on investment. I only borrow money as a last resort now and generally fund the businesses with my own assets that allow me to make decisions that are in the best interest of the business. I pursue stabilized growth by leveraging cash flow which creates an incentivized plan for profit.
Best Business Decision: …invest time and capital resources into my own companies. We have created a unique platform with synergies within our corporate offices throughout a variety of industries. We have companies servicing B2C and B2B. I have been described as a serial entrepreneur and though I have said for years I am not interested in opening any new companies but the opportunities seem to find me and tend to be very complimentary to our existing core of companies.
Secret to success: …starts with people. I believe in a constant journey of education and enlightenment is the road to success. Personal growth and development is a fundamental process in my career and my team members.
In 5 years: It is our goal to contribute to the job creation within our community. We are working diligently to produce an extraordinary work environment to attract top talent at our organizations to assist our team members to fulfill their career objectives that align with our companies’ purposes.
This article originally appeared in Southside Business Leader, June 2015 Issue. Story and Photos by Nicole Davis.