Nearly 12 years ago, Collin Grabowski’s life looked a lot different than it does now.
“In October 2010, I was a mess,” he admitted.
Rightfully so. Life had handed Collin difficult hardships back-to-back.
A few years earlier, his mother had passed away when he was just 22 years old. Then, after he purchased his parents’ house, it burned down in 2010.
“I had lost both my house and my mom,” Collin said. “I had lost appreciation for the company I was working for at the time, who didn’t support me.”
Through hardship comes struggles – but it also creates perseverance. Collin’s life story twisted and turned, leading him directly to Gateway Financial Solutions, where he now serves as Senior Vice President of Loan Servicing.
He’s happier than ever.
“I was in a bad spot, but I found a support system here,” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be without Garber.”
Luckily, he doesn’t have to find out.
Finding His Way
Collin has always appreciated hard work. After all, he witnessed his dad’s work ethic working for General Motors.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Collin used his work ethic to get a job at Delphi/Nexteer in August 2006 – just a few months after he graduated high school.
After working there for five years, he found an unexpected career path through a friend who was closing a mattress company. Collin took the store over, running the store for three years.
Then Collin crossed paths with the finance world.
“Northwestern Mutual reached out to me about my financial plan,” he said. “Through general conversation, the financial planner said, ‘Why don’t you come work for us?’ So I did.”
The experience was challenging – but it opened an important door: the door to Garber.
“I worked there for a year,” Collin said. “It’s a tough industry to be in. You need to be well-connected. I wasn’t successful, so I went to my mentor Chris Johnson and said, ‘I need to go somewhere else.’ He said, ‘I’m leaving too; I’m going to Garber.’ I said, ‘What are you doing there? I’ll check it out.’”
His world was about to change for the better.
Collin saw a door to a new career path…so he knocked. Mike Van Eck – who was working as the Senior Vice President of Collections for Gateway Financial Solutions — answered. Collin landed an interview.
After going through the interview process and waiting four months, Collin was hired to work in GFS customer service.
“When I came to the building, I was shocked at the professionalism,” he said. “I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. But I knew right away that I wanted to be here. People seemed so happy as I walked in. Very welcoming and inviting. I took a tour and saw people interact around the office…it seemed like people had a lot of fun here. The big picture vision sold me: how much growth and opportunity are offered here. The GFS culture made me go all in.”
His first impression wasn’t wrong. Collin immediately climbed the ladder.
“I was here for a week and they asked if I was bored,” he said. “I admitted I could do more. They said, ‘Well, we need a collector.’ I was in customer service for 30 days tops and got promoted to a collector role.”
Collin’s promotion wasn’t the only big thing to happen within the first few months on the job. He also had two conversations with the same person that left a life-changing mark on his career path.
“I was at Gateway for about 30 days, and I hadn’t met Dick Garber yet,” Collin said. “I’d get here at 7 a.m. every day. I’d go into the break room downstairs and make coffee for everyone. Mr. Garber one day tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You’re new here.’ And we chatted for a minute. I was shook up, like I had just met a celebrity.”
That wasn’t the last conversation he’d have with Dick Garber, our president and owner.
“Ninety days in, I passed Dick Garber in the hallway and he said, “Collin Grabowski, I hear great things.’ It made me feel so special. I knew the company cared about me. That experience with Dick Garber changed my path forever because it cemented my decision to be all in here.”
And all in he went.
Moving On Up
Since Collin got hired with Gateway seven years ago, he’s held eight different roles as he’s moved up in the company. Each role has helped him grow.
While he has grown himself, he loves seeing others grow even more.
“When I was a collection manager, I took a team of three and grew it to the largest team in 2 ½ years,” he said. “We had the #1 team for 2 ½ years. Three of those people are now leaders in the organization. I was able to guide them based on what I had learned. Watching those three kill it and be successful is something I enjoy to this day.”
Collin even moved out of state to help the company and continue his growth as a leader. In 2018, he became the Regional Vice President for Gateway Financial Solutions, which required him and his family to move to North Canton, Ohio.
“It was about the new challenge and being independent,” he said. “I stayed in a hotel for two months until my kids and fiancé moved down.”
A new state brought a new perspective.
“I learned a lot,” Collin said. “That team wrapped their arms around me and trusted me. I was blown away by how accepting they were to have me lead them without knowing a lot of information about the job.”
Collin and his family stayed in Ohio until March 2020. He helped strengthen the culture, growing this location from seven to 25 employees.
But it was time to come home. The pandemic had taken over the world. At the same time, a position had opened up back at GFS in Michigan.
“In December 2019, I became the Senior Vice President of Loan Servicing,” he said. “I was driving back between Ohio and Michigan. My family was in Ohio. We closed on our house the day Ohio started the Stay Home Stay Safe order.”
Collin returned…and he returned with a new role that he had set as a career goal back when he started at Gateway.
“I told Mike Van Eck, ‘I want your job in five years,’” Collin laughed.
And now he holds the same role that Mike had when he hired Collin.
Funny how life comes full circle.
Collin’s career really reflects how the sky’s the limit at this company.
“I just celebrated my seven-year anniversary,” he said, “and I am forever grateful to Mike Van Eck. It’s crazy how it all played out. I thought, ‘I’m joining a company where I really could find my home here’ and it’s true. It gives me goosebumps.”
Though he’s grown professionally in each role, he’s also grown as a person.
“Working here has helped me be more understanding and empathetic. I’ve appreciated every opportunity and don’t take it for granted. It has helped me be more passionate about people, professionally and personally.”
It starts and ends with how he’s treated by others.
“How we treat people and how they treat me is what I love most about Garber and GFS,” he said. “They really care and show that through trust and empowerment. I’ve never felt stupid working here. I’ve always felt my voice matters here.”
First concert? Breaking Benjamin
First car? 1985 Pontiac Firebird. It was purple. I bought it on my own for $500.
Three words to describe your personality? Driven, passionate, goofy
Favorite meal? Chicken & dumplings
Bucket list item? Skydiving in Hawaii