Spotlight on Karen Blakeslee, EVP Eastern Division Manager
What makes PrimeLending special? It’s our shared commitment to deliver exceptional service to every customer in every interaction. To achieve 96% customer satisfaction* and maintain 5-star review status on Zillow, each member of our team, especially our leaders, have to “walk the talk” and set a high bar.
Recently, a member of our executive team, Karen Blakeslee, EVP and Eastern Division Manager, was named a Woman of Influence by HousingWire. We’re so proud of Karen, and wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to someone who inspires us all to reach higher every day.
Karen began her career as a math teacher with a specialty in instructional design, and has never lost her passion for helping others learn and grow. Karen’s teaching experience, particularly her keen listening skills and love of learning, provided a natural foundation to build a successful career in the mortgage industry first in Raleigh, NC and then across the state and into the Southeast. Starting in a sales and marketing role, Karen became an expert by supporting experienced loan originators and working her way up through various roles until she received the opportunity to take on leadership roles, including Branch Manager, Regional Manager and her current position.
As a Division Manager, Karen is responsible for production in the Eastern-half of the United States. Karen is known for big numbers, as in thousands of closed loans and satisfied customers each year. But what really distinguishes Karen are her enormous accomplishments beyond the numbers. Last year, Karen instituted a new policy for all of her managers and branches – participate each quarter in a charitable activity in your community. In fact, this became a required component of their annual business plans. Her new “Be of Service” policy quickly began to have a positive impact as branches worked as a team to select causes to support and events to host. Some of her favorite examples are:
- Room in the Inn, Hendersonville, Tennessee
The Hendersonville Branch cooked meals, provided clothing and necessities and spent time with the guests at this community shelter for the homeless.
- Healing Paws for Warriors, Fort Walton Beach, Florida
The Emerald Coast Branch (Destin, FL) hosted an elegant event to raise money to help this local organization connect injured veterans with certified rescue dogs.
- Flood Relief in Louisiana
When record damaging storms and floods hit Baton Rouge and Western Louisiana, our local branches led efforts to rally PrimeLending employees from around the country to raise $50,000 to support employees who were impacted and non-profit organizations assisting with area clean-up and recovery.
Her “Be of Service” policy dovetails perfectly with the long standing PrimeLending core conviction to give back to the communities they serve.
Leadership with a Big Heart and Generous Spirit
Karen embodies a passion for teaching others and being of service. She tirelessly pours her energy into her team, developing their strengths, celebrating their wins, listening to their concerns and offering support and friendship when needed. The greatest testament to Karen’s leadership is the enduring impact she has had on her team.
“Karen has been an innovative, positive leader who is driven to seek out new products, marketing initiatives, coaching suggestions and ways to improve the experience for both our teammates and customers. She is powerful, intelligent, resourceful and empathetic in the workplace, yet still makes time to stay connected to her team on a personal level. Karen sets the expectation that everyone plays a vital role in the company’s success, and she provides the motivation and direction we need to keep moving the needle. And she makes all of this look easy while also being a wife, parent and surrogate mother to many of us.” – Stacey Nitkowski, PrimeLending Branch Manager, Boca Raton, Fl.
“Karen has the great ability of knowing when to say something and when to stay quiet and listen. You always hear people say you should do that in a leadership position, but Karen actually does it.
She never overreacts and keeps a cool head – her patience and poise are among her strongest attributes. Karen is honest, asks the tough questions, and ultimately gives you enough rope to hang yourself…without causing too much collateral damage. She lets us make mistakes and own them, knowing some lessons you have to learn on for yourself. It’s not about always taking the easy way, she helps us learn to take the right way.” – Carole Hendricks, PrimeLending Branch Manager, Jacksonville, Fl.
“The powerful combination of servant leadership, industry knowledge and communication skills make Karen an incredible leader. She is a tireless champion for her team, leading from the front with purpose through knowledge, conviction and action. Her greatest strength is her connection to her team, she understands their needs and works tirelessly to provide the support they need to achieve their full potential.” – Gene Lugat, EVP Government & Production Strategy, PrimeLending
“Karen’s leadership has made a profound impact on the lives of our team members and the communities in which we serve. She is constantly looking for opportunities to learn and enthusiastically seeks the next big thing, new product, innovative tool that can help her team grow and develop. Karen has influenced me, helping me to become a better leader. She is always available to listen, ‘listening to understand’ is one of her key traits, and I can always count on honest, direct feedback to take away. But most importantly she has been a mentor and role model, demonstrating that giving back and being of service are critical components to being successful. Karen works beside us in the trenches, helping us to dig deeper and pushing us to the top to fulfill our utmost potential. She is a true ambassador of our industry, role model, motivator and servant leader.” – Kelli Beckel, PrimeLending Branch Manager, Melbourne, Fl.
Takes The Success of Her Team Personally
Karen is committed to helping new team members improve their production average and hit their stride quickly at PrimeLending. She actively coaches and problem-solves for her team, and genuinely cares about each person and takes an interest in their family. For example…she sends flowers on Mother’s day to the ‘Moms’ on her team, whether they are the employee or the employee’s spouse. A great testament to her approach is the loyalty and tenure of her team. Once you’re part of Karen’s organization, you know you’ll have the support you need to grow and continue to be successful.
The perfect combination of servant leader, inspiring role model, savvy business strategist, driven motivator, tireless optimist and trusted sounding board, Karen brings out the best in her team.
Karen is just one of many great leaders at PrimeLending. We look forward to introducing you to more of the people who make PrimeLending special in the coming weeks. Learn more about the PrimeLending culture.
*Survey administered and managed by an independent third party following loan closing. 96% satisfaction rating refers to the rating our customers have given our loan officers over the previous 12 months.