Gary Oxborough Of Go2Mortgage: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
Published in
9 min readMay 10, 2022

A long time ago, someone said to me that you should “work to live, not live to work”. While this can be hard when starting a business, you need to be strict about making time for yourself. Keep hobbies going, you’ll need an escape at times. This is usually when the best ideas come to you, so it’s a win-win.

As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Oxborough.

Gary Oxborough is the Founder and Director of UK-based Go2Mortgage and Barlow Irwin Financial Services. He has a wealth of experience in the financial industry, with knowledge across multiple sectors. His goal is to make getting on the property ladder a reality for as many people as possible.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I came into the mortgage industry 18 years ago. I’d worked in various different types of finance for a few years, but not the mortgage industry. I became interested in this branch of the industry after having a mortgage consultation myself.

My wife knew I was looking for a different career path at the time. When we walked out of the room, she just turned around and said: ‘Why don’t you do that? You seem to know as much as he knows, why don’t you have a look at getting into the industry?’

I went away, did a bit of research, passed the exams and decided to pursue it as a career. I went through the route that most people do, by working for one of the big national companies. I did that for three years then decided that I wanted to go out on my own.

For quite a while I was self-employed — the typical ‘back-bedroom business’. I did that for a few years and then got to the stage where I wanted to take it further. That’s where Barlow Irvin was born.

I had a good client of mine, a legal secretary, who had asked me for a long time if she could work for me. Eventually I decided that I needed some help, so Kath joined us eight years ago and she’s still with us now as the Office Manager. People say she runs the business, and not me — she’s certainly the boss!

We just went on from there and hired more people. We now have a team of six, which consists of three mortgage advisors including myself, two administrators and an insurance specialist.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

To be honest, the first year or so of being self-employed was quite easy. I was working with a company as a self-employed advisor and they provided leads and admin support. It was just before the financial crash of 2008, so times were good. Of course, that all changed at the end of 2008, when the crash came and the mortgage market almost disappeared overnight in the UK.

The amount of business I was doing dropped by around 75% almost overnight. That was a huge learning experience because, like most people, I never thought the good times would come to an end. The firm I was working with closed, so myself and a few of the people working there decided we would just set something up together just to keep going. That lasted a year or two, then I realised that it wasn’t working out and needed to go it completely alone.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

By this time, I had fallen in love with the job and realised I was quite good at it. I had some loyal clients that kept me going. The number of mortgage advisors in the industry had reduced massively, and I knew that there would always be a need for what we do and that the market would recover eventually. The experience of what we had been through would be invaluable for the future.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going well. We now have a team of six and are looking to grow further this year. Since Barlow Irvin was formed, we have increased our business levels every year and that is always the target each year.

There have been plenty of mistakes along the way. Many times I’ve longed for the days of it just being me in the back bedroom again without any of the hassles of running a business and a team to think about. The motivation for setting up the business was never purely financial, but to create something I could look at and be proud of, which is what I remind myself of during those more difficult situations.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This isn’t a mistake, but when I was looking for a name for the business I came up with Barlow Irvin, which are the middle names of my father and father-in-law who had both passed away the year before I started the business. I then proceeded to register the domain name, and set up my email address, It wasn’t until a few months later that a client called and asked to speak to Gary Barlow that I realised the email address made it sound like a member of “Take That” was working with us!

We still occasionally receive a call asking to speak to Gary Barlow, which makes the team smile every time as I’m very different from him, which you would know if you’d ever heard me on karaoke!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I have always wanted to make Barlow Irvin a great place for people to work for and with. I really believe this then feeds down to our clients and gives them a real sense that we care about them. We are in a situation where our competitors will offer the same mortgage deals to our clients as us, so we have to differentiate ourselves purely on our service levels.

I believe we have the best admin support team possible, and they are the main point of contact with our clients during the stressful time that buying a home can be. Although finding our clients the best mortgage available is our business, taking the stress away from the process is what we have to focus on.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The first and most obvious one is to make sure you have great admin support. I have a few friends in the industry who still work solo. They spend far too much time on the seemingly endless paperwork instead of doing what they are good at, which is seeing new clients.

I really believe in letting the experts do what they are good at. I am a mortgage advisor and my admin skills are not the best, so why would I spend time doing something that someone else can do so much better? The worry about the cost of employing someone soon disappears when you realise how more efficient you can be with the right help.

The other thing I would say on this is that we have recently introduced a four day work week with no change to salaries. The team all have an extra ‘weekend day’ during the week. This gives them the opportunity to do something for themselves, maybe when their children are at school or even catch up on tasks that will free up time at the weekend.

I did a fair bit of research on this before implementing it and have to agree with the research in that we haven’t seen any reduction in productivity, and the staff certainly appreciate it. From a business point of view, this makes sense in terms of recruitment and retention of staff and they feel they work better because they are more refreshed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Like most people, there are many that have helped along the way. Obviously my wife and children have been a great support, especially when I was out seeing clients every evening in the early days.

The other person who has been, and continues to be, a great help is Kath, my Office Manager. She has been with me from the very start of Barlow Irvin. She is the client I mentioned earlier who pestered me for a job until I gave in. She knows the way I think inside out and puts up with my endless crazy ideas, putting in the effort to make them become a reality. Barlow Irvin would probably be just another back bedroom business without her input.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Not really on a large scale, but I do get an immense amount of pride seeing our clients moving into their dream home. I am now at the stage where we are starting to help the children of original clients buy their first home and it’s great to think we have been on that journey with the family in a small way.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Your business will become part of your family. Don’t expect everyone else to feel the same way. It is easy to forget that most of your staff probably won’t feel the same way about the business as you do.

2. Getting the right systems in place is vital. Take your time when deciding what works best for you. We have used a few systems over the years that, although were very good for some people, just didn’t work for us.

3. Sitting at your desk doesn’t grow your business. In our business, we make money talking to people, so get out and about. You never know who you’ll meet and where it will lead.

4. Read more. Over the last few years I’ve found massive amounts of inspiration from reading business books, especially biographies.

5. A long time ago, someone said to me that you should “work to live, not live to work”. While this can be hard when starting a business, you need to be strict about making time for yourself. Keep hobbies going, you’ll need an escape at times. This is usually when the best ideas come to you, so it’s a win-win.

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder?

Have the best people you can around you, both inside the business and outside. Great support in your business gives you the freedom to work on what you need to. Having a great support network of friends and family who are not directly involved in the business gives you an opportunity to get an outsider’s view if you need it, which can be incredibly insightful when you are struggling with something.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Working in the finance industry and being the father of two teenagers, I am amazed that there is almost no financial education taught in schools. I have long thought that giving our young people a basic understanding of personal finance should be a mandatory part of the curriculum. We should be teaching our children about bank accounts, savings, mortgages, credit and how money works. Too many youngsters get into financial difficulty because they don’t realise the consequences their spending habits can have on their future.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can contact us on the Barlow Irvin Financial Services website, or the Go2Mortgage site. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!