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“I Am Living Proof Of The American Dream.” with Robert M. Barthelmess

As an immigrant, I consider myself an American over anything else. I think it’s difficult to find other countries where you have that feeling of inclusion. I have never felt assimilated or like a 2nd class citizen. This country inspires patriotism and offers opportunities unlike any offered anywhere else. My grandmother and mother saw opportunity […]

As an immigrant, I consider myself an American over anything else. I think it’s difficult to find other countries where you have that feeling of inclusion. I have never felt assimilated or like a 2nd class citizen. This country inspires patriotism and offers opportunities unlike any offered anywhere else. My grandmother and mother saw opportunity for our family and I believe the U.S. is still the land of opportunity. This has not changed. If you’re willing to work hard and dedicate yourself — you can achieve success without limit. The United States gives you access to whatever you put your heart to.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert M. Barthelmess. Robert is a leader in the banking industry who has worked in the banking industry for over 25 years with an expertise in corporate banking and commercial real estate finance. Over his career, he has served in numerous roles in prestigious banking institutions and reached significant milestones and goals. Over his prestigious career, he has acquired extensive experience and a proven record of developing profitable business divisions in domestic and international banking as well as commercial real estate lending. In 2017, Robert founded BGI Capital in collaboration with development expert, Kenneth A. Baboun. BGI Capital is a full service alternative commercial real estate lending firm which manages its own funds, allowing for flexible lending, same-day authorizations, and expeditious closings. A boutique firm, BGI Capital is able to provide personalized service and support clients throughout the entire process to guarantee that all their needs are met. At BGI Capital, Mr. Barthelmess oversees the lending and institutional relationship components for BGI Capital. Robert holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Florida International University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. BGI Capital is based on the principals of loyalty and personal service and the firm offers a family type service and atmosphere that is disappearing all too quickly from today’s business world. The key to their rapid success has been to keep that personal touch while still staying cutting edge with the latest in technology. With continued success in Florida, BGI Capital has expanded into New York, bringing its diverse portfolio of lending solutions to burgeoning communities in the northeast. For more information on BGI Capital, please visit www.bgicg.com.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I moved to the United States from Peru with my mother, grandmother and siblings in 1982. The language was definitely a challenge as we had to learn English, but I was always taught to view difficulties as opportunities. I worked from an early age in jobs that were common for immigrants and involved hard work such as cleaning homes and offices, waiting on tables, valet parking, etc. I always saw my experiences as just that, experiences and opportunities to learn and grow on a journey to something better. My first job was as a bag boy at Publix at the age of 14. When most boys were out playing, I was working hard after school and on weekends. It taught me responsibility at a very young age and made me appreciate and understand the value of a hard-earned dollar.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?

My mother was a single mom who was divorced and found herself in a very difficult situation. She had no way to provide for me and my siblings and saw no future to speak of for us so she decided to leave Peru and come to the United States with her children and my grandmother.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

We emigrated from Peru in 1982. Peru was going through a severe economic crisis with high unemployment rates and crushing inflation levels hitting the triple digits. To make matters even worse, the country was also dealing with domestic terrorism. My siblings and I were raised by two strong women, my grandmother and mother. They were the ones that made the courageous decision to come to the United States in search of a better life for my siblings and me. They arrived in this country with nothing and had to start over from zero.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

I consider my mother and grandmother to be visionaries. They were extremely strong women who did everything they had to do to make a better life for their family. I will always admire their drive and strong will to succeed despite all odds. They were always supportive, loving and the best role models any child could ask for. They were the ones that instilled the strong work ethic in me and I will forever be grateful.

So how are things going today?

I worked in banking for 20 years where I always excelled. From early on in my career, I was always assigned the more challenging tasks and I consistently surpassed expectations and rose to the top of my teams. I ran very profitable business divisions for the institutions that I worked for and always considered doing it on my own. The opportunity finally presented itself four years ago and I took the leap. Becoming an entrepreneur in your mid-40s can be a daunting undertaking, particularly when you have a large family to take care of — I’m married and have five children — but it was very rewarding to find success on my own terms and once I took that leap of faith, I never looked back. I have a strong work ethic instilled in me by my grandmother and mother and a no-quit mentality. I have also surrounded myself with a great partner and team of professionals with the right positive energy and complementary skills. It has been a great ride, with all the ups and downs that come with being a business owner. I love being an entrepreneur and am looking forward to growing our business and taking it to new levels of success. There is no better place to be an entrepreneur than in the United States, which truly is the land of opportunity. You have to be persistent and dedicated to achieving your goals and dreams, meaning that you have to work every day at being the best in your particular field of interest. It is also imperative that you keep an open mind when dealing with adversity and always keep adjusting your perspective. Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at the challenge from a different angle. When you shift your perspective, you will be surprised at how many solutions appear and if you can’t find the solution — you make one. Failure is not an option. As long as you keep trying and working hard, success will find you.

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

Social entrepreneurship is a big part of BGI Capital’s identity and our firm is involved in many community organizations and charitable endeavors. My business partner and I are sponsors and active volunteers with Apprentice Worldwide, United Way and Amigos for Kids, among others. BGI Capital has recently implemented a series entitled “BGI Empowers” wherein the firm invites guest speakers and sponsors events centered around relevant topics focused on varying initiatives throughout the community. The BGI Empowers series has grown out of the monthly real estate symposium series the firm offers. The symposiums offer real estate professionals and business partners the opportunity to expand their expertise and network with industry peers. The events host different guest speakers every month who come in to discuss relevant topics and the latest trends in real estate and finance. All these events are free and held at the BGI Capital office. My family is also deeply involved with many other organizations and endeavors through our church.

You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?

I believe this is the best country in the world, but some improvements I would make would be in the due diligence process. I would find a way to make the process faster and find a better way to provide a clear understanding of how the laws work for all going through it.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Access to education — I went through the public school system that included community college and ended up graduating from one of the top universities in the country. I believe people should take full advantage of the educational system and opportunities offered in the United States.

2. Hard work/Work ethic — I worked at many different jobs starting with being a grocery bag boy when I was 14 years old. I also cleaned the YMCA overnight with my family and then got up early the next morning and went to school. I learned my work ethic from my family and it was part of my growing experience. I watched my mom and grandmother work 18 hour shifts to make ends meet. If you work hard, you can make things happen.

3. Ambition/Direction — You always need to have a clear path in your mind to your dream. Changes happen but you always need to have a plan and a vision of where you want to go. My path may have wavered, but I always knew I wanted to go into banking and finance so I kept my eye on that goal at all times.

4. Adaptability — Before 2007, my career was taking off but I found myself having to adapt after the real estate crisis. I went from leading businesses in a NY based bank to being a loan workout specialist, which was a completely different position. People that didn’t adapt lost jobs. I had to go from growing a business to survival mode. However, once the crisis passed, I was able to surpass and succeed.

5. Faith — I have found that having a moral compass to guide you helps you set values for how you operate in business. Having faith has always given me a basis for business ethics. Wherever your faith lies, having a set moral compass is important.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

As an immigrant, I consider myself an American over anything else. I think it’s difficult to find other countries where you have that feeling of inclusion. I have never felt assimilated or like a 2nd class citizen. This country inspires patriotism and offers opportunities unlike any offered anywhere else. My grandmother and mother saw opportunity for our family and I believe the U.S. is still the land of opportunity. This has not changed. If you’re willing to work hard and dedicate yourself — you can achieve success without limit. The United States gives you access to whatever you put your heart to.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Richard Branson — I really admire what he’s done and I admire his creativity. He thinks out of the box and has never been afraid to follow his dreams.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/bgicapital/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/bgicapital/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-m-barthelmess-6892698/

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

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