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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, February 7, 2020

When real estate becomes a team sport




A Realtor is analogous to a golfer standing alone in the tee box with the objective of getting a tiny ball into a hole that’s at least a couple of hundred yards away. It takes all the skill and knowledge an agent can muster to sell a home for top dollar or find the perfect house at the right price.

But as Realtor Mary-Catherine Weathers’ business grew, she began to feel more like a point guard who must dribble past an opposing defense, all hoping to swat the ball away before she can reach the basket.

And that was when Weathers realized real estate has become a team sport.

“It was hard to do it all,” she says. “My business was growing and I was working until midnight every night.”

Chattanooga is home to several brokerages equipped to nurture agents as they grow a team. Weathers chose Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices J Douglas Properties out of a desire to be coached by Doug Edrington, who had a hand in forming one of the largest real estate teams in the city.

“The best athletes in the world are coached; so are the best real estate agents,” Weathers says. “Doug has created a very team-friendly environment at J Douglas Properties, and I needed someone like him to teach me how to structure and grow my team.”

Edrington says real estate has always been about helping the client, but today’s market requires more than a single agent to provide the kind of service customers want. So, he’s transitioned J Douglas to an all-teams firm.

“Solo agents are efficient to a point, but eventually they have to tell someone no. Since today’s consumers have an ‘I need it now’ mindset, one person can’t do it anymore. It’s simply where things are moving.”

Weathers switched from Remax Properties to J Douglas in February 2019. Although she intended to gradually transition to being a team leader, Edrington put her on a fast track to growth.

The numbers Weathers was producing suggested she was ready to expand. By October, she was approaching over 40 homes sold for the year and was on the verge of becoming one of the top 100 local agents in terms of units sold. She was also entering the top 5% of agents worldwide at Berkshire Hathaway.

“Doug thought I was ready and pushed me to get started,” Weathers recalls.

In addition to teaching Weathers the systems and processes she would use as a team leader, J Douglas suggested her first recruit: buyer’s agent Sarah Palmer, a college student-turned Realtor who’d been moonlighting at restaurants.

The two women clicked immediately. Weathers also interviewed and hired her assistant, Taylor Keef, on the same day.

“I woke up a solo agent and, by the end of the day, I was leading a team,” she adds.

As a newly minted team leader, Weathers wasted no time shifting certain responsibilities to Keef, a former paralegal.

In addition to serving as Weathers’ assistant, Keef became the team’s transaction coordinator and marketing guru. This freed Weathers to focus on the things that would increase business, such as prospecting and nurturing relationships with clients.

It also gave Weathers the time she needed to train Palmer – a process that challenged her in ways she had not anticipated.

“We have high standards for ourselves as well as the service our clients receive,” Weathers says. “I have to guarantee any buyer or seller that works with The Weathers Team is having a consistent experience, whether they’re working with me, Sarah or someone else.

“The real estate industry is complex, as we’re involved in the biggest financial milestone in most people’s lives, and because of this, we don’t take training lightly.”

The training process Weathers learned at J Douglas and is using to teach her team includes three certifications. Each agent must present a complete purchase and sale contract to Weathers, roleplay a buyer’s consultation and roleplay the scripts involved with phone prospecting.

Only then does Weathers allow the agent to take on clients.

“Before my agents speak to potential clients or show a property, I need to make sure they’re educated and prepared. These are skills real estate schools can’t teach you,” she says.

Palmer joined The Weathers Team hungry. A 22-year-old Chattanooga native, she fell in love with real estate while her mother was buying a house and started taking business classes at Chattanooga State Community College as a precursor to becoming a Realtor.

Palmer put her college education on hold when she saw the growth Chattanooga was experiencing and the uptick in the local real estate industry. “If I didn’t get in now, I was concerned I’d fall behind,” she explains.

Palmer intended to earn her license, hang her shingle and work as a solo agent, but the more she studied the real estate business, the more she says she believed a team environment would give her a better start.

“I thought I’d flounder if I tried to do it on my own,” she says. “I needed to know what I was doing, and I knew that was going to take mentoring.”

J Douglas offered Palmer opportunities to join The Edrington Team and Weathers’ team. She chose Weathers because she wanted to have her mentor to herself. “As Mary’s first add-on, I knew I’d have her full support,” Palmer continues. “I was also impressed by what she’s accomplished in the short time she’s been doing this.”

Weathers passed on the same systems and processes she used to grow her business to Palmer. Using this “roadmap to success,” as Weathers calls it, Palmer was able to sell two houses in her first 45 days. Additional sales are in process.

“My role as team leader is to help each person create her own business within The Weathers Team,” she says. “Upon identifying her strengths, we can then create a custom plan to reach her goals.”

Weathers says Palmer excels at learning and applying proven techniques. So, Weathers plans to continue to enhance her own knowledge and then pass it on to Palmer and the other agents she’ll be hiring.

“Real estate is a growing and changing industry, and to stay ahead of the curve, we always have to be innovating and learning new skills,” Weathers explains. “I attend at least four conferences a year to receive training I can pass on to my team. These conferences help us strengthen the systems we already have in place as well as learn new systems that help us grow our businesses.”

Palmer is ready to learn more. “My No. 1 goal for now is to fully understand this career and market,” she says. “I want to know this business like the back of my hand and be able to easily solve my clients’ problems. I’m the young buck on the team and I have a lot to learn, so I’m all ears.”

In addition to training agents and focusing on business growth, Weathers is cultivating a specific culture for her team.

“My goal is to build a group of strong women who are growing their careers and creating their own paths and independence,” she says. “That’s why I became a Realtor and why I eventually went out on my own.”

Weathers’ father, Billy Weathers, founded Remax Properties when she was 5. Although she grew up watching him and her mother work at the company, she had no intention of going into the business.

However, as Weathers reviewed her career options while studying marketing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she decided real estate would be the best avenue for her. After graduating, she worked for a marketing firm for a year and then switched to real estate.

Weathers was working with her father when she decided to leave Remax and forge her own path.

“My dad taught me everything I know about this business,” she notes. “He’s brilliant and an incredible Realtor, but it was time for me to do my own thing.”

Although Weathers has successfully established her own venture, she’s still thinking about tomorrow. She’s planning to bring on a second buyer’s agent, Jenni Sanders, as soon as Sanders obtains her license, and she’s already looking ahead to her next hire.

“My next team member could be an experienced agent looking to take their business to the next level, or it could be a brand-new agent,” she says. “I’m looking for someone who’s coachable, team oriented, driven and has a mindset for success.”

Weathers is striving to have a team of seven and sell 100 homes by the end of 2020. She knows that will require a lot of late nights, but at least she’s no longer alone. “It’s great to have the support of a team,” she says.

Weathers also has her father’s blessing.

“I’m proud of my daughter’s work ethic and how much she’s accomplished in such a short time,” he says. “I guess real estate is in her blood. The sky’s the limit for her success, and I’m looking forward to watching her grow.”