Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 28, 2023

Calfee, Carter mark Source anniversary

Lisa Padgett Calfee and Linda Carter are the founders and owners of The Source, a small local real estate brokerage that’s posting big numbers for its size. - Photograph provided

Pop the Champagne, toss the confetti and cue the celebratory “woo-hoo” – The Source is 1 year old.

The Source is the wonderwork of Realtors Lisa Padgett Calfee and Linda Carter (no, not that Linda Carter; Chattanooga’s own Linda Carter), two Keller Williams agents who left that company to bring a unique vision to life.

Padgett Calfee is a breast cancer survivor who carried her real estate business to new heights after beating the disease; Carter is a former hairdresser who became a Realtor after deciding she wanted a better life for herself and her family.

Together, they own a company that tallied $27.6 million-plus in real estate sales during its first 12 months of operation and have grown their roster of agents from a handful May 1 to 19 today.

Here, Padgett and Carter discuss the beginnings of The Source, the company’s growth and what comes next.

What sparked the genesis of your company?

Lisa: “We’d learned a lot at Keller Williams and had reached a point in our careers where we believed we could do this ourselves. We wanted to be a part of something smaller and focus on the agents who chose to work with us. After looking at our options, we decided to open our own brokerage. We wanted to create the kind of place where we’d like to operate as agents.”

What are some of the ways in which The Source serves its agents?

Lisa: “We center our work on what our agents tell us they need. For example, we don’t use cumbersome programs but rather provide a straightforward set of tools. And we’ve introduced several things we believe make life easier for our agents. For instance, we pay them at the closing table. Because getting there can be a long process.”

What are you providing beyond the tools?

Lisa: “The kind of support you find in a family environment. You could walk in here one day and find that someone has brought their dog with them, and walk in another day and there’s a toddler running around helping us do deals.

“But more than that, the agents are helping each other, which is nice to see. If someone is in a bind and needs an agent to show a house for them, they reach out via group text and find someone. We’ve enjoyed developing that kind of atmosphere.”

What were your expectations for The Source when it was just an idea?

Lisa: “We didn’t know what to expect. We knew how to serve clients. And we knew how to run a business effectively. And we knew what we wanted. But we didn’t know what would interest outside agents, or what would draw them to be a part of what we’re doing.”

Was there a moment when you realized your ideas were now a functioning brokerage?

Lisa: “When we hit 17 agents, I posted something about our growth in a social media group for independent brokerages, and the other members were impressed that we had that many Realtors after less than a year.

“We didn’t know we were doing well and were pleasantly surprised to discover we have an above-average growth rate. We just come into the office every day and do what we know how to do.”

What have your agents said drew them to your company?

Lisa: “Our reputation in the industry. They say they trust us because we have good reputations as agents. And someone of them have said they appreciate the ability to use the applications they already use to sell real estate.

“We don’t ask our agents to learn new programs because, at the end of the day, our business is people. We don’t sell houses; we sell the service we provide. People don’t care if you have a shiny website; they care if you return their phone call, they care if you’re available to show them houses, they care if you arrive at appointments on time and they care if you’re an expert in the market.

“Clients just want to know you’re going to take care of them. And agents who are free of distractions and able to take care of their clients can be more productive.”

What training is The Source offering its Realtors?

Lisa: “Some of the training is hands-on. I called one of our new agents and asked her of she’d like to shadow me while I showed houses the next day. She came with me and was able to watch me interact with my client and learn what to say and not say. She said she appreciated seeing the real-life application of what she’s learned in the classroom.

“We’re also developing online training modules that provide examples of different scenarios, such as how to complete a certain form. We want to place as much information at their fingertips as possible so they feel confident and represent their clients well.”

What ongoing education does The Source provide agents?

Lisa: “We’re focusing on roundtable events with mortgage lenders, title attorneys and other real estate professionals. Agents who attend these can ask any questions they have, which can be helpful considering how often rules and procedures change in real estate.”

What question are you hearing the most?

Lisa: “Nearly every agent comes in wanting to know how to market themselves. To address that, we held a retreat during which we brought in a marketing specialist who covered strategies for promoting their businesses. We plan to do that annually.”

As a working broker, how accessible are you to your agents?

Lisa: “We’re focused on accessibility. Our agents can call or text us with questions, or if they need extra guidance or to vent. We didn’t go into this intending to be a franchise or to compete against the big dogs in town; we wanted to be able to provide a hands-on, accessible approach for our agents.

“Agents want to know their broker has their back. If there’s a problem, they need to know they can get in touch with me and we’ll figure out what to do.”

It takes trust to start a joint business venture. How did the two of you develop that confidence in each other?

Lisa: “We were friends first. I had been at Keller Williams for only a year, and when Linda came to a Christmas brunch by herself, I said, ‘Sit by me.’ My journey with breast cancer began shortly after that, and Linda was with me every step of the way. She even gave me my first haircut.”

Linda: “We cried when I cut off her hair.”

What’s your dynamic as co-owners?

Lisa: “We have the same principles but different strengths. You never want to be in business with someone with the same strengths as you. My strong suit is training and serving as the managing broker.

“And as one of the top 30 agents on the MLS for the last five years, Linda understands our market, where to find business and how to make deals happen.

“So, she’s the numbers person and I’m the training person. We bring these roles to a well-rounded relationship that benefits everyone.”

How did you decide on the name for your company?

Lisa: “Some of the names we tossed around were hilarious. At one point, we tried to come up with a name that rhymed. But as we batted ideas back and forth, we realized ‘The Source’ had meaning for both our clients and our agents. We want to serve as ‘the source’ of everything our clients and agents need.”

Speaking of names, Linda, you promote yourself as “the wonder woman of real estate.” Has this helped to create more name recognition for your business?

Linda (laughing): “Maybe among people who are old enough to know who the original Wonder Woman was. But my husband likes to take the credit. He’s always joking, ‘I gave you that name. Don’t forget it.’”

Your yard signs are pink and blue. The pink stands out. How did you arrive at your choice of colors for The Source?

“We were on a Zoom call with a graphics designer who was throwing in various colors. We wanted blue, but so many companies have blue and we wanted to stand out. Nothing caught our eyes until Linda told him to throw in pink. After he did, we both immediately said, ‘That’s it.’

Linda: “We didn’t know if men would want to work with our colors but it hasn’t phased them a bit. And we love it. Our signs catch your eye.”

Lisa: “And there might have been a part of us that subliminally wanted to use pink because we’re female-owned and strong, powerful women who want to make a difference.”

How does reaching the one-year mark feel?

Linda: “Fantastic. Wouldn’t change anything.”

Lisa: “It was a great decision.”

What’s next for The Source?

Lisa: “Homing in on brand awareness. We’re currently running commercials on the radio and we’ll have a booth at J–Fest.”

How many more agents do you want?

Linda: “Hitting 30 would be good for our second year.”

Lisa: “I think we could eventually maintain 50. But that will depend on the market.”

How’s the partnership going? Is anyone emerging as the boss?

Lisa: “I bought Linda a hat that reads, ‘Boss lady.’ And then I bought one for me. Those hats describe us to a ‘T.’ We’re a team.’”

Do you have any parting words for agents who are thinking about a change?

Lisa: “This is a new world that needs new ideas. The things that have always worked might not work any longer. Luckily, there’s more than one way to do real estate. That’s the beauty of being in business for yourself.”