Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 6, 2017

A life worth living: 2017 GCAR president Mark Hite talks about giving back to his profession, community

Realtor Mark Hite is the 2017 president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors. - Photo by Dianne Blankenbaker

Realtor Mark Hite isn’t interested in merely earning a paycheck. He wants to lead a life worth living. To him, that means doing more than making a dollar; it means giving back in spades.

For the next 12 months, Hite will have little choice but to give amply of his time and energy. As the 2017 president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors (GCAR), he has a full plate.

Hite was president of the association in 2012 but left unfinished business on the table. Item one on his agenda for the upcoming year is making sure GCAR never needs him, or any other old timer, to lead the association again.

“I came back because I saw an opportunity to engage our younger Realtors – our future leaders,” he says. “We don’t need to be recycling people like me.”

Encouraging more of the roughly 1,700 licensed Realtors who are members of GCAR to become actively involved with the association will be Hite’s top priority during his term as president. To tackle this challenge, Hite and his board of directors have set up task forces aimed at learning what those members need.

“We’re going to look at the training and consulting we’re offering our members. We’re also going to do a task force on Northwest Georgia, which represents 20 percent of this market’s business,” Hite explains. “We want to know what we need to do to support and engage the agents who work there.”

Hite says GCAR will also be taking its focus on governance to an unprecedented level in 2017. To that end, the association will be hosting the first forums for the mayoral and city council candidates running in the March 7 election. (See the Event Calendar on page one for details.)

“As an association, we’re charged with addressing the items that matter to homeowners – things like crime, schools, property values, taxation and stormwater runoff,” Hite says. “Being involved in local elections is one of the ways we do this.”

An experienced leader

Hite has substantial leadership experience beyond serving in various capacities at GCAR through the years.

In his former life as a vice president for department store retailer Saks Incorporated, Hite oversaw 1,400 employees in five states. Currently, he leads a team of 20 real estate professionals at Keller Williams Realty.

Hite has been growing his team since 2005, when he hired his first administrative assistant after attending a Keller Williams training class. He added buyer’s specialist Jason Carr in 2008 and then continued to grow his team to its current level.

Hite credits his success in putting together a team to Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams, and his book, “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent.” In the book, Keller explains how to form and then grow a real estate team.

Hite followed Keller’s blueprint to the letter. In addition to administrative support, his team now consists of six buyer’s specialists, multiple listing agents and an inside sales team.

“I have a call center staffed by licensed agents that’s open seven days a week,” Hite adds. “They make outbound calls responding to incoming leads.”

As Hite took on team members, he spent less and less time attending to the particulars of real estate and more and more time recruiting and fine-tuning talent. Developing his team is now his full-time job.

“I make sure we provide the same personal, genuinely caring service my clients received when it was just me,” Hite points out. “We support our clients and do the right thing at all costs.”

As Hite’s team grew, so did the revenues. In 2012, Hite and company did $20 million in sales. After three years of continued growth, the group did $72 million in sales in 2016. Hite says his team will do $90 million in sales this year.

Hite is confident he’ll reach that number despite the demands of being president of GCAR. While he’s attending to matters at the association, the gears will still be turning at his office.

“While I spent the first hour of today planning the political forum, phones were being answered, leads were being generated, closing were proceeding, listings were being taken and buyers were being shown property,” Hite says. “That’s the beauty of the team environment.”

Mortician or minister?

Hite has been involved in sales since entering the workforce. But there was a time when he was headed in a different direction.

Hite grew up in Paducah, Kentucky and describes his upbringing as “typically Southern.”

“I was raised on a farm. Daddy worked in a coal-fired plant for TVA and mother worked in magazine and book distribution,” Hite explains.

Hite attended college at the University of Kentucky. Initially, he wanted to become a broadcast journalist. After deciding he didn’t have “a pretty enough face” for TV, Hite considered print journalism. While he enjoyed writing (see his weekly column on page 13), he wanted to find a more lucrative line of work.

Unsure about where to turn, Hite took a career assessment test. The results surprised him. “It said I should be a mortician, a minister or in sales,” Hite says, smiling. “The first two are honorable professions, but sales was a better fit for me.”

After earning a degree in marketing, Hite spent 15 years in the retail industry. During his last eight years in the business, he worked for Saks. The job involved frequent moves and a lot of traveling. “I slept in my own bed only on weekends,” he says.

When Saks moved Hite to Chattanooga in 1999, the company made him responsible for stores in five states, including the local Proffitt’s and Parisian. But something happened that hadn’t occurred elsewhere: Hite made friends outside of work, found a church he liked and started to enjoy where he was living.

So when Saks told him it was time to move, Hite found a way to stay.

Part of his plan included working a transitional job at retailer T.J. Maxx. Another part involved getting into something different and unexpected: real estate.

The door to Hite’s future career opened when he put his house on the market as a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO). Although a savvy business executive, Hite did what many people do when they try to sell their own home: he underpriced his property.

Hite was still unaware of his mistake when Realtor Melba Pack brought him a buyer. When the home inspector found a problem, the buyer wanted Hite to pay for the repairs.

By this time, Hite knew he’d be leaving money on the table if he sold his house at the price he was asking, so he read the fine print on the contract before agreeing to the buyer’s demands. While pouring over the details of the document, he realized he could legally terminate the deal because of the dollar limit Tennessee had placed on homeowner repairs.

Intending to halt the sale and then put his house on the market at a higher price, Hite told Pack he wouldn’t he selling to her buyer. What happened next surprised him.

“Being a good Realtor, Melba encouraged her buyers to pay for the repairs,” Hite explains. “They did, and I sold the house to them.”

Impressed, Pack told Hite he should consider becoming a Realtor. Although Hite couldn’t see himself being in direct sales, he agreed to meet with Pack’s broker at the time, Mike Givens of Prudential. Givens and owner Y.L. Coker agreed to work with Hite on a part-time basis as long as he attended specific training. Hite agreed.

“No matter what career path you take, training is the most important element,” Hite says. “Successful people are always learning.”

Hite says Givens and Coker gave him a great start in the business. But five years later, he was ready to take the next step. “I’d been bumping along at 50 to 60 transactions a year, which by any measure was successful,” he notes. “But the training to help me grow my business has become stagnant, so I joined Keller Williams in 2007 and became involved in their training programs.”

Hite also hired a business coach through Keller Williams International. He credits no small measure of his success to the man’s guidance. “He helped me grow my business,” he says. “I still use him. I have an accountability call every Thursday at 9 a.m.”

A life worth living

Hite worked in the retail business for 15 years and has now been a Realtor for the same amount of time. While he’s certainly achieved his goal of financial success, he’s just as excited about being in a position to give back.

Due to the size of his team and the support it provides, Hite is able to volunteer more now than ever before. His efforts include not only serving his profession through GCAR but also contributing his time and sources to a number of nonprofits.

Hite is currently on the board of Chambliss Center for Children, which provides foster care and child care assistance in Hamilton County. This year, Hite is co-chairing the center’s big fundraiser, the Bunny Hop. Hite will also join the board of Habitat for Humanity in the spring. In addition, Hite is the chair of the leadership team at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.

“The quote by JFK about asking not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, was over my father’s chair for most of my childhood,” Hite says. “That has stayed with me. Yes, we’re here to do business and make a living, but where much is given, much is expected.”

Hite adds the purpose of owning a business is to have a life worth living. For him, this includes not just giving back but also enjoying the fruits of his labor.

The most tantalizing of those fruits is travel. Earlier this week, Hite returned from a holiday trip to Key West. He’s also spent time recently in New York City, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

“The first thing I put on my calendar is my personal time, which is the opposite of how many people live,” Hite says. “Then I plan my training and development. The last thing I pencil in is my work.”

When Hite moved to Chattanooga, he did more than change careers; he reinvented himself. While he was successful in his previous life, real estate has evolved into a rewarding second career and his community has enabled him to thrive in other ways.

When a friend from his days with Saks recently told Hite he’d found his niche, all he could do was smile.

“Real estate is the perfect second career for me,” he says, “and Chattanooga is a wonderful place to call home. I’m very fortunate.”