Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 28, 2020

Old lessons apply to Brown’s new profession


After 35 years with TVA and two years of babysitting her granddaughter, Connie Brown found herself in an unfamiliar situation.

At TVA, she had managed the contracts needed to operate the company’s fossil fuel generating units. As a grandmother, she had helped a new person navigate her first few years of life.

But when Brown realized a long-held dream to become a Realtor in late 2017, she found herself in the infancy of a new career. Being inexperienced felt strange, but she was soon taking her first steps.

“At TVA, I knew how to do my job,” she says. “But that didn’t matter because I had to start all over when I became a Realtor.”

Brown’s broker at Coldwell Banker Pryor Realty, Robert Backer, held her hand as she steadied herself, teaching her how to complete the requisite paperwork and get out in the community and do business.

Brown’s fellow agents at Coldwell Banker also trained and mentored her, and she took classes at Greater Chattanooga Realtors to further expand her knowledge.

Eventually, Brown learned enough to realize the skills she had acquired while working at TVA would help her excel as a Realtor, including her ability to negotiate.

Sitting in a conference room in Pryor Realty’s Hickory Valley Road location, Brown removes her four-page resume from a binder and places it on the table. The first page details her history of negotiating agreements that saved TVA over $2.5 million during her five years as a senior contract specialist.

Page 2 of Brown’s resume sports another astonishing number. Before being promoted to senior contract specialist, Brown worked as a fuel transportation specialist, generating $5 million in revenue for TVA by developing and implementing a sublease program for the company’s railcars.

Brown won TVA’s Innovation Award in 2006 for that bit of ingenuity.

So as Brown’s first few clients sat across a table warming themselves in the glow of her smile and listening to her kind voice, they were not just looking at a rookie Realtor, they were joining forces with a crack negotiator who was ready to bring her abilities to bear on their behalf.

“When I retired early from TVA, I wasn’t ready to sit down. I felt like I had more to give,” she says.

Brown started with her pool of friends and former coworkers at TVA. Her efforts in 2018 yielded home sales totaling $1.7 million.

“Honesty and integrity have always been important to me, so my friends knew I would take care of them and do the right thing,” Brown points out.

Brown was pleased with her success, but she was more excited about serving her clients.

“I have a servant’s heart. I want to help people find their home and give them a lot of love along the way,” she says. “I want my business to grow, but this is more about helping people than making money.”

As 2018 ended and Brown began to focus on growing her business in 2019, her doctor diagnosed her with breast cancer. Although the news initially devastated her, she found strength in her Christian faith and refocused her thoughts on surviving.

“It wouldn’t be honest for me to say I didn’t think, ‘Is this it?’ I also asked, ‘Why me? Why now?’” Brown says. “But I’m grounded in my faith, so I leaned in and did the work.”

That work included surgery and radiation, but because the cancer had been detected early during Brown’s annual mammogram, her doctors did not believe chemotherapy would be necessary.

Brown continued to help homebuyers and sellers, even when the radiation treatments sapped her energy. “I didn’t want to be stuck in neutral or have a pity party,” she continues. “People felt sorry for me but I kept pushing. It never occurred to me to stop working.”

Brown pushed hard enough to nearly double her sales from the previous year. This qualified her to be on Pryor Realty’s relocation team, which she expects will bring her even more business in 2020.

Brown’s business is already expanding to include not just people within her sphere of influence (the web of relatives, friends and other people a Realtor knows) but also referrals.

She’s embracing the moment but also proceeding cautiously because she wants to maintain her connection to her clients.

“I see my clients through the whole process. I never hand them off to a closing coordinator or someone else,” she says. “I’m excited about growing my business, but I also want to be known as someone who will take care of you and be with you every step of the way.”

A Chattanooga native, Brown began working for TVA at age 19 and spent 25 years in executive assistant positions before being promoted to fuel transportation specialist. Outside the office, she raised a daughter on her own and then put her through nursing school.

As Brown demonstrated her “grit,” as she calls it, at both home and work, she aspired to someday become a Realtor. She had grown up watching her father, Otho Gazaway, work in the business in Chattanooga, and had been drawn to the idea of helping people find and purchase a home for as long as she could remember.

When the time came, Brown’s brother, a Knoxville Realtor, suggested she talk with the people at Pryor Realty. She says the company felt like home the moment she stepped through its front door.

Phil Pryor, COO and general manager of Pryor Realty, remembers that day. “During the interview, I could tell Connie has a tendency to care for people,” he recalls. “Real estate is a person-to-person business, and she connected really easily with us. I felt like she was going to represent us well.”

Following preventive surgery in January, Brown now has a clean bill of health and is ready to move on to the next stage of her post-TVA life. This currently includes volunteering in various roles with Greater Chattanooga Realtors, Ronald McDonald House and City Church Chattanooga, where she and her husband of seven years, Dewayne, attend services.

It also entails spending time with her now much larger family of three daughters (two of whom are Dewayne’s) and four grandchildren at their Ooltewah home.

In addition, Brown makes time to encourage others she knows who have received a cancer diagnosis. It’s all a part of her desire to help.

“I tell them, ‘When you’re facing adversity, never lose hope, be kind to yourself, take good care of yourself, live in the present and be thankful for your blessings, as I am sure there are many.”