Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 23, 2022

No dead space in Rau’s offices

Heidi Rau is the owner and broker of RE/MAX Ambassadors, a new real estate brokerage based in Ooltewah. - Photograph provided

Heidi Rau has placed two stark white figurines high on a shelf behind her desk at RE/MAX Ambassadors, the real estate brokerage she launched in July. One is a lion in repose; the other is a human sitting cross-legged in a meditative posture.

To the casual observer, these are simply two pieces of decor tastefully selected and artfully placed at opposite ends of the shelf to soften the business vibe broker’s offices tend to emit.

But Rau, 38, says their presence behind either of her shoulders as she sits at her desk has a deeper meaning.

“I’m a broker, which means I’m also a therapist,” she says. “When agents come in here with problems, I sometimes need to be a lioness who empowers them to confront their issues head on, and I sometimes need to chill as they vent.”

Rau has invested this same level of thought into every one of the 1,800 square feet that comprise her brokerage, which is located in the former home of Signature Brokers on Little Debbie Parkway in Ooltewah.

Warm, calming colors define Rau’s office, for example, while the color red dominates what she’s dubbed the “Innovation Station,” an action-oriented space located across the hall.

There, Rau provides agents with the tools and data they need to optimize their social media efforts – a key component of any successful real estate business, she says.

A self-described “data junkie,” Rau is especially pleased with the dry erase board on which she meticulously colored in dozens of small squares indicating the best hours each week to post content.

“When I was an agent, I’d go to my office and then wonder what to do,” she says, referring to her six-year tenure with Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown. “I had a hard time concentrating while sitting in a little spot, so I defined all the spaces here in a way I hoped would inspire my agents as they work.”

Other productivity rooms branch off from the hallway that serves as the backbone of the ground floor, including “The Bullpen,” a room where Rau encourages her agents to meet with their accountability partners and strategize.

Like the Innovation Station, Rau’s experiences as an agent inspired the room.

“I assign my agents an accountability partner when they start here. In this business, you have to be accountable to someone if you’re going to make money. This is a room where people can shut the door, sit down with their partner and track their goals.”

Other rooms include a mini-spa where stressed agents can recline in a massage chair while listening to music, a call room where agents can track the number of marketing calls they make and tally the appointments they scored, and a real estate library.

“I encourage my agents to put one hour of learning a day in their calendars,” Rau says. “You’re only as good as what you know.”

Rau’s pride and joy, however, is “Studio One,” a high-tech hub for creating podcasts, YouTube videos and more. Outfitted with three Sony cameras, a device that allows users to switch cameras while recording and acoustic foam on the walls, “Studio One” also has its roots in Rau’s past.

“I come from a music and film background,” she says before casually revealing she was once an Atlanta-based singer and songwriter nicknamed Heidi Hypnotique. “Having a professional studio for my agents to use was a big part of my vision for RE/MAX Ambassadors.”

As Rau’s revelation of her musical history hangs in the air like a paused song, she tells the story about the fires of creation that birthed her brokerage.

“I come from a 400-agent office, so I was thinking big. But since this is a new brokerage, I had to start small. That meant getting creative with my space because I didn’t want to have a traditional brokerage with offices agents could rent. I wanted it to be collaborative; I wanted every room to be a community space.”

Creativity has always come easy for Rau, who showed a flair for ingenuity and imagination when she began writing a book at the age of 8. A few years later, she started performing in musicals and plays, beginning an artistic pursuit she continued through college.

After landing a role as an extra in the movie “Lawless” and appearing in a scene with actor Shia LaBeouf, Rau took a hiatus from acting to work in music.

An interest in the nuts-and-bolts world of business and commerce offset Rau’s creative endeavors and eventually rose like cream to the top of her efforts to make a living.

Born in Vallejo, California, and raised in Chattanooga, Rau first became interested in real estate when she worked as a property manager in 2007. Although she wanted to become a licensed agent, her mother urged her to pursue something practical after she became pregnant with her first daughter on the eve of the housing crash.

Rau initially studied nursing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga but later switched to business. She became pregnant and gave birth to her second daughter while maintaining a spot on UTC’s dean’s list and serving as a mentor to freshman business students.

Rau was pregnant with her son when she spotted the Keller Williams table during a career fair in 2016 and pulled her aspiration of becoming a real estate agent out of mothballs.

“I wanted to become a Realtor when I was pregnant with my first child but didn’t do it until I was pregnant with my last,” Rau laughs. “Although it took me 10 years to get to where I’m supposed to be, I had fun exploring my creative side.”

At first, real estate moved at a snail’s pace for Rau as she continued to dabble in property management. But once she fully committed herself to selling homes in an effort to determine if she was on the right path, sales skyrocketed.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be good at real estate because I hadn’t put my all into it,” Rau recalls. “Once I did, my income jumped and I felt confident I was doing the right thing.”

As Rau contemplated her future, she realized she had a strong desire to lead others. After forming a small team at Keller Williams failed to scratch this itch, she leapt at the chance to open a RE/MAX franchise.

“The person in charge of regional franchising at RE/MAX called me and asked if I’d be interested in helping the company expand in the Chattanooga area,” Rau remembers. “I thought about it for two seconds and then said, ‘That sounds really cool.’”

Rau says the opportunity to define the culture of a brokerage appealed to her. Since becoming a Realtor, she’d seen herself not as a salesperson but as an advocate for her clients, and she was eager to serve in the same role for a roster of agents.

When it was time for Rau to name her franchise, she naturally gravitated to “Ambassadors,” one of the pre-approved choices RE/MAX offers franchisees.

“The name reflects my core values. Agents who come through my door must have an ambassador mentality to work here. In turn, I promise to help them become the best version of themselves they can be.”

To ensure she has the time to make good on her promise, Rau intends to bring on no more than 30 agents. She hints about opening an additional office if she exceeds that number, but those plans are merely embryonic at this point.

Rau says she’s intentional with her time in the office because she wants to reserve evenings and weekends for her second full-time job: single mother of three.

“There’s no stopping point in the day until my head hits the pillow at night,” she says, sounding exhausted at the thought. “But that’s part of what inspired me to create this company the way I did.

“When I started in real estate, I was terrible at time management. I’d take work home because I was all over the place during the day, and it was affecting my kids. So I had to become skilled at managing my time well. Now when I’m home, I can be a mom.”

Rau also continues to pursue her first love – acting. She’s taken roles in several independent horror films, including two turns as the villainous Bloody Mary. (A photo of Rau in her gory makeup does not grace the walls of her office but would complement the bright red scheme of the Innovation Station.)

Rau’s entertaining behind-the-scenes tales of her recent acting gigs could fill a second book, if she chooses to write one. For example, the police tape wrapped around her house as part of the set dressing for a short film startled her neighbors after they failed to notice her message on the social media app NextDoor about why the tape was there.

The ensuing gossip reproduced like a pair of rabbits in their prime, with some of Rau’s neighbors anxiously claiming to have seen law enforcement and even a journalist outside her house.

All is calm, however, within the warmly hued interior of Rau’s office and the neighboring rooms, where her creativity has given life to a place where she hopes to help others achieve their aspirations.

“You have to make your own little corner of the universe the best it can be,” reads a personal quote on Rau’s Internet Movie Database page. From the pair of figurines on the shelf in her office to the name on the sign outside, and from The Bullpen to Studio One, she’s living up to her words.