Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 14, 2017

Leap of faith pays off for Holt

Being shot in robbery ‘clarified what was important to me’

At 30 years old, Marcus Holt was already enjoying the kind of success many people spend a lifetime pursuing.

He was a vice president at First Tennessee Bank, where he was pulling in a good salary and enjoying benefits that allowed him and his wife to breathe easy.

Holt also loved his job, as well as the company for which he was working, and was all but assured a bright and prosperous future with his employer.

Then he gave all that up to become a Realtor.

Three years earlier, Holt had fought to reclaim a normal life after a bullet fired from the gun of a thief came within a half-inch of casting a dark shadow over his bright future. But this traumatic, life-changing incident was not at the heart of his decision.

If anything, the experience had made Holt hungrier than he was before. But he was bumping up against the ceiling at First Tennessee, where there was no more room for advancement unless he was willing to move to another city or wait years for the next rung of the ladder to become free.

Neither of those options appealed to Holt, whose desire to scale even greater heights of success motivated him to leave the snug confines of the bank and explore what he says he believed would be the greener pastures of real estate.

Doug Edrington, leader of the Edrington Team at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Realty Center in Chattanooga, had known Holt personally and professionally for years and considered him to be “a tremendous professional who knew how to build strong relationships.”

But despite Edrington’s high opinion of Holt and his optimism about real estate in general, he was stunned when Holt told him he wanted to jump ship at the bank and become a Realtor.

“I laughed and asked him if he was serious,” Edrington says. “He was a vice-president at a bank and appeared to be doing very well. I didn’t understand why he would want to leave that.”

Holt was not dissuaded. Although new Realtors often struggle to gain a foothold in the industry, he had done his research. Rather than leaping into a murky void, he says he believed he was stepping onto a firm foundation that would support him in his endeavor to succeed.

“Someone said I was going to try my hand in real estate. I was doing more than trying my hand. I did a lot of due diligence when it came to deciding if this was something I wanted to do,” Holt explains.

“I’m not one to make a change just to see how it goes. I like stability, and that’s what I saw when I looked at the Edrington Team. I knew there was a reason behind that.”

A major factor in Holt’s decision was his experience at a Berkshire Hathaway national convention in Dallas in February of last year with his wife, Leah, who works for the Edrington Team in an administrative capacity.

The team was one of the stars of the event, having sold 385 homes in Chattanooga the year before. When Holt saw people from among the 40,000 real estate professionals who attended the conference asking the team’s members about their accomplishment, he was impressed.

Or rather, Holt was “blown away,” as Edrington puts it.

“He thought Realtors opened doors for people, but at the conference, he saw that it’s a real career, with real opportunities and rewards,” Edrington says.

During the conference, Holt asked Edrington why he’d never invited him to join the team. Edrington thought he was joking but soon found out he wasn’t. Holt had flown to Dallas with preconceived notions about real estate and gained a new vision for his career.

“You have to do something right to accomplish something great,” Holt says. “I had to be a part of it.”

Holt soon learned that the “something right” was support. After returning to Chattanooga, Edrington sat down with Holt at J. Alexander’s Restaurant, grabbed a napkin and a pen, and mapped out his path to success.

“I drew a timeline of his first six months in real estate, including the rollercoaster most new agents go through and how he could avoid that if he stayed focused on the daily habits that would give him the results he desired,” Edrington points out. “I also told him he wouldn’t have the success he wanted if he didn’t stick to that exact plan.”

As a banker, Holt has seen the real estate industry chew people up and then spit them out. But that’s not what he saw ahead of him. Instead, he saw stability, support and opportunity.

Holt also saw a lot of self-discipline and hard work. If one thing challenged the former banker in the months that followed that meeting, it was learning just how much self-discipline and hard work success in real estate would require.

No more 9-5

Holt thought he worked hard as a banker. Being a sales agent for the Edrington Team has taught him otherwise. “I had it easy,” Holt says, laughing. “Real estate is non-stop.”

Holt adds his job doesn’t have to be as intense as it is, as Realtors can work as little or as much as they want, but he chooses to work long hours to make the most of the opportunities available to him. “It’s my choice to start my first meeting at 8 a.m. and my last meeting at 8 p.m.’’

Real estate is about more than putting in a lot of hours, though; it’s also about using that time well. For Holt, that means being responsive to his clients and putting them first – even when he has other matters competing for his attention.

“One of my mottos is ‘Be here now,’” Holt says. “My wife will use that against me, but I still think it’s a good approach.”

Being in the moment helps Holt to focus on the person with whom he’s talking, not on the loan that was denied or the home inspection that went south. “When someone is in front of me, they’re the most important person at that point in time,” he says.

While this might sound like timeworn prattle, it’s laced with sincerity coming from Holt. For him, success in real estate involves more than his own gain; it also entails helping people achieve their goals and ambitions.

“I want to help people,” he continues. “But I’m not a doctor or a lawyer, so I have to find other ways to do that.”

For years, Holt helped others achieve their financial goals through his work at First Tennessee. Whether he was steering someone through an investment or securing a home loan for a customer, he found satisfaction in guiding people “from point A to point B.”

Real estate has given Holt the opportunity to assist people in a different way. From a young couple buying their first home to empty nesters moving into a smaller house, he enjoys helping people change their lifestyle. “Along with providing a good living, real estate allows me to be useful to others,” Holt says. “That’s the key for me.”

An example of the effort Holt will pour into a single client can be found in his story about helping a family of five move to Chattanooga from out of state. Finding a home for them involved a lot of driving and clever use of mobile apps, but the excitement on their faces when he told him they were under contract was worth the extra legwork.

“I want every single one of my clients to have that feeling,” he adds. “Other people’s happiness matters to me.”

Holt now has a full year as a Realtor under his belt. During that time, he has proven to others what he believed about himself before he ever left the bank: that, with the right support, he could experience unprecedented personal success in real estate.

Unlike his peers who struggle through their first period of business, Holt has sold more than 50 homes in 2017, and he still has several months of work left before he crosses the finish line for his first full calendar year. Consequently, Holt has already exceeded the income he would have made at the bank for the entire 12 months.

While the robust nature of the market has been a factor in Holt’s success, so has his hard work, Edrington points out. Holt, in turn, says the support he’s received from the team has been crucial.

“I couldn’t have sold more than 50 homes so far this year without the support of the team,” Holt says. “I have a strong work ethic and I’m capable of doing a lot of things, but I also have people behind be asking me what’s next. Am I going to settle for 50 homes in the second half of 2017 or am I going to sell 60?

“A Realtor needs that. I wasn’t just shown to my desk, handed a welcome bag and told to go sell something. I wouldn’t be in real estate if that had been my only option.”

Wrong place, wrong time

A Memphis native, Holt came to Chattanooga in 2004 to earn a marketing degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He began working for First Tennessee as a financial service representative when he was 20 years old and still in school.

In time, Holt graduated from college and rose to the rank of vice president. By 2013, the year of the robbery, he was managing First Tennessee’s East Gate, East Brainerd and Hamilton Place locations. He was also married and the father of a 3-month-old girl.

Holt was working at his desk at the East Brainerd location on a nondescript Tuesday in October when a man entered the bank, fired a gun once in the air and then fired three shots at him. Two of the bullets found their mark, with one hitting Holt in the right arm as he reflexively turned to see what was happening and the other burrowing into his back, half of an inch below his right lung.

Moments after being shot, Holt was on the floor, unsure if he would be getting up.

The thief was gone, along with the cash he came to steal, and no one else was hurt. But Holt didn’t know if he’d be seeing his wife and daughter again.

“I wasn’t even 30 and I was calling my wife to tell her I’d been shot and didn’t know if I was going to survive,” Holt explains. “That’s hard to describe.”

Also, difficult for Holt to recount is the struggle to return to a normal life in the wake of the incident. As his physical wounds healed, he fought to come back mentally from what had happened.

“[The robber] didn’t come into the bank to shoot me, I was just the guy at the desk. So, what was to stop me from being the guy at the mall or restaurant? I had to overcome those things because I can’t live in fear.”

Months of therapy ushered Holt through each step forward, which included driving past the bank at which he had been working at the time of the incident, entering any bank and feeling safe in public settings.

The biggest hurdle Holt had to overcome was returning to work. The bank presented him with options that were less public in nature and would have involved fewer interactions with others, but those positions didn’t appeal to him. He wanted to return to doing what he loved – helping people.

“That time in my life clarified what was important to me,” Holt recalls. “I could have said no to the possibility of putting my family through that trauma again, but if I had thought like that, I wouldn’t be doing this today.”

The shooting left Holt with an unwelcome souvenir of that day in the form of the bullet that entered his back. The doctors at Erlanger who attended to him said removing it would be risky, leaving him with a permanent reminder of how close things came to turning out differently.

“There are things that matter and things that don’t, and we often get stuck on the things that don’t matter and lose track of the things that do,” Holt says. “No matter what’s going on, I’m blessed to be here.”

In the end, the robbery and shooting had a profound, lasting effect on how Holt lives his life. Even though he’s as motivated as ever to succeed, he knows what’s important to him.

“Helping others is the key,” he says. “I wake up every day thinking about how I can do that in the most successful way.”

Upwardly mobile

When Holt worked at the bank, he was driven to press toward higher levels of success – to reap greater rewards, yes, but also to shoulder more responsibility and accomplish bigger things.

Holt continues this tradition with the Edrington Team. In the short time he’s been a Realtor, Holt has not just proven himself to be a valuable sales associate but to also be an asset as the team expands.

In addition to mentoring new agents in Chattanooga, Holt is helping to train the agents at the Edrington Team’s new office in Nashville. Edrington sees Holt’s role growing even more as the team expands across the southeast.

“Marcus stood out among the others because in times of hardship or pain, he maintains a positive mindset and stays focused on the end game,” Edrington says. “He doesn’t let short-term problems affect his long-term goals.”

As fortunate as Holt feels to have overcome the hardships that followed the robbery and launched a new career, he says his biggest blessing is his family. Just as he wakes up each morning determined to help others, he holds fast to the realization that his time with them could have easily been over.

With Holt’s wife pregnant with their son, who will arrive in October, he knows he stood to lose more than he could have imagined at the time.

“That experience made me even more appreciative of the time I spend with my family,” Holt adds. “Those are the moments that matter the most to me.”

Just as the rarest gems are the most valuable ones, Holt’s brief interludes with his family are few and far between. But because his wife works in the real estate industry, she understands the demands the career places on him.

“Leah is all in because she knows how much work it takes to be successful. That’s huge,” Holt says. “The biggest blessing I have in this business is her blessing.”

Holt is making the most of his wife’s consent by pouring himself into every opportunity. His hunger for success won’t allow him to do anything less.

“I’m in real estate because I want to be successful, and the Edrington Team has put me where I can be,” Holt says.

“My favorite time of the week is Monday morning after a productive sales meeting, when everyone is picking up their phone and calling people. You can hear this buzz starting to happen. It gets my juices flowing.”