Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 24, 2017

Keeping cool leads to hot opportunity for Fuqua


“I wouldn’t want you in my neighborhood if you were the last people on Earth!”

Realtor Cheryl Fuqua wasn’t hearing the words she’d hoped would be spoken at the closing table between her buyers and the builder who was selling the house they wanted. But the steadily increasing tension between the two parties had finally boiled over into a heated exchange.

The buyers were upset because the builder hadn’t done what they thought he should do. Making matters worse, the final home inspection had gone poorly. But if the buyers didn’t sign the papers, they were going to lose their interest rate.

Fuqua and the seller’s agent, Diane Runyan, watched gape-mouthed as the builder ripped the settlement

statement to shreds and threw it into the air. As the pieces settled on the table like giant confetti, the builder stormed out of the meeting.

Instead of allowing the tension to bleed over to her and Runyan, Fuqua stepped outside with her fellow agent and calmly put together a plan to repair the situation. At 3:45 p.m. the next day – 15 minutes before the buyers would lose their interest rate – the seller signed the papers.

“Diane and I learned that we worked well together,” Fuqua says.

Although Fuqua didn’t know it, her calm demeanor during the volatile situation would lead to a tectonic shift in her career. At the time, however, she wasn’t looking to change anything.

Fuqua had become a Realtor five years earlier after her son had reached the age when he was less dependent on her. During that time, she’d worked steadily but wasn’t focused on taking her career to continuous new heights. Rather, she merely “rocked along,” as she recalls now when she looks back.

“I was making a little money and that was OK,” Fuqua adds. “There wasn’t a lot of education then, so I didn’t know any different.”

One day, as Fuqua and her husband were purchasing a newly built home, the builder’s agent, Jeff Harrell, asked her if she would speak with him in private. Harrell was secretly bringing a company called Keller Williams to Chattanooga and was quietly looking for agents. Runyan had given him Fuqua’s name.

“He told me the company used a unique model that was going to change the complexion of real estate,” Fuqua remembers. “He piqued my interest.”

Leaving the firm where she’d started her real estate career wasn’t easy for Fuqua, who has a tender disposition and likely a heart to match, but she took the leap. Neither her career nor her life have been the same since, she explains.

“Keller Williams made me see that there’s an unlimited amount of money to make based on my own efforts,” Fuqua says. “I learned that I could do anything – and I didn’t know that because no one had ever said that to me.”

The company also taught Fuqua how to treat her business like a business. “The education was unmatched. I felt like I had been doing everything wrong,” she adds. “There was so much information, it overwhelmed me. So, I started implementing just one thing at a time.”

One of the things Fuqua realized she needed was help. Certain nitty gritty, behind-the-scenes mechanics of real estate didn’t appeal to her and got in the way of the things she enjoyed, which was meeting people.

Fuqua met her first hire while doing just that. As one of the first residents of a new development, Fuqua would take her dog on walks to meet people as they entered and came out of houses.

As a couple was approaching the house next to the one in which she and her family lived, Fuqua broke the ice and offered to watch their baby while they surveyed the home. She wound up not only selling the house in which they were living but also finding them a new home in her neighborhood. Fuqua and her husband also became fast friends with the couple.

In time, the woman, Becky Edging, asked Fuqua if she needed help with her business. Did she ever. When Edging first dug into Fuqua’s databased, she exclaimed, “You can’t even send out a mailer!”

Edging not only whipped Fuqua’s database into shape, she did some innovative marketing that helped to invigorate the business. Today, Edging is doing Fuqua’s contract-to-close work.

“She’s amazing,” Fuqua says. “Everybody needs a Becky.”

In early 2011, Fuqua came to appreciate the help she was receiving more than ever when she learned she had breast cancer. During a routine self-examination, she discovered a lump, and from there, was fast-tracked through the initial diagnosis.

The cancer could have sidelined Fuqua, but she says she was blessed to be able to continue working during her treatment, which included radiation but not chemotherapy.

“I was on the border of doing just radiation or radiation and chemo,” Fuqua recounts. “When I chose to do just radiation, I asked the doctor how he would have reacted if his mother had made the same choice. He said he would have been OK. That’s how I knew I’d made the right decision.”

By October 2011, Fuqua was cancer free.

While the journey didn’t impact her business, or even change the way she approached work, she notes it did change her personal perspective. “I now live each day to the fullest and tell the people in my life that I love them,’’ she says.

“My experience with cancer also made me think beyond myself to consider that other people are going through their own struggles, and I need to be sensitive to that,” Fuqua continues. “Life can become so busy, you don’t take the time to think about what other people are going through.”

Fuqua has shared her experience with breast cancer and the lessons she’s learned one-on-one with women who were going through the same thing. “I was blessed during my illness with love and support from the people around me,” she adds. “I hope I’ve ministered to someone in return.”

Fuqua has ministered to her family, if no one else. Not long after winning her battle with cancer, her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her father-in-law also fell ill. The years that followed weren’t easy, but Fuqua says she wouldn’t trade the time she spent with her father during that time for anything.

One thing that made that time possible was her son, Brad, offering to join the business as the severity of his grandfather’s illness was revealing itself. “I needed time more than money,” Fuqua points out. “My son gave me the freedom to care for my dad without hurting my business.”

Brad remained with the business after Fuqua’s father died last December. Today, he assists buyers, which allows his mother to focus on drumming up listings.

Brad is also the broker of record at the Hixson Keller Williams office, which is an offshoot of the East Brainerd office. Technically, this makes him his mother’s boss. “He told me he’ll never be my boss,” Fuqua says, laughing.

Fuqua has recruited one more family member onto her team at Keller Williams, which is known as The Fuqua Group: her daughter, Lauren Lawson, who does Fuqua’s social media work. “This is a family endeavor,” Fuqua adds. “I hope Lauren joins Brad in the business at some point and they carry it on.”

As a military kid, Fuqua moved around a lot as a child and lived in places as diverse as Turkey, Florida and California. However, her family eventually settled in Kentucky, so she claims to bleed blue.

Before becoming a Realtor, Fuqua spent 20 years in the health care industry working as an X-ray technician. Fuqua took a few years off while Brad was in middle school to drive him to games and practices and watch him compete, then found herself with time on her hands after he entered high school. She decided to return to the work force, but not in the health care industry.

“I wanted to do something based on my efforts,” she says. “When you have a 40-hour a week job, you might get a raise or two, but you’re never going to do anything else. I wanted more than that.”

By that time, Fuqua’s husband had moved the family to Chattanooga for his work in the trucking industry. Fuqua doesn’t remember what prompted her to become a Realtor, but she does recall telling her husband she was going to real estate school.

“He was shocked,” she says.

Given Fuqua’s focus on others, her success in real estate is anything but surprising.

To better service her residential buyers and sellers in and around the Chattanooga area, she’s earned the Accredited Buyer’s Representative and Certified Residential Specialist designations.

Fuqua is also serving her profession through membership in her office’s Agent Leadership Council. As a member of the Council’s Productivity Committee, she helps other agents become productive. To be a member of the committee, a Realtor must be in the upper echelon of agents at his or her office.

Fuqua is also serving her community through her church, First Baptist of Hixson, where she helps with the congregation’s outreach events. “I’ve put the things I enjoy on the back burner for a long time, and I’m ready to start giving back again,” she acknowledges.

At 60, Fuqua is also spending more and more time with the family she loves and appreciates.

She and her husband have grandkids now and she’s starting to catch the travel bug.

But for now, there’s still a lot of work for her to do as the head of The Fuqua Group. But she’s happier than ever because she’s able to concentrate on the things at which she excels while leaving the rest to her team.

“Real estate is fun for me now because I’m doing what I enjoy,” she says. “Someone else can figure out how to make the database work.”