Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 12, 2018

Jennings has no time to celebrate Jan. 1 promotion

Jennings - Photograph by Dawn Laprad

Realtor Kevin Jennings, the newly appointed director of sales for The Edrington Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty Center, has a mountain to climb in 2018.

The team’s CEO, Doug Edrington, son of team founders George and Grace Edrington, is looking for his agent ensemble to sell 650 houses this year. It’s Jennings’ job to make sure that happens, and he says he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“I love helping people achieve their goals,” he says. “That’s beneficial not only to them but also to me because when other people succeed, I succeed.”

The momentum the team gained in 2017, when it sold 483 houses for a total of $95 million in sales, gives Jennings a running start up the steep incline. But with his mark towering high above him, Jennings is wasting no time putting his own effort into his ascent.

With only a few days under his belt since his Jan. 1 promotion, Jennings is already making sure the inside sales department – the staff members who spend their time prospecting for appointments for the agents – is up to snuff on the scripts and up to speed on the latest industry developments.

Here again, Jennings can take advantage of the thrust this department of three gained in 2017, when it made close to 60,000 calls and set up around 1,900 appointments.

Jennings is also doing a little prospecting of his own as he looks for ways to elevate his 11 sales agents to the next level of effectiveness. With the agents already working with the top real estate coach in the country, Tom Ferry, it might seem like there’s no need to press for new ideas. But Jennings says there is.

“There’s always something around the next corner that would be incredible in Chattanooga,” he explains. “Continually coaching and networking with other rock star agents around the U.S. enables us to improve and grow.”

The deep schooling the Edrington Team’s agents have received has produced several local “rock star” Realtors. George, the father of the team, sold 90 homes in 2017; close behind was Marcus Holt with 75 units and Travis Brady with 52 – a remarkable number considering he’s been in the business less than two years. From there, the agent average in 2017 was 40 homes closed.

Jennings explains he can only benefit from having agents of this caliber working for him. But then again, they’re the ones who established the target he must ensure they meet. Each agent with The Edrington Team set his or her own sales goal for 2018; when Jennings added up the number of houses his agents said they want to sell this year, the total was 650 – an increase of 167 units over last year.

This means Jennings must do more than push his agents; he must also keep them happy and productive. “Our agents deserve a high level of service,” Edrington says. “We’re focused on providing that.”

While these agents are working to meet their goals, Jennings will be striving to meet a number of his own: 22. The Edrington Team is intent on growth, and in 2018, Jennings will aim to double its size.

The primary lures will be the training the Edrington Team provides and the results it produces.

“Training is big with us,” Jennings points out. “When I became a Realtor, I wanted someone I could fall back on if I had a question. I wanted to have all the knowledge and tools I needed to be successful. So, we make sure our agents are equipped to be successful.”

Training includes a four-week mentoring program Jennings designed when he was an agent. This intensive period covers nuts-and-bolts topics like paperwork and team integration but also how to reach out and get business.

“The average Realtor sells a dozen properties a year. But with the right training and processes, an agent can greatly exceed that,” Jennings says. “Travis outsold me last year. So, our training works.”

The Edrington Team is not looking to merely swell its ranks, though. Edrington expects Jennings to bring on the right agents.

“Our goal is to grow leaders, not soldiers” he notes. “We’re not looking to motivate people, we’re looking to enable the motivated.”

“We want rock stars,” Jennings adds. “We’re looking for people who want to be successful and make something of themselves.”

All the talk of goal-reaching leaves Edrington concerned about one thing: creating the misperception that his team is singularly focused on its own health and growth – the point of pushing agents beyond what they desire to do. That’s not the case, he says.

“A mistake I made years ago was setting a goal and then pushing the team to hit it. But if Kevin sold 70 homes last year and is happy shooting for that same number this year, who am I to push him to sell more? I should be rewarding him for what he’s accomplished.

“So, our goals start with the agent. Does someone meet the minimum standards for our team? If so, what are their goals? Then we hold them accountable to that,” Edrington continues. “I would rather high five an individual who wanted to sell 39 houses and met his goal and give a hard time to the guy who set out to sell 100 units and closed only 80.”

While Jennings’ responsibilities as director of sales will keep him busy, he’ll have one more item on his to-do list: selling houses.

Edrington is keeping Jennings on the sales team to make sure he has his finger on the pulse of the industry. “We want to keep Kevin current,” he says. “Too many real estate companies make their managers just managers. But at what point are they out of touch with the real world? Twelve months? Eighteen months? Too many brokers and managers lose touch with what’s going on.”

“That’s the nature of real estate,” Jennings adds. “If you don’t keep up, it’s easy to become irrelevant.”

Ever since Jennings was inspired as a young person to find a purpose in life, he’s endeavored to avoid irrelevancy.

Jennings grew up a short drive from Chattanooga in Cleveland, Tennessee, where he was raised by working class parents and played as many sports as he could.

“I remember my dad telling me that if I wanted to play sports and become successful at whatever I do, I would have to see it through to the end,” Jennings recalls. “That stuck with me all through my childhood and into my adolescence and adult years.”

But as Jennings excelled in athletics, he struggled academically. His lack of motivation in the classroom persisted until his senior year, when his English teacher sat him down and asked him a life-changing question: “Why and what would you like to do for the rest of your life?”

This simple query gave Jennings the spark he needed to begin searching for a path through life. His first steps took him to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he earned a degree in marketing.

To support himself while in school, Jennings took a job at J. Alexander’s in Chattanooga. He started as a server and in time worked up to “pub keep.” While tending bar, Jennings finally found his “why” when he began to train others and discovered he loved helping people learn a new job and achieve their professional goals.

Jennings had not yet found his “what,” however. Then Edrington started showing up at the bar, “always getting to-go food, always talking on his phone about real estate and always eating late.” The two became acquainted, and one evening, Edrington asked Jennings what he thought about becoming a Realtor.

Jennings initially didn’t think much about it at all, partly because of his perception of Realtors as self-seeking and overpaid and partly out of being leery of moving to a commission-only career.

But like a pebble in a shoe, Edrington’s question never left Jennings, and several months later, he finally said, “Why not?” and earned his license. After interviewing several other brokers and teams, he settled on The Edrington Team to take advantage of the training.

Although Jennings struggled financially during his first three months, he remembered his father’s admonition to never give up and pressed forward. Once he finally started closing homes, there was no stopping him. He closed six homes in rapid succession and became salesman of the month with The Edrington Team.

“I continued to learn and ask every question I could think of,” Jennings says. “I focused on small things like always responding to your clients in a timely fashion, treating every client like they’re your best friend and of course prospecting, prospecting, prospecting.

“I didn’t stop there,” he continues. “I made sure I was working with a purpose. I set goals, drew up action plans and knew what I wanted to gain from every situation.”

By the end of 2015, his first 12 months of selling real estate, Jennings had closed more than 50 homes for just under $10 million in sales. These numbers have grown every year since then. “I came to realize with just a few simple daily habits, anything is possible,” he says.

Jennings had found his “what” but he wasn’t done. He soon parlayed his love for training into the mentorship program and had a hand in training many of the agents who are currently with the sales team. As Jennings’ role on the team grew, so did his ambitions, and in time, he saw himself ascending to management.

“The old saying about your raise becoming effective when you are holds true with Kevin because when we set out to change anything, he was the one to raise his hand and say, ‘Beta test on me,’” Edrington says. “He grabbed hold of a lot of innovation.”

Edrington and Jennings eventually had a conversation about formalizing his growth in the fourth quarter of last year. These talks resulted in Jennings’ promotion to the man at the foot of a mountain.

Jennings is undaunted. As his father’s words to him to never quit echo through his thoughts,” he’s reminded that there’s no way but up.

And he feels equipped for the journey.

“I have found my ‘what,’” he says, “and that will allow me to succeed with my ‘why.’”

To inquire about joining The Edrington Team, contact Jennings at kevin@edringtonteam.com or (423) 650-3829.