Kathy is one of the authors of the new real estate business book, Becoming a Local LeaderⓇ. This book features 22 top producing agents’ stories, who through their story are sharing their strategies on how they grow their business through relationships and referrals in a specific geographic area. This book was made for the agent who wants to build their business that way versus advertising, buying leads, chasing leads, door knocking, and cold calling. 

One of the themes that comes up a lot, especially in Kathy’s chapter is this theme of authenticity, which when you read the book, what I think you’ll notice, because I know that’s a buzzword out there is this idea that you as an agent, like Kathy, you need to apply your own personality to your business. You cannot try to copy someone else. You need to apply your style, your hobbies, your interests, the clientele that you work with, the things that you do to grow your business, how you get involved in your community. It should really resonate with you. It’s your business. It’s your life. You have to be happy while you do it in order to be successful when you’re doing it. That really shows up in Kathy’s chapter. She describes what she does for her business to grow her business and why she does it that way. What’s the makeup of her and her family and her past experiences that get her to do the things that she does in her business. 

Let’s start with the main message of your chapter. What is the main message that you wanted to give agents? What are you hoping they get from your story?

I think you kind of hit the nail on the head there with authenticity, and that you really just need to be true to yourself. That’s kind of how I’ve lived most of my life and done most of whatever I find myself doing, whether it’s volunteer work, or my friends. I’m authentic in everything that I do. I’m very choosy about what I do, and make sure that it is important to me.

What evolution have you had in learning about yourself? What if I’m an agent and I don’t even know who I am? How have you figured out yourself and achieved self-awareness?

That’s one of those lifelong things, journeys, that we’re all going to be taking ourselves. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly know 100% myself, but I mean, it was a lot of self-reflection, a lot of saying no to other people, and really figuring out why I chose to make decisions that I did. For me, a lot of reading different types of books. Therapy is always good to kind of dive into what’s important to you, and why you do the things you do. I’m a strong believer in that. Having really open and honest conversations with your friends and your partner, I think is really helpful too.

What have been some of the best books for you and for your business? And why?

I feel like every book I pick up lately is the book that I was meant to read at that time. Even now I’m reading one called Deep Work. I’m reading that one about how to kind of focus on what you need to get done. One of the ones I mentioned is Atomic Habits. I tend to be a little scattered sometimes. And so, really having that step-by-step guide and he literally spelled it out how to just be better at whatever you’re trying to do. There couldn’t be a better guide on how to change your habits. That one is really life changing. 

Another one is Taking the Leap by Pema Chödrön. It’s how to change your habits. Just take deep breaths and not be reactive to your world around you. So much of real estate is really your own personal mindset and how you handle everything that comes at you, whether it’s clients or issues with transactions. You’re in control of how you react to situations and being in the proper mindset is really important.

What kinds of professionals have you found really effective for your life and for your business? In the conversations with them or with friends and family, what were those conversations about? What were the questions that you were asking or them trying to get answers for?

As far as life in general, just finding a therapist that you can talk to or friends that you feel you can be open enough when you say, “I feel that I might react to certain situations this way. How do you think I could have handled it better?” Always surround yourself with people that you admire, and that you think conduct themselves in ways that are admirable to you. All of my friends are amazing. They’re my friends on purpose. I got to choose them and say, “You bring out the best in me so I want to learn from you.” 

And as far as real estate, it’s just having good mentors. My first brokerage, for a lot of the time it’s just me and my broker. Being able to really sit down and ask questions all the time about, “Am I doing this, right? How do I do this? What would you do here? How do I grow?” And then, when I chose to go to a bigger brokerage, the level of support just exponentially grew. And the amount of people that I have to look up to and that can mentor me there is amazing. I really did level up with some of the best agents in my local area.

What is it that makes a good brokerage? How do you figure out what’s a good brokerage for you? How do you know if it’s the right move after the fact?

Ultimately for me, the shocking thing was pure and simple values, where my values were shared with my brokerage down to the very core of my own personal being. When I switched brokerages, not only were the values shared but the resources were there, the support was there. It was an efficient tool that I’d never had before. There are so many different reasons for being at different types of brokerages. There’s pros and cons to each one. For me, when I was ready to take the next step and grow, having a lot of automated and efficient tools behind me is really what I needed. There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a smaller brokerage depending on your type of business.

Let’s back up and help people get to know you a little bit. What’s your story? Why did you become a RealtorⓇ?

My story is kind of interesting because my degree is actually in geology. I did environmental work for a really long time but I got tired of doing that. I didn’t like who our clients were and how the work went about. I just needed a change. I knew my broker that I went with through volunteering. So again, it was a value driven kind of thing. We were both really keen on focusing on environmental issues and kind of sustainability in our world. When we started talking about potentially becoming a RealtorⓇ, my opinion of agents was really low. It could be just because of the experiences that I had personally but I really felt not treated well as a client from multiple RealtorsⓇ that I had worked with in the past. I knew I could do better, and treat my clients with the respect that was needed during those transactions.

What are values to you? How did you kind of figure out what they were? And then figure out what it was in the brokerages to make sure to line up?

It’s a really hard question. It takes a lot of time. A lot of agents are very busy. They’re either working a lot with transactions or they are trying to split the time between family and real estate. You have to make the time to do this work. It’s very important. You just dig in. 

For example, I’ve just been guided through life just trying to really focus on “Am I providing the best person I can possibly be to the world?” and just trying to purposefully work on myself over time. That’s been my whole life. I’ve tried to better myself. When it came to really diving down, I knew there was a conflict with my old brokerage. When I moved over to the new one, they just talked about it all the time. “It is so important to have these values. We are community driven. Give back. We live here, we give here.” Etcetera, etcetera. We were guided through different types of exercises. We get to talk about what’s most important to us. And really, for me, it comes down to integrity, dependability, and reliability. That’s kind of just the basis of who I am and who I want to be in the world. 

How do your clients experience your values, experience integrity, experience the alignment with you and your brokerage?

I think for me, it’s very important to be very straightforward and to make sure that I’m very transparent in transactions. Because, I had a lot of distrust of RealtorsⓇⓇ in the process of buying and selling homes. There was so much I didn’t understand. Other agents never explained it to me while I was going through transactions. It’s really important for me to just make sure I explained things. I mean, it could be over and over and over explaining things and I don’t care. I will tell somebody 10 times the same thing in a different way, if they need to hear in another way, so that they understand what’s going on. They should never feel like they’re being taken advantage of or that a transaction isn’t to their benefit. Buying and selling homes is so much money. It’s people’s huge possessions. It could be their life savings going into a home. They need to know that that person is fighting for them. And that is to who I am.

One of the things you talked about in your book, which I think is so important for the lifestyle, “If you want to be successful, you have to be happy.” Not all the time, but you have to have some consistency in being happy in the work that you do so you want to keep doing it over and over and over again, year after year. That’s how you have a 10–20-year career that is consistently growing, and successful, and profitable, because you’re enjoying your process, which means you as a person have to have certain rules and certain boundaries. It may actually push some people away. You talked about this in your chapter, which I think is really important for people. I think some people almost take it the wrong way sometimes where the communication of those rules and those boundaries to the prospect or to the client can sometimes come off wrong. And so, how do you do it? How have you learned to do it so that you get to have the life that you want while making sure the client is happy that they’re not able to text you and dm you and work with you at all hours of the day and do or say whatever they want with you and whatever. Talk to me about how you communicate those boundaries and those rules to clients.

I think it’s really important when we start talking about working together on whatever level it is. I’ve worked with a lot of my friends too. And so, they’re used to being able to just have access to me at any time. But especially during the COVID time, we were just so thoughtful and purposeful about how we led our everyday life. I would put my phone away pretty much at 8pm every night. I’m not answering emails. I’m not reading texts. I’m not looking at things that can wait until tomorrow morning. And then, I really take the time for activities that I want to do. 

The fact that I’m at a much bigger brokerage now there’s a lot more help. So, if I really do have a client that is in a really tight spot and needs something immediately, there’s 500 other agents that I can call that I know will help me and help my client.

I know the benefits of thinking in abundance. There is, as you say, enough business for everyone. In real estate, that can very well be a tough thing to think about because there really are a certain amount of transactions that happen in an area every year. It’s not changing all that much. And so, what do you think? If I’m a RealtorⓇ questioning, like, “I don’t think that’s true. I think there’s a pie and I want my silver to be as big as possible and others to be smaller.” How do you think about that phrase, that there is an abundance of success for everyone?

I think it’s really important to start that thought process with gratitude and to be really grateful for what you do have, and to find the joy in gratitude every day. I just want to start with that. It’s really important too, I think, to write down your goals. If there’s a goal that you want to meet, then you write it down, and then you can back it up, and you have a process to get to that goal, and you have measurables every day that you can measure to see if you have checked all those boxes of those tasks that you need to do on a daily basis. We know what we’re supposed to do, right? Make calls, check our clients, send letters, blah, blah, blah. So, just make sure you’re doing those things. 

If you’re not making those measurables, that you’ve worked back from your numbers, then you know what to do to get to those numbers. I don’t need to have $20 billion to go out to space. I just want to make sure that I can be a productive member of my community and take care of people if needed, and then take care of the financial stability of my own home. I don’t need everything.

Another thing to talk about is the idea that it is success doing a hundred plus transactions a year and pulling your hair out and not seeing your family and friends and kids and having all the stress of building a team and spending all this money on advertising, which may not work. Is that success? If agents focus on lifestyle as well as income together, then it ends up actually creating more opportunity for everyone and probably less problems with agents who are feeling like they need to go be this mega producer, and mega team, and mega everything.

I mean, it would be amazing if I was a mega agent. Maybe someday but my goals right now are to really enjoy my life. And again, you have to find that gratitude every day. And that’s really what life is about. When it comes down to it, did I close 100 houses this year? Probably not. But did I make some really good friends? Did I have some really good times with my friends and family? Was I able to pay for that nice meal I had? Yep. Check! Check! Can I afford our home? Yeah. I’m good.

Most of us do not need the amount of money we think we need. And so then it’s like, “Okay, let’s hit that number but then let’s now maximize life and maximize experiences and stuff like that.”

And when it comes down to RealtorsⓇ, our end goal is to be able to work together for a win-win for our clients. Like, I want to sell this house to your client who wants to buy this house. So, we shouldn’t be beating each other down. I don’t know. That just doesn’t seem like a good process to me.

Now, one of the things that you do that some agents don’t, is you work with business owners. What do businesses need and want? How can a real estate agent go help them? What are the benefits of now going and doing that? 

I think a lot of people forget that our local businesses are owned by our neighbors. They are people that live in our community. They are our family. They are the people who keep our community going. They feed us. They clothe us. They provide us with services and everything you can possibly imagine. 

For me, being able to be a part of their own marketing to help support them is really great. Even before I became an agent, I did everything I could to support our local businesses and get the word out. “Did you know that this business opened?” I did activities like that. So, now being able to bring them in in a whole other way is so amazing. We become friends and partners. They’re part of my network. 

What do you find businesses are struggling with these days? 

Oh, my gosh. I mean, just the uncertainty of where things are going. One of the staff members who was vaccinated came down with COVID. It’s like, what do we do? Well, they shut down for a week. Nobody wants that. They need to make money and continue their business but there’s so much uncertainty. 

Is the business that we had pre-COVID coming back? How do we serve? For example, a restaurant. Do we keep doing takeout? Are we focusing more on dine in again? Do we need to keep this takeout? Everybody’s become accustomed to takeout or services. What level of getting in people’s faces is okay? You know, people maybe who do lashes or personal one on one fitness training. There’s still just so much uncertainty. I think that that’s really scary for a lot of business owners.

You have had multiple interviews, where you interview a local business and hundreds to thousands of people have seen locals, have seen that interview, which got that business hundreds or thousands of new eyeballs on their business. What have you found you have been able to do to contribute to the prosperity of the small business that you think other agents may not think they could, but they really can?

I think it’s just part of the ripple effect. You tell two people and then they tell two people. It helps support the business. So, really just using your own personal voice to help amplify those of others is huge. You’ve built up this trust with your network. They come to you for recommendations, whether it be plumbers or AC or restaurants. Now we have this avenue where we can share the coolest businesses and the neatest stories of these people and these businesses that people didn’t even know existed. Like, a little neighborhood frame shop that nobody knew was there because it wasn’t in the strip center. Or the guy that fixes amplifiers. It’s a little business that people didn’t know about. And then they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was there.” “Oh, I wanted to try that restaurant but I was nervous. Now I hear it’s good so I’m going to go.” I think that really amplified what businesses were doing, especially the intensive shutdowns that we had during COVID, knowing that you could go pick up items from different businesses, even bars, we were able to do drinks to go here. It really helped sustain some of these folks through the toughest times.

I know RealtorsⓇ do that when they hear this, they go, “Oh, man, that sounds nice. But I don’t have time. I want to do that but I don’t have time” which to me means they’re not understanding the value of that time. And so, maybe you can talk about the benefits of spending your time doing this. And that can kind of parlay into one of the final questions I want to ask which is how do you spend your time? What do you do? Where do you allocate it? Because everyone has time, they just need to decide what they spend their time on and what they prioritize and what they don’t. Let’s talk about the agent who’s like, “It sounds nice to help my community help small businesses and do this stuff, but I just don’t have time.”

The biggest thing that we do as RealtorsⓇ, is bringing value to people’s lives. It could be in any form or fashion. Helping them through a transaction or helping them find a plumber. The same thing applies to your local businesses because, again, they’re your community, they’re your family. That is part of our local financial stability in our towns is our local businesses. So, what more value could you provide to your community than letting people know about these businesses? 

I’m pretty good at wasting time. I’m not going to lie. I am no time block expert. But having some processes in place is key. And having a pretty regular schedule is really good. I learned some really good things in Atomic Habits. I should go back and revisit it actually. And even in Deep Work that I’m reading now. It’s like, quit social media. You don’t need that. Although as RealtorsⓇ we would say, yes, we do. But just really be purposeful about how you spend your time. It’s so easy to waste a half hour or an hour doing something that really could be spent chatting with a local business. It’s so easy.

Why do you think agents should get this book, Becoming a Local LeaderⓇ? Why should I pick that up as an agent?

I mean, as an agent, you are supposed to be the expert in your area. You’re supposed to know what’s going on, what’s coming up, what’s being built, what different neighborhoods are like. You are the Local LeaderⓇ. What value can you provide to your community, your sphere, your clients? Ultimately, I think that that’s the biggest thing. I think that’s probably what I struggled with when I first started. 

We all have different levels of self-doubt, what we actually can, can’t provide, and what we’re good at. And just having the confidence of knowing that what you have is something that is something to give is so important. And having faith in yourself, I think, is the first step.

If agents are to read your story and they go, “Hey, I feel like I resonate a lot with Kathy and how she does business, and how she thinks. I have a similar story to her, similar interest to her.” If they want to get in touch with you either to learn from you, or build a relationship with you as agent to agent referrals are big, how can they get in contact with you?