Entrepreneur Insight Interview with Kim Hollingshead, owner of Touchstone Title & Escrow

When you meet someone like Kim Hollingshead, you can’t help but walk away invigorated and energized. She breathes new life into any room she walks into – which is refreshing, given her career. That’s not how most would describe their experience with an attorney.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Kim via two organizations that are very near and dear to my heart – Success in the City Little Black Dress Club and Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Her servant attitude and zest for life inspire me every time we enjoy coffee or happy hour together. I am so grateful for her incredible support of my business. (And her love of our products!) :) Not only is she a client, fellow successful entrepreneur and business associate, I am blessed to call her a friend. Let’s get on to our interview!

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Let’s start with the basics. Kim started Touchstone Title & Escrow in December of 2010. The company specializes in residential real estate closings, title insurance, loan preparation, and other services ancillary to the sale or transfer of property. Her target client is anyone who buys or sells a home; however, she works very closely with real estate agents, builders, developers, lending institutions, and investors. She has offices in Nashville, Franklin and Murfreesboro.
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You can connect with her online via
Facebook
Google+
Company LinkedIn page
Kim’s LinkedIn profile

Now let’s get into the details. Tell us Kim, what led you to your career as an attorney? Why did you choose to specialize in real estate law?

As the daughter of an Army veteran, my sisters and I were taught early the meaning of fighting for injustice and freedom. I actually knew the Second Amendment when I was five-years-old! Growing up in Alabama with a Korean-immigrant mother, I was surrounded by the civil rights legacy. Always curious about politics and justice, a law career was a natural path for me. Working my way through Lipscomb University at a restaurant, I learned the art and value of good customer service. After graduating, I randomly and fatefully found a job as a title company receptionist, and, while saving money for law school, I learned to love real estate law because it combines law, insurance and customer service.

How/when did you make the decision to go from employee to entrepreneur?

Ironically, an Edmund Burke quote, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” led me to taking on the role of entrepreneur. At 29, I knew I wanted to grow something, and I was blessed a maverick in the real estate industry, Benchmark Realty Founder Phillip Cantrell, contacted me. Still in law school, a mutual respect for Burke, shared in a phone interview, sparked our eventual partnership that has resulted in Touchstone Title.

You employ a great team of people. How did you adjust to letting go of the work and entrusting someone else with it?

Training and trust are essential. I learned first-hand the term “helicopter parent” after a recent closing in which a client’s mother confronted me for not discussing her thirty-plus-year-old son’s home purchase with her! This helicopter syndrome easily applies to bosses that tend to hover and is not something I do.

Employers should not fall into the trap of managing. Managing is what the movie Office Space is railing against: endless reports, annoying supervision, pointless meetings, layoffs, and artificial culture. Instead, employers should lead. I view it as my duty to assign responsibilities to members of my team, provide appropriate training, set clear and reasonable expectations, and… let go. I make every attempt to give my team the room they need to discover issues and problem-solve on their own. Sure, we all make mistakes and sometimes stumble, but my team is empowered to serve our clients, share opinions, ask questions and teach each other.

My guidelines for leading include setting people up for success, not failure. Making someone work on a task they find exceedingly difficult only makes that person feel insecure, inadequate, and shameful. Instead, give your team tasks for which they are well suited or that they are already accomplishing well. You want to push people to grow but not so hard that they fail. Striking the right balance is difficult but rewarding. Second, I follow a 80/20 rule: I focus on the 80% that my team members perform well and pardon the 20% that needs improvement. No one is perfect, right? Third, lead by example. If I want the phone to be answered in a certain way, then I answer it that way. If I want my team to get to work early and leave late, then I am the first one in and the last one to leave. I know that my team will never give me more than I give myself.

Did you encounter criticism from friends or family when you started your business? If so, how did you respond?

Criticism is part of the business of being an entrepreneur, an attorney and working in a highly service-oriented business like real estate.

First, one must distinguish feedback from criticism. Feedback is information you receive from a client or referral customer who has experienced your service. I live on feedback and constantly make changes based on that information. Criticism comes from an outsider who has little-to-no knowledge of your company or even your field. Criticism is meaningless – let it go. When faced with criticism from someone, I simply turn to Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech (and insert woman!):

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I LOVE that quote, Kim! In fact, I recently heard it on a video from Brendon Burchard and have been planning to use it in a future blog post. Great minds truly do think alike. :) How do you maintain a work/life balance?

My husband, Tim, and I love tackling work and life together as true partners. We communicate constantly, checking in morning and night to see how the other person is doing and what is on our list to accomplish. With a busy family and social life, this journey is so much more fun because we are doing it together.

If someone is thinking about starting a business, what is the first thing you would tell him or her?

Watch Your Expenses. People will make you believe that you need the fancy furniture or huge Christmas party to be successful. It’s actually the opposite. When you’re starting out, get the cheap pens, accept your friend’s free desk, and most importantly, get the least expensive office space possible. Do absolutely anything and everything you can to save money and build your reserves because you’re going to need more money than you ever thought for things like payroll and marketing.

Are you involved with any community outreach / non-profit organizations? If so, tell us about it/them and why you got involved.

Community outreach and supporting nonprofits are incredibly important to our society. From supporting small and big causes, it is something we choose to do discreetly. We look for opportunities to help individuals who are struggling to get an education, find a better job or provide for themselves or their families during a time of adversity.

How do you unwind in your free time? Any hobbies?

Being of Korean/American descent, I’ve been fascinated by genealogy for years. Today, I’m active with the Daughters of American Revolution and supportive of the Heritage Foundation and Next Generation. Working out daily is an important way for me to detox from stress. For a year-and-a-half I’ve been doing dance aerobics with the Tracy Anderson method. I was SO horrible at first and was unable to go more than 5 minutes without stopping! It is aerobics and strength training which helps the synapses in your brain connect your mind with your body. I actually schedule my workouts just like I do a closing. It gives me permission to take care of myself.

What is the primary reason for your business’s success and why?

Our success is due to a number of factors. One, we have a wonderful clientele. As in many fields, our clients have a great deal of control over their own experience with our company. Our clients are generally cooperative and informed which makes it easier for us to deliver superior service. Two, we have a reliable referral base. Touchstone Title is privileged to be affiliated with Benchmark Realty, one of the largest and fastest-growing real estate agencies in Middle Tennessee. Three, my team rocks! They guide my clients through the closing process in a professional and courteous manner. Without them, it would all fall apart. Four, our process is truly unique. It is incredibly efficient yet incorporates necessary redundancies to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Five, our company’s policies and procedures are comprehensive. Employees are put through a rigorous and thorough training process, and manuals lay out the process for everything. Finally, we make every attempt to meet or exceed industry standards in all aspects. Maintaining high standards is what it’s all about.

Why do you think people are afraid of starting a business?

Most entrepreneurs are energized by the prospect of starting a business, not afraid of it. Starting a business is not for everyone and that’s okay.

Who or what inspires you the most?

From scientific articles to taste makers who set trends, I find great inspiration from people with stressful jobs who lead big organizations! Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Colin Powell and Sheryl Sandberg inspire me. I have just finished Sandberg’s “Lean In” and there are so many TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks I find inspiring. I would strongly recommend Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability.” This great quote definitely inspires me, “What we know matters but who we are matters more.” Dr. Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.

What fantastic insight from Kim today! And I LOVE Brene Brown. If you’ve not read her books, pick up any one of them…you won’t be disappointed! Thank you, Kim, for sharing your wisdom, time and heart with us. I’m so blessed to be connected with driven, energetic, passionate entrepreneurs like you.

What “golden nugget” did you pull from today’s interview? I discovered several – feedback vs. criticism and building a successful team. I’d love to know what resonated most with you. Please share and let’s dialogue in the comments!

Loving yourself (and forgiving others): Sharing about my hairvolution

As a little girl, I had stick-straight, yet super-thick, very light blonde hair. It was so light, in fact, that my grandpa called me “little cotton top”.

Once I hit age 12, however, hormones were raging, acne was popping up all over my skin, I’d just gotten a set of braces to correct my slight overbite and gap between my two front teeth…and my hair started developing a wavy/curly texture to it that I did NOT know how to deal with – nor did our hair stylist at the time.

Thus began what I call my “hairvolution”. You could not PAY me enough to go back to this time in my childhood. It was awful. Not only was I totally self-conscious about ALL OF THE ABOVE…but to make matters worse…kids will be kids…and I was an easy target to make fun of in youth group. (Of all places…)

That’s right. I would show up to Sunday school or youth group and it was “Hey poofy-hair.” “What’s happened to your hair?” “Look at her poof.” (This experience also unfortunately contributed to what led me to eventually fall out of church for several years and be wary of other Christians.) Thankfully I have amazing parents who were (and still are) incredibly supportive and loving.

You can see the dramatic evolution of my hair over a 10-year period here:

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For the longest time I hated my hair. You couldn’t really buy flat irons anywhere at this time (that I knew of anyway), so I would attempt to straighten my hair with a curling iron and whatever straightening products I could find at the local drugstore. I knew the damage this was causing, but I didn’t care. I wanted back the stick straight locks of my childhood.

During this time, our household got good old dial-up Internet. (Remember those days?!) In my searching of hair tips and tricks (probably on Dogpile – hah!), I stumbled across a site that was life-changing…naturallycurly.com. I’d discovered a whole new world! These women were embracing their curls and sharing products, tips and stylists who specialized in curly hair! I was able to use some of the products and tips, but unfortunately, the stylists were nowhere near my rural hometown…at least I was onto something new. I’d found a community that would not only accept me and my wacky wavy/curly hair…but that would help me LOVE my hair!

Fast forward to today – another 10ish (or so) years after that high school photo was taken. I’ve embraced my curls…found a style that totally fits my personality (thanks to my awesome curly stylist – Tammura!) and I now get oodles of compliments on my hair. (Totally makes up for pre-teen years of jokes and jeers.)

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I actually LOVE my hair today and can’t imagine straightening it – not to mention, that is way too time-consuming. Letting my locks do their natural thing, versus fighting them, has been liberating.

And those kids from my youth…I’ve forgiven them. They probably don’t even remember what they said. As an adult looking back, you realize that’s all a part of growing up. And I’d much rather be a kid back then versus today… the ridiculing and jokes are even more magnified with social media. Ugh.

When we go through painful situations, it’s important to glean the lessons learned along the way…so I’ll share a few of them here:

  • Never underestimate the power of your words and actions. People may not remember exactly what you said…but they won’t forget how you made them feel.
  • We’re all broken and imperfect, so expect to be hurt by those you close to you…but then acknowledge their humanness, forgive and love them for who they are. This is one of the things our pastor always says to new partners at our church (Journey Franklin). “Expect that one of us will let you down at some point. When we do, hold us accountable – let us know so we can make it right.”
  • LOVE your uniqueness!! The world would be so boring if we all looked the same, acted the same, spoke the same, enjoyed the same things, etc. Don’t neglect or downplay your gifts. They were given to you for a reason. :) Let those gifts shine, my friends.

What life lesson can you share with us? Have you gone through something that was initially painful, but led to an important lesson? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Entrepreneur Insight Interview with Michelle Froedge, lead agent with The Michelle Froedge Real Estate Team

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Benchmark Realty, LLC

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Michelle Froedge since RIGHT before I made the official transition from employee to full-time entrepreneur back in mid-2011. A mutual friend introduced us and she is one of those people that you can’t help but fall in love with upon meeting. Truly, she has a heart of gold, a dynamite personality, a rockin’ real estate business and an outrageously talented alter ego! ;)

Michelle has been incredibly supportive of my endeavors and is someone I highly respect in terms of drive and commitment to success. I’m sure you’ll see why as we unpack her interview. So let’s get to it!

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Let’s start with the key facts. Michelle started her career in real estate in 2004 and grew to a team in 2012. She and her team help buyers and sellers of residential property – from investment property to estates. Her target client is a motivated buyer or seller who wants the help of a seasoned professional. Now, let’s face it…there are many realtors out there to work with, but what sets Michelle apart from others is that her relationship with clients goes far beyond the closing table. She has clients who call her years later and ask for a plumber referral – and she expects that. Also, she networks constantly, especially with other agents. This helps keep her informed of properties for her buyers before they hit the market and helps her sell houses for her sellers without having to go through the listing process. You can connect with Michelle and her team online via…

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Blog
Website
You can also contact her offline at 615-432-2919.

Now, let’s jump in a little deeper. Michelle, tell us what led you to real estate as your career.

The short answer is…a friend told me she was taking classes and that I should do it too!

What led you to make the decision to go from employee to entrepreneur?

I had been offered a record deal from an independent label and was waiting for that to be finalized when the partners split and the label ended up folding. I knew at that moment that I had to do something where I was in control of my own destiny. I knew real estate was a career that I could work as much or as little as I wanted, and that would determine my success.

Did you encounter criticism from friends or family when you started your business? If so, how did you respond?

I didn’t necessarily encounter criticism when I started my business, but I did get “warned” that the real estate business is hard and that I shouldn’t set my goals and expectations too high. I don’t get the same kind of reaction any longer…

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How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Good question – HA! It’s not constantly possible, but unless I am in the middle of negotiating a deal, my phone gets turned off at 7:00 PM and I try to take Sundays off to go to church and spend time with my family.

What is the most challenging part of owning your own business? How do you handle that?

The most challenging thing about owning my own business is not working 24-7. Being responsible for putting food on an employee’s table adds a little more stress if referrals aren’t coming in or the economy takes a dive.

Tell us about a personal goal that most people would be surprised to hear.

I am passionate about animals. I would love to own a mobile spay/neuter truck and service low income neighborhoods for free. If we control the population, less animals would be euthanized each year.

I know you have an alternate personality as a singer! :) Tell us about the bands you’re with and fill us in on your singing career!

My singing career did not end with the folding of the record label. I have sung in bands for years. The two bands I currently sing with are Band X and The Big Thrill. Band X is a pop/rock cover band based in Atlanta. We perform for corporate events, weddings, and big parties. I get to travel across the country and sing with some rock stars along the way. The Big Thrill is a Nashville-based cover band and we perform more locally at corporate events and weddings. I can’t believe they still pay me to do it, but I’ll keep singing as long as they keep asking!

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Why do you think people are afraid of starting a business or pursuing their passion (like you have in real estate + your music career)?

The main reason people have trouble taking the step to start a business or pursue a passion is fear. Fear of failure. You have to take a leap of faith. You have to be vulnerable. People are watching. They watch you succeed and they watch you fail. The problem is more people talk when you fail than when you succeed. We should change that. You will make mistakes, but you have to get back up and keep going. You are not the first and you won’t be the last so get over yourself and just do it!

So, how do you do real estate AND music?

If it comes down to one or the other, real estate takes precedence. The fact of the matter is, though, that unless I need to personally show a house, I can do it from anywhere. I take calls in airports, write offers in buses, and negotiate contracts in hotel rooms. I have a full-time assistant in the office, Monday through Friday and a buyer’s agent that is available to show houses if/when I am not. If I am on stage, it is typically between the hours of 8:00PM and 1:00AM and there’s not a lot of real estate emergencies during those hours ;) Bottom line is, I can do both and do both very well, so no one need worry that I’m going to stop selling real estate and become a rock star (I’m too old for that!)…unless Aerosmith calls…

Wow! See what I mean? Michelle is one rockin’ realtor! :) Her energy and drive inspire me. She is a shining example of how we can truly accomplish anything we desire – we simply must be patient, persistent and priority-focused.

What “golden nugget” did you pull from today’s interview? I discovered several, but I’d love to know what resonated most with you. Please share and let’s dialogue in the comments!

Community Impact: How can you pay it forward and inspire others?

As an entrepreneur who has learned A LOT from other individuals, I highly believe in passing along the experiences and insights I’m gleaning from my journey in business.

When I graduated from Belmont University in 2006, little did I know that just a few years later, I would be making visits back to campus to  give presentations and speak to students in the PR program, their school for entrepreneurship and, most recently, the Lambda Pi Eta – a collegiate honor society for the National Communication Association.

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L-R: Nicole, Krista, Courtney, Brianna, Marleen

In my most recent presentation at Belmont with Lambda Pi Eta, I was asked to speak about working outside of my degree and making the transition from employee to entrepreneur.

My degree from Belmont is in public relations with a minor in media studies. Thankfully, both of those areas of concentration are still incredibly relevant and transcendent across all career choices. The skills and experience I gained from those classes and internships have been extremely valuable to my journey in business. It’s important to note, however, that I never took any business classes and I certainly didn’t imagine that I would one day end up running my own business.

In addition to sharing how I made my transition to full-time business owner, I emphasized to these students the importance of personal branding. With all of the free online media tools available, there is no excuse for not leveraging them to benefit your career. Whether one desires to be an entrepreneur or not, employers are researching candidates online throughout the hiring process. If you’ve positioned yourself well online and the other candidate has not, the odds are in your favor.

It’s such an honor to see and hear how my story resonates with others. I’m humbled that I’ve been given this platform several times to share my story with these students and don’t take that lightly.

My story is one example regarding how, as much as we plan and prepare for the future, we truly never know where our individual paths will lead…but we should be compelled to share those experiences with others. Even if my story impacts only one person…that makes it worth it.

In addition to speaking on Belmont’s campus, I work with several other organizations I care deeply about – most having to do with women in business or historical preservation, two topics that are very important to me. I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned through those groups soon.

Do you believe in giving back to your community? Tell us about one way you’re leaving a positive impact on the world around you. (i.e. mentoring students, helping in a food pantry, picking up trash along the highway, etc.) I’d love to hear about organizations/activities that are important to you.

 

 

No excuses: Making time for what’s important to you

We all have the same amount of time in our days, yet many of us hide behind the facade of time limitations. I sure have before.

What I’ve learned is that it’s not about how much time you have…it’s how you leverage the time you DO have. Being disciplined and focused with time is key.

In today’s video, I leveraged my time by shooting the video while enjoying my evening walk.

With so much business being done virtually and via phone, there are countless ways you can build your business around your current job and/or other commitments. You can make calls during lunch, attend early morning or happy hour networking events to build your network, use downtime to plan/execute your strategy.

There’s a saying about entrepreneurship – “Live today like other’s won’t so you can live tomorrow like others can’t.”

As I was building my network marketing business alongside my job, believe me… networking at 7am and then working here and there on the weekends was not appealing to me…but what WAS appealing to me…was the idea of being self-employed and fitting my professional life around my personal life…versus the other way around.

By focusing my time, being strategic and committing to working harder than average, I was able to leave my corporate employer and focus full-time on serving others through my business.

Looking to do the same or similar? You can do it. I believe in you and your abilities…do you?

What’s the ONE thing you KNOW you need to make time for, but find it difficult to get on your schedule?

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