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!
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.
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!