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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, July 3, 2020

A talent for hitting curveballs


Realtor Woodlief makes most of twists in personal, professional life



Chattanooga Realtor Kim Woodlief was weathering an unexpected and devastating loss when she made a choice that would define her future.

Woodlief’s husband, Mark, had died suddenly from what doctors said they believed was a heart attack, leaving her to grieve and care for their five children.

In the midst of her mourning, Woodlief also experienced a moment of clarity. “I was 45, a widow and the sole provider for a family of six,” she says. “Instead of becoming angry and bitter, I asked, ‘What do I need to do?’”

The answer involved a shift in her career. A seasoned Realtor, Woodlief was on the cusp of forming a team when her husband died.

But with her children depending on her for emotional and financial support, Woodlief drew up a less demanding set of blueprints. Instead of taking on the mammoth task of forming, growing and leading a lineup of Realtors, she would become an active listing agent and a coach to those who were new to the business.

“I was frightened because my husband had been the breadwinner for our 20-year marriage,” Woodlief recalls. “But everyone experiences pain and loss, and the biggest travesty would have been for me to lie down and not live the life my husband would have wanted me to live.”

Woodlief had worked largely with sellers since becoming a licensed agent 10 years earlier in North Carolina, so continuing in this capacity was an easy choice.

However, reaching the point where she felt ready to coach other agents had taken several years.

Early in her home-selling career, Woodlief says she noticed how her success inspired others, who would then seek out her guidance and advice.

After Woodlief joined a Keller Williams brokerage in North Carolina and began taking real estate classes there, she says she learned she was naturally suited to coaching.

“While I love selling real estate, I also enjoy moving other agent’s careers forward. It fuels me. So, I began educating myself about the coaching process.”

Woodlief was working at Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty in Chattanooga when her husband died. Two years later, she crossed paths with a spanking new agent at the brokerage, 19-year-old Austin Sizemore, the grandson of lifelong Scenic City Realtor Sharon Casteel.

After Woodlief fed Sizemore a lead that was out of her service area, the two became fast friends. When Sizemore launched a team, he turned to Woodlief to train his agents.

“My business had grown to the point where I needed help, but I hadn’t anticipated how much training that would involve,” Sizemore says. “Kim not only had a track record of success in sales, she was always putting others first and creating opportunities for them to be successful.”

Sizemore formalized his business relationship with Woodlief this past June when he hired her to be his team’s director of sales. In this role, Woodlief will work with Sizemore to develop sales strategies, oversee the team’s inside sales department and coach the team’s agents on an ongoing basis.

Woodlief will also lead by example as she continues to work as a listing agent.

“I want my team to have long-term training and accountability specific to each agent,” Sizemore explains. “That’s where Kim comes in. She sits down with each member of the team once a week and goes over their sales, develops a plan and pushes them to do more business.”

Woodlief was sold on working with Sizemore long before they teamed up, despite being 28 years older than him. “When I began to coach his girls, I noticed how he poured into his agents, which caused them to grow. It was inspiring, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

With a month on Sizemore’s team under her belt, Woodlief says she feels “blessed” to be where she could not only provide for her family through sales but also help others.

“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘If you love your job, you don’t work a day in you life?’” she asks. “I work; yesterday was a stressful day. But I love what I do, and at the end of each day, I go to bed smiling.”

Woodlief did not smile when her late husband told her to “stop being a lady who lunched and get a job,” she says.

Woodlief had been a stay-at-home mom for several years when her husband suggested she secure gainful employment. A bump in family income was not behind his proposal, however.

“I was always dragging him to open houses, and he finally said, ‘I’m tired of spending my weekends looking at homes. Why don’t you get a piece of paper that allows you to take someone else?’” Woodlief recalls with a laugh.

After a season of thriving in her new job, Woodlief joined her fellow Realtors and homeowners in watching the housing market nosedive in 2008.

Hit hard, Woodlief learned the toughest lesson of her real estate career in the months that followed – how to not chase the market.

“I would calculate what the market said a home should sell for based on past sales. But the market was declining, and because it was a buyer’s market, the home would sit and sit and sit,” she explains.

“I’m a green agent, so I’m scratching my head and asking, ‘Why won’t this house sell?’ I had priced it at what it should have been three months ago, so I had to learn to price homes ahead of the market in order to sell them.”

Woodlief says this was not just a hard lesson for her to learn – it was difficult for her sellers to accept, as well.

“A seller has their perception of the value of their home. Their neighbor down the street sold their home for X number of dollars, and their home is better, so why shouldn’t it sell for at least that?” Woodlief says.

“It was my job to find out what the true market value of a house was, but people thought I was just a slick sales person who wanted to make an easy buck by pricing their home below market value.”

Once Woodlief adjusted to the market, her sales skyrocketed, she says. By 2010, she had built a small team and was among the top 5% of agents in Charlotte.

Woodlief intended to repeat her success when she and her family moved to her hometown of Chattanooga that year. But one week after arriving, she was still running on empty.

“I couldn’t bounce back from the move,” she says. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

Woodlief was unpacking a box at her new home on Signal Mountain when she came across a pregnancy test. After doing the math in her head, she looked at a calendar and went, “Huh.”

Woodlief and her husband already had three sons, the oldest of which was about to start college, and thought they were done conceiving children. But when she took the test, it was positive.

“I’d always thought a little girl would be great, but we didn’t think it was in the cards for us,” she explains.

In addition to the challenge of starting over again as a mother, Woodlief knew she would have to hit the pause button on her career.

“I was 40, above my desired body weight and was likely going to be on bed rest, so I put my real estate career on hold,” she says. “My dream of having a little girl had thwarted my dream of building a team and taking over the world of real estate in Chattanooga.”

Although the pregnancy had caught Woodlief and her husband off guard, they had one more surprise coming: they were going to have twins. “We did have a little girl, but God thought it would be funny to throw in another boy, too,” she says, laughing again.

The twins were four when their father died and their mother began the process of building a new life for them and their siblings. They are now 9, which makes them old enough to cast a vote for which film to watch on movie nights with their mother and older brothers.

Woodlief enjoys these moments with her children and tries to string as many of them together as she can each day, whether they go hiking, boating, or spend time with other members of the family.

When Woodlief is able to carve out a sliver of time for herself, she enjoys socializing with friends.

Work, however, is always hovering nearby. In addition to representing sellers in a busy market and training two new agents and an administrator, she’s on call for questions Sizemore’s team members might have.

It’s a tall order. Sizemore is expecting to double his sales from $10 million in 2019 to $20 million in 2020 – and Woodlief says he’s where he needs to be to hit that target by the end of the year. In addition, he intends to grow his agent count to 13.

Having found a place that not only allows her to pursue her passion of working with sellers but also nurture others, Woodlief is excited to be a part of Sizemore’s planned growth. It’s going to be a lot of work, she says, but at the end of each day, she’ll be smiling.