Hope Brazzell was dutifully earning a regular paycheck when an unexpected phone call shook up her workaday existence.
One minute, she was serving in a support role for a general contractor in Nashville, and the next, Keller Williams Realtor and investor Bill Haggard was inviting her to take a sharp left turn.
“He called me on Wednesday and said, ‘I need you to be at a Keller Williams conference in Orlando on Saturday,’” Brazzell recalls. “I had never even stepped foot inside a KW.”
As Brazzell reeled from mental whiplash, Haggard said, “I know things are happening fast, but sometimes, you need to take the bull by its horns.”
If Brazzell was caught off guard, it was because Haggard had spent a year driving her along what she was beginning to think was a long, slow curve to nowhere. After connecting with him through a friend, she had met him for lunches, taken a battery of personality tests and been intrigued by the ambiguity of his statements about what he had in store for her.
“He’d say, ‘I like knowing talented people,’ and, ‘You’re on my short list,’ without saying anything specific about a job,” Brazzell explains. “I was starting to think he was stringing me along.”
Haggard, who at the time owned seven Keller Williams market centers, was not toying with Brazzell. The conference was the company’s 2012 Family Reunion, a massive event. At the end of it, he offered Brazzell a job as the team leader of his Franklin office. Having had time to recover, she accepted the long-coming proposal.
Over the next six years, Brazzell spearheaded growth that quadrupled the agent count at the Franklin market center and made a name for herself in KW’s southeast region.
Eight years after the life-changing phone call with Haggard, a call with Nathan Brown, team leader of Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown, resulted in another change of direction for Brazzell.
As the two were talking shop, Brazzell mentioned she was open to exploring opportunities outside of the Nashville area. Brown, who over the preceding decade had led his team through a period of massive growth, made a pitch for Chattanooga.
There was no Haggard-like ambiguity in his suggestion; he needed help guiding the city’s largest team of Realtors forward, and he wanted Brazzell to be the one at his side.
Brazzell says the opportunity felt tailor-made. At the time, she was leading a group of 75 agents in Mt. Juliet and was eager to work with a large team again. She also liked the idea of joining an office with a reputation for doing great work.
“Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown has a stellar reputation throughout the southeast,” Brazzell says. “It’s known for its leadership, productivity and the growth of agent businesses.”
After contemplating similar offers from market centers in Chicago and Raleigh-Durham, Brazzell chose Chattanooga, and in March transitioned to the Scenic City market.
“Chattanooga keeps me in Tennessee and close to my family,” she explains. “Also, Nathan did a great job of selling the city.”
Brazzell is not an assistant leader but a co-leader, making her an equal voice in all matters. It’s a rare role within Keller Williams.
“There are probably less than 10 co-leader scenarios in the company,” Brazzell says. “It’s not the model; most market centers this size have a team leader and an assistant team leader. But there are plenty of responsibilities for Nathan and me to divide and say grace over.”
Brazzell describes her job in general terms, saying a Keller Williams team leader is responsible for training his or her agents, growing the market and ensuring profitability.
She then goes into greater detail by painting a hectic picture of a typical workday.
“One minute, I’m conducting a budget meeting involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the next minute, I’m teaching a class on lead generation, and the minute after that, I’m on a phone call with KW headquarters.
“I’m constantly jumping because, at the end of the day, the team leader is responsible for what happens inside these walls.”
Brazzell likens her position to that of the leader of a volunteer army, saying the agents are independent contractors who are there because they want to be, not because they have to be.
“Nathan and I are the glue; we’re the ones who inspire them; we’re their constant resource.”
Brazzell says she thrives on what most people would consider to be the most challenging aspect of her job – the chaos. While her days have structure, they’re also brimming with disruptions and unexpected challenges. She says this is part of what made the job seem made for her.
“I like not knowing what’s coming around the corner. Some people would look at my schedule, or Nathan’s schedule, and go ‘Nope!’ But I like that there’s never a dull moment.”
One thing has challenged Brazzell, though: learning to lead an office with a large number of teams.
“Every market center had a unique personality; Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown is heavy on teams, whereas Franklin was focused on individual agents,” she says. “In that sense, this office has stretched me.”
An “amazing” working relationship with Brown is helping, Brazzell adds. “We’ve fallen into a great rhythm because we know and trust each other.”
Since she first worked as a team leader in Franklin, Brazzell says she’s loved the work, primarily because it has given her a purpose.
“I have conversations with people that move them forward. When someone says, ‘I’m going to become a Realtor, I get to help them launch their business and inspire them along the way. Or when someone wants to leave the widget factory or transition out of corporate American, I can provide the road map that can make that happen for them. It’s tremendously satisfying.”
Brazzell originally hails from Huntingdon, a west Tennessee town so small, it had just one real estate agent, she says. After earning an undergraduate degree in history from The University of Tennessee at Martin, she moved to Nashville and began working in retail.
“I’m sure my parents were terribly proud,” she laughs. “After four years of college and graduating summa cum laude, I sold clothes for Eddie Bauer.”
At the suggestion of her boyfriend, whom she met in Nashville, Brazzell earned her real estate license and took a job with a builder.
“I was the lady in the model home,” she says with an exaggerated flourish of her right hand. “It gave me structure and taught me about sales. I loved it.”
Over the next decade, Brazzell sold multiple neighborhoods across Nashville as she worked with prices points ranging from starter homes to luxury subdivisions. However, when the market corrected itself in 2008, there was nothing left to sell, so she left the builder and took the support position with the general contractor.
Six years after Brazzell went to work for Haggard, she accepted a promotion to general manager, especially making her the leader of his team leaders. Although the position placed about 3,500 agents under her, she felt too far removed from them and her sense of purpose.
“It was a good job, but it wasn’t fulfilling,” Brazzell explains. “I know that sounds Velveeta cheesy, but I feel like I was made to be a team leader.”
So, Brazzell left the employ of Haggard but not Keller Williams, and in time, she became the leader of the small team in Mt. Juliet.
Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown marks Brazzell’s return to a large office and all the chaos that comes with it. She wouldn’t have things any other way.
“I can’t believe this job exists,” she enthuses. “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”