Realtor Amy Kuehnel loves to plan. Whether she’s planning something small, like her day, or a little bigger, like a vacation, or life-size, like a career, she enjoys mapping things out.
Kuehnel, 46, also loves when a plan comes together.
Take, for example, her recent efforts to help the brokerage at which she works – Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty Center on Signal Mountain – build team camaraderie and form community connections.
In addition to spearheading the construction of a home-themed float for the annual Signal Mountain Middle High School homecoming parade and putting together a holiday bazaar featuring local artists, Kuehnel arranged for her office to host a Salvation Army Angel Tree for the first time.
Although Kuehnel liked putting the project together and getting the word out, she says the most gratifying part of the process was seeing the angels disappear from the tree and the gifts fill the lobby at Realty Center’s Taft Highway office.
“We started with 15 angels, and a few days after the kickoff, we called Salvation Army and requested 15 more,” she recalls. “A few days before the pick up, folks were still coming in wanting an angel. Our goal next year will be to double our number.”
Take as well Kuehnel’s efforts to plan a ski trip with her family. Leaving town for a little rest and relaxation is never easy for a Realtor, but she’s taking preparing for a getaway to new levels.
“I’ve already talked with the agent who’s going to cover for me. She has a list of my buyers, a list of my listings, a list of things that might come up and a list of things I hope don’t come up.
“I’ve also prepared my clients so they’re not surprised when I say, ‘I can’t meet with you today because I’m on a ski slope.’
“I pride myself on being organized and super efficient,” she shrugs.
Kuehnel was even thinking ahead when she decided to become a teacher years before real estate entered the picture.
“I knew I wanted a family and thought it would be great to have holidays off with my kids,” she laughs.
Given Kuehnel’s penchant for planning, it comes as no surprise to learn she’s a solo agent rather than a member of a team. She says she prefers to work alone because it allows her to keep a close eye on every step of a transaction and maintain a healthy balance between work and family.
“My family is important to me,” she explains. “Being a solo agent allows me to build my own schedule and avoid spreading myself thin. If I feel like I’ll be unable to work with someone, I refer them to someone else.”
The thing that might come as a surprise to people who know Kuehnel’s exacting ways is the lack of planning she puts into growing her real estate business.
One might imagine Kuehnel begins each day intending to make a certain number of phone calls, or each month aiming to meet with a specific number of potential clients, or each year planning to sell a certain number of houses.
One can even picture Kuehnel breaking these goals down to small tasks that build toward the larger objective.
But nope. In fact, since becoming a full-time agent in 2014, Kuehnel says she’s checked her production on the MLS “maybe three times.”
“A lot of agents check their numbers every day because this can be a competitive business,” she notes. “But that’s not in my nature. I try to be more about building relationships than hitting numbers.”
To that end, Kuehnel relies solely on referrals.
“I don’t want a million phone calls every day from people who have clicked on my picture on a website. I’d rather focus on my client and what they need in the moment.”
Kuehnel says she draws on the attributes she acquired as a teacher to help her serve her buyers and sellers. These include not just listening to others well but also helping them to learn something new.
“I loved seeing the light come on when I would teach a child to read,” she says. “In the same way, real estate can be a nurturing business. I enjoy teaching first time buyers about the process.”
Kuehnel became a teacher despite growing up around the real estate business.
Her mother is Gale Holland, a longtime Signal Mountain Realtor who only recently retired. Kuehnel can recall running through the maze of cubicles at Gloria Sutton Realty Company, where her mom began her career in the 1980s.
But when Kuehnel was planning her future, she chose the teaching profession.
“I had great teachers who inspired me,” says Kuehnel, who graduated from Hixson High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before earning her master’s degree through Tennessee Tech University.
As Kuehnel’s children grew and she reached the point where she was ready to leave teaching, her husband encouraged her to pursue real estate.
“I’d always admired what my mom did. She was not only a Realtor but she also invested in rental properties and fixed up homes and then sold them – and it looked fun. So, I took a financial leap of faith.”
Giving up her biweekly paycheck wasn’t easy for Kuehnel, but she found a professional home at the company where her mother worked.
“Mom stayed with Realty Center after Gloria Sutton shut down, so I joined this firm because I knew everyone. They were family. I didn’t even interview other companies.”
Although Kuehnel is a meticulous planner, says she’s learned the value of allowing some things into fall into place since becoming a Realtor. As a result, she’s built a business with which she’s pleased is entirely from referrals.
Even after a buyer or seller becomes her client, Kuehnel is more focused on assessing and meeting their needs than planning every step of the process. It’s a more fluid way of working than she usually prefers, but she says she’s comfortable with it.
Besides, there are plenty of things keeping the planner in her busy, whether it’s the next day, her next vacation, or her next community project at the office.
“I love to plan,” she says. “And I do love when a plan comes together.”