Tiffany Little knew she’d chosen the wrong career when her boss reprimanded her for being too sociable.
Little, 32, elected to major in accounting at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after briefly exploring nursing and social work, drawn to what she thought would be lucrative starting pay.
Either Little was wrong or the numbers she’d seen were wrong, but as she began working in the accounting department of a local company, she was making far less money than she’d anticipated.
“The numbers online had been fabricated,” Little speculates as she sips from an iced Dunkin’ Donuts coffee she’d brought to the Starbucks near Hamilton Place. “I didn’t start anywhere close.”
Nevertheless, Little committed herself to the work for as long as she could stand it. Several years later, she admitted to herself that she’d chosen poorly.
“I didn’t like studying accounting in college but I thought it would be different in the real world,” she explains. “I realized it was exactly like what I’d studied and I was bored to tears.”
Little also felt boxed in – literally and figuratively. She spent each day laboring in a cubicle, unable to interact with her co-workers, who were elbow-deep in their own numbers.
“I was the exact opposite of everyone around me,” Little recalls. “I thrive on interaction.”
Asking Little to be anything other than gregarious and outgoing would be like telling a leopard spots are no longer in style. So, she found the impulse to step out of her cubicle and mingle irresistible.
“If you work on the same floor as me, I’m going to come over and talk with you,” Little shrugs.
Little says her exuberant personality is a reaction to her upbringing as an only child in Rogersville, a town she says didn’t get a Walmart until 2004 and still has dirt roads.
“Summers were boring,” she says. “Mom and dad were great but there was no one else around. When I get married, I want to have 10 kids.”
Immediately after Little’s boss reprimanded her, she loaded a job search website, determined to find a new gig. She smiles as she recalls seeing a Keller Williams ad that invited her to speak with a local broker.
“I became interested in real estate in college but I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to do. I did like the idea of having rental properties so I could tell my boss at my nine-to-five ‘Adios’ if he said something I didn’t like.”
As Little contemplated the ad from within her cubicle, she realized real estate represented freedom and, she says, unlimited income.
“When you’re working a nine-to-five, they might give you a 25-cent raise – and that’s supposed to cover inflation?”
Switching gears at 30 after giving more than a decade to school and a career wasn’t easy. During Little’s first six months as a Realtor, she worked a variety of odd jobs to pay her bills and struggled to find her footing in home sales.
Even after taking advantage of the training Keller Williams offers its agents, Little says she wondered if she’d made a bad decision. “The training was excellent but I didn’t know where to begin,” she remembers. “There was a lot of information.”
Little finally completed her first transaction at the six-month mark. But as she pressed on from there, closings were sporadic and tallied no more than two a month.
Discouraged, Little reached out to the person who’d encouraged her to become a Realtor.
After the online ad sparked Little’s interest in real estate, she had lunch with Keller Williams Realtor Bekah Cochran, who talked with her about being an agent. As Little then mulled over making a change, Cochran occasionally followed up with her through phone calls or emails to gauge her readiness.
Little reconnected with Cochran in person in 2019, ready to dive in. She says she’ll never forget the bright smile and the tight hug Cochran gave her when they met.
“She made me feel special,” Cochran says. “I knew I was making the right decision about real estate and Keller Williams.”
Little says Cochran helped her again during the lean months by serving as her mentor. As an example, Little mentions how Cochran coached her on using social media as a business tool and then held her accountable.
“I like to be the one scrolling, not the one putting stuff out there,” Little admits. “It’s hard for me to talk about my accomplishments.”
In the wake of Cochran’s coaching, Little is consistently closing four transactions a month and is pleased with the amount of work she’s doing and the money she’s making.
“I try to work with no more than six clients at time so everyone has my undivided attention. I never want you to feel like I’m too busy for you.”
Little does set aside time to serve the local agent association, Greater Chattanooga Realtors, as well as volunteer for the service projects in which her brokerage becomes involved. She recently served on the Community Partnership Committee at GCR and pitched in during Red Day, Keller Williams’ annual day of service.
Little continues to receive coaching from Cochran but says she’s also benefiting from learning about how others have achieved success.
“Reading about what other people went through to get to where they are motivates me,” she says. “Bekah is on top of her game but I don’t know what she went through to get there.”
Unlike accounting, real estate has lived up to Little’s expectations. She can spend her day talking with people, if she pleases, and she’s rarely stuck in one place for long.
“Having my own business is definitely a good fit for me,” she muses. “I could travel to Florida tomorrow and coordinate my work with agents here. I feel free.”
And there’s no danger of her boss reprimanding her for being too sociable.