When Realtor Jason Carr was the first to join Mark Hite’s team in 2008. Hite was growing his business and needed help, Carr recalls, and asked him to be his buyer’s agent. “I’ll start tomorrow,” Carr recalls saying.
He was still a member of Hite’s team when Hite died Dec. 30.
Hite was on the other side of Jan Tiano’s first deal as a Realtor in 2006. Ten years later, she was searching for a team to join when Hite invited her to become a part of his. Tiano’s broker at the time advised her to seize the opportunity, saying, “You two would be a good fit.”
Tiano and Hite were an excellent fit, Tiano says. While the team’s ranks swelled to as high as 22, Hite was commanding a team of 16 agents and staff at the time of his death.
This group has since disbanded, with individuals and clusters charting new courses and peeling away like ships leaving a fleet.
Onward Chattanooga Homes
The largest of the new ventures to form since Hite died is Onward Chattanooga Homes, which consists of Carr, Tricia Heider, Stacy Barry, Bethany Moody and Geno Petro.
The group announced its formation Jan. 18 through Real Estate Partners, the Chattanooga firm where Hite served during the last three years of his career. The brokerage said the team’s name, Onward, is a sentiment Hite shared frequently to motivate his team to do its best work.
“Mark sent us inspirational texts every morning,” Carr recalls. “Whether it was three words or 300 words, he’d always end with ‘Onward.’
Carr was at home one evening after Hite died when Real Estate Partners owner Darlene Brown sent his former team members a text encouraging them to continue his legacy. She ended it with “Onward.”
“I realized that was one way we could honor Mark and move forward,” Carr says.
Heider says forming a new venture with Realtors who were a part of Hite’s team was as natural as drawing close to family upon the death of a loved one.
“During our last team meeting before Christmas, Mark said, ‘This is our last time together before the new year, so we’re all going to spend six hours in the office.’ We looked forward to team meetings because we liked each other, and because Mark was always there, working beside us. I remember being secretly excited, even though we outwardly went, ‘Ugh!’”
Carr will stand at the vanguard of the new venture as its lead agent. However, unlike the manner in which Hite organized his team, none of the agents will serve either buyers or sellers; rather, every member of the group will represent both buyers and sellers.
“When I talked with the other agents, they said they wanted to do something different,” Carr explains.
Barry says she’s ready to expand the services she provides clients because Hite prepared her to do so.
“When I started real estate at Keller Williams in 2015, I was amazed that I worked in the same office as Mark Hite. He was so down-to-earth; he’d teach us how to take business away from him. He’d say, ‘If you’re going up against me, this is what you need to do.’”
Plus, Carr adds, Real Estate Partner’s leadership has provided a strong shoulder to lean on since Hite’s death.
“We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in now if Mark hadn’t prepared us for it. And as hard as it is to go forward, Darlene, (Real Estate Partners co-owner) Ryan (May) and (vice president of operations) Danielle (Farmer) have been incredible throughout this transition. I can call Ryan at any time of night and he’ll answer. Darlene will do the same.”
The Tiano Group
A second team consisting of Jan Tiano and Chloe Tiano also has emerged from the remnants of Hite’s former troupe. The two decided to combine their businesses into a family venture after Chloe suggested she and Jan – her mother-in-law – move forward together.
Chloe, 25, had been planning to launch her own endeavor someday since becoming a Realtor in 2019. Hite’s death caused her to fast track these plans, she says.
“I was moving toward building my own name,” Chloe clarifies. “Mark encouraged that. He asked me throughout my time with him, ‘What are your goals in real estate? What do you want to do in this business?’ I always said, ‘I want to build my own thing, like you have.’”
Chloe says Hite did more than encourage her; he also equipped her to thrive on her own.
“Mark wanted everyone to succeed. When agents from other companies asked him for advice, he’d spelled it all-out – ‘This is what I’m doing, and this is what you need to be doing.’ I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.”
Chloe hoped to work with family, including her husband, professional football player Nick Tiano, who intends to become licensed. Locking arms with her mother-in-law seemed like a natural way of lifting her venture off the ground, she says.
“When Mark died, we said, ‘This happened; we can’t change it. So, where do we go from here? How can we take care of our clients in the way Mark would have wanted us to?’”
The pair says each of them will bring their unique strengths to the table. Chloe, who earned an undergraduate degree in public relations and a master’s degree in sports marketing from the University of Alabama, is primed to promote The Tiano Group.
Although Chloe works with buyers and sellers along the entire client spectrum, she developed a love for teaching while under Hite’s guidance, and is looking forward to working with more first-time homebuyers.
“Those are my favorite transactions. They aren’t always the smoothest deals because the clients don’t necessarily know what the process looks like, but I’m big on communication and teaching people.”
Plus, Chloe continues, closing with a first-time buyer is always fun.
“They’re always grateful to be a homeowner.”
Jan plans to sharpen her negotiating skills as she serves buyers and sellers and expand her already considerable sphere of influence, she says.
“A lot of my business has been family and friends upsizing or downsizing. I relied on Mark for many things, but I also had a stable foundation for my own business. So, I’m going to nurture that, as I have been.”
Hite’s mentorship of both agents will also be evident in their work with clients, Jan proceeds.
“Mark didn’t want a reason, he wanted a result. He didn’t want to hear why something didn’t happen, he wanted you to tell him what did you do to fix the problem. I try to keep that top of mind. I’m not going to call Darlene and cry; I’m going to look for the solution that will make my client happy.”
People rarely discuss Hite without mentioning his charitable work, which was substantial. Both Onward and The Tiano Group plan to continue Hite’s work with local nonprofits and philanthropic events.
“We want to be involved in the community,” says Chloe. “We were both born and raised here, we both live here, and this is where I plan to raise my family. If we can’t help to elevate our community, then what’s the point of it all?”
“It would be a travesty to allow the work Mark put into the places he loved and supported to fade,” adds Jan. “We can’t do everything he did, but (breast cancer treatment fundraiser) Pink! is near and dear to me, so we’ll stay involved with that.”
Other members of Hite’s former team have found different places to hang their licenses. Realtor Kelly Elmore, for example, has moved to the Kellerhals Team at Keller Williams. Although all of these agents are no longer working together, they’ll be forever connected to the tree from which they all branched, says Farmer.
“Everyone is starting their journey onward. Mark would walk into this office and say, ‘Every day is a new day,’ to each of our agents, including those outside of his team. He wanted everyone to be taken care of. So, it was easy for us to rally around everyone. That’s who we are, too.”