Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 29, 2017

Opposites excel at Property Shop

Brown, Patty use diverse skills, interests to build success

When Diane Patty and Lisa Brown met while working at Loveman’s 33 years ago, they could not have been more different.

Their disparities spanned politics (Patty the conservative,  Brown the liberal), religion (Patty a Baptist, Brown a Methodist) and, perhaps most precariously, sports.

“Lisa was a Georgia fan and I was a Tennessee fan,” Patty adds, raising an eyebrow in mock disapproval.

Patty, who’s as unfiltered as a pack of Lucky Strikes, even points out their physical differences. “I’m 5 feet tall and she’s 6 feet tall,” she says, laughing.

But their dissimilarities never mattered; their friendship was instant and profound. It also altered the course of their lives.

Over three decades later, Patty and Brown have gone from fast friends at Loveman’s, where Patty was a retail management intern and Brown was an assistant buyer, to fully vested business partners. In that time, they have found that they not only have great chemistry as friends, they have the business savvy needed to make waves in their chosen industry: real estate.

As 50/50 owners of Chattanooga Property Shop, an all-female team of Realtors based out of Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty, Patty and Brown are co-running a company that has grown from $8 million in sales in 2012 – their first full year together – to $50 million in sales in 2016. They are on course to match that number this year.

The secret to their success is really no secret; they’ve simply followed the Keller Williams model for building a team.

“We were at a Keller Williams conference, and someone said, ‘I did $15 million last year, and I’ve been doing this only three years.’ We looked at each other and said, ‘We could do that,’” Brown recalls.

“So, we implemented the ideas we thought we could handle. When we returned to the conference the following year, someone said, ‘I’ve been doing this only five years, and I did $50 million last year.’ We looked at each other and said, ‘We could do that.’”

Patty and Brown continued to return to the conferences and bring ideas back to Chattanooga. One that has shaped their business more than any other is “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent,” a Keller Williams model that provides agents with step-by-step guidance for building a team as the leader crosses specific milestones.

“When we reached a certain volume, the model said to hire this person, so we did,” Brown explains. “And when we reached the next level of volume, it said to hire those people, so we did. And it worked.”

After starting Chattanooga Property Shop in 2011, Patty and Brown have gradually built a team that includes five buyer’s specialists (Carmen Patty, Kim Coulter, Robin Crump, Mandi Kaye and Alexis Scott) and a director of operations (Tanya Swann). As they expanded, their revenues grew.

But there’s more to the success of Chattanooga Property Shop than Patty and Brown following a detailed plan. Each of them has also invested her own skills, cunning and resourcefulness into the business.

Divide and conquer

Like Donny and Marie Osmond, who split the singing duties on their ‘70s variety show between country and rock ‘n’ roll, Patty handles residential sales while Brown manages the commercial side of the business.

When the ladies first formed Chattanooga Property Shop, they both focused on residential real estate. Their philosophy was rooted in the notion that they were counselors and facilitators, not salespeople.

“We’re here to help our clients make one of the most important financial decisions of their lives,” Brown says. “We’re here to help them make wise choices, not sell them a house.”

Patty was a natural with the company’s residential customers. She connected easily with her clients and had a knack for taking care of their needs, no matter how many balls she had in the air. Patty also proved herself to be a formidable negotiator with loan officers, title companies and appraisers. Today, as she concentrates on serving sellers, that list include buyer’s specialists.

“Diane’s knowledge is such that there is virtually no obstacle she can’t overcome,” Brown says. “Also, she’s good at taking the stress off her clients so they can enjoy the process.”

Brown’s entry into commercial sales grew out of her relationship with Northwest Georgia Bank in Ringgold, for which she was turning over foreclosed properties. Brown was breezing through the bank’s troubled assets and itching to take on one of their commercial pieces, but management was reluctant, despite her frequent requests. When the building on Access Road in which American Red Cross now resides became available, Brown stopped pressing and started begging.

Her tactic worked.

Since Brown was new to commercial real estate and didn’t know how to market a business property, she approached the listing like she would a house.

That worked, too. During a broker cocktail party, someone walked up to her, drink in hand, and said, “I have a buyer for you.”

With Patty’s blessing and encouragement, Brown immersed herself in advanced training and began focusing almost exclusively on commercial sales. In time, her knowledge caught up with her work ethic, and she rose like cream to the top of the pail.

In 2016, Brown was the No. 1 commercial agent at Keller Williams Downtown, which is the company’s top commercial office in the Southeast. Among the properties for which she has bragging rights are the former FSG Bank building on Broad Street and the Army Reserve building on 23rd Street.

“Lisa’s personality lends itself to doing really well in commercial real estate,” Patty points out. “She likes the art of the deal and doesn’t intimidate easily.”

These qualities have served Brown well as she’s bumped up against what she calls “the boy’s network” of local commercial agents.

“Commercial real estate has always been something of a man’s world; so, I’m always going up against the male Realtors of Chattanooga,” she acknowledges.

“Making a name for myself as a commercial agent hasn’t been easy,” Brown continues. “I’ve had to fight harder, become more knowledgeable and prove myself more often. But I’ve done it. I’ll work a deal until there’s no blood left in it.”

“I’ve seen her work somebody under the table,” Patty says. “That’s how we built both sides of the business. We’ve worked harder and smarter than anyone else.”

While this approach was necessary for Brown because of her gender and the male-dominated environment in which she works, Patty is not suggesting the same was true for her. Rather, she’s referring to the blood, sweat and tears she has shed as a professional who’s doing everything she can to serve her clients well and succeed in business – her gender notwithstanding.

Still, both women are focused on keeping Chattanooga Property Shop a all-women outfit – not because they say they believe females bring something to the table males Realtors don’t (Brown is very complimentary of her male counterparts in commercial real estate) but because they want to create a culture in which they help women succeed.

“We champion women,” Brown says. “That said, the people who work for us have to have a high level of confidence. They also have to be able to deal with our personalities, which are very strong.”

“We don’t put up with any crap,” Patty adds. “We work hard and expect the same out of our team.”

Laughter is the glue

Outsiders might be surprised that Patty and Brown have been able to put up with each other, given the rigors of running a business in a demanding and competitive industry like real estate. But they continue to get along as famously as ever and claim to be in full agreement “99.9 percent of the time.”

Once again, the secret of their success is no secret; Patty and Brown truly are best of friends.

“Diane is a lot of fun,” Brown says. “We laugh the entire time we’re together.”

As if to prove Brown’s point, Patty says, “Sometimes, even when we’re crying, we end up laughing” – and the two break out in hysterics.

Someone who really wants to get Patty and Brown going only needs to ask about their frequent trips to New York City years ago. “Those were fun,” Brown says, her eyes widening.

“Talk about laughing,” Patty says.

With this, the pair launches into a fresh round of hysterics and all but double-up over unspoken stories only they know and will never tell.

But as strong as their friendship is, starting Chattanooga Property Shop created a new and challenging dynamic in their relationship. Instead of simply communicating as friends, they had to learn how to talk to each other as business partners.

Both say this was hard because it forced them to overcome their differences for the first time.

“Running a company together is different from being best friends,” Patty says. “For example, Lisa is diplomatic, and I tend to say what’s on my mind. I needed for her to tell me what was bothering her, but that wasn’t easy for her.”

“And I needed Diane to bring up issues in a nicer way,” Brown adds. “Sometimes, she’s a little fiery and I have to say, ‘Whoa, girl!’”

As each of them bent their nature to accommodate the other one, the trust between them deepened. “I trust Diane implicitly,” Brown says. “She cares about this business, her family and our team, and I’ve never seen anyone work harder than her.”

“We’ve never had to worry about who’s working harder,” Patty says. “I’ve never had to wonder if Lisa is pulling her weight.”

Out of the fertile soil of their shared trust sprouted respect for each other as professionals. This respect has trickled down to the rest of the team. “They saw the respect we have for each other and in turn began to respect each other the same way,” Brown adds.

From Loveman’s to Property Shop

Although Patty and Brown would someday become inseparable, they began life in different parts of the Southeast.

Patty grew up in the town of Savannah, Tennessee, studied retail management at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and then spent a year in Atlanta working for a department store named Rich’s. After marrying “a Ringgold boy,” she moved to the Scenic City and took a job with Loveman’s.

When Loveman’s was sold to Proffitt’s, Patty bowed out of the retail business, had two children and spent 20 years running her husband’s law offices.

After Patty and her husband divorced, she was ready for something new. The Keller Williams agents who listed her home suggested she try real estate. Patty tested the waters, and after a successful first year (during which she “capped” at Keller Williams), she decided she was in the business for good.

Brown was born in 1962 and spent her childhood on a 325-acre family farm in Ringgold, 200 miles to the east of where Patty was growing up. College took her to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she earned a degree in fashion merchandising and interior design. Her next stop was Loveman’s.

After meeting Diane at the retail outlet, Brown spent several years crisscrossing the Southeast. A job selling jewelry to department stores put her on the road and gave Brown her first taste of working in sales. A position with Ralph Lauren’s fragrance department then took her to Atlanta.

A few years later, Brown married “a Chattanooga boy.” The two eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, for his job and lived there seven years. While there, Brown worked for Revlon as a regional manager. When Estée Lauder came knocking with a job offer back in Atlanta, Brown opened the door. While living in the Georgia capital, she and her husband started a family and began to feel the pull of home.

“I waited ten years to have kids,” Brown explains. “I was on a fast track and wanted to stay on it. But we wanted our children to be raised near their grandparents.”

After returning to Ringgold and settling in at the family farm, Brown tried to commute to Atlanta, but being gone four days a week and the travel her job required took their toll on the new mother, so she left Estée Lauder and launched a successful advertising firm at home.

When the recession hit her business in 2010, she followed Patty into real estate.

Although Patty and Brown initially worked as individual agents out of concern for their friendship, the gravity of their relationship drew them together as business partners. Not long after hiring an administrative assistant to share, they decided they could “blow this thing out of the water” if they joined forces.

Six years later, Patty and Brown have done just that. But as their team members begin to amass their own wealth, the co-owners of Chattanooga Property Shop are planning the next stages of the company’s growth.

Patty and Brown’s goals include adding staff on the listing side, hiring a marketing guru and expanding their call center. They’re also considering opening offices in other cities, including Dalton, Georgia and Nashville.

Patty and Brown hope to eventually step out of production and function as co-CEOs while the Chattanooga Property Shop team runs the ship.

Even then, Patty and Brown will be thick as thieves. Following decades of friendship, they have all but blended their two families into one.

The only difference between home and work is they’re not allowed to talk about work at home.

“When we bring up real estate, everyone tells us to shut up,” Patty says, laughing.

Brown, of course, laughs, too.

Thirty-three years after Patty and Brown said hello for the first time at Loveman’s, the differences between them seem less pronounced.

It’s unlikely Patty will go through a growth spurt at this point in life, or that either lady will become a fan of the other’s favorite football team, but all that’s evident between them is friendship.

“When we met, we were very different but our core values were the same,” Patty says.

“After years of being friends, we’ve both come to the center. As age does to you, everything gets a little gray.”