Stephanie Simmons is a mom, a wife, and a businesswoman from Walnut Springs, Texas. Stephanie shares with us how she took the brave decision to begin her own business as a local realtor and although it seemed impossible to accomplish due to the pandemic, she got success selling almost twice her first-year goal by keeping a warm, genuine love for people.
“You learn from people around you… If you truly care, you will know more about them than you know about yourself.”Stephanie Simmons
In this episode, we learn about the influences and experiences that have fueled Stephanie to be the driven, passionate person of faith she is today. Few people have the self-confidence and determination to accomplish their goals. Today, we tease out how she is able to do it.
What we learned about adding love for people
- How was opening a business in a pandemic year
- What to do when you feel overwhelmed at the early stages of your business
- How to be a more caring, compassionate person and add more love for people
- What is the source of greatest inspiration in Staphanie’s life to achieve her goals
- A Plan for Financial Success by Dave Ramsey
- Gimbal, the most helpful product purchased for $100 or less
- Follow her on Instagram and Snapchat
- Join the Facebook Stephanie Simmons Realty Group
- Find her on Tik Tok
- Stephanie’s profile as local realtor
Will: Greetings, all. Thank you so much for joining me today for this experiment. This project that I’m working on is a way for me to attempt to enrich and better my life in 2021. So what I’ve done is I’ve identified a list of people who I have met that have really inspired me. Maybe it was their work ethic or their speaking ability, or their ease with people, or just a passion for what they are doing and a passion for why I wanted to explore these people a little bit to discover and to see what I could learn from them in terms of how I might better my own life. I hope this experiment will help you and me both pick up tips and tricks to enhance our daily life.
Will: My guest today is Stephanie Simmons. Stephanie is a realtor here in [Cleburne 00:00:55], and Stephanie sold my house back in 2017 and it’s actually a funny story. So back in 2015, ’16, somewhere right in there, as Stephanie was in the neighborhood digging up leads for houses to sell in that area and I was out the driveway and she stopped and she asked if I’d ever considered selling the house. I made a mistake that day. I made the mistake of telling Stephanie that, “Yes, in fact, my wife and I had talked about selling the house, but we weren’t really ready to do anything.”
Will: Well, that’s all Stephanie needed. I got on her schedule and every couple of weeks she was following up with me saying, “Hey, have you made any decision on the sell of your house? How can I help?” I mean, she did that, I kid you not, for two years to constantly keeping up with me. So finally the time came when we decided that it was time to sell our house. I thought if anyone has earned the right to sell our house, it is Stephanie. So I got her on the phone and she helped us sell the house. I don’t think we ever put a sign in the yard. She had it sold before it was even on the market. I mean, she was just on top of it.
Will: When it came time to buy our second home, Stephanie was the first person we called because we had a level of trust with her in terms of just the way she operated her business and the way she interacted with us. We just trusted her. So she helped us get into that home, our second house and some things that I really admire about Stephanie is her seemingly genuine love for people. I see her around town and she knows everybody, she’s eager to greet and make people feel welcomed. She’s really amazing at that.
Will: Stephanie recently started her own real estate business. She got her start with [Putz 00:02:55] Realty here in town. Last year in 2020, the pandemic year, she started her own real estate business. We’ll get into all that in just a minute. Stephanie, thank you so very much for joining me today.
Stephanie: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Will: First question. Do you ever sleep? Really, I mean it, because for people who might be listening, who don’t know you, would you mind just sharing briefly about your life and your family? I’ve met your husband and I see pictures of your daughters on Facebook and already starting business. Just tell folks a little bit about you and your family, if you’d be so kind.
Stephanie: Well, I do have two beautiful children. They are eight and four, Emma and Everly. I’ve been married to my husband for almost 13 years, lucky number 13 coming up. We met actually 15 years ago and we moved to Cleburne. right before we got married, we bought our first house. I know not the usual typical way to do things, but I trusted that this was where God was leading us. So I’m going to marry him. I’ll buy a house with him. I moved to Cleburne then and then bought our forever property, I guess, a few years after. But not even being in real estate, I had an inkling for it. When we sold our home, it was interesting to do the process. I tried a for sale by owner and it was like, “Okay, well maybe that’s not the way to go.”
Stephanie: But I hired a real estate professional, which were my friends at the time, and had them sell my home. But I was just intrigued with the process and decided, “Well, I don’t know. That’s kind of an interesting career, but never thought about it.” Then we went to purchase our land that God brought us to, definitely a good story there. They helped us with that. So all through that process, I was like, “Well, still thinking about it and then praying about it.” I was like, “well, if there’s a door to be opened, God will open that door,” and switched careers and took classes and here we are five years later.
Stephanie: And lived in Cleburne for 13 years now and love it. I don’t see us leaving unless God has another plan, but we’ve definitely made a lot of friends here. Right now where we live versus in town, which is quite interesting, when we lived in town, we didn’t really know anybody in our neighborhood. Didn’t even talk to the neighbor here. Didn’t talk to the neighbor here. We were kind of isolated in our little house and now we live on almost eight acres and my neighbor next door goes to your church, actually, Bob [Bade 00:05:40]. And we’ve talked to Bob and Sally since we’ve moved here and then my best friends live next door and then Charla and her husband live across, like I know where everybody lives and I have relationships with a lot of them within our two mile radius neighborhood. Pretty interesting.
Will: That’s awesome.
Stephanie: Yeah. Met a lot of people along the way here.
Will: You mentioned that real estate was a second career for you. What were you doing before you got into real estate?
Stephanie: Well, my lifelong career has always been sales. I used to wait tables when I was in high school and in college. Then I got a job at a resort that was more high-end. That’s where I learned the whole hospitality part of it. Taking care of people, that’s the most important part of it, using their names. They had their five standards and they pretty much ingrained that in your soul and said, “There’s your hospitality zone. Use their name, make sure the uniform looks good, make sure you look good, guest relations, and smile.” Those are the five standards that they live by. I worked my way into the conference sales department there. I worked there for 11 years and learned so much. That’s where my love for food comes. I worked in the restaurant and learned, I mean, they would fly in fresh salmon and [inaudible 00:07:06] and all these things that I never even was exposed to in my little small town of 700 people.
Stephanie: They would fly the salmon in from Hawaii, cut it open right there, and peel you off a piece and say, “Hey, try it.” I’m like, “Oh, raw fish?” Like right off the fish. But it really opened me to just accepting of the things around me as culture changes and accepting change period, because it was an ever-changing restaurant and never had the same menu. There may be a few two or three things that remained the same on the menu, but the menu changed daily and then learning about wines and spirits and all of those things and culturizing you with France and Scotland and all of these things that all these countries that made different parts of this menu and pulled it together to make it as exquisite as it was. Then delivering it to the guests that came into the restaurant. So that was the most important role in my life, I think, to help me get to where I’m at.
Stephanie: Then my friends owned a business here in Cleburne and they called me one day and was like, “Hey, will you come help us put our business back together?” The company wasn’t doing very well and I wanted to be closer to my home, so to speak, because I was commuting 45 minutes back and forth and God said, “Hey, here’s an opportunity five minutes from your house.” They offered me a whole entire package that I couldn’t refuse to come help them develop standards for their company and get it back going into the, I guess, green versus red side. So I went and joined them. It was an air conditioning company, never ever did air conditioning… All I knew was to turn it on and make it colder in the house.
Stephanie: But I went into that industry just as an office manager, I mean, bookkeeper, basically, invoicing and doing things, but created standards for that company as well, brought in uniforms, wrapped their trucks, created logos, websites. I didn’t create them, but hired people to create that image and then produce manuals and stuff for them to help them to develop relationships with their clients. I think one thing that that company has been in business since 1956, a long time here in Cleburne and is ran by one of my good friends too. Her dad started that company back then.
Stephanie: But I remember when I went into real estate, I was a little disappointed how things were kind of going because it didn’t just take off. Everybody gets kind of wants it to just be there and growing quickly. My friend that owns that company, she said, “My dad once told me, Stephanie, don’t worry about the ones you don’t get. You take really good care of the ones you do get, and that will pay it forward.” And it’s so true. And then I took that with me into real estate and I just take care of the clients that God has given me because in return, they will reward me more so in the end than the ones I didn’t get.
Will: Excellent. Wonderful. Wonderful. You mentioned growing up in a small town. I’m curious. Where did you grow up?
Stephanie: Walnut Springs.
Will: Oh, okay.
Stephanie: You’ve heard of it?
Will: Yeah, yeah. Just real local. That’s not that far away from here. Okay.
Stephanie: 45 minutes. I graduated with 10 people.
Will: Wow. That is wild.
Stephanie: I didn’t even know different cuts of meat, like parts of the cow. I knew ground beef and that was it.
Will: So that was an amazing opportunity to come from that small community to get to learn all of the things that you did. That is absolutely incredible. Let’s talk about this love for people that you have. I mentioned that as a characteristic that I admire in you, and you’ve already touched on it and I would imagine as a natural extroverted type person that I at least perceive you to be. Well, I guess that would be a question. Do you characterize yourself as an extrovert?
Stephanie: Very much so.
Will: Okay. So that probably comes very naturally to you. These things that you learned and you coupling it with your personality seems to have created a perfect storm of a genuine love for people. If you had to give advice to me, like how could I learn to be more like that? Is there something that comes to mind that you might give to me? As a minister, I want to be more caring, a more caring minister, a more caring, compassionate person. I sometimes come across as having a personality of a shellfish. I just, I don’t mean to, but if I wanted to grow in that area of my life, just having a genuine care and compassion for people and not come across as so crabby or even like I’m trying too hard. What would you tell me? How would you direct me? Does anything come to mind?
Stephanie: Yeah. I tell people learn about the people. It’s not so much about what you’re doing. It’s what are they doing? You learn their spouses names, you learn what their spouses do, their children’s names, their children’s activities, their likes and dislikes. So I can tell you my friend, Tiffany, I probably hadn’t seen her in, I don’t know, 10 years maybe, but I can tell you whenever Tiffany goes out to dinner and Tiffany maybe has a little bit in her drink, she’s done with it, like just take it away because I pay attention to that little detail of my friendships, number one, but with the people that I’m around and the people that I’m with.
Stephanie: But I just remember that and so even if we went to dinner tonight, I could tell you at the end if there’s a little bit in there, you can just go ahead and take it away because she’s done. She’s not going to finish it to the last drop. That’s just her habit. I can tell you that my, well, of course my husband, but paying attention to your spouse, you’re with them all the time. But that’s basically how you take care of the people around you. You learn what they like and what they don’t like. My friend, Heather, she’s another agent. We meet for coffee. She doesn’t drink coffee. She’d rather have a hot chocolate. Just knowing that little thing and hey if we’re going to meet for coffee, well, she really is going to have a hot chocolate or she’s just not going to have anything and just sit there and talk to me.
Will: That’s good. That’s good.
Stephanie: But I think it’s [inaudible 00:13:48] about them versus anything else around. They want you to, if you truly care, you will know more about them than you do about yourself.
Will: That’s good. That’s good. Tell me about starting a business in the middle of a pandemic.
Stephanie: That was wild. Who would ever thought?
Stephanie: Yeah. So January one, we’re rocking and rolling and it’s like, “Hey, here we go.” I already knew the basics. I’d been trained very well by a great company in town, priceless training that I received. I just didn’t know how to do other things by myself. All I had to do was get a client, get it under contract, and get it closed. Well, here now I need signs. I need business cards. I need a logo. I need a motto. I need, what am I even, how do you even start? Just took it day by day. I think the first couple of weeks, it was just a very emotional process. One to say, I’m doing this. I don’t know how to do it. I need to figure it out. Of course, I’d read books throughout the last years of being in the business about real estate, so I kind of knew a little bit of what to do on the outside of just the clientele part of it.
Stephanie: But to me, the most important part is the clientele part of it. I don’t want to know the other parts of it. I just want it to happen, but I had to make it happen on my own and just kept pressing forward. Took that time to develop what I wanted my company to look like, what I wanted it to be like. But at the same time, I’m the only one here and I’m the only one that can do this. There’s no one to coach me and guide me along the way. A husband who’s very supportive. So I’m sitting here working diligently, hardly any business coming in, but I’m staying faithful to the task and the things that I need to do. Then it starts to turn, as it always has, may have went six weeks without a paycheck, but it didn’t really have too much of an impact. I do know how to budget. I’ve lived on budget for 10 years of my life.
Stephanie: People always say, “How do y’all have all the things you have?” Well, Dave Ramsey taught me a lot. I owe it to him, but I’d sat back and already took a look at the structure of the finances. so I already knew what needed to happen in case it didn’t happen. So having that plan, but you never have a backup plan. This is the plan moving forward. There’s no one else to give me a job other than myself. So COVID came and I was a little nervous, but I was already set up here. My friend Taylor [Patman 00:16:32] had already designed my office, my computer, my printer was hooked up, running. That’s an important part of the business. Internet was high speed. I just kept working and kept doing the task and people kept calling and sending referrals. I didn’t miss a beat, [inaudible 00:16:52] working from home with children from March 15th until May, and I was like, “You guys got to go to daycare.”
Stephanie: I told him my husband, I looked at him and I said, I had a friend who lost a child in a car wreck and she was with that child and so I said, “Listen, I can sit here with these children every day and protect them from this pandemic, but at the end of the day, there are no more safe with me than they are in the world because things like that happen.” They were sitting still and a car came and crashed into them and he died. I said, “I can be traveling to an appointment or traveling to take them to your mom’s or whoever, and it could be taken away then. So let’s take them to daycare.” They went to daycare and we continued to work. We went back to work full-time without children in the home, but we had to make that decision and say, “This was better for us,” because he had already been back to the office and I was here by myself trying to make it all juggle.
Stephanie: We had an amazing third quarter and then really killed it in the fourth quarter. I hired a transaction coordinator mid-July because I can’t do paperwork by myself. I don’t want to do the paperwork and making that decision to say, “Can I spend a little money?” It’s going to cost me some money, but am I going to have my sanity back? Yes. I’m not going to work. Do you ask, do I sleep? I wasn’t sleeping very much.
Stephanie: I wasn’t. I was up to one or two in the morning, just trying to catch up with paperwork because it was so busy. Who knew that the pandemic would blow up the real estate world? We didn’t. I mean, I think a lot of people will tell you, during the first part of the pandemic, their businesses tanked because people are scared and they’re still scared. Not saying I’m not scared, but I live by faith and you know that as much as I know that you do too, is that God’s calls us home when he’s ready. It’s not when we’re ready. A pandemic doesn’t change that. So we had to figure out different ways to sell real estate. I think one of them was no showings. Showings went down 40%, 60%. That was the hard part. How are you going to sell the house if nobody goes and sees them?
Stephanie: I bought a $100 gimbal. I never even heard of a gimbal, but I was like, “How do I even use this?” I found a friend who knew how. We went and video two properties. I was like, “These properties have no showings. We have got to do something.” They were almost half a million dollar properties that take awhile anyway. So they should have one showing a week at least, if not every other week, two or three. Videoed them with 30 minutes of material, condensed them down to 15-minute videos, transitions, music, all the things, with me walking through the home, telling them, “Hey, look at this office, it’s beautiful. These cabinets are made of oak and all of these things.” Both of those properties sold because of those videos were watched online.
Will: Wow. That’s amazing.
Stephanie: Yeah. Just thinking outside of the box. I’d watched agents videos that had done it before and they were like 30 seconds. Maybe the longest one I watched was three minutes, but they zoom through it really fast. And I’m like, “I can’t even see the house,” but I just took the time to show like if you and I were going to look at a house and took the time to explain the details of both of those homes. They were like 3000 plus square feet, so it took awhile, and then posted that on social media, paid to boost it. Both were cash buyers who bought them that lived out of state.
Will: Wow. Amazing.
Stephanie: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. But thinking outside of the box and figuring out how do we work in this pandemic? How do we sell properties in this pandemic when you can’t show? Because we couldn’t show for a while there. They shut everything down. We weren’t really essential at the time. Then they made us essential to where we had to wear masks and gloves and sanitizer and shoe covers and all kinds of things that created a document that had to sign off, “You’re well, I’m well,” and then we had to send them to the seller who was selling the home, telling them that we’re all well. It is crazy and wearing masks in 103 degrees is not very fun.
Will: No. At this point in your life, what are you most excited about?
Stephanie: I’m most excited about what’s going to happen with my children. Like what kind of legacy can I leave my children? Background story, I grew up very poor where sometimes we didn’t have electricity. Sometimes we didn’t have running water. This makes me emotional. So there were times when we had to get jugs of water from the local park just to flush our toilets, just to take a bath. My grandmother never gave up, even when she couldn’t pay her bills. I never realized that we were that poor. We were blessed. We had clothes on our backs. We had food on the table and my children… Sorry.
Will: No, you’re [crosstalk 00:22:41].
Stephanie: Emotional part. My children will never know what that feels like.
Stephanie: I pray that I can leave them something to where they don’t ever have to worry about it.
Will: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Stephanie: I feel that part of my life has made me, you asked what drives me. That drives me a lot.
Will: Absolutely. Absolutely. For context, we’re recording this in mid-January, 2021, a new year and new goals to set. Do you have specific goals that you’re working towards in 2021, whether that’s personal, professional, or areas that you want to grow in, that type of thing. Does anything come to mind?
Stephanie: Personally? We always want to lose a few pounds. That’s always a personal goal, but I just want to be, I think we all want to be a better parent. I think we can all feel like we’re struggling here, but figure out my children and how to parent them differently. Because even though they do act alike, I want to figure out how to parent them differently because I can tell now, it’s taken me a while because they’re four years apart, but I can tell now that I have to do one certain way with one and then do with the other, but try to be consistent with it. I feel like my parenting is not consistent, or our parenting should I say. I do have a husband. More consistent with that for 2021 and then carrying it through. Professionally, I do want to grow as far as… People ask me that. Last year, my goal was 30 units, 30 homes is what, in real estate terms, it’s units, but I did 53.
Stephanie: That would have been my goal for 2021, would have been 50. If you want to push the limit, I guess let’s do 60 for 2021, but I want to grow it. I just hired a full-time assistant, but I also want another full-time agent. I don’t want to be big. I don’t want to be the real estate mongrel of Johnson County. I just want to do enough to support me and another agent or two enough to where we can live a comfortable life and give back. 2020, I’ve given more than I’ve ever given my whole life and that’s one of my goals. I want to be able just to write a $10,000 check one day or $100,000 check one day and not blink, whether it’s to a nonprofit or to an individual that certainly needs it.
Stephanie: You see these people that just kind of give away their cars and stuff like that. I want to be able to do that. I’m able to give, and I can do that and not think about it, but I want to do more. That’s the goal always is to be able to give back more, whether it’s time or money. I struggle with time a lot because I am busy, but I live by a schedule. My planner is here, write everything down. If it’s not on that calendar, it doesn’t exist. I will say I do fluctuate the calendar some. We all do, life changes on a dime.
Stephanie: But yeah, personally, professionally, I think those are the two…
Will: That’s great.
Stephanie: … that I would like to focus on. Spiritually, of course, I can always do better spiritually too.
Will: Yeah. What is your source of greatest inspiration?
Stephanie: I would say the people around me. Being in the industry, they’ve always said pick top five people to surround yourself with. Growing my relationship with Christ also grew my friendships to a different level. People that support you, but people that have bigger goals than you or have done greater things than you or people [inaudible 00:26:46] more successful than you are my greatest influences. I have friends who own three businesses at one time and they don’t own those businesses anymore, but they’ve created a life that they don’t need those businesses anymore. But having faith that God told them to sell those businesses, but they didn’t have to put them on the market or anything like that. God showed up with these buyers to buy these businesses and here they are. I really look up to them a lot because I mean, that was pretty awesome just to watch it come to fruition and to watch where they are today.
Stephanie: Then my friends next door, they’re entrepreneurs, worked for a big corporation company and then decided to go out on his own to do what he was doing with that big corporation and grew his business to where he’s flying in and out, well was flying in and out, out of state just to work and train other companies to do what he had been doing and just different people like that, that I’m like, “Oh, if they can do that, I can do that.” Or, “If they did that…” Or lean on them too for advice because they’ve probably been there growing their business.
Will: Absolutely. As we kind of draw things to a close here, and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gotten away from us, but if you had a giant billboard and could get a message out to the world or a large population, metaphorically speaking, what image, what phrase, what would you like to communicate to the world?
Stephanie: Be who God created you to be. It’s not who the world thinks you should be. If I were to go back and my 20-year-old self, if you would have told me that when I was 20, I wouldn’t have struggled so much probably with trying to be accepted and trying to be someone that I couldn’t be for everybody else. Then I realized God created this big personality for a reason. When people were trying to change it, people were trying to tell me, “Oh, you’re too this,” or “You’re too that,” and really at the end of the day, God created me to be that way. There’s a different way to be, but at the end of the day, I can’t change that core person on the inside. He created that person to do something other than what those people were trying to have me do. I can’t explain it, but when you work for corporations or companies, have I ever been reprimanded? Yeah, I have. But it’s because maybe I don’t agree with something or maybe because I came off too harshly, but God created my views and opinions for certain things.
Stephanie: I truly believe that when I came into real estate and realized what that passion needed to be used for, and that this was my mission field, and this was where he wanted me to actually flourish, I don’t even think twice about the way that I act or who I am or try to be someone that I’m not, because I’m not. I’m who he created me and that’s who you get. You don’t get somebody else. What’s funny is that, I guess I portray a different personality to people at times and, I’ll just be honest, I’m just going to put all black and white. Whenever I curse, because it does happen sometimes, people are like, “Whoa.” I’m like, “What?” They’re like, “You just said a cuss word, Stephanie.” I’m like, “Well.”
Will: That’s funny.
Stephanie: I don’t try to not be who you don’t think I should be.
Will: Right, yes.
Stephanie: I think it’s quite funny. I have [inaudible 00:30:53] people say that and it could be the slightest little word, and it doesn’t have to be a big word. I’m like, “What?” They’re like, “You just said a cuss word.” I was like, “Okay.” “I’ve never heard you cuss before.” I’m like, “Okay, well it happened.” [crosstalk 00:31:13] God created you to be, and don’t try to change it for somebody else because maybe you’re not meant to be there.
Will: That’s good. That’s a good word. That really is. Where can people find you if they want to, maybe they’re thinking about putting their house on the market, where can they find you? Facebook? Do you have a Twitter? Do you have Instagram? How can people find you?
Stephanie: I have Instagram [@listitoncelistwithmestephanie 00:31:36], and then Facebook, of course, Stephanie Simmons Realty Group. Then, of course, Snapchat, Stephanie Simmons. Then Tik Tok, trying to do the whole Tik Tok @Stephanierealtor007, created that last night.
Will: Okay. Very good. Well, I will put all of that stuff in the little show notes that we have below. Stephanie, thank you so very much for doing this. I just had a blast visiting with you and I hope that I know I’ve gotten some value out of it and I hope other people who might stumble upon this might get some value out of it as well. So maybe we can do this again sometime. I’ve enjoyed it very much.
Stephanie: It was fun. Thank you.