There’s a reason Debra Beagle is nicknamed “The House Whisperer.”
A former chemist and corporate environmental consultant, Debra pivoted her career, dove headfirst into real estate, and scored her first listing and her first sale on her first day as a licensed agent.
In 2011, she and Gary Ashton combined their unique and complementary strengths to create the Nashville, TN-based Ashton Real Estate Group. As co-owner and managing broker, Debra has helped lead the team to $1 billion in annual sales and rockstar status as the #1 RE/MAX team in the world three years in a row. She was also named 2019 RE/MAX U.S. Broker Owner of the Year, and in 2020 she was named Top Female Executive by Tennessee’s Nashville Business Journal.
Keeping 180+ agents on track
Some things are just meant to be — and the partnership at the core of the Ashton Real Estate Group is one of them.
“When Gary and I met, it was almost a yin and yang,” she recalls. “I’ve always been very passionate about Realtor development, education, and collaboration, and when I looked at it, I was like, ‘Wow. I have 20 to 30 listings and you have a ton of buyers. What if we merged our styles?'”
With Gary’s internet and visionary genius and small but fierce team, and Debra’s stellar lineup of listings and passion for mentoring and operations, the business just “exploded.”
Now, Debra is responsible for managing the operations for their entire team of 180 agents, and they proudly hit an annual sales goal of over a billion in 2021. And they got there by being unapologetically picky. “We’re very selective. We want motivated agents who want to succeed in this business and are very intentional about their business,” she says.
But bringing on exceptional agents is only half the battle: “It’s about making sure you’re bringing in the right agents and making sure you have the right systems, support, standards, and processes in place for them to succeed. Because in the end, our agents want to thrive, sell and make money, and do that around other like minded individuals. We’re helping them do that,” Debra explains.
Agents at The Ashton Real Estate Group have the opportunity to grow their personal business, but they also have the opportunity to use — and profit from — the team’s proven processes.
Follow Up Boss plays a central integral role in that success.
"Follow Up Boss has been a game-changer for us in terms of accountability. It makes it easy for us to help our agents, provides extra added consistent value for our clients — and it has made our agents more productive and put more money in their pockets."
CO-OWNER & MANAGING BROKER, THE ASHTON REAL ESTATE GROUP
A system that guarantees success
Agents on the team can choose to work for themselves, but if they follow the team systems that have been put in place, Debra and the leadership team can actually guarantee success. "Our agents get a minimum of two homes under contract in their first 90 days. As of June 2021, the 41 agents we have brought on board this year have all met this minimum, and many have exceeded that."
From one-on-one mentorship to data-driven accountability, the Ashton Real Estate Group invests in helping agents achieve their goals.
Ensure phenomenal phone calls
Say what you want about talking on the phone — Debra knows it’s not going anywhere. That’s why she’s very particular about speaking with all potential team hires on the phone first. “With us, the phone call is very important. They’ve got to be good on the phone, at making a connection with people. We are also requiring a short video introduction from the agent as well”
Phone calls, and video as well, remain a priority once an agent joins the team, and Debra has put a mentoring program into place to ensure new agents keep progressing.
“The phone calls and video are challenging for some agents. They’d rather text or email, and those are good forms of communication too, but getting someone on the phone, or to see the agent and make a connection, is critical. We look to see how they’re doing with their follow up calls and check in on their activities with their clients. We also do goal planning when they first start and then again annually. We want to do what we can to keep them on track to hitting those goals.”
Follow Up Boss is key to keeping track of those activities — and helping agents refine their skills. In addition to automatic call logging, the platform can also record calls so that agents and their mentors or staff member can review what worked and what didn’t in personalized coaching sessions.
Be a stickler for structure
“In real estate, you’ve got to structure yourself. There isn’t anyone telling you what to do with your day but you,” explains Debra. “We need agents to be smart with their time. It’s super important.”
As you might expect, agents who work for Debra’s rockstar team are task management experts.
Every Sunday they plan their time for the upcoming week, just like they would at any other job. They block time for follow ups, showings, and learning — even their personal and family time.
But according to Debra, “The biggest thing is structuring your day so that you do follow up.”
Falling behind on follow up is a common problem — and one that Debra sees all too often. “Agents get 6 or 7 deals under contract and they get so caught up in the contract part of it, even with our transaction support, that the follow up is the first thing to go.”
Follow Up Boss can help agents stay on top of their highest-priority leads with Smart Lists, create tried-and-true Action Plans for new leads, and even automate nurturing.
Make room for flexibility
As vital as structure and systems are for success, Debra knows that you need a little flexibility too.
“Our market is very competitive at all price points and there is little inventory, so if a listing comes up you may need to be flexible. The beauty of our team is that you have agents who can fill in for you and help if you need it,” explains Debra.
She also believes agents should get a little help managing their time once they’re under contract. At the Ashton Real Estate Group, agents get access to an in-house assistant to help them with closing details, so they can keep selling.
With Follow Up Boss, everything an agent or assistant needs to know about a client is housed within the platform, and other team members can easily dive in, get the information they need, and seamlessly step in where needed.
Ace agent accountability
With great power comes great responsibility, which is why Debra believes in holding agents accountable. For example, one team policy is that agents have to make 10 calls a day to be eligible for receiving more leads.
“With Follow Up Boss, it’s easy to track. With us, it’s not one or the other. They can work personal, business, and team leads. But if they want to take leads from the company, they have to be making their calls and follow up consistently through Follow Up Boss.”
Scott Hull, the team’s Director of Sales & Strategic Growth, has implemented a voluntary accountability group where agents pair up to make sure they make progress on their goals. And for that, he uses Follow Up Boss to keep everyone on track.
"In the past, I would say to new agents that you should be able to get a deal within 6 months. Now with Follow Up Boss, most are getting something under contract within 6 weeks!"
CO-OWNER & FOUNDER, THE ASHTON REAL ESTATE GROUP
Helping her team achieve their goals
When Debra looks back on her career, she credits the many female real estate role models she looked up to — women like Elizabeth Mendenhall, RE/MAX owner and former president of NAR, Daisy Lopez-Cid, former president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, Leigh Brown, former president of the Residential Real Estate Council (formerly known as CRS), and Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.
“These ladies all inspired me to be the best that I can be in real estate,” she says. “Early on in my career, my first broker was a woman and she was a great leader and a big inspiration to me. I’ve been fortunate to have met a lot of really strong women in leadership roles in real estate that have inspired me and I see this growing. I have been fortunate to be a part of a group of top women in Leadership put together by Jon Cheplak. All of us strive to be the best leader we can be and this collaboration helps us grow."
Now, Debra herself is inspiring and supporting the Ashton Real Estate Group — of whom 65% are women.
“We have a lot of top-producing six-figure moms on our team. I have one mom that has 5 kids under the age of 12. These moms are hugely successful.”
But truly, an agent’s success doesn’t depend on where they come from. “You find great people that come from all types of different backgrounds,” Debra says. “But I think it all comes down to them not being afraid to meet people, having a strong work ethic, grit, motivation, positivity, being innovative and solution oriented (Covid showed us how important that is), and having the heart to want to help people.”
“Real estate is a great career opportunity,” she shares. “There’s no ceiling. You make the business what you want to make of it. If you want to make $50K per year, $100K per year or a quarter million, or a million per year, in this business. And as a female, there’s no one telling you you can’t.”
For Debra, the key factor for success is developing the right systems and processes — and then following them consistently.
“Real estate is an evergreen,” she explains. “The longer you’re in the business, the more it grows, so work smarter and leverage your time. With the right systems in place you can get as much done as possible, and still have a life. Follow Up Boss has made our agents more productive and put more money in their pockets.”