By Melanie Robitaille, Sr. Staff Writer and Graphic Designer
If you’ve been in the real estate business as long as Ed and Janie Andrews, you draw on past experiences to help see you through hardships. But what happens when those times are completely unprecedented? When the going got really tough for the co-owners of EXIT Real Estate Solutions, they faced the same two choices of many during misfortunes: pack it all in and give up, or do whatever it takes to follow your dreams.
“I would tell anybody who’s going through tough times, even if the market is good when you first started, there’s lots of adversity and it’s not always going to be easy. It’s just not,” Ed shared. “You have to have that ability, that resiliency to utilize the help of others, and to employ whatever strategies are necessary to make it.”
Oftentimes this means sacrificing your beloved family cottage or your dream Corvette, which they would both eventually have to sell to keep their business afloat, after opening their office in Hendersonville, Tennessee in 2008 during the worst recession since the Depression.
“The market had just started to shift. With me being in real estate for over 15 years and seeing ups and downs, we didn’t expect it to last as long as it did,” Janie recalled of those challenging years, which she and Ed quickly realized were only just the beginning.
“We were determined, trying to bring agents onboard, but they were afraid too. We had quickly gone through our lines of credit, through our savings, and we had amassed tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt,” Ed admitted. “The new construction joint ventures we built our business upon with developer partners left us with six construction companies, amounting to over $2 million, and our partners nowhere to be found. We lived in fear for four years that the bank would call us on those notes, and we would lose everything.”
They watched fellow EXIT offices winning awards, wanting so badly to be among that elite group. During one such banquet, Ed spoke with Director of Leadership, Bob McKinnon, who listened to their plight and immediately offered to help.
“I said, ‘Bob, I can’t even pay my rent, or keep my light bill paid. I can’t afford a coach.’,” Ed remembered. “Bob’s answer was, ‘Let’s get started and we’ll deal with that on a month-to-month basis.’ We’re so grateful. He immediately focused on our debt, as well as recruiting agents, saying that the top line would take care of the bottom line.”
Bob was the first of many EXIT colleagues who would help Ed and Janie. By 2012, they were managing their debt, and employing Success Coach Systems, founded by Alice Baker, a Sales Representative with EXIT Realty of the South, which fellow franchisee, Jeramie Taber recommended. But they were still in the red. Facing potential bankruptcy, but refusing to give up, they turned to other EXIT offices.
“Bob Lamb, Tawny King, Harold Plemons, and Jeremy Flax – we approached all of them. We tried to get them to partner or merge. They all said the same thing, ‘Hang in there. You. Will. Make. It.’ Our EXIT family believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves,” Ed said.
In 2015 Ed and Janie recharged their spirits with all the training, tools, excitement, and love that’s synonymous with attending an EXIT Realty Broker/Owner Training event. They were finishing their year with 42 agents and $49 million in sales but were in a lease ending that December and owed $65,000 in back rent. Even so, at this their second training, CEO, Tami Bonnell challenged them to envision their dream office.
With faith and perseverance, by 2017, the Andrews realized their dream and found themselves among the company’s elite, winning EXIT Realty Corp. International’s Broker of the Year Award – Southeast U.S. Division during the Annual Convention. During the 2019 event, Ed took the Convention stage to share their story of trials and triumph. Now the proud owners of a two-story, 7,000 sq. ft. building, which they purchased three years ahead of their six-year buy-out lease, the Andrews are debt free, they have a strong, consistently profitable and family-oriented office of 83 agents, and Ed got another Corvette for his 65th birthday.
Over the years, Ed and Janie have learned a thing or two about perseverance, being coachable, and re-inventing themselves. “Real estate was something I never really planned to do, but I certainly have never regretted it,” he reflected. “There are others in the system I’ve had the privilege to talk through similar tough times, and others I know will eventually go through this too. I hope that our story helps. If you set goals, dream dreams, affirm, and work hard, all things are possible.”