Jennifer Ames, Coldwell Banker Residential, is a leader and visionary in the real estate industry. Jennifer is recognized as a Top 100 agent in the country and has been quoted and interviewed by media such as the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Crain’s Chicago Business, The Wall Street Journal and People Magazine. Her television appearances include CNN, Fox Thing in the Morning, ABC 7 Chicago and the Fine Living Network. She’s been featured on the covers of REALTOR® Magazine, Chicago Agent Magazine and the Real Estate Executive. I couldn’t wait for my chance to sit down with her and pick her brain for 30 minutes. I heard directly from Jennifer her take on what it takes to build a successful brand and how to take your real estate business to the next level.
Jennifer continues a legacy of Chicago real estate excellence. Her great-great-grandfather was Gold Coast developer Nathaniel Fairbank and her step-grandfather is Louis C. Sudler, Sr., founder of Sudler & Company Real Estate. Real estate runs through her blood and it shows. She entered the field in 1994 and since 1997 has been recognized annually as a Top 10 REALTOR® in Chicago. Since 2003 the Jennifer Ames team has closed from $50 - $85 million every year.
Jennifer understands the importance of giving back to her community. She regularly volunteers her time to different organization and causes; currently she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute of Chicago. Take a moment to gain some invaluable advice from one of our industry’s finest!
Me: How did you know real estate was the right profession for you?
Jennifer: My mother was in real estate and she always told me that it was the right fit for me. However, before getting into real estate I tried out a few different paths. First I was an investment banker and then a film producer. I have a very creative mind, which has helped me in real estate tremendously. With my mother’s persistence I came over to give real estate a shot. I’m a multi-generation Chicagoan and feel a bit of an ownership toward our great city. My grandfather started Sudler & Company, so real estate has been in my family’s blood for a long time. My first year in the business I was honored as a Rookie of the Year and my second year I was Number Three in the city for volume. I quickly knew that this was the right profession.
At the time I started, REALTORS® were still using the large volumes that carried all of the listings available on the market. However, it was also the time of the great transition from the listing tombs to dial up/online. Some weren’t ready to evolve with the changing times but I was beyond ready. I worked and still do work really hard every day, with my nose to the grindstone. Fifteen years of being one of the top producers in the city is proof that hard work and consistency are a winning combination in this industry.
Me: You are one of the most well known and respected names in Chicago real estate. What are your top tips for building a name/brand?
Jennifer: Branding and marketing are among my core passions. I have been a national speaker on this topic for some time now. I always start with making sure people understand that differentiation is key. What makes you different? Also, you have to be specific; it is impossible to be all things to all people. You will end up being nothing to anyone. You have to really think about who you want to be. Having a brand focus on architecturally significant homes is an example of a strong focus on a niche market. That is the kind of focus and differentiation that could make you somebody in a big field.
It is important to remember that your brand doesn’t have to be the real estate you sell. It can be just you. What are you passionate about? That is the best way to think about it. Your passion can very well be your brand. When I had children, I started blogging about raising kids in the city. I grew my network and built my reach by connecting with similar-minded people. Your brand has to be real, one that people can trust. Stick with what you know and what you are passionate about. Focus on that.
Me: What is your best "lesson learned" from your experience?
Jennifer: Respect for peers! Clients come and go but we need each other, our fellow REALTORS®, more than anything else. Work cooperatively, help each other get better and lose the combative attitudes. Our industry is an arena of emotions; we work with clients in stressful situations. We need to work together to get the deal done, that is the spirit with which we have to engage. Be gracious and respect each other’s time. Return calls and give feedback. Never take things personally. Act as a buffer in the transaction; don’t add more drama and emotions. Oh, and remember to articulate yourself in messages!
Me: What is a winning strategy in 2012?
Jennifer: Continue to refine your systems. At the end of last year I went through all of my files and paperwork. I organized everything and got it all in order. I wanted to start 2012 fresh and clean. I’ve decided to go to bed earlier and keep to my schedule. I will improve my communication with clients and focus more on my branding and advertising. A main focus for everyone should be customer service. Give people a reason to understand why you are the best.
Have to balance in your life. Balance creates clarity in where you are going. My balance is going to come from playing with my kids more!
Me: What are the major building blocks of success in this industry?
YPN Immediate Past Chair and Managing Broker/Partner, Vesta Preferred Realty