Female Founders: Vicky Mitchener
This installment of the Female Founders series on the Union Street Media YouTube channel features Vicky Mitchener, Broker Owner of Dickens Mitchener & Associates in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dickens Mitchener & Associates is one of the top independent real estate firms in the state of North Carolina and has a major focus on agent efficiency and community support. Click the video above to watch the full interview.
About 35 years ago, Vicky Mitchener was working at Xerox when her brothers, who were in the real estate industry, encouraged her to look into a career in real estate. After that conversation with her brothers, she talked to a few real estate agents in Charlotte and says “it just sounded fantastic!” So she took the leap of faith and left her corporate job at Xerox to start her journey in real estate. Mitchener says that when she “started, very few firms were using technology.” Something she wanted to bring from her life at Xerox into real estate.
“Very quickly after entering the industry, I recognized that there was a need for a high-tech company,” says Mitchener, who was an agent for just three years before starting her own firm: Dickens Mitchener & Associates. Reflecting on her choice to open her own company, Mitchener says “I really didn’t want to start a company, it wasn’t on my radar to be an owner” but that she couldn’t find “someone else doing what I thought needed to be done.”
Mitchener started Dickens Mitchener & Associates with two or three people and has now grown to over 100 agents.
“We just say one good agent and one good client at a time, and we’ve had an incredible 30 years.”
– Vicky Mitchener
Dickens Mitchener & Associates does more in volume and sales than many brokerages who have 1000+ agents are able to do – when asked about how she’s used technology to be more efficient, Mitchener says “we are very passionate about training,” something she says she picked up while at Xerox. She notes that even agents and staff that have been doing business in real estate for many years, including herself, are constantly training and learning. In addition to a focus on training, they also pair all new agents with a mentor.
Mitchener believes that the person handling a real estate transaction, oftentimes the largest decision person will make, “should be very qualified to do that so if it’s a new agent we have them with a mentor. Other than that all of our agents are so well trained.” With the average agent at Dickens Mitchener & Associates “selling over $8 million a year”, it’s no wonder why Mitchener likens her agents to “a team of athletes.”
“Our goal is not to get bigger in the number of agents but for the agents to produce more or produce the goals that they’re after.” adding, that that attitude has worked well for them.
In addition to the constant training, mentor program, and tools like DocuSign and Zipforms, Dickens Mitchener & Associates takes a special approach when it comes to marketing. Agents are only focused on providing the best experience possible for buyers and sellers and they leave all of the marketing such as listing packages, brochures, and social media posts to the marketing department, something which Mitchener says “has allowed the process to go a lot faster.” Which consequently allows Dickens Mitchener & Associates to sell more homes. Mitchener touches on the local expertise as a major value add to her company over others.
Touching on the current pandemic, Mitchener says the biggest thing is that they had the tools in place to be able to continue to work while not having as much contact with each other in a physical sense. She goes on to add that while she “would never wish this on us again” the communication at Dickens Mitchener & Associates has “become so much more intentional.”
Like for many at the start of the pandemic, real estate was deemed non-essential initially in the county Dickens Mitchener & Associates is located – meaning they were required to shut down for six weeks. During those six weeks, Mitchener says that they were communicating more than ever before, not only with each other but with groups and organizations like Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE). Mitchener herself is in a couple of different presidents organizations. Mitchener says that even after being able to bet back to relative normalcy and begin showing houses again, one thing that hasn’t stopped is the constant communication and that it’s really proven that people are able to meet and share ideas without having to be in the same room.
Mitchener goes on to speak about how over the last three years they have been growing so quickly, they really haven’t been able to focus on intentional communication, and that that “is the beauty that will come out of this.”
When asked to dive deeper into her relationship with LeadingRE, Mitchener describes them as “trusted advisors,” and that it has been really helpful to be able to reach out to other owners who are doing and going through the same thing in different markets and being able to ask “how are you using this program, how are you rolling out COVID, can you share with me how y’all are setting up procedures for reopening your office.” It’s that sense of community, not just during COVID but over the last 10-15 years that she says is the value of partnering with LeadingRE, adding that hearing from LeadingRE economists on a weekly basis brought her reassurance that she’d make it through this.
The president’s group Mitchener participates in has individuals from a variety of industries and Mitchener says that has also been a fantastic resource during this time.
Regardless of where you find your group, Mitchener says building a “group of trusted advisors is critical, during great times and challenging times,” and that she “couldn’t have gone through these last couple” of challenges “without these peer groups.”
When asked about the courage it took to switch careers and industries, Mitchener admits that sometimes she looks back and thinks “gosh was I crazy?” Mitchener comes from a long line of entrepreneurs and Mitchener believes that spirit is innately in her. She also notes that “the sooner you make that decision oftentimes the better,” and that “it’s really listening to your heart.”
“To be a company owner you have to have faith in other people.”
— Vicky Mitchener
When asked about what the future holds, Mitchener says she has been working with others to form the Homeowners Impact Fund, a charitable organization that aims to help homelessness. Mitchener’s belief behind the organization is that if at every real estate closing “everybody involved would give $10, suddenly we’d have a lot of money.” In Charlotte alone, if everyone involved in real estate transactions from the lawyers and lenders to the buyers and sellers, they could raise $4 million per year. Mitchener’s long term goal is to take the Homeowners Impact Fund national and that since launch, they have already had a number of other real estate firms in Charlotte get involved.
“We love our community and all of our agents are passionate not only about the homeless but so many other charities.”
– Vicky Mitchener
In order to accomplish the goals of the Homeowners Impact Fund, Mitchener says they will need to continue to sell homes and that at Dickens Mitchener & Associates they are focused on their agents, making sure they feel supported, “increasing our market share and sharing that we can do this in a very beautiful fashion” and have the lifestyle of a real estate agent while giving back to the community.
In closing, Mitchener leaves us with some personal and business advice. When it comes to the personal side, Mitchener says that “investing in what you believe in is a very smart thing to do.” As far as advice for those looking to start their own business she says it’s crucial to have “the maturity of knowing that hurdles are going to come in,” and that “it is not always going to be fun and there are going to be really really tough times and so you need to create an infrastructure of people around you that are great advisors.”
You can learn more about Vicky Mitchener and Dickens Mitchener & Associates on their website: https://dickensmitchener.com/
Learn more about the Homeowners Impact Fund: https://dickensmitchener.com/community-involvement
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