As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Jaime Brown, an entrepreneurial real estate broker, wife, and mother of two based in Tampa, Florida. Jaime left the corporate world in 2017 to create Tampa Homestyles, a real estate brokerage firm, after holding high-level executive roles in Internal Audit and Business Performance & Process Efficiency. Through the success of her virtual business model, she has facilitated record-breaking sales, all while raising her family amidst an uncertain pandemic environment.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you got started?
Though it has always been an interest of mine, I haven’t always worked in real estate. I started my career in the corporate world — beginning with systems and processing assurance and eventually working my way up the ladder to audit director, a position that reported directly to the board of the organization. In the middle of this time, my husband and I were on the hunt for our first home together. Being the systematic, data-driven people we are, we found the home-searching process underwhelming, and the home-buying process inefficacious. So, I decided to get licensed, and the family home we purchased was also my first home sale as an agent. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that I decided to leave my executive-level job to focus on real estate full time. Through applying the skills I learned while working in risk-management and efficiency, a vision of a better way began to take shape. By 2019, I obtained my broker license and founded Tampa Homestyles — a boutique luxury real estate brokerage built around these principles.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or takeaways you learned from that?
A funny little quirk of mine is that whenever I see a design or renovation that was done really well, my subconscious mind just starts dancing around the room. It’s like my happy food dance, but with high-quality real estate. It just speaks to my soul — and honestly, my biggest mistake was not following that pull and jumping full-time into real estate sooner. When you have that sort of joyous reaction, it is usually an indicator that you’ve found your passion. The corporate establishment can really take hold of you, and it was difficult to leave a stable career and income. However, it was easy for my analytic mind to see that the reward of loving what I do — and making a significant impact for our customers while doing it — was worth the risk.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My husband, Chris, has been my biggest cheerleader from the start. Without him, I would not be where I am today. I remember the moment when his support for me really sank in. I had just given birth to my second child. About a week before returning to my corporate job from maternity leave, I was notified that I would be facing another executive team change upon my return — the fourth one in less than two years. I recall telling him, tears streaming down my face, that I just couldn’t do it anymore. He just turned to me, placed his hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and with zero hesitation said, “This job does not define who you are. Let’s go create the one that does.” I immediately quit and started down this path, which I love and am so very grateful for.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
When I founded Tampa Homestyles, it was a purposeful decision. I structured every level of my business to reflect that. Our vision is the exact same today as it was when we started: to relentlessly pursue the customer’s goals until they are achieved. We accomplish this without games, gimmicks, or drama — just concierge-level service and data-driven strategies that produce results. That will never change.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
How about the entire year of 2020? Seriously though, at the start, we had no idea how we would be affected by COVID. So many varied industries were either restrained or hanging in uncertainty. But in Florida, real estate professionals were deemed essential employees, so we kept moving forward as best we could while remaining compliant with the CDC protocols. The real estate market ultimately depends on the customer’s needs. With so many lifestyles shifted by the pandemic, we weren’t sure how that would look. Fortunately, we have seen a rapid increase in demand for homes in our area — especially from the northeastern states. Accommodating the influx has been a unique challenge. However, our team is driven by our appreciation for the opportunity during such an unprecedented time.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Never once have I considered giving up. After spending years under a corporate structure, I will never take for granted the level of control I have in owning my own business. I have complete control over my time and energy — and I have learned from experience how priceless that is. Coming from a career where I did not has given me all the perspective I need to keep me driven. The opportunity is the motivation.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
During challenging times, providing clarity is essential. In times of uncertainty, people look to their leaders as a beacon of focus and reassurance. This pandemic has greatly disrupted what is already an intricate process. As a leader, it is critical to stay hyper-cognizant of the changes and communicate them with your team as best as possible. Staying calm and keeping focused on what can be controlled is the only thing that matters moving forward.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?
Effective leaders use change as an opportunity to adapt along with their team and fortify their relationships. I always prefer to engage with my team rather than delegating and observing from afar. The ability to listen is just as important as any other leadership skill. It reframes your perspective from the inside out. As with everything in life, the only thing that remains constant is change. Navigating the uncertainty as a team makes the difference.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
When relating difficult news, be as transparent as possible. It’s also essential to set the appropriate expectations upfront. I strive to maintain open lines of communication between my team at all times — and that principle holds true with all of our customers. We work hard to minimize the confusion and drama that can arise during the home buying process. Tactful honesty is always the best policy. After all, we share the ultimate goal of achieving the customer’s needs.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
While the impact on real estate has been positive here in Tampa, it has shifted many needs, which have been reflected in the market. Good leaders will focus on data — the leading and lagging indicators, the models — and learn from the changes. From that information, focus on planning and making informed predictions, but remember to be flexible enough to pivot when needed (and it is almost always needed).
Is there a number one principle that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
When your organization is facing turbulence, I find it helpful to reflect on its founding values. These should provide clarity as to what is important and what should be prioritized. These principles ultimately define your business. Staying true to that initial mission will give you better focus on what you can control and guidance while planning for the things you can not.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- Forgetting Your Why — It is easy to feel like you need to compromise on your vision when challenges arise, especially when facing a lot of competition in your industry. Don’t redefine your idea of success based on what others are doing.
- Overcomplicating the Process — Keep processes simple and efficient. Don’t leave any room for miscommunication, which can distract from your customer’s goals.
- Hiring the Wrong People — When assembling your team, identify the skills crucial to your company and prioritize them. The ideal team has a diverse set of abilities but is unified by the same core values.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Never stop listening and adapting. As things change (and they will), make sure you can evolve with them. Don’t waiver from your mission, but adapt how it’s achieved. Analyzing data is a great place to start, but I believe it is vital to engage with people from all aspects of the industry to fully understand the changing landscape. By strengthening those relationships, you can identify with your customers and push forward as a community.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Provide Clarity — Open communication is crucial — with employees and customers alike.
- Focus on What You Can Control — And plan for what you cannot as best you can.
- Be Creative in Problem-Solving — Don’t be afraid to disrupt the status quo; this is a time of transformation.
- Never Back Down from your Vision — You built your dream for a reason. Stay true to it.
- Surround Yourself with Like-minded People — Inside and outside of work, you are the company you keep.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I was twelve, at a gymnastics meet, my mom bought me a shirt that says: “Patience is a Virtue.” When you are faced with unfamiliar challenges, it is easy to get caught up in the chaos — especially when you are passionate about achieving your goals. But during the pursuit, patience is essential to give yourself perspective. It helps to take a step back and assess how far and how much you have already achieved. I still have that shirt, and that virtue is still a work in progress (just like everything else worth it in life). Reminding yourself that nothing worth doing comes easy or quickly can reframe the issues at hand and give you the viewpoint you need to persevere.
How can our readers further follow your work? They can visit my website at http://tampahomestyles.com. I also share listings on Instagram: @tampa_homestyles and TikTok: @tampahomestyles.