I pulled into the parking lot on a snowy day, wrestling the car door open against a berm. Squeezing out, I gathered my bags and entered the charming, cottage-style Chase International office in Truckee for the very first time.
Warm and cozy inside, the office buzzed as agents gathered for this week’s office meeting. The vibe was decidedly upbeat, with people chatting, laughing and trading information about new listings coming on the market.
Kristina Mattson and Nicole Bennett huddled over the slide projector. Taking a break from some last minute collaboration on the morning’s agenda, they looked up, said hello and told me about the fresh doughnuts in the kitchen. Soon after, Kristina started the meeting by talking about goals for the year.
Solving People Problems
Kristina has been managing the Truckee-Tahoe City offices of Chase International since 2016. Vivacious, upbeat and ever enthusiastic, her career path into real estate was unconventional.
“I had been working nights raising my children, taking opposite shifts from my husband,” said Kristina, “and needed to switch to a day job. A coworker at the restaurant where I worked, who was also a real estate agent, said I should think about getting into real estate.”
She pursued the idea and found a position in property management at a national franchise in Tahoe City. Dealing with people and solving their problems all day long was a challenge, but Kristina loved it.
Unfortunately, in the downturn of 2008, the job was eliminated. But Kristina was given the opportunity to become the office administrator for that same brokerage, running two offices at the time.
“I took on that role and loved it,” said Kristina. “I loved working with the agents and helping the agents learn and grow their businesses.”
Taking A Leap of Faith
After mastering that role, Kristina started looking for ways to expand her knowledge and her career. She was feeling a little stuck when she got a phone call one day from a Chase agent that she knew.
“He said, ‘hey, come over to my office, I’ve got something I want to talk to you about.’ When he called, I was literally driving my kid to soccer practice, so I wasn’t prepared for anything. I found myself walking into a job interview with the managers of the Chase International offices in Truckee and Tahoe City.”
Both had lost their office administrators to unforeseen health issues and needed to hire someone quickly with experience. The conversation evolved into a job offer.
“I fell in love with the culture,” said Kristina. “I fell in love with the people and with the opportunity for growth and education. I loved that it was a smaller company where I could speak to the leadership team and actually make a difference.”
Tired of people in other states making blanket decisions for agents, herself and the company, she was excited to work for local leaders with global reputations.
“It was a big leap of faith,” said Kristina, “but I believed it was the right choice, and it absolutely was.”
Stepping Into Leadership
A few months after Kristina started, both managers moved on to new adventures. One retired, the other changed careers, and Kristina was the last woman standing.
“At the time, we had a master coach at the company who came over and helped me run the offices,” said Kristina. “He and I really hit it off. He supported the agents from a coaching standpoint, and I supported them from the administrative side.”
Kristina picked up more responsibilities around the office and was promoted to assistant manager. When the company hired an outside manager, she was instrumental in bringing him up to speed.
Later he left the area, opening an opportunity for Kristina.
“Finally,” said Kristina, “I stuck my hand up and said, ‘Hey, wait, I can lead. I’m ready, I can do this, let me do this.’”
Stepping up was a bold move. She’d only been with Chase for two years, and in all the years she’d had her license, she’d never sold real estate. So she fully committed to learning and improving every day.
“What’s great about Chase are the many amazing people to learn from,” said Kristina. “Larry Finkel taught me California contracts. That was huge because then I could answer all my agents’ questions.”
“And Sue Lowe was there for me every step of the way. We’re so collaborative at Chase. I can pick up the phone and call anybody, including Shari Chase if I have a question, concern or idea that I think might move the company forward.
“At Chase, you can do that. That’s why this is exactly where I belong.”
After Kristina finished her presentation, Nicole took the stage to present this week’s Tech Tidbit, something she does at every meeting.
She showed agents how to set up a landing page using our CRM platform. Then she demonstrated how to create Facebook ads pointing to it, a great way to connect with new clients online.
A Career Opportunity
Nicole is a force to be reckoned with—focused, driven, but also incredibly caring. She started in real estate by answering an ad for a marketing support person, interviewed, and got the job.
“I worked for a top-producing Chase International agent out of the Truckee office,” said Nicole. “She had 20 listings at once. It was so much, I had to jump in and learn at a very rapid pace. I updated social media sites, contributed to the blog, and dove deeper when everything got hectic in the summertime.”
Nicole became the listing manager for the team. She worked with sellers to get their properties ready for sale, managed the photographers, did the staging, and serviced listings currently on the market.
Inspired by her experience, Nicole applied for an office administrator opening that Kristina had in the Tahoe City office.
“I just fell in love with Chase,” said Nicole, “with our agents in both the Tahoe City and the Truckee office and with Kristina. We have a great working relationship.”
Growth in New Directions
Nicole worked as the office administrator for about a year. After she obtained her license, she scaled back to part-time so that she could start building her real estate business.
“I thought I wanted to sell real estate,” said Nicole. “So I spent the next several months experimenting while continuing to work for Chase. “I helped Kristina with new agent training, marketing support and social media.”
Six months later, Kristina came to Nicole and said, “I think we need to elevate you and give you more responsibility.”
Nicole liked the idea, so the company created a position that leveraged her unique talents. She’s been the assistant manager since 2016.
Nicole wrapped up her presentation handing the baton back to Kristina, who moved into the wants, needs and new listings portion of the meeting.
Learning the Craft
Kristina didn’t sell property for the first four years she had her license. But once she felt comfortable with her management skills, she started focusing on her sales skills.
“Because it’s our policy not to compete with our agents for sales,” said Kristina, “I’ve never marketed myself as an agent, and I don’t take leads from the company. But I have sold a few properties for personal friends.”
Selling made her a better leader. It gave her empathy because now she’d been there. Some things you just don’t know unless you’ve actually sold real estate.
“In our region, many of the managers are the top-producing agents in their office,” said Kristina, “so that’s their focus, rather than supporting agents.
“But we’re different. We have a team of three people—an office administrator, an assistant manager and myself. We focus on empowering agents to reach their goals.”
The Yin and Yang
“Kristina and I have great working relationships with our agents and each other,” said Nicole. She laughs, “We have kind of a good cop, bad cop thing going.”
Nicole says Kristina’s the good cop because she has a big heart. But Nicole is more stringent. She looks for results and action. The two play off each other and combined, better support their agents toward greater success.
“We each play to our strengths,” said Nicole. “Kristina is the go-to for contracts, how to structure your business, and how to work with a diverse group of clients. She leads roleplaying classes, which have been very successful for both new agents starting out and experienced agents looking to polish their skills.
“I’m the go-to for tech support and business planning. I help agents figure out how to take the tools that we offer, apply them to their business, and become proficient with technology because one size does not fit all. Alongside Chase Academy, I also teach technology and marketing classes and coach individual agents in my office.”
In addition to training agents on the Chase Technology Suite, Nicole trains newer agents on the nuances of both the Truckee and North Shore Lake Tahoe markets.
“We’re unique in that we’re one office with two locations, Tahoe City and Truckee,” said Nicole. “Our agents need to know both markets, because clients often decide at the last minute that they actually want to be at the lake. Or they prefer the community vibe of Truckee after originally thinking they wanted to be at the lake.”
Leveraging Our Luxury Heritage
“Chase has a powerful reputation as a luxury brokerage,” said Kristina. “We’ve sold more property priced over $5-10-20 million than any other broker in the region. We have the tools and connections to facilitate high net worth clients and upper tier properties. We’re a luxury broker doing business at all price points, which gives us a leg-up on the competition.”
Kristina enjoys working with agents to increase price points and move into the exclusive Tahoe Estate market. She imbues them with self-respect, self-confidence, determination, vitality and dedication, encouraging them to overcome challenges, raise consciousness and elevate their service to clients.
With its 33-year history of selling luxury lakefront properties and many of the legends who pioneered that market still with the company today, Chase is uniquely positioned to help the next generation of luxury professionals succeed.
“In addition to weekly office training and classes offered through Chase Academy,” said Kristina, “we encourage our agents to attend company-sponsored Ninja Installations twice a year.”
Ninja is a business system that enables agents to better serve their clients and still have a life. The philosophy behind it blends well Chase company culture.
“Our thoughts become words, and our words become actions,” said Kristina. “The strongest plant on the planet is bamboo. Once you plant your seed and water it every day, it may take 4-5 years before it sprouts. But if you keep going and don’t give up, 90 days later, suddenly there’s a bamboo forest.
“This is how we are with our agents. We nurture, we practice, we learn from each other, always striving to do the right thing. Pretty soon we’re a forest of success.”
Coaching Agents to Excellence
This year Nicole is taking agent coaching up a notch by introducing them to our Chase legendary client service program.
“We’re focused on accountability, responsibility, and having a specific action plan,” said Nicole. “We expect agents to know exactly what their goals are. Once we’re done, they do.”
Nicole starts by asking agents what they want to achieve, then drills down to the 2-3 goals they’re looking to accomplish this year. Together they create a unique plan for that agent, which Nicole reviews quarterly. The company has templates for all agent business structures, from individual agents to teams.
“I spend specific blocks of time with our agents,” said Nicole. “So if they’re struggling with how to make the technology tools work for their business, I’ll find out exactly what their needs are and show them one or two strategies they can implement today.”
Nicole sees this personal touch as the difference between Chase and other real estate offices. Leadership cares about each associate. There’s a culture of learning, an affinity for technology, and a vision for where business and industry are going.
“The company utilizes the best tools and techniques for agents,” said Nicole. “These are benefits, not only for today, but years from now. We’re always thinking about how to make our clients happier and our business better, easier and more fun. We want our agents to always be thinking about how to go above and beyond.”
An Open, Honest Environment
Chase culture is vibrant, creative and collaborative, so Kristina protects it fiercely.
“In every agent interview,” said Kristina, “We talk about collaboration and how we all work together here at Chase. There’s a spirit of volunteerism, of helping each other and supporting each other every step of the way to the top of the mountain. That’s our culture.”
She notes that the most important resource at the company, its heart and soul, are its people. With confidence, compassion, integrity and generosity, she believes every action should make a positive and lasting difference in someone’s life.
“We strive to radiate positive energy,” said Kristina. “Kindness, clarity, vision, focus—we believe that our individual efforts can transform any vision into a fulfilled dream, and we look for agents who connect with this viewpoint.”
Kristina recognizes that most real estate agents are competitive. So when you put them in a room together, there’s often a strong sense of leadership with many ideas on how to get the job done. She and Nicole tackle any differences with fairness, honesty and transparency.
“My ultimate goal,” said Kristina, is for every Chase agent to be the agent everyone wants to work with.”
Our Core Culture
“If you’re an agent looking to build your business,” said Nicole, “there are many different models to choose from, whether a single agent or part of a team. Either way, if you want to be involved with a group of people who are constantly brainstorming and supporting your goals, then Chase may be home for you.”
Nicole observes that when agents in the office discuss a challenge, they tend to take a positive, proactive approach. Instead of commiserating, they help by sharing a similar story and how they overcame the situation.
“We’re always looking for the positive and helping one another,” said Nicole. “You’d be surprised at how many people in our offices are willing to share their secrets.”
Nicole is committed to helping everyone in the office grow together as a team. One way they do this is by supporting community events like the Summer Concert Series, the Tahoe City-Truckee Wine Walks and Toys for Tots.
Agents in the office have also organized donations for the Camp Fire victims and Tahoe Coast Guard employees adversely affected by the government shutdown.
“It all comes back to being heart-centered,” said Nicole. “We live and breathe that here, every day. And if you were to stop and ask any one of our agents what our core value is, I think that they would say that, too.”
Kristina closed the office meeting with a rousing mini pep talk, encouraging her agents to use every tool at their disposal to get out there and make dreams come true. The meeting adjourned, but the agents kept talking, collaborating and connecting.
Kristina loves giving back to her community, and her favorite project is coaching the North Tahoe Cheerleaders. She started three years ago when her daughter was a senior, then fell in love with the girls and kept doing it. They’ve taught her a lot.
“My cheer squad is very different from the Hollywood stereotypes,” said Kristina. “I have a diverse group of girls, and our primary goal is to increase self-confidence and foster school spirit.
“It’s not about winning or competing against each other. It’s about working as a team to move everybody to the top—just like I tell my agents.”
Kristina’s primary focus at Chase is to elevate her agents, improving and developing their skill sets, so that they can achieve their goals and dreams.
“It’s been a wild ride for me at Chase International,” said Kristina. “I came here because I had the opportunity to grow. I had no idea I was going to grow at the pace that I grew, but it’s been amazing. It’s helped me take my career to a level I never dreamed possible.
“Now, I have higher expectations—for myself, my family, my business and my life. Chase International taught me to raise my standards and gave me the opportunity to accomplish elevated goals. For that, I am grateful.”