Shelly Henderson wrote the book on business (literally — pick up a copy of Starting from Scratch here). She and her husband Phil turned their side project, Henderson Properties, into a successful full-service real estate firm serving thousands of people in the area each year.
HOA Management, maintenance and buying and selling homes are all in the wheelhouse of their company, Henderson Properties, which now boasts a team of almost 75 members and offices in Indian Trail, Rock Hill, Davidson, Charlotte, and (soon!) Boone.
So how did she take her business from side hustle to thriving enterprise? We asked her 20 questions to find out.
- How many years has it taken you to get to where you are today?
- What was your first job?
An elementary school teacher.
- How many jobs have you had, and how long did you spend at each?
Five years teaching, one year on a women’s mini professional golf tour and two years as a director of a learning tutorial center.
- What’s the best business advice you ever got?
“Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
- Who said it?
- What business advice would you give to someone hoping to be where you are one day?
I’m a firm believer that in order to grow your business, you have to grow your team with people who are smarter than you or at least know more than you (about certain things). Don’t be afraid to hire someone who knows more than you or is more talented.
- How did you make the jump to your current business?
We started our business from our hobby of owning and renting out our rental properties. However, it didn’t start out that way. We thought we would invest in real estate for our retirement, but decided to pursue the hobby as a business. Starting something new is always scary and the first step is always the hardest. We started our business because we had the desire and heart for it and wanted to be entrepreneurs. It took a while to figure out that our hobby is what we needed to do as we looked at other options. We were in our mid-thirties and decided that it was now or never. Don’t wait for a “right” time. You have to make the decision and follow through.
- How do you start and/or end your workday each day?
I get up extra early because I’m a slow starter. I like to have my quiet time, drink my coffee and then spring into action. (At the end of the workday) right before I walk out, I tidy up, make a to-do list for the next day. If you make a plan, then you can work it. Once I get home, as an empty nester, ending my day either consists of cooking dinner and relaxing with a good book or a glass of wine.
- What’s the number one mistake you think women in business make (or the number one mistake you made)?
Put your feelings aside and look at the facts. Remember, business is business. Look at the facts, not your feelings.
- Give an example of one of the challenges you had to overcome to get where you are?
Letting the little things go. Not letting people’s opinions get in the way of our main goal, and taking the high road when appropriate.
- What is Henderson Properties doing right when it comes to women in the workplace?
Our growth rate is 45.3% and our average tenure rate for employees is 3.1 years. Females make up 61% of our staff. Six out of seven supervisors are female and 40% of our upper-level managers are female. With a staff of more 70, there is room to grow. And Henderson Properties offers each employee annual continuing education money to grow their professional skills.
- What would you like to change about your business moving forward?
What we would like to change is growing the business to other remote locations. Currently, we are in Indian Trail, Davidson, Rock Hill and Charlotte. Our 2021 addition is the High Country of Boone/Blowing Rock with a goal to eventually be across the southeast. We’d also like to educate clients more to drive them to our website and/or community websites in the case of the HOA division so that we can decrease our phone and email volume. Last year in 2020 Henderson Properties HOA Community Association Services staff took more than 40,000 calls. The customer service industry is a tough one; the struggle is real.
- Do you network virtually? If so, how?
I’m not afraid to just pick up the phone and call someone, or DM them. I think networking can come in different forms. I think we have to use our different platforms but also be old school and not be afraid of personal connection. One thing we did pre-pandemic was trade shows, the chamber of commerce, etc. We’re also really big in the community so our giving back approach is a way to network: Second Harvest Food Bank, Charlotte Rescue Mission and currently the Independence Fund. It’s a win-win.
- How has the pandemic changed your business?
It gave us renewed confidence because we were more determined than ever. It also helped us firm up our policies and procedures. It made us take a second look at how we’re doing things. If we were going to have the downtime, we may as well utilize it to make sure we have policies and procedures in place for each division. It was reaffirming to us that in order to succeed, you need to have the right people in place.
- Where’s your favorite place to meet for a working coffee or drinks?
For happy hour, I would def choose Foxcroft wine. I prefer to meet people later. Or the patio at Superica on Providence Road.
- Where’s your favorite place to go to dinner (and what do you order)?
My current favorite is Legion Brewing. Their food is delicious. It’s farm to table. The pirogies — I’m telling you! It’s a fun atmosphere.
- For workwear: dress or pants?
I’m usually in a flowy dress with some cute shoes. Getting dressed up makes you feel good.
- What’s your daytime drink of choice? Coffee? Diet Coke?
I’m working on getting my 64 ounces of water a day. But I also like half unsweet tea and half diet lemonade from Chick-fil-A.
- Pre-pandemic, or if you had your way, would you rather work from home or head into the office?
My preference is working at the office — I’m more productive.
- What else would you like people to know about starting a business?
Just like in parenting, for example, being a business owner doesn’t come with a manual. Each business is different with different needs and goals. You have to be willing to grow personally and professionally. The learning never stops! Henderson Properties has survived more than one pandemic over the course of our 20-plus years and that is because we have not only grown but also learned to hire the right people and create a work environment that is consistently updating policies and procedures and implementing new strategies to make effective teamwork become the dreamwork.
Thinking of starting a business? Here are a few more tips from Shelly:
- Be sure to have six months’ worth of savings as a backup to give yourself time to properly plan and execute your goal.
“We started our business without a loan or family money,” Shelly says. “It can be done!”
- Think carefully about who you get into business with.
“I chose to only have my husband as a business partner and vice versa,” she says. “Easier for us.”
- Take baby steps.
“Since we are a customer service business, we needed people and a staff to help us,” she says. “After one to two years, we added one employee. Go slow. Choose wisely. After 20-plus years we have a staff of 74.”
- Get ready for some ups and downs.
“Understand that when times are good, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor. But when times are rough, you will sacrifice,” she says. “Be willing to accept both. There’s a huge responsibility in running the day-to-day operations of a business and making sure everyone gets a paycheck.”
- Don’t feel guilty being successful, but do remember where you started from.
“And always give back,” she says.
Shelly L. Henderson, is a wife, mother and business owner of Henderson Properties in Charlotte. Along with her husband Phil, Shelly has owned and operated Henderson Properties since 1998. Her recent book Starting From Scratch tells a tale of her journey from launching a hobby to a career all the while raising two kids. You can find it on Amazon at the link.