The Feature is Female: Carol Shaffer

“I absolutely love that there are so many women who are becoming pillars in the community.” – Carol Shaffer

Growing up, Carol Shaffer never saw herself in the role she holds today. In her adult life, Carol has been lucky enough to experience the joys of many different career paths that have each held a special place in her heart. There is one career path, however, that unlocked something extra special for Carol, and that career path has taken her on a truly unexpected journey. 

Leading up to becoming the well established business owner she is today, Shaffer took many paths, but one path in particular, always felt like a calling to her. “Accounting was my passion, so I got a full-time job with R.L. Brink Construction and worked with them for about 10 years. I started as their secretary, but then I moved into a role where I was job shadowing their in-house CPA,” recalls Carol.

It was during her time at R.L. Brink Construction that Shaffer was approached with a new opportunity. This opportunity came from an all too familial place. “While at Brink, my mom came to me and asked me to leave my current position to come and assist her in running a bridal store.. In that position I was able to manage the business, as well as do all the bookkeeping,” remembers Shaffer. 

Carol chose to leave the family business and seek employment elsewhere, only this time she was seeking employment with a little bundle of joy on the way. “It was kind of crazy, because I was four months pregnant, and I simply couldn’t find a job. Even though I had a proven background of working in accounting and secretarial work, I couldn’t find a job anywhere,” says Carol. “I chose to answer an ad that Bower & Associates had for an open secretary position. I went into it thinking you know what, I’ll go back to the beginning, because at that point, it was a job, and that’s what I was needing. The Bowers took a chance on me at that moment. Being four months pregnant, that’s all anyone else could focus on. They knew that in a few months I’d be on maternity leave, and so there were a lot of lingering questions about what might happen, but the Bowers were gracious enough to take me under their wing, and I was their secretary for a couple years.”

While at Bower, Carol Shaffer had time to evaluate her life and the next steps for it. Although real estate had never been the place, real estate became an all to real plan very quickly for Shaffer and her family. “A couple years into working at Bower & Associates, one of their top agents passed away unexpectedly, and when that happened Jay came to me and expressed that the company was going to need help during that transitional time,” states Carol. Little did Jay know, Carol was already processing the possibility of a career change and what it might look like for her to become a full time agent. “When he came to me I got to tell him that I already had started thinking about getting my license, and starting that new career path. Never in a million years did I think real estate was gonna be my forte, but I went ahead and got my license and was able to work another couple years under Jay,” fondly recalls Shaffer. 

Just a few years into her young real estate career, Carol’s bosses came to her with a decision that ultimately changed the course of her life. “Jay and Shirley were getting a little bit older, and their daughter was having some health issues, so they came to me and told me they were going to retire. Immediately I started to think, what happens to me?!  Jay was gracious enough to ask me ‘Where do you want to go?’, and I honestly didn’t want to go anywhere else, so I stewed on it for a bit until I finally went to him and said ‘Why don’t I buy the company and take over?’” Carol states. “We sat down, worked up a deal, and here I am. It seems crazy to me, because that was in 2018, and the goal for me then was just to expand. At that point, I only had two other agents, so my goal became to expand and bring on more agents, and grow the company back to where they were. This year we get to celebrate 80 years of Bower & Associates, and they used to have 35 to 40 agents in their company, so they were huge. I know I will never be that big, but I am growing. I’ve moved from two agents to 13, and we’ve even opened a second office in Mt. Sterling [Illinois]. I really never thought in a million years that I’d ever be doing this.”

Raised in a family of 6 children by a single mother, Carol was always taught to work hard, so it’s no surprise that she is where she is today. Because of her constant desire and need to work hard for everything she has, Carol Shaffer hasn’t necessarily thought too much about the style she leads others with. For her, it all comes back to how she was raised. “All we knew to do was work for what we wanted. I think because of that, I’m not scared to do anything that I wouldn’t ask someone else to do, besides plumbing, of course,” Carol jokingly states. “So I guess I just try to lead others by example. Sometimes you have to get down to the nitty gritty, and sometimes you have to go above and beyond just showing homes and writing contracts. Sometimes in order to close a deal, we’ll go help a homeowner paint their house, and there aren’t a lot of agents that will do that, but I’ve never been the type that sees myself as too good to do something, so I try and lead by trying to set an example for those around me.” Carol has begun the process of investing in herself by taking various leadership courses that have taught her different ways to lead those around her. One thing she has taken away from those courses is how to utilize her employees’ love languages, so that she gets the best out of them and vice versa. 

The leadership styles between men and women can be drastically different. For Carol Shaffer, she sees the differences between the two genders, but she’s also been lucky enough to be led by two men who she respects tremendously. “I’ve only had a few male leaders in my life, and they’ve both been great. The first one I had was Ron Brink, who was a wonderful leader and wonderful man, and then the other was Jay [Bower], who was more than a boss to me. He and Shirley became grandparents to my son, and they became parents to me in a way. With that said though, men oftentimes have a little gruffer approach to leadership than women do,” Carol states. “They have a more ‘This is how it’s going to be attitude’ because for them there is no gray, it’s just black and white. I feel like there is gray in the world, and it’s up to us to figure out what the in between is.”

Carol draws the inspiration to keep going from those closest to her. “My two older sisters, Denise and Casey, have really inspired me. I’ve been able to watch them in their respective careers, and it’s helped me. Denise was a Mary Kay Director, so she got to drive the Pink Cadillac because she was selling at a high level, and through that position she was able to lead a lot of women successfully. I spent many of my first years turning to my sisters for guidance on how they led people in their careers, and how I could do the same,” states Carol. Shaffer also mentioned that the person who has inspired her the most during her real estate career has been Jay and Shirley Bower due to their unwavering support and constant willingness to help guide her in the right direction.

No matter your age, race, or gender, we all face barriers to becoming successful. When asked what she finds to be the most significant barrier to female leadership, Carol Shaffer gave an answer that James Brown himself has crooned about every now and again. “Historically it’s been a man’s world. I don’t know that all women get taken seriously, because unfortunately for us, some people see us as just heels and lipstick. Not all men are like that, and I know that, but there have been many years where men have been the only ones allowed to play that leadership role,” Shaffer states. 

As someone who knows a thing or two about risk taking, it was no surprise that Carol’s advice to the next generation of female leaders was to do the same. “You have to be willing to take risks. We don’t ever know what our capabilities are until we’re in those hard core decision making times, and I think we can surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish when we’re put into tough spots,” says Carol. “My best advice is to not be afraid to take that jump and have faith. We all want to plan our lives, but we aren’t the ones in control. Being a leader takes a lot of guidance from God.”

As a real estate agent, Carol has been privy to some of the most joyous moments in people’s lives, and because of that, she derives her motivation from little moments like those everyday. “What motivates me the most is just making people happy. I know I have to get up everyday with an office to run and clients to take care of, so if I can find a way to make them happy and be successful at the same time, then I know I’ve done my job,” proudly states Shaffer. “I will say, it’s not about the money. For me, it’s more about things like seeing the thrill of a first time home buyer or a family that found their dream home that have also acted as a motivator for me.”

The saying ‘man plans and God laughs’ couldn’t be more true for this month’s Feature is Female highlight, Carol Shaffer. As someone who thought her life would revolve around numbers and figures, Shaffer never expected to be the successful real estate agent and owner that she is today, but with her tenacious personality, desire to learn, and willingness to let God guide her, she is right where she was always meant to be.

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