From leading agents to serving Titans, Gary Ashton and Debra Beagle are hitting all the right notes
By Hilary Daninhirsch
You don’t get to be the No. 2 RE/MAX team in the world by sitting still. And you don’t reach that height without a game plan, without strong community ties, without endless enthusiasm for the business, or without being light years ahead of the curve.
You also don’t get there alone.
Based in Nashville and able to cover a huge section of Tennessee, the Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage is a prime example of what happens when extraordinary, driven, passionate and committed professionals join together and shoot for greatness.
It begins with Team Leaders Gary Ashton and Debra Beagle.
The partnership of Ashton and Beagle is one of yin and yang. Ashton is a native of England; Beagle was born in Ohio. One oversees clients, the other oversees team members and staff. They each bring unique styles and strengths to the mix.
And together they lead a team of over 100 agents that closed roughly $334 million in sales volume in 2017.
“We’re fortunate to be in a city people are relocating to; about 90 people a day move to Nashville,” Ashton says. “And we’re here to help them.”
Ashton and Beagle came to real estate in different ways. Beagle, a chemistry major at George Washington University, transitioned into the industry after beginning her career as an environmental consultant – initially overseeing the due diligence phase of commercial real estate transactions and then working for a residential builder. Beagle’s knowledge of Spanish served her well in the construction industry. She moved into the residential sales side of the business more than a decade ago.
Ashton was introduced to real estate while co-owning his father’s small hotel in Clearwater Beach, Florida. After selling the property and reinvesting the profits in similar businesses, Ashton realized that getting his real estate license would cut costs and help him understand how to buy investment properties.
He made his way north to Nashville because of the music scene. “I’m a drummer, so my idea was essentially to play music and work a little real estate on the side,” he said. Life is full of twists, however, and although Ashton still gets out the drumsticks here and there, he has worked full-time in the real estate business since 2001.
When the pair found each other about seven years ago, Beagle was working in real estate by traditional means, while Ashton was at the forefront of online lead generation, attracting a slew of buyers.
“We thought if we merged the two skill sets, opportunities would grow from there,” Beagle recalls. “Gary and I were both very successful in different ways, and when we put the two approaches together, it took off.”
The math is hard to fathom, but it makes sense. Before the partnership launched, Beagle was a $10- to $12-million producer, and Ashton was in the $75-$80 million range. Now, seven years into the partnership, they’ve essentially quadrupled their combined production.
The key to their success is directly related to the combination of their individual strengths – traditional real estate know-how mixed with a solid digital marketing strategy.
Both of the partners stay sharp and up to date. They believe strongly in continuing education, especially in such an evolving industry. Case in point: Beagle’s half-dozen professional designations, which include Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) and Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR).
Beagle encourages Ashton Real Estate Group agents to be as knowledgeable as possible. “I try to lead by example and be the best I can be – and I want our people to be the best they can be, too,” she says. “It helps the team, sure, but mainly it positions them to be more successful.”
In the division of responsibilities, Beagle manages the massive team of agents and a staff of 12. She leads the office’s Momentum professional development program and also does all the recruiting, interviewing about five candidates a week. She is very selective. “I look for agents who are motivated and want to do this as a career; we’re only interested in people who want to learn and grow,” she said.
Beagle no longer sells, and though she still maintains contact with former clients, her focus is mentoring and helping her agents with their own clients. Team members count on her for motivation, guidance and support. She’s clearly providing what they need – agents on the team average enough in earnings to make the prestigious 100 Percent Club.
Ashton brings a different expertise to the partnership. Its roots are in the early days of the internet, when Ashton had the foresight and skill to advertise his father’s hotel via online brochures. In an attempt to attract British tourists to the Florida hotel, he initially printed brochures and mailed them to his mother in England for her to distribute. But he soon realized that advertising online would be far more effective, so he recreated the brochure online and unknowingly laid the foundation for what would become a highly successful digital and social media presence years later.
When Ashton became a real estate agent in 2001, he decided to establish an internet presence and showcase listings online.
“It was all in the timing. In 2001, I got my license, and that was the year they agreed to do the IDX (Internet Data Exchange),” Ashton says. “You could put every MLS listing on your website; that was the turning point. The timing was great for me. I was a brand new agent with no listings, but overnight I could promote every listing on the MLS.”
His skills not only gave him a leg up on the competition; they also enabled him to close his first sale – ever – for more than $1 million. Ashton knew having an active internet presence was the way to go, and it resulted in lead after lead, sale after sale.
Ashton attributes his success to being in the right place at the right time, but Beagle is less reserved in her praise of her partner. “Gary started an online presence doing ad and lead generation before anyone thought about it, which showed so much foresight,” Beagle says. “He was way ahead of his time – and he still is. He’s constantly looking at ways of improving our business and working with clients. He is truly one of the best in the business.”
Today, the Ashton Team attracts 5,000 to 6,000 visitors a day to its primary website, generating up to 80 leads per day. But that’s only one component in a massive marketing strategy that includes radio and TV ads and more. Much more.
The team’s connection to the Nashville community is an important part of its identity. The Ashton Real Estate Group participates in countless community events and is especially passionate about raising money for charitable organizations such as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Beagle says she’s inspired by the work done by Mike Reagan, RE/MAX Senior Vice President of Business Alliances, who has guided the RE/MAX connection to CMN for over two decades.
Gary Ashton and the Ashton Group of RE/MAX Advantage is also the official real estate agent for the Tennessee Titans as well as the newly formed Nashville Soccer Club, a Major League Soccer team.
“Being the official real estate agent of the Titans effectively means that I’m a sponsor, but over time we’ve become embedded in the organization,” Ashton says. “I think the team views us as a valuable resource. We’re introduced very quickly to any new recruits at the management, coaching and player levels, and we’ve also had the pleasure of working directly with the owners. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Both Beagle and Ashton also belong to multiple professional associations: Beagle is a member of NAHREP (National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals), for example, while Ashton serves on the Board of Regents for LuxuryRealEstate.com.
“Contributing, leading and working to be the best are anchored in what RE/MAX is all about,” Beagle says. “We focus on helping people and being involved in our community. In the end, every success we have starts with that.”