December 2017

Collins Group Realty: Focusing on the Transitions

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Carrie Friesen

The Collins Group Realty Team: Andrea Albright, Ann Eden, Annette Rothwell,  Ashley Smith, Bill Weis, Carl Girth, Carrie Collins, Charlotte Main, Chip Collins, Chris Sanders, Dawn Hoffman, Dom Hayes, Fred Hogshead, Gail Bonnett, Howard Cohen, Joan Weaver, Julie Smythe, Karen Lesch, Kathy Fotia, Kent Collins, Ryan Stefonick, Taylor Brunn, Taylor Standen, Valerie Mayer, Velinda Fisher

The unique nature of a snowflake…no two alike…is the lens through which Lowcountry Realtor Chip Collins views his clients’ real estate experience. “This year we will be part of the selling or buying of approximately 275 properties,” he said. “That’s 275 transactions that are all like snowflakes; everything about them is entirely unique.”

Focusing on the exclusive characteristics of each transition, rather than the real estate transaction itself, has been the key to creating a framework that supports Collins Group Realty smoothly through this level of activity.

“Any time there is a real estate transaction, there’s always a reason,” Collins said. “While we do have good success as a local, top 10 producing company, that’s not our drive. The nature of our business is service and then compensation, in that order. We’ve adopted a philosophy that, when we focus on the transition, the transaction will follow. That’s a mind switch that influences everything we do: every phone call, every client interaction, every thought about what you’re accomplishing. It is not just a real estate transaction; it transcends that into this transition, which is about why you are selling, why you are buying, what’s happening in your life.

“We want to be involved. We want to take the time to understand. When we do that, it’s really cool; it just colors everything with care.” Team members have an internal mantra focusing on transitions, with the mindset of a caveman: Constantly Add Value Everyday (CAVEman).

In his twenty-fifth year on Hilton Head Island, twentieth year selling real estate, and fifteenth year heading his own company, Collins leads his team by example. A hard worker (not to mention Ironman competitor), he adds value to their lives by welcoming collaboration, creativity, and charting a course where strengths and talents are promoted. “When you hear a member of your team offer an impromptu statement in a staff meeting like, ‘I’m so impressed and honored to be part of this,’ you know our mission has become part of our culture.”

With approximately 23 agents and support staff, Collins focuses on matching the right people to roles within his company—sometimes even creating roles that just make sense and add value. “You’re not going to be good at everything, so why not break it up and identify people who can be happy and successful specializing in what they are good at in the real estate arena.”

Former real estate appraisal specialist Chris Sanders sought Collins out when he envisioned a professional change for himself. “We created a position that never existed before,” Collins said. “Chris studies the market on behalf of clients and gives advice in terms of strategy for pricing, keeping them updated on all the moving parts.

What has changed? Is there a new piece of inventory? Did something good sell? Instead of having a comparative market analysis, we talk about qualitative market analysis, meaning now we have someone who specializes from a much higher level. He’s using his appraisal background and digging in much deeper. We’re going beyond the surface and really thinking about the impact of the data.”

Client concierge is an essential position at Collins Group Realty, where just the right person is working in a capacity that utilizes his or her strengths. “Julie Smythe is an angel,” Collins said. “Client concierge is this cool position where she’s the funnel through which new contacts come to us. She’s that director of first impressions and has the ability to direct traffic in the most amazing way. We are continuing to build on this model so that when there are clients who want that deeper, transition kind of experience, we’re poised to deliver it in a much more unique and deep way.”

Further building the team with people whose strengths benefit the entire operation, Collins identified two mentors, both of whom are on-staff at Collins Realty Group. Carrie, his wife, is their interior/staging specialist, on-call for staging advice or assistance with renovations or redecorating. When not sharing her design aesthetic, she is managing home and family, with both Collins daughters in the upper school at Hilton Head Prep: Martha Preston, 18, and Sallie 17. “She’s one of those people where everyone’s included; let’s be happy, let’s be positive.”

Collins’s father and mentor Kent, serves as the firm’s strategic advisor. “He has been a guide and a sounding board for me all this time. Dad’s a smart guy. He’s a Harvard business school graduate, a very intuitive guy, an excellent listener, and an excellent thinker. Increasingly, as I grow older, I find myself mirroring more of who he is.”

Humbled by the success, and somewhat surprised at the lack of a true finish line, Collins understands his place in the constant evolution of the effort, and the creativity that makes up what he and his team are building. Part of that is giving back to the community. “Over 15 years ago, I bought a moving truck; we call it the Community Vehicle.” Having recently undergone a renovation and facelift, Collins Group Realty makes it available to clients and to local non-profits, churches, and special events. “We don’t charge for it; just fill the gas back up when you’re finished.” In addition to their individual charitable efforts, the entire operation rallies around their annual food drive for Deep Well right before Thanksgiving, and their holiday toy drive benefitting Bluffton Self Help.

Having grown up in Ohio, Collins is familiar with snowflakes and icy roads. Remembering his dad’s advice to let up on the accelerator when crossing an icy overpass—no brake, no gas. “I always use that approach. I’m not going to do well trying to control an industry that has a lot of potential disruptions,” he said. Meeting the unique needs of every transition, Collins Group Realty is letting up on the accelerator, smoothly taking clients just where they want to go.

Collins Group Realty is located at 852 William Hilton Parkway, Suite 2b, Hilton Head Island and 14 Westbury Park Way, 101 Professional Center, Bluffton. For more information, please call (843) 341-6300 or (800) 823-7516 or visit

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