What an honor to have achieved so much…all due to our amazing clients and my life mentors! Please check out some great “get to know us” tidbits below in a couple great articles which were featured in Oprah, Fortune 500, Entrepreneur, and Real Estate Agent Magazine. I am also proud and honored to have been awarded the Super Real Estate Agent designation consecutively since 2003. – Nancy
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As Seen In O, The Oprah Magazine, Entrepreneur & Fortune
Real Estate Agent of the Month
Thailand to Twin Cities – The Wondrous World of Nancy Walker
By Susan Cushing
An habitually early-riser, REALTOR® Nancy Walker of Coldwell Banker Burnet, starts each day with nearly 2,000 friends. Most, are current or past clients. It’s a morning ritual that’s as meaningful to Walker, as it is revealing about her personality. In the pre-dawn hours, before the crush of daily life intrudes, she sits at her computer catching up with those with whom she’s formed a lasting bond.
“It’s a great way to start the day,” she says, flashing a warm smile. “We don’t talk real estate, we talk about life. ‘How’s the new baby? Tell me about your vacation! I can’t believe your son is already graduating!’”
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Walker has undoubtedly traveled and experienced enough for two lifetimes; yet today, her world revolves around her family and her business. Embarking on her 28th year in real estate, Walker remains passionate about her work, even though it goes against her mother’s cautionary advice to never get a job that just pays commission.
“Real estate is my outlet, what brings me joy,” she says. “All I want is to know that I’ve made a difference in people’s lives and made them happy.”
Walker understands that for her mother, a single mom, struggling to raise her children and provide the best she could, the uncertainty of relying on commissions would be daunting.
Divorce is hard on children too, but Walker opted to see the glass half-full. Her experiences, shuttling between two parents and two continents, helped make her the gregarious and well-rounded person she is today. Summers with dad were spent in Southeast Asia, where as a chief pilot for Air America, he dazzled his children with adventures and new experiences.
“Dad would rent horses from the local race track for us to ride,” says Walker, “and we’d draw straws to decide who would get to go to work with him that day. You have to remember, this was during the Vietnam War, so a day at work with dad might include flying over Laos dropping rice and pamphlets.”
Life with Mom, while not quite as exotic, offered plenty of love and stability within a wholesome, Midwest community.
“When my parents first separated, Mom took my sisters and me to Mississippi,” Walker explains, “but she wasn’t happy with the school system there. So, she visited the local library, researching and comparing school districts throughout the country. Discovering that Minnesota had the best schools in the country, she packed us up again and headed north!”
The newly restructured family of females settled in Richfield, where Walker and her sisters were enrolled in the highly-rated educational system, all eventually graduating from Richfield High.
“Sports were an important aspect of my school days,” Walker recalls. “I played softball and was on the swim team. I believe that my participation taught me discipline and to think beyond myself, to be part of a team. These experiences have had a longterm, positive impact on my life and who I am.”
Valuable lessons came from both parents as well. Having lived in Southeast Asia, and then returning every summer, offered Walker and her sisters the opportunity to experience vastly different people and cultures, thereby cultivating a global view of the world and how others perceive things. From her mother, they developed an appreciation and passion for learning as well as what their mother referred to as the Three G’s.
“She strived to imbue us with values of humility and appreciation,” Walker explains. “One of my most treasured legacies from my mother are her Three G’s, a simple reminder to always be gracious, grateful and giving. I actually have that stenciled on the wall in my office. It’s something that I’ve tried to instill in my team as well.”
In the fall of 1982, Walker followed in her sisters’ footsteps and began her freshman year at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, where she focused on criminal justice and psychology. Barely two years into her collegiate studies, tragedy struck the Walker family with the recurrence of her mother’s cancer.
“All of the siblings discussed what to do,” Walker explains. “Someone needed to be there for Mom all the time, and the logical choice was me. I was living the nearest, and was not as advanced in my career as my older siblings. I decided to move back to the Twin Cities and rented an apartment right down the hall from her.”
Assuming the dual role of caretaker and student, Walker enrolled in the University of Minnesota. Happily, her mother defied the doctor’s bleak prognosis and lived another 14 years.
Walker’s first real job was in the restaurant business, but despite being on the fast-track to management, she realized it was not her passion. An administrative position at Tamarack Materials was more to her liking, but fortunately, this is when fate stepped in.
A pleasant customer, who happened to be a contractor, suggested she might enjoy real estate and encouraged her to call his broker. That was on a Tuesday. The next day she called the broker, Chuck Stout, and met with him on Thursday. By that weekend, she was sitting in her first real estate class.
“It took me about three months to get my license,” Walker explains. “I was still working at Tamarack as well as part-time restaurant work.”
In January 1988 she was a licensed agent and launched her career by holding an open house every weekend, as well as serving as an assistant to two top agents.
World Service and a Wool Suit
In 1990, Walker’s compassion once again sent her on a brief detour. Her sisters Susan and Liz were in Thailand, and sent out an SOS.
“The refugee camps were being closed,” Walker explains. “These families, who had been living in camps for 15 years, were about to be repatriated to their homelands where they faced certain persecution, even death.”
Returning to Bangkok she worked for the U.S. Embassy processing refugees, qualifying them for asylum in America or other welcoming nations. Over the next eight months, Walker worked in two separate camps, helping as many families as possible. Their work was well-received, and a stellar example of the sisters following their mom’s three G’s. In an extension of their compassionate work overseas, her sister, Susan, even received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts on behalf of the international campaign to ban land mines.
Onward and Upward
Upon Walker’s return, she faced a few uncomfortable weeks of transition. Discouraged, she called her mother and asked, “Why aren’t my phones ringing?”
Mom replied, “Because it’s three in the afternoon and you’re at home watching Oprah! We’re going to buy you a new suit, and I want you to wear it every day, show up for life and get going on your career!”
“She bought me a two-piece wool suit, that I wore every single day throughout that hot summer, and decided I needed to get up every day with a business plan in place,” says Walker.
Restarting her real estate career meant returning to an open house every weekend, but Walker also did something few people in her position would – she immediately hired an assistant.
“Gwen began on a part-time basis at first,” she allows, “but I needed someone who could take care of the C & D work while I focused on the A & B, which means my clients and developing my business.”
Her efforts paid off. By 1995, Walker was promoted to sales manager of the Coldwell Banker Burnet Minneapolis Parkway office. “We have a solid group here,” she says. “I think it’s because we have a very professional, respectful working environment, with networking and great training.”
With more than two decades at this same location, Walker is now the director of agent development and training and also heads up her own team of female dynamos.
Lisa Roebuck-Krasno joined the Walker team in 2001 bringing both tenacity and integrity to everything she does. Buyers appreciate her honesty and meticulous nature, knowing they receive service above and beyond the norm.
Julie Diedrich served as the team’s operations manager from 2005 to 2013, before making the move to sales associate in 2014. Now, an integral member of the sales team, Diedrich utilizes her substantial experience in customer service, quality assurance, software testing and project management to provide her clients with comprehensive and conscientious service.
Stepping in as operations manager, Kathrine Black joined the team in 2014 overseeing all aspects of running the business from customer communications and transaction management to marketing and advertising.
Joining the team in 2007, Julie Claeys provides additional administrative support, making sure that sales associates are well prepared with information packets and other vital materials.
Georgia Boukal, the newest member of the team and equally dedicated, has been serving as an administrative tech specialist since May 2015.
“I’m very proud of my team,” says Walker. “They’re amazing women and we have so much fun working together! We share mutual respect and emphasize open communications. We’re all in agreement that first and foremost is making sure our clients have an experience they’ll remember as being one of the best of their lives.”
Hearth, Home and Rock ‘n’ Roll
One of six children, with two half-brothers and three sisters, Walker cherishes family. Though she doesn’t have children of her own, she lavishes love and attention on her many nieces and nephews, as well as the son and daughter of the love of her life, Mark Ackart.
“Mark’s children, David and Olivia, are such wonderful kids,” says Walker. “They are both so respectful and talented, and very open to new people and experiences. I love having them in my life. Their dad has done a great job raising them.”
Apparently, “Dad” is as good a partner as he is a parent. “He should write a book about being a beautiful man,” she says. “Mark is truly one-of-a-kind. He’s extremely smart and challenges me intellectually. He’s my rock, just an amazing man and my best friend.”
Ironically, it wasn’t “Nancy” who met the man who would literally rock her world, but rather her alter-ego, a dynamic lead singer in a high-energy rock band. “I am 100% REALTOR® during work hours,” she says with a glint in her eyes, “but watch out on the weekends! That’s when you’ll see my wild, rock ‘n’ roll side!”
She’s referring to Sub-Level 6, her rowdy, ’60s/’70s rock band specializing in performing “music for Minnesota hippies.” Timing is everything, and in this case it’s not a reference to rock’s 4/4 backbeat.
“About nine years ago, I was in the process of reinventing my band, the Blues District. I wanted to move in a different direction so, I was auditioning musicians,” she explains, “and in walks Mark! We’ve been together ever since. Not only is he the love of my life, he’s amazing on the guitar, vocals and the harmonica.”
In addition to music, the couple share a zeal for fly-fishing, travel and Harleys. It’s safe to say, that during her free time, Walker bears little resemblance to the serious businesswoman her colleagues and clients know so well.
Despite a calendar filled with showings, closings, open-houses and meetings, not to mention whatever her alter-ego might be up to, Walker still follows her heart and her mother’s advice.
“Giving is one of mom’s revered three G’s, and something I relish,” she says. “I volunteer for a number of very worthy organizations; it’s a very important part of my life.”
Walker explains that Meals on Wheels was a tremendous asset for her mother, and she in turn was very grateful. Her mother passed away 18 years ago, and the very same week as the funeral, Walker contacted the organization and volunteered. She’s been delivering nutritional meals to shutins, the elderly and others ever since.
“The best part is seeing their smiles,” says Walker. “But the hard part is having to leave. These are very isolated, lonely people. I wish I could sit and visit with them for hours.”
Walker also provides monthly meals to the Agape Dos, an AIDS awareness project house, as well as contributing meals to the local Ronald McDonald House and supporting the Second Harvest Food Shelf.
Because she seems to have mastered the art of, as she puts it, “spinning plates” or juggling so many things at once in her very busy life, Walker generously shares her secrets in her training class, “In the Kitchen With Nancy.”
With everything she has going on, Walker consistently remains among the top 50 producers in the company and a member of the President’s Club.
“It’s all about prioritizing,” she says, “having a healthy balance in your life. For me, I know I couldn’t do it without the amazing and constant support I receive from my incredible team in the office and the loving encouragement at home.”
Walker might start her day chatting with friends on the computer, but it’s not unusual to also hear her give a quick honk as she passes a client’s home. “I just want them to know I’m thinking about them,” she says with that famous grin.