Business Q & A

A conversation with Cindy Carnahan

A mere 60 or 70 working hours a week over a 37-year career has led to Cindy Carnahan consistently being the top — or close to it — residential real estate broker in Wichita.

"But I love to work," Carnahan said. "See, that's the only thing I ever learned how to do is work.

"My dad said, 'Isn't is a shame.... We forgot to teach her how to play.' "

Carnahan owns the Carnahan Group, an eight-member team at J.P. Weigand & Sons.

You began your career as a fourth-grade teacher but left after 18 months. Why?

"You know, I really loved the children, but I just really wasn't called, and I found out teaching really is a calling."

That wasn't the only issue, though, was it?

"Truthfully, being in one place all day long just wasn't a fit for me. I need to be out and about. I need to be moving."

So then your father offered you a job at his real estate company, the Ed Clarke Co.?

"He told me he would hire me, but he wouldn't support me."

How was it working for him?

"We were best buds, and I learned from the best. It was a great experience. I couldn't beat it."

What did he teach you?

"Basically, he taught me the value of caring deeply about people and how to solve problems."

How do you solve problems?

"You chew one bite at a time, and you don't become part of the problem."

Is being a sales person innate or something a person has to learn?

"I really think that really great sales people are born.

"Some of the qualities — the tenaciousness, the sensitivity... being empathetic, those types of things — maybe they are learned.... But I don't think you can take an adult and make them a great sales person if they didn't grow up with those qualities from their parenting."

Now your son, Clarke, works for you. How is that?

"He's doing a great job.

"Every once in a while I have... a teaching opportunity with him. That just thrills me."

What's your best sales advice?

"With regard to residential real estate, I work when other people don't.

"A lot of people come in to me and say, 'Well, I want to make my own schedule.' "

But it doesn't actually work that way?

"If you don't really want to do that piece, it's hard."

What was your most disastrous sales experience?

"I truly could write a book, but everybody would want to run for cover.

"Actually, I had a name all picked out. 'Waiting on Wichita.'

"I could see Helen Galloway taking a chapter. Maybe Jesse Cook take a chapter. It would be hysterical because the stories would be great. Of course, you'd have to retire the next day."

How do you handle problem clients?

"Let me put it this way: When people are moving, this isn't their loveliest time.

"You have to navigate a lot. You have to be understanding. But you also have to be firm. You have to be in charge."

You've been described, perhaps not necessarily in a complimentary way, as someone who likes to be in charge. Is that fair?

"I think it's fair. I think my mother used to say saying no to Cindy means it's going to take a little longer."

Meaning you don't take no for an answer?

"They'd send me to my room... and then I'd come up with a new line of chatter.

"They said, 'No,' to me over and over and over again, and it didn't matter."

How do you describe yourself?

"Often wrong, but never in doubt.

"I really am not in doubt. I just am not."

How did you get so great at your job?

"It's a combination of things, but I give a tremendous amount of credit to luck. Being in the right place at the right time. Having great competitors to keep you attentive to what's important.

"My competitors do a lot more for me than my friends do. It's true. My friends really don't point out my weaknesses, but my competitors, they're on it."

So I understand you're an avid gardener. Does that help you relax?

"I do not sit down in the garden. I try to. I have cushions. I just don't. I can always see something that needs doing, which is what I love. You can snip here and plant there."

If you could choose another career, what would it be?

"I would do a radio show."

You realize you'd have to just sit in one room?

"Yeah, but not that long.

"I'd love to do a real estate radio show. You know, like Click and Clack. Same type of thing where people would call in and tell you their nightmare real estate stories, and you know, try to have fun with it."

Have you ever looked into it?

"I have never looked into it. I did write a sitcom about real estate about five years ago, but I didn't do anything with it. I had a heck of a time changing everybody's names."

What's one thing no one knows about you?

"I don't go to scary, gory movies anymore. I hyperventilate at movies where everyone's out of control. I just can't do it."