How do you completely alter your trajectory at a young and formidable age? Kay Houghton knows. Born Amanda Houghton, she confessed to being a painfully shy child. In fact, her mother would take her to daycare and she’d sob until the school was forced to call her mom back in to pick her up. “I just didn’t want to leave my mother or my grandmother’s side. I was a homebody and wanted to be with my inner circle,” she explains.

As she got older, something in her changed. She couldn’t put her finger on what specifically it was, “but this other aspect of my personality blossomed.” Through high school, Kay transformed and her confidence followed suit. “One day, I decided, I don’t want to be Amanda anymore. So I adopted Kay as my middle name and started using that.” She hit the reset button…and the rest is history.

This is quite the juxtaposition for a woman who loves public speaking today. Having worked in sales as a patient advocate, and now as a real estate team leader, she says she is at her best “in front of people speaking and engaging — building relationships.”  

Salary, Insurance, Benefits—OH MY!

Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, Kay always had an affinity for business. During college, she took some real estate investment courses and intended on making it a career. After college, she moved to Florida to get started. However, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she opted to join the corporate world. Because she now had a pre-existing condition, she needed medical insurance. After working in sales and marketing for over ten years, she realized she loved management and leadership so much that she decided to pursue an MBA.

After moving to Virginia in 2011, Kay experienced two different layoffs that left her without the insurance she so desperately needed to pay for her expensive medical treatments. Because the Affordable Care Act had passed and getting that insurance was no longer an issue, she decided to leave the corporate world and start her real estate career. In 2015, she joined Keller Williams, and in 2016 she launched the team, Kay Houghton & Associates. One of her greatest passions has been to create job opportunities and a positive working environment. Her MBA thesis studied employee-centric compensation models.

Kay took this to heart when she began her team. Every member has a salary and full benefits, including health insurance, paid time off, and a retirement plan with a company contribution. Kay does not understand why this is a revolutionary idea in the industry (or the country). “Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s good for business! Hiring and training are incredibly expensive, time-consuming, and very disruptive. I would much rather spend that time working to keep the team members I have.”

With zero employee turnover, she is obviously onto something big. Currently topping her priority list is hiring the right staff and keeping those with her happy. “I spend 50 percent of my time thinking about the staff and their needs. And the other 50 percent thinking about our clients’ needs. We are constantly tweaking the processes and procedures to ensure that everyone associated with this business — both clients and employees alike — have the best experience possible.”

When it comes to staffing, Kay is acutely aware of one fact, “I need them more than they need me,” and she is grateful for everyone’s efforts. “I want to make sure that everyone working for this team feels like they have the best gig in town.” Currently, her team consists of six people in addition to herself. Last year, they did $55 million in sales and are on pace to do $70 million this year.

One of the reasons why a good staff is so important is that the concierge-style service her team provides can be a challenge. Kay says that people tell her all the time how amazed they are at the level of service they provide. “We take care of literally everything. From picking paint colors and overseeing repairs, to ordering new appliances, to cleaning the home before staging, we do it all. We will even order their moving services for them to ensure that the home is completely cleared out before settlement is complete! To give that level of service, we need to be sure that the right person is doing the right things at exactly the right time!”

Kay Houghton’s House of Cats

When Kay lived in Florida, she ran a cat rescue called Kay’s Kitty Pickup, which did feral trap, neutering, release, and rehabilitation. However, that took a backseat when she moved to Virginia and switched careers. Recently, with the passing of her beloved cat Alex, she has decided to ramp up those energies once again.

“I have an absolute passion for rescuing and fostering animals. I enjoy working with those in vulnerable communities. That includes working with feral cats or dogs that may have some behavior or other health issues. There is so much need and it brings me so much joy. But it’s also a ton of work!” She jokes that some may call her a “crazy cat lady” or may not understand her passion. However, she knows that the work she is doing to provide homes for both her human clients and the animals she fosters is exactly the kind of legacy she wants to leave behind.

Kay and her fiancé, Jonathan Metts, have two dogs, Henry and Nora, and two cats, Gnocchi and  Posen, but they’ve had as many as seven fosters living with them. For fun, the couple enjoys escaping city life to visit wineries or attend horse races and polo events. They hope to one day have a country home where they can create the space to foster and adopt even more furry friends.