Joy Over Fear: Life After the Unexpected

Words: Dorothy de Souza Guedes|

Photography: Brian Fitzsimmons| April 1, 2019

Lynn Holley truly enjoys the time she carves out of every day for Bill, her husband of 28 years. Although she runs a small-but-busy team in the Keller Williams Madison West market center, Lynn puts away her cell phone and gives Bill her undivided attention.

Often, the real estate agent and her hus­band take what Lynn calls “little road trips” to look at homes and develop­ments in the neighborhoods of Madison, Wisconsin.

Then, Lynn takes Bill back to the memo­ry care center where he resides before head­ing home alone.

Bill is one of the 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. His diagno­sis six years ago changed the trajectory of Lynn’s life – she believes for the better. She found her big why, the one thing that gives her purpose and drives success: making money to care for Bill.

“I never had one (a big why) until this happened.”

Finding this purpose has allowed Lynn to make as much money as she can in the time she has allocated to business, and she credits the principles of The Mil­lionaire Real Estate Agent for making it possible.

“It has allowed me a steady income stream without working nights and weekends,” she says.

Lynn and Bill


From the moment she met him on a blind date more than 30 years ago, Lynn knew she wanted to marry Bill.

“What I liked about him was that he just had a sheer joy for life and the most positive attitude of anybody I’d ever met. He still does, even to this day,” Lynn says.

About six years into dating, Lynn asked Bill to marry her, and he said yes.

“He was the whole package. I was lucky,” she says.

They began buying homes and flipping them, which led to building new construction. Bill sold his family business selling materials to home builders, started a construction company, and began developing land, primarily for condos.

Lynn quit her job, worked with Bill for a short time, and then became a full-time real estate agent in 1995 for eight years before becoming a founding investor in her local market center.

“I found that I had an affinity for real es­tate sales and jumped wholeheartedly into that,” she says. “I didn’t have any monetary worries. My husband made a good living. My income was extra.”

When the real estate market changed during the recession, Bill, who owed debt on developments, seemed to internalize the stress, Lynn says. But even when the Madison market began to recover around 2012, Bill couldn’t seem to bounce back. Various incidents – including a day where Bill had driven a fair distance from home without understanding what was going on – pointed to a deeper problem.

“I wasn’t really aware that he was having issues until it just became so clear,” Lynn says. “It was a wakeup call that I needed someone looking after him full time.”

Learning Leverage

Describing herself as “the original inde­pendent person who could do everything on my own,” Lynn learned that with her husband in need of 24/7 care, a real estate business to run, and Bill’s company to deal with, she had no choice but to ask for help.

Her assistant at the time, Miranda An­nesley, gave Lynn the name of a home care company. Within a week, Lynn had hired full-time care for Bill while she worked.

With the help of her team leader and operating principal, Lynn slowly began wrapping her head around how to keep working and adequately support her husband.

“I had a lot of fear around how much this was all going to cost.”

One of her first tasks was to close Bill’s business, selling what she could to pay off debt. Then Lynn began to learn how to better leverage herself in her business.

She set business hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, when Bill’s caregivers were with him. “I needed to care for [Bill] at nights and on weekends,” Lynn says. “I needed and wanted to be there.”

She also developed a script from her calls to tell clients when she was available. She’d ask, “Which time works for you?” If anyone pushed back, she’d explain about Bill’s diagnosis and her need to be with him. People assured her they’d work with her schedule.

With the coaching from her team leader and operating principal, Lynn has been able to build a team from the principles of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent. She’s read and reread the book 20 to 30 times, she says.

“Whenever I stumble, I go back to that. I think that is the most surefire way to be successful,” Lynn says.

She’s worked hard at handling the hiring process correctly and now has a full-time, salaried admin, a buyer’s agent, and a showing partner.

“I have followed the MREA model for all of that and for all of the financials,” Lynn says. “That’s leverage to me.”

Lynn works on listings, manages and coaches the team, and spends time train­ing others in the market center. The Lynn Holley Real Estate team sells more now than ever – between $15 million and $17 million a year – even though Lynn adheres to a strict schedule that allows her to focus on her time with Bill.

Key to this is ensuring her admin is properly trained and supported rather than micromanaged.

“I allow her to make almost all the decisions because I want her to take over this team. And I want her to be prepared for it. I’m OK with her making mistakes,” Lynn says of her current assistant, Molli Babler. “When things were really difficult for me, she just took over and did everything, and so did my buyer’s agent … and I had complete confidence in their ability to do so.”

Lessons Learned

Lynn says the skills she has developed through Keller Williams to structure her time and the leverage she has fostered by building and trusting an incredible support team are transferable to handling life’s challenges, such as becoming Bill’s caregiver.

“With the right mindset, you can handle any of life’s problems while finding the good in them. I am a great caregiver and passionate advocate. And I’m so happy I’ve learned that about myself.”

With the help of the real estate com­munity in Madison – even those not with Keller Williams – Lynn and others have created Ales for Alzheimer’s, to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin. This year, some of the $85,000 she has raised will go for scholarships to caregivers who need in-home help.

“It’s amazing to be able to help people who go through this. I feel like I’m so lucky,” Lynn says

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