How Jean Beck utilized networking to grow her real estate association’s presence in the community
By Hannah Massen
Longtime Lowcountry residents can attest that Beaufort County looks very different in 2023 than it did in the early 2000s. Back in 2003 the population hovered just above 130,000 residents, a far cry from the over 194,000 people that call Beaufort County home today. The housing market “boom” has been a driving force behind the Lowcountry’s rapid economic growth and development, advancing the careers of real estate professionals like Jean Beck, CEO of the Hilton Head Area Realtors.
Although Beck is the head of one of the largest trade associations for real estate professionals in the Lowcountry, executing the vision and strategic plan set by the Board of Directors and managing the association’s day-to-day operations, she too was a homebuyer once. Beck moved to Hilton Head from New England in 2003 for more than a change of scenery: she wanted a change in career too. While looking for a house, Beck befriended her Realtor, who was willing to become her mentor. She earned her real estate license in 2004 and joined the local Realtor Association soon after.
At that point, the only person Beck knew on Hilton Head was her brother-in-law, so she became more involved with the HHAR as a way to make connections. Beck credits much of her early success to participating in the Realtor Association’s Community Service and Professional Development committees, proving that the real estate industry isn’t all about location, location, location. It’s also about who you know.
“Realtors are really good at helping each other, even though they compete,” Beck said. “Everyone was welcoming, I felt comfortable attending events, and it helped me learn about my new career.”
By 2006 Beck was named to her association’s Board of Directors, but it was that same year that she began to wonder if she had made the right choice by becoming a real estate agent. So once again she turned to her association’s network for support. Beck invited the association’s former executive vice president, Eleanor Lightsey, for a lunch that would be a major turning point in her career. Lightsey told Beck that she’d be retiring in about a year and that Beck would have the opportunity to apply for her position. In January 2008 Beck became CEO.
“When I took this position, I looked at different groups and organizations that play a role in our community. The most obvious was the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce,” Beck said. “It provides a large networking opportunity, and it aligned with my goals to meet other leaders, businesses and nonprofits. This networking has put [the HHAR] at the table of many discussions on current affairs and the future of the region.”
Beck says the best part of her job is representing HHAR members at the local, state and national levels.
“I have met so many fabulous people from across the county, it’s amazing,” she said. “I think I could go to any state and know a Realtor or another association executive.”
In 2022 Beck was inducted into the National Association of Realtors’ Dr. Bud Almon Smith RCE AE Leadership Society, an honor awarded to association executives who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and a willingness to help others, qualities which are reflected in Beck’s work with several nonprofit organizations.
Beck serves on the Board of Directors for Hospice Care of the Lowcountry as well as the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of the Deep Well Project’s resource team in its Circle Chapter and was on the Hilton Head Hospital Board of Governors from 2015-20. Before that Beck was a member of the Zonta Club of Hilton Head from 2009-21 and was president in 2013.
Perhaps as expected from someone who works in the real estate industry, Beck calls her house her oasis. When she’s not working, she can be found relaxing around her backyard fire pit with her husband or strolling the beach with her friends. Beck’s fondness of the Lowcountry’s natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle is partially why she’s not looking to advance her career past her current position. Doing so would require her to move, and she says that’s simply not happening.
“Coming from New England, it is amazing to me how young the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton areas are,” Beck said. “While they have a rich history, the housing inventory is very new. In my time in the area, I have seen a lot of growth and changes, just like generations before me. While the growth can be challenging, it also brings opportunities for jobs, cultural activities and new friends.”
1. Don’t make networking all about yourself. Instead, focus on offering value to others by sharing your knowledge, expertise, or resources. By approaching networking with a mindset of giving, you will naturally attract opportunities and build meaningful connections.
2. Be a good listener. Show genuine interest in their stories, challenges and achievements. By actively listening, you can establish rapport, foster deeper connections, and uncover ways to support and collaborate with others.
3. People relate to stories, so share yours. By sharing your experiences, challenges, and successes, you become more relatable, authentic and memorable. Your story can inspire others and provide a foundation for building trust and forging lasting relationships.