In 2010, entrepreneur and real estate agent Kelly Hager was on death’s door, comatose and with her organs shutting down. When she came out of her coma, her husband asked for a divorce. Today, she is not only more successful than ever, but a happier and more whole person. Penelope Barker spoke with her about her amazing journey.
Based in St Louis, in the US state of Missouri, Kelly Hager is the CEO of Kelly Hager Group Real Estate Services and Live Team Life speaking and consulting services… and manages legendary Australian punk rock band The Go Set. She is also a single mother and manages a staff of 50. Yet just five years ago this remarkable woman suffered a mystery illness that left her in a coma fighting for her life and lead to 18 months of recovery.
“In August, 2010, I was in ICU, comatose with my organs shutting down,” recalls Hager. “I had always been told you were supposed to see God at moments like that. Didn’t happen. Huge disappointment. Maybe that’s why I’m still here. Like my Dad, I have high expectations and assume people will step up in moments of crisis. God included! So maybe I was too pissed off to die.
“I had to learn to focus again, see again, walk again, read again and become a single mum. I was helpless – and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. For up to that point I was Kelly Mittelman Hager, a driven and successful entrepreneur and real estate agent but neither an entirely happy nor entirely whole person.
“Today I am both all in and all here. I am more successful professionally than I have ever been. But more importantly, I have found my place and purpose in the world.”
Post-coma, Hager and her all-female team at Kelly Hager Group Real Estate Services have taken the business from $US10 million to $50 million in annual sales, won the Wall Street Journal Real Trends Top 250 in 2014 award, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran’s Award of Excellence for Real Estate Services for the past three years and St Louis Magazine’s Top Real Estate Agents in Client Satisfaction every year since 2006.
Hager attributes much of her grit and determination to growing up in a hard-working, entrepreneurial family, with a Dad who constantly encouraged his children to “Put on your war paint and get busy!”.
“As a child, it drove me crazy,” says Hager, “but as an adult it has given me the experience I needed to separate from the pack. Work ethic, sense of urgency, determination and an understanding of people and their capabilities were burned into my soul at a very early age.
“My dad grew up in a tenement house in New York, so poor that three generations slept in one bedroom. My mother grew up in an upper middle class family in St Louis. The benefit of the combination was extreme. They were both extremely driven and loved to take risks and that penchant for risk-taking passed down to me!”
In her twenties, Hager was managing local bands in St Louis when an Australian band called The Go Set turned up and opened for one of her bands. “I was moving to Los Angeles a few days later but in the meantime the Australian band turned up at my house and meeting frontman Justin Keenan rocked my world. I got the invite to head to Australia and what was supposed to be a three week holiday turned into a six month extravaganza. I remember running along a path in Melbourne by the water and for the first time I understood that the world is my oyster. I’d gone halfway around the world by myself. I could do anything.”
From Australia, Hager moved back to St Louis and started her sales career. She loved it. She excelled at it, and after developing an amazing track record, management was next.
“I knew I was different,” says Hager. “I was willing to do things that most people were not. If that meant working at night or on the weekends, no problem. I believed if I put in the time now, my life would exponentially grow at a faster clip than the people who surrounded me. There were plenty of tough choices and social/family events I missed, but I knew it would pay off!”
For Hager today her greatest inspirations are her son, Brady, and her team. “What motivates me is my health, my son, helping people and generating the revenue I need to have the life I want. Chase adventure. Do the hard things. Make great choices. Meet outstanding people. Give back. Spend time only on the people and projects that empower you and bring you energy.
“My greatest achievement was getting back up. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, both mentally and physically. I had a lot of love that surrounded me. I had a team of people that had worked so hard while I was out of commission, that to be able to come back and continue to build was a driving force that was unexplainable! I had a son I needed to take care of and I had families that were counting on me to make this work. So that’s what I did… one step at a time.
“Now being recognised as one of the top teams in the country lead by all women is extremely rewarding!”
Next for Kelly Hager is further team growth and development for Kelly Hager Group Real Estate Services, developing online courses, conducting speaking engagements around the world and writing a second book for LiveTeamLife, and for her “passion project”, The Go Set, work on licensing deals, record label deals and large tours throughout the US.
“I hope that when people hear my story, they will think: if someone like Kelly can emerge from a coma and find financial success and happiness, then maybe I – coherent and sitting upright at this moment – can do even better,” says Hager.
As her fire-breathing Dad would say: “Put your war paint on. Get busy!”