Passing the Gavel
Knoxville’s top real estate professional carries on her father’s legacy
For the past six months, life at the office has looked very different for Knoxville Realtor Laura Slyman. Her father, James “Jim” Slyman, who founded Slyman Real Estate & Auction in 1971, passed away in May at 82 years old. The two had worked side by side for 23 years.
Although Laura had taken over the company’s real estate division in 2007, Jim had continued to run Slyman Auction with a passion, and never chose to retire. Today, Laura is now president and owner of both branches of the company.
Although the change has been emotional for Laura, the transition has been a natural one. She was born into the industry, with her mother, father, and two step-parents all working as licensed Realtors at Slyman Real Estate. Her elder and younger brother each pursued the career as well, opening a second branch of Slyman Real Estate in northern Georgia.
At first, Laura chose not to enter the family business, but instead earned a BS and MBA in Marketing from The University of Tennessee. Jim encouraged Laura to pursue a real estate license as a backup, perhaps knowing that she would catch the bug. She did. “I sold my first house on the night I graduated with my MBA, and felt something I had never encountered before,” the 23-year veteran Realtor says. “I knew that my marketing education would come in handy, but never formally set foot into that industry.”
Next, Jim encouraged his daughter to become a licensed auctioneer. “It was an experience, for sure,” she says. “Auctioning has traditionally been a very male dominated profession. When I graduated from Missouri Auction School, there were only three females in a class of 250.”
Guided by her father’s passion and savvy for the industry, Laura continued to follow in Jim’s footsteps as a leader in Knoxville’s Real Estate market. She served as President of KAAR, the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors (now East Tennessee Realtors) in 2018, (Jim had served in 1980), and was recognized as KAAR REALTOR of the Year in 2020 (Jim had received the same honor 40 years earlier).
Today, Laura looks toward the future as she manages the business her father created over 50 years ago. She served as Slyman Auction’s Sales and Marketing Director prior to Jim’s passing, but as owner now plans to expand the company’s online auction services.
“An online auction process is like eBay; very simple to use and easy to understand,” says the female auctioneer. “Slyman Auction’s focus will continue to be on selling residential homes, land, and commercial properties.”
Online auctions are appealing due to their transparency and far-reaching audience. “You aren’t limited to a single date, time, and location,” Laura says. “The offers are visible, allowing buyers to bid competitively.”
She adds, “My father always said to think of auctions as a tool—a useful method of generating the most money you can for the seller.”
Undoubtedly, Jim would be pleased to know that business has not slowed at the Slyman Real Estate & Auction office, located in the Slyman Building in West Knoxville. His legacy will be apparent as Laura calls upon the lifetime of wisdom she gained from her father.
“Dad and I finished each other’s sentences,” says Laura. “He was not only my parent and my mentor, but also my greatest inspiration.”