The 30 Tools I Use For Productivity, Blogging, Social Media, & Travel (18 are free!)

I don’t know how many times I’ve said – “I wish I had more hours in the day!”

I’m sure you’ve had that sentiment as well.  Alas, 24 hours a day is all we get.  That isn’t going to change.  What can change is how much you can squeeze out of each hour.

30tools 3d cover

Before I go on, I want to make this point.  I’m not advocating becoming a workaholic – or even feeding that addiction.  I’m talking about getting more work done faster.  I’m talking about being able to have more time for what really matter.  Time for your family.  Time to take care of your health.  Time for self-development.  Time for care for your spiritual health.

Some of the most valuable posts I’ve ever read have been on the subject of productivity.  I consume that kind of information.  Everything I’ve learned about productivity apps has come from others or just tinkering with them.  All I’ve learned about traveling efficiently comes from experience and what others have shared with me.

So here is my resource list of the 30 tools I use on a regular basis to squeeze more out of every day.  I’m going to give you the highlights here, and you will be able to download it at the end of the post.

Productivity

When I did my reader survey last month, the subject of productivity was the number one topic of choice.  In this section, I give you my favorite free and paid tools for increasing your productivity.  And here’s a little hint – 1password and Tripit are completely awesome.  Awesome!

Blogging

Blogging has revolutionized my online presence.  It is not easy to do.  But it is so worth it.  The key to blogging well over time is to systematize it.  I have a few templates that I use for most posts.  It saves me a ton of time.  These are the tools I use to build my email list, optimize for SEO, etc.  These tools will save you a ton of time and allow you to maximize your ROI.

Social Media

I’m almost sick of social media.  I believe most people have accepted that social media provides value – sometimes a ton of it.  Though I’m sick of talking about, I use it everyday.  And if you’ve never heard or used BufferApp, you need to check this section out.

Travel

I traveled a ton for work last year.  I think I was on 65 airplanes.  If there is one thing I’m good at, it is navigating airports.  Traveling is a drain on your energy no matter who you are.  Being able to minimize the frustrations of travel while remaining productive saved me a tremendous amount of stress.  These are the tools I used to do it.

Bonus Section:  Recommended Books

As a bonus, I’ve included some of my favorite books in the following categories:

  • Platform building
  • Productivity
  • Business
  • Leadership
  • Stewardship
  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • And others…

These are books that I’ve read and personally recommend.  I’m no expert in any of these subjects.  However, these are books that have helped me grow in these areas.

To download your copy of this free resource list, simply click the button below!

Download Your Free Resource List

11 Benefits theBrokerList Provides the CRE Industry

TheBrokerList is a powerful and free tool for CRE professionals. I asked its founder, Linda Day Harrison to share with my audience its benefits. She has been gracious enough to do so. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

First of all, theBrokerList site is FREE to its Broker and CRE Professional members and is designed to provide a place for  Brokers and CRE Professionals to hang their “digital shingle”. Our site enables our  members to transact business with verified colleagues, supported financially by the tBL Marketplace Partners.  That is the win-win theBrokerList seeks to achieve.

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The database within theBrokerList covers all CRE segments, affiliations, organizations, practice focus types, corporate networks and geographic areas, plus theBrokerList permits the inclusion of any size national organization’s local chapters, no matter how small or large.  An organization simply provides us with their member list and those members are pre-approved! In addition to supporting the search for potential colleagues and deals in different markets, this enables tBL members of these organizations and networks to utilize the powerful broadcast email feature to share HAVES and WANTS of theBrokerList platform, with laser-pointed precision to only those colleagues who wish to receive those emails. This provides extensive benefits to local or even national organizations.

tBL-Icon-512x512To help provide B2B resources for leasing, brokerage, property management and consulting, you can find a wide variety of commercial real estate experts on theBrokerList within all of the industry disciplines.  The difference we make and the added value we bring is that we verify that our members are real people (not fake profiles), and verify those members are active in commercial real estate.

Our verification process protects the quality of our site and creates the only free resource of its kind that is completely focused on only commercial real estate.

11 Benefits Provided by theBrokerList

  1. Post your professional PROFILES (backgrounds, business focus, etc.)
  2. Post, Export or Upload HAVES ( your listings for sale or lease)
  3. Post WANTS (your targets, or your client’s targets, for acquisition or lease)
  4. Post TRANSACTIONS (your completed deals you wish to note for the record)
  5. Unlimited team members, admins and property posts can be added
  6. HTML friendly text fields, and YouTube embeds on posts
  7. Unlimited URL fields and types (hyperlinks to your company or personal website, blogs, Loopnet, Showcase, and all Social Media: like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, , etc.)
  8. Broadcast email lists automatically created for your Affiliations and Organizations
  9. HTML code for ease in posting to Craigslist, or any other online system
  10. tBL email message tool to enable selected contacts to be emailed
  11. Saved Broker and Search features

The benefits and advantages of these tools to help grow and expand the businesses of tBL members are numerous, and many of these functions have important meaning and correlate well with your social media plan and strategies.

For the more advanced social media and blogging members, direct access to the well-read tBL blog is advisable as our members can easily post their blogs on the site and be part of our exciting and constant flow of editorial content directed to a large audience of commercial real estate professionals.

A daily HAVES and WANTS email blast is also distributed, which  currently includes ALL of our member posts.  Our members’ listings are emailed to all subscribers of those lists as well.

tBL is very customer service focused.  We always answer our phones and do our best to help our members and Marketplace Partners.  We frequently discuss marketing strategies, and offer ideas on how our members can improve their image, their brand or any topic they wish to discuss pertaining to commercial real estate today. Let theBrokerList be your “BFF” and join us or ask your local organization or chapter to partner with us.  Once you do, make sure to use all of the features tBL provides to help you grow your business.

We look forward to meeting you and we kindly ask that you suggest our site to other commercial real estate professionals.  theBrokerList relies on word of mouth, and we verify all prospective members as we do not want non-CRE folks trying to join.  The more Broker and CRE Professional members we have, the more useful the site will be for everyone.  Our team is dedicated to doing the best job we can to keep our database accurate and our features useful to a wide group in CRE.

Photo credit:”Pack Of Money” by Gualberto107 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Results of the 2014 Reader Survey

Two weeks ago, I launched my first ever reader’s survey.  My goal was to better understand my readers so that I can provide better value in my content.  You have responded, and I am grateful.  Approximately 150 of you took the time to take the survey.

Young businessman

I am going to share with you the results by profiling my average reader.  If you don’t fit this profile, don’t worry.  You are welcome.  Frankly, I don’t fit this profile.  So let’s take a look at my average reader, and then I will draw some conclusions.

My reader is male (77%) between the ages of 45-64 (58%).  He has a bachelor’s degree or higher (78%).  He is most likely a CRE broker or business owner (69%), and he lives in the United States (95%).

He makes over $100,000 a year (63%) or even $200,000+ a year (27%).  He is predominantly Christian (80%) attending church at least once a week (59%).  His faith is very important to him (69%).  He does not have a blog (77%) and reads 1-2 books a month.  As an aside, my wife says that you need to pick it up a bit.  She read 144 books in 2013 – incredible!

It is no surprise that I just described the Commercial Real Estate industry.  It is dominated by 50+ year old white men who tend to be behind the curve when it comes to technology.  CRE needs more women.  CRE needs more diversity.   CRE needs more tech.

Observations

  • Main topics of interests in order:  Productivity (62%), Prospecting (56%), Personal Development (53%), Life Lessons (52%), and Creating Presence (50%).  I am very glad to hear that these are the top ones.  Most of the content I have planned for this year fall into these categories.
  • More content – The number one comment I received regarding improving my blog was to give more content.  For the first part of 2013, I was posting 3 times a week.  It burnt me out and I ended up taking the summer off.  That was a big mistake.  My goal for 2014 is one post a week.  However, based on the feedback I received, I will throw in the 2nd weekly post on occasion.
  • Videos- I had a surprising amount of requests for videos.  I’m not sure what to do with this.  Video isn’t easy for me to do.  I don’t really own the equipment.  I have a brother that can do it all, but he’s a cruise ship performer (tough gig!).  I would love to create video content, however.  If you have any suggestions on how I might look into this, please let me know in the comments.
  • Readability – Readability was the comment I received the most when I asked what you liked best about the blog.  I’m very pleased with this response as I try very hard to create content that is very readable.  
    My absolute favorite response to the question of what do you like best about my blog was:  “your my son whats not to like.” My mom is a grammar queen so thanks Dad! I love you.
  • Can’t please everyone – I don’t often get accused of trying to please everyone.  Frankly, I think it is futile, counter-productive, and impossible.  This is true with this blog as well.  Some people are asking for more pictures and links.  Some are asking me to take the clutter out.  Some want me to eliminate the talk about my faith.  Some want me to use more scripture.  Some love the variety of topics while others want me to focus on just one thing.  I can’t please everyone so some things I will just be going with my gut.

I’m so very grateful to those who participated in the survey.  It was so very helpful to me.  It has given me the data I was craving so I can create better content for you.

Question: Do you have any other suggestions? If so, I’m all ears! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why I’ve Left Sperry Van Ness

With a new year comes new opportunities.  As 2014 starts, I have left Sperry Van Ness to pursue a new opportunity.  I want to share with you what I’m going to be up to and how it will affect my blog.

photo from iStock

photo from iStock

Before I do that, I want to share why I’ve left Sperry Van Ness.  Anytime you leave an organization of any kind, it raises questions.

  1. Was he fired?  No – I wasn’t.
  2. Did he see behind the curtain and hate what he saw?  Negative.
  3. Did he not like the people he was working with?  That is absolutely not the case.
  4. Did an opportunity fall into his lap that he couldn’t ignore?  Bingo.

I started my commercial real estate career the day after I got out of the Marine Corps in 2004.  I was literally fumbling around my dad’s office the following day.  In 2008, we franchised our business with Sperry Van Ness.  After nearly 5 years of proudly flying the SVN flag, I took the corporate position I just left as VP of Organizational Development.

That means that over half my grown-up career years have been with SVN.  I’ve generally strayed away from writing about SVN.  It seemed disingenuous since they wrote my paycheck.  As that is no longer the case, I want to share a few things about SVN.

The People

I remember when we franchised.  I was told that companies franchise for the tools and stay for the people.  I thought that if they were half right about the quality of the franchisees and advisors, I’d be satisfied.  They were right.

I could name dozens of business owners and top performers within SVN that were happy to help me, expand my thinking, teach me how they did business, and even mentor a kid from Western KY.  I will forever be grateful that I was associated with these fine people and can call them friends.

The Platform

I’m a techie – but just in the sense that I love to use technology.  I have no idea how any of it works.  I am much like the guy that can tell time but is in no way a watch-maker.

SVN has the finest technology platform that exists in commercial real estate today.  Admittedly, my experience is myopic so let me share with you why I know this is true.  A portion of my job has been to seek out and recruit preferred vendor relationships with the many outstanding CRE technology companies.  The comment I heard most often was that CRE is in the stone-ages technologically speaking and we wish the other nationals were more like SVN.

Our Their technology platform is cutting edge, cloud based, and brand agnostic.  It is designed with the purpose of making our the SVN advisors more productive and efficient – but ultimately more profitable.

The Model

SVN is a franchise model.  As such, all of our the independently owned and operated offices are led by entrepreneurs.  We generally compete with big nationals that are corporate stores full of employees.  There is a huge difference.  It is entrepreneurial spirit versus resources.

If you’ve seen The Patriot starring Mel Gibson, you will remember him leading a small group of militia.  Their job was to inflict as much pain on the British redcoats as possible.  The redcoats had overwhelming numbers and resources. They would line up in their perfect lines and fire away.  They also made great targets.

Gibson’s troop would use guerrilla tactics to outwit and outmaneuver his opponent.  This reminds me of the entrepreneurial spirit of SVN.

So What’s Next

I have bought into a start-up technology company in the food safety industry called Hollison Technologies.  I’m providing a link to the website, but please don’t go there.  It is dated and vague and one of my first orders of business.

Hollison has a patented process of collecting the air around particulate food (think pieces of food like dog food or breakfast cereal) to test for contaminants.  That may not sound very exciting or earth shattering, but consider what it will replace.

The method of testing now is random grab sampling.  It is literally taking a sample at random and testing it.  If the sample is contaminated, that batch doesn’t ship.  If the sample is clean, the batch ships.

The problem is you make a leap of faith that a clean sample means a clean batch.  You only have visibility into the actual sample, and you are hoping the rest of the batch is also clean.  In food safety, hope is a terrible strategy.

Our process continually samples and gives the food manufacturer visibility into 100% of the product.  We think we can literally improve the quality of food world-wide.  How exciting?!

This Blog

You won’t see much change.  My role with Hollison is not that different from my corporate role with SVN, though I will have more of a role in sales.

What I’m most excited about is all the growth and learning that will come with this new opportunity – and I’ll be sharing it all with you here!

Question: What will be different for you in 2014? New career? New focus? New commitment to excellence? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How to Demonstrate Your Expertise by Blogging on These 4 Categories

At the end of this post is an exercise you can download to brainstorm a year’s worth of weekly blog posts in 10 minutes.

I remember the first day after I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps.  It was the day I started working with my dad in the commercial real estate industry.  I knew nothing beyond what I picked up from growing up with two parents in real estate.  I didn’t have a license.  I didn’t have business cards.  I was as green as they come.  All I wanted to do was hide in my office.

Photo from istockphoto.com

Photo from istockphoto.com

I remember having the nagging thought:  “Who would want to work with you when they could work with your dad?”  It took me two years to get over that self-doubt.

It is one thing to gain self-confidence, and that takes time.  Your industry also needs to gain confidence in you.  You need to become known as an expert in your field.  I like to talk about this as dominant market presence.  Are you, your company, or your product the first thing that pops into potential clients’ or customers’ minds?

Additionally, if you still haven’t bought the idea that you should be blogging or need help setting up and launching your blog, read this post on the subject.

I believe a blog is the quickest way to gain this dominant market presence.  You can become known as an expert, gain dominant market presence, and cultivate the next generation of clients and customers by blogging in these 4 categories.

Blog on These 4 Categories

  1. Deal Stories – Stories are an incredible way to engage with your audience.  They often allow you to connect with your readers on an emotional level.  This invites your readers into your post and keeps them there.  Stories of real situations are also valuable to your potential future clients.  Plus, stories allow you to demonstrate your expertise without tooting your own horn.  Your deal stories should include these 3 sections:
    1. Situation – Give the context of what was going on.  Why were you hired?  What challenges was your client facing?  Giving the context allows your readers to relate.
    2. Steps – What did you do to solve your clients problems?  What did you do to help maximize your client’s best interests?  Share what happened, but be careful not to sound like a commercial.
    3. Solution – Here is where you describe the results.  This is the culmination of the story.  If done well, the reader will have a better understanding of the service or product you provide and how that product or service can benefit them.
  2. News – Blogging about the news demonstrates that you are in-the-know about what is happening in your industry.  However, the news can be boring.  You do not want to just regurgitate what your readers are hearing from other sources.  If a certain news topic is becoming a topic of conversation at the water cooler, you should blog about it.  Demonstrate your expertise and experience by giving your take.  A word of caution:  only blog about a news topic if it is applicable to your industry.
  3. Market trends – This topic can also be boring so be careful.  I would not blog about market trends more than once a quarter.  However, demonstrating that you are aware of market trends is important.  For some of your readers, this information will be valuable.  It puts you in the position to become a trusted resource for timely information.
  4. 101 Topics – In Commercial Real Estate, every successful investor did their first deal at some point.  Donald Trump did not come out of the womb as an expert.  He had to learn.  By blogging about the basics of your industry, you have the opportunity to educate the next generation of players in your industry.  In the next 20 years, we are about to see the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of the world.  By educating the next generation of your future clients, who do you think will be top-of-mind when the next generation has a need for your product or service for the first time?  You will!

A huge hurdle for many beginning bloggers is the anxiety of knowing what to blog about.  As a bonus to this post, I have included a simple exercise I use with my coaching clients.  In 10 minutes, you can brainstorm these 4 categories and produce a year’s worth of blog topics.

Knowing what you will blog about for the entire next year is like a warm blanket.  This single exercise could lead to your success in building a powerful blog that increases your presence, solidifies you as an expert, and cultivates the next generation of your future clients.

Question: What are you doing to ensure the success of your presence campaign in 2014? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Download Your Free Exercise

How to Systematically Pursue Your Former Clients in These 6 Steps

At the end of this post, you can download a worksheet that will help you put these 6 steps into instant application.

As the father of 3 young kids, I’m always finding things in the couch.  Ninja sword.  Costume jewelry.  Goldfish (the snack).  I never know what I’m going to find when I place my hand between the cushions.

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Then there is the wonderful experience that comes with winter.  You put on your coat for the first time since last year and find a $20 in the pocket.  I love that feeling.  Found money.

Your previous clients are like the couch cushions and the $20 long forgotten in a winter coat.  We neglect them.  Then every so often, we lower our hands between the cushions.  I submit that you intentionally pursue these past clients.

You can re-engage your former clients by following these 6 steps.

6 Steps to Re-engage Your Past Clients

  1. Make a list – As in, make a list of all your former or inactive clients.
  2. Scrub the list – You can choose who you would like to work with.  Pursue only the clients that you’d like to work with again.
  3. Prepare – Do your homework.  Be informed.  Have they won an award recently?  Did their daughter get married?  Run a google search.  Check out their LinkedIn profile.
  4. Call 2 a week on Friday afternoons – Call 2 on the list every week.  Do it on a Friday afternoon when the week is winding down.  Make it a habit.  If you would do this every week all year, then you would contact about 100 people that have already done business with you.  These are former clients who have hired you before and actually pulled the trigger on a deal.
  5. Have something of value for them – Don’t just call them to check in.  Maximize this opportunity by having something of value to offer them.  Maybe a building sold by one of their properties and you have comp info for them.  Maybe it has been 3 years since anyone evaluated their portfolio.  Offer to do it for them.
  6. Close for the meeting – Keep in mind the you have an existing relationship.  You should know if they love to golf or would rather sit down for a quick cup of coffee.  Use that information to your advantage and be strategic.  But don’t forget to close for the meeting.  Nothing is more effective than getting face to face.

Question: So what are you going to do now? I challenge you to make your list and then do three things: first, schedule a task on your calendar for every Friday; second, send this article to a friend whom you know needs to read it; and third, tell me when you are done by leaving a comment below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Download Free Worksheet

 

How to Find Your Specialty by Answering 3 Questions

At the end of this post, I will share with you how to download a free worksheet of the exercise I describe in this post. It will allow you to visually see where your sweet spot lies.

I am continually surprised by Commercial Real Estate brokers who lack a specialty.  All top performers in CRE have a specialty.  Yet, those mired in mediocrity refuse to hone in on what they can be awesome at doing.  In fact, business owners of all kinds often have this problem.

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

I had a call last week with one of our advisors on the East Coast.  He was traditionally a specialist in hospitality.  Because of some changes in his life, he needed to shift his specialty to something he could practice locally.  His question was what should he specialize in.  What would you tell him?

Many of my coaching clients face this question as well.  It doesn’t matter if you are new to the business or you are mid-career.  Making this decision correctly will have a profound impact on your career.  Not only can it determine the amount of income you can make, but it can determine if you will like going to work every morning.

A CRE broker, or any business owner or salesperson, can find his/her sweet spot by answering 3 questions.

Three Questions to Find Your Specialty/Sweet Spot

1.  What do you like?

You should always start here.  What product type do you like?  What would you own if you could?  For me, I love multi-family.  I love to broker these deals.  I own this property type.  I understand it.  I don’t like industrial properties.  They don’t fit my eye.  I don’t enjoy being in industrial parks.  It just isn’t my thing.

You need to answer for yourself – what are my favorite 3 product types?  Write them down.

2.  What are you good at?

This is completely different than what you like.  Consider what you are good at.  Do you enjoy intense underwriting and analysis?  If so, multi-family might be your thing?  Do you enjoy fast paced prospecting and deal making?  If so, then maybe Single Tenant Net Lease (STNL) is your thing?  Maybe you love evaluating how the business aspect of hospitality properties and convenient stores impact value?

Again, list what product types fit your skill set.  Write them down.

3.  Where is the market velocity?

I did this exercise in 2009.  The market had dried up everywhere.  My business was suffering.  I looked around and saw that Dollar Stores were still trading at a rapid rate.  That was the only market velocity I saw anywhere in Kentucky.

Now I already told you that I love multi-family and it fits my skill set.  But no apartments were selling.  If I would have chosen apartments as the object of my prospecting campaign, I would have failed.  Instead, I began focusing on Dollar Stores.  It was a great move, and I learned to love that product type.

Look around your market.  Where is the transactional velocity?  Write those down as well.

Now look at your lists.  Where the answers to the three questions overlap is where you should specialize.  This is your sweet spot.

Now I want you to do two things:

  1. Regardless of what industry you are in, what benefits would you realize by finding your sweet spot and being known as the expert in your specialty? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  2. You have a friend that needs to find their sweet spot. I challenge you to email this post to them so they can do this simple exercise. It could change the trajectory of their career.

To download a free worksheet that will allow you to work this exercise and visually find your sweet spot, click the button below.

Download Your Free Worksheet

 

Survey: Please Help Me Choose My Book Cover

I am very excited to announce that I am almost finished with my first ebook.  In the coming weeks, I will make it available here at BoBarron.com.

Right now, however, you can play a role in helping me choose my book cover.

Below is a simple survey with four choices.  Please take 15 seconds and let me know which one you prefer.  I would be so grateful!

All you need to do is click on the cover you prefer and click the button at the bottom.  Thanks so much!