Top 5 Productivity Posts of 2012

This is the second of the three Top 5 posts you will read this month on theBarronBlog - (click here for the first.)  Today’s Top 5 is around the theme of productivity.  Growth in this area simply means that you are more efficient.  You can get more done in less time.  With more time saved, you can improve your work/life balance – be a better spouse, parent, or friend.  Invest in your relationships.  Live a healthier life.  You can do it, and the posts below can help!

top5

But First…

Before you get to the posts below, I want to remind you of my favorite discovery of 2012 – The Dollar Shave Club.  This ingenious company produces a great product at an awesome price, and ships razors to your door every month.  No more over-paying for razors.  No more spending time at the store buying them.  I endorse this product 100%.  Guys, do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself here.  Ladies, my mom as well as some of my friends’ wives have signed up their husbands – great gift idea!  Click here for more info (this is an affiliate link, but I do not recommend anything that I do not use myself.)

Top 5 Productivity Posts of 2012

The 5 Steps to a Paperless Office – The key to pulling that off was having a paperless office.  All my data is in the cloud.  All my data is accessible to me anywhere my iPhone has a signal.  I can access it on the fly.  It means I can jump on opportunities with lightning speed.  And speed kills.  Read more…

How to Shave 30 Minutes a Day Managing Email – Email has now become a drug, and we are addicted.  As a major form of communication in the Commercial Real Estate industry, many CRE practitioners feel like they must check their smart phone every five minutes.  Show of hands:  who checks their phone before they even get out of bed?  Guilty here.  Read more…

The 17 Rules of Email Etiquette – My biggest beef with email is its ability to interrupt me.  The nature of my business requires me to be doing multiple things.  I am not a natural multi-tasker.  I much prefer to hone in on a task and focus all my energy on it.  I rarely get to do this.  I am also easily distracted.  The ding and notification that announces every email can cost me 5 – 60 minutes if I let it.  I routinely get 200+ emails a day.  That equates to 200+ opportunities to be distracted from what is important to what is less important but potentially urgent. Read more…

My Tools to Manage Twitter in 15 Minutes a Day – Let me clarify.  In one of my previous posts – The Rule of Thirds – I shared the 3 types of tweets that you should be using:  curating original or other great content, engaging with others, and getting a little personal.  The key to the first category of curating original or other great content is getting the tweets done and scheduled at one time.  Read more…

The 7 Rules of Conference Call Etiquette – Alas, the conference call is still sometimes a necessity.  On a recent call, there were 2 different people trying to lead the call (one of them was me).  There were over a dozen people on the call from 4 different time zones.  I couldn’t tell who was speaking.  People were talking over each other.  It was a free-for-all.  Read more…

So as we wrap of the year, what are the areas in your life where you have seen the most growth in productivity?

Light Bulb!: The 5 Benefits of a Virtual Office

This is the 3rd post stemming from The Difference Between a CRE Broker and a Drug Dealer.

I started working with my dad in Commercial Real Estate the day after I was discharged (honorably!) from the Marine Corps.  He is a CCIM designee and understands the value of that education.  He had me in the CCIM intro class the following week.  I didn’t have my license.  I was as green as they come.

Light bulb

The instructor had us introduce ourselves and share with the class how long we had been in CRE.  27 years.  15 years.  35 years. 8 years.  Me:  “4 days and I don’t have my license yet.”

That was the first day I’d ever heard of a Capitalization Rate.  It was a completely meaningless and nebulous term.  The percentage linking Value to Net Operating Income?  What is NOI?  You’ve heard the term ‘dear in the headlights.’  That was me.  This was the end of 2004.

Fast forward to yesterday.  My 10-year-old had an assignment requiring him to interview someone who uses math at work.  He chose to interview me.  I taught him that the only equation in CRE that matters is V = NOI / Cap.  Value equals Net Operating Income divided by the Cap Rate.  At some point in the last 8 years, I had a ‘Light Bulb’ moment when these concepts clicked.

I’ve known for a while that the mobile/virtual office was the way of the future.  I’ve inherently understood that this model increases efficiencies.  It makes me more effective – from anywhere.  However, I couldn’t quite articulate the why.

I had another Light Bulb moment yesterday during a fantastic webinar by ClientLook‘s founder Michael Griffin.  He was able to clarify for me the value of being mobile.

Why You Should Consider a Virtual Office

  1. Your Office Moves With You – Do you remember the line in Spiderman 2 when Doc Oc says, “The power of the sun in the palm of my hand!”    This is the totality of your office in the palm of your hand.  To accomplish this you need to have a paperless office.  I explain the steps to making that happen in my post – The 5 Steps to a Paperless Office.
  2. Beyond paperless, you must commit to moving your office online.  This means using websites instead of software.  You need a web-based email solution like Gmail.  You need a web-based CRM like ClientLook (be looking for a review of ClientLook coming soon).  You need to choose web-based solutions that work across all platforms.  Mac or pc.  iOS or Android or (what’s the name of the other one?).
  3. Drop the Legacy Technology Anchors – Michael Griffin calls desktop software Legacy Technology Anchors.  What a great description for all the programs on your desktop that keep you anchored there.  Cut those puppies loose and claim your freedom!  And consider, you will have to upgrade every one of those programs.  You will have to update the servers that run your office.  You will have to update your desktop.  I pay monthly licensing fees that are known costs.  Do you know how much life your servers have left?  Do you know how much their replacements will be?  No, you don’t.
  4. You Need Less Space – This point will vary greatly depending on what kind of office you have.  It will vary by the size of your office.  How much rent have you paid in your life for square footage to store files?  What about for servers and IT equipment?
  5. You will do it now or later – You may never do away with having an actual physical office.  I do believe that you will have true mobile and virtual capabilities.  I encourage you to be on the front end of that wave.  Use it to your advantage.  Make it a point of differentiation between you and your competition.  The technology to pull this off has never been easier or safer.  Your excuses are gone.
Raise your hand if the idea of having all your data stored online makes you queasy.  Why is that?  This topic leads to a discussion of data security.  What concerns do you have? Or are you comfortable with it?  Let us hear your thoughts.

The 5 Steps to a Paperless Office

In Monday’s post – The Difference Between a Commercial Real Estate Broker and a Drug Dealer – I shared the story of how I was able to drive by a Dollar General Store in the middle of Kentucky and get the owner on the phone before leaving town.

The key to pulling that off was having a paperless office.  All my data is in the cloud.  All my data is accessible to me anywhere my iPhone has a signal.  I can access it on the fly.  It means I can jump on opportunities with lightning speed.  And speed kills.

In today’s post, I am going to share with you what you need to achieve the paperless office, and the steps to take to get there.

What You Need

The first thing you need is at least two monitors.  Think this through with me.  When you are using paper, you lay the paper on your desk, refer to it, and use your computer.  To go paperless, all the paper is in digital form.  Therefore, one monitor is to “lay the paper on your desk” and the other is for working.  I personally use 3 monitors.  I had 4 for a while, and it was overkill.

The second thing you need is a scanner.  The one that I have is a Fujitsu Scansnap S1510 (affiliate link).  I highly recommend it.  It is ridiculously easy to use – one big shiny blue button.  I scans directly into the file you choose.  No emailing to yourself, downloading, and saving to a file.  It also scans super fast and gets the front and backs of pages at once.  It scans in color and b/w, and is durable.  It is also very small so it doesn’t clutter your fabulously clean and paperless desk!

Let’s be honest – if converting your paper files is not quick and easy, you won’t do it.  Having the right scanner makes the tedious conversion process so much easier.

The third thing you need is a Dropbox account.  See my review of Dropbox for more information.

Steps to the Paperless Office

Now that you know what you need, here are the simple steps to achieving the bliss of the paperless office:

Step 1:  Set Up Dropbox – If you don’t have a Dropbox account yet – click here and sign up.  It is simple and free.  There are other apps like Box.net, and others as well.  Dropbox is the category leader and what I use.  Download Dropbox on all your computers.  Then download the Dropbox App on your phone, iPad, and everything else.  Your data will sync seamlessly between them all, and you can access from anywhere on the fly.  Genius!

Step 2:  Design Your Cloud-Based Filing System – This step is hugely important.  Before you start scanning in all your old files, map out your digital file system.  Mine looks like this:

Note a couple of things.  Put these main category files in order of how often they will be used.  Then number them.  This makes the filing and finding process so much easier.  The next level of the SVN folder looks like this:

Same deal here.  Put them in order of most used and number them.  You are essentially making an organizational file tree.  This exercise alone will give you great clarity regarding your business.  When you open the ‘1 – Listings’ file, you see this:

Open the ‘Current Listings’ file and you get all my current listings:

Your tour behind the curtain ends here.  The key to converting your listing files from paper to digital is simple.  Duplicate the sections in the paper file into the digital file.

Step 3:  Scan In All Your Paper/Files – This is tedious and takes some weeks.  I could take longer depending on how far back you decide to go.  Pick a date.  I chose the beginning of my career – Nov. 2, 2004.  Before that, I have stored paper files.  After that, it is scanned.

This is a job for an assistant or a temp.  Do Not Do This Yourself.  You will get lost in nostalgia, and it will take forever.

Step 4:  Commit – Once you get everything scanned in, commit to yourself and to your office to remain paperless.  It is efficient.  It is green. I only print files when I have a client requiring a copy.  When you execute a new listing agreement, scan it in and give the original to your new client.  Receive an offer via email?  Save it directly to the appropriate file.  Commit!  You don’t need to print anything.  It is all on your phone!

Step 5 – Back everything up, and then do it again!  I back my top 5 main category files up daily.  Everything gets backed up weekly in 3 place:  my machine, an external hard-drive, and an off-site data center.  And they back it up again daily.  If you aren’t willing to be religious about backing up your data, then don’t go this route.

So what is preventing you from going paperless?  This is a big transition to consider.  What are the pros and cons as you see it?  Let me hear your thoughts.

The Difference Between a CRE Broker and a Drug Dealer

If you have read some of my other posts, you may know that I was an Arabic Linguist in the Marine Corps.  One of the huge differences between English and the Arabic language is that Arabic is completely contextual.  Words don’t have meaning outside of context.  Said another way, the context gives meaning to the words.

Here’s what I mean.  To say that I am a Commercial Real Estate Broker I would literally say:  “I am a broker in the buying and selling of real estate.”  The problem is that the word for real estate is also the word for illegal drugs.  So, if you don’t know me or have any context to give you a clue, you would not know if I’m saying that I’m a CRE broker or a drug dealer.  Context is everything.

So here is a story for you to give context.  This post will spawn others as I unpack this story.  My purpose in this post is to show how systems, the proper team, and technology work together.  I want to demonstrate what is possible.

The Story

A few months ago, I was riding with my dad heading to a meeting in central Kentucky.  We drove through a small town called Perryville where I saw a Dollar General Store.

Dollar stores are a core part of our business.  Seeing this store gave me the idea to cold-call the owner.  I opened the Dropbox app on my iPhone 4S and accessed my Kentucky Dollar Store database.  Finding the owner, I looked him up in my mobile cloud-based CRM solution, ClientLook.

I recognized the name for the Perryville store as a man who was a former college coach in my town.  That gave me the common ground I needed to connect with him.

I was fortunate to get him on the phone.  By the time we had driven through that small town, I knew that he owned three Dollar General Stores - not just one.  I also knew that he was in a partnership, that he would like to simplify his life, and that he was likely a seller.

He agreed to send me the leases so that I could do proposals on his properties for his partnership.  He had one of his staff email me the leases.  I forwarded them to my assistant.  This all happened in 30 minutes, from a car in the middle of Central Kentucky, using just my iPhone.

The next day, my assistant used the leases to build proposals through BuildOut.  She is able to quickly take raw materials and take a proposal to 80% completion.  I then did the financial analysis, approved the comps, set a value, and pressed ‘print.’  Though I have a paperless office, I do print and bind property proposals.  The quality is so high on these packages that I know property owners will not throw them away.

The next week, I was in the man’s office – one hour from my office – presenting proposals on his properties.  Because we’d done our homework building a database of properties, had systems in place to be lightning fast, and used technology that made us mobile, we were able to instantly take advantage of an opportunity.

Over the coming weeks, I will take you behind the curtain of our business and unpack how we build databases, what systems we have in place, and what technologies we use.  This post, however, was all about context.  Never confuse the broker for the drug dealer!

UPDATE:  Post 2 in this series can be found here:  The 5 Steps to a Paperless Office
UPDATE:  Post 3 in this series can be found here:  The Benefits of a Virtual Office
Parting thoughts:  do you use a database in your business?  What systems do you have in place?  What technologies do you use?  Share a story from your business that will provide context for this conversation.  Engage!