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.

CRE Radio Event: Social Media Best Practices for CRE Professionals

This Friday at 3pm EST/Noon PST, I have the privilege of being one of a few featured guests on the National CRE Radio Show – Commercial Real Estate Radio with Howard Kline.  We are going to be talking Social Media Best Practices for CRE Professionals.  I have been connected with Howard Kline for a couple years via Twitter.  His radio shows are packed full of great content for CRE professionals.

courtesy of iStockPhoto

courtesy of iStockPhoto

I am also excited to be on this panel because it includes some of my favorite people in CRE:  Barbi Reuter, Michael Lagazo, and Sarah Malcolm.

Barbi (www.twitter.com/barbireuter) is the CRE Marketing & Operations Executive for PICOR Commercial Real Estate Services in Tucson, Arizona.  She is a social media all-star and one of the true pioneers of social media use in CRE.  She is also one of my favorite people.

Michael (www.twitter.com/michael_mba) is the guy who I watched to learn how to use Twitter.  He is a CRE all-star in San Diego and has forgotten more about retail than I will ever know.  He also may be the nicest guy on Twitter and will send you coffee.  What could be better??

Michael and Barbi are both founding members of the #crejavaclub on Twitter.  If you love CRE and a hot cup of joe, look us up!

Sarah Malcolm (www.twitter.com/icsc) is the Director of New Media for the International Council of Shopping Centers.  She is a social media power house.  Reading her bio on LinkedIn will force you to be out of breath.  I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about social media best practices.

I hope that you can join us on Friday as Howard normally takes questions.  You can call in with yours at (619) 393-6492.

The show description is below.  This is your opportunity to submit your social media questions ahead of time that Howard may cover.  Use the comments section below!

Show Description

Social media, social media, social media.  You hear it everywhere you go and everyone is telling you that you have to do it. Everyone else is telling you how to do it, but is anyone getting through? Is there any value to it and how much time do you have to spend on it to be of any value to you?

What about sales?  Really, isn’t that what this is supposed to be about, selling and making money?  What good does it do you if you spend 2 hours a day schmoozing online and haven’t picked up a client in 3 months?  Are there any shortcuts and gimmicks that you can rely upon to make it worth your time?

Isn’t social media all about advertising?  How many eyeballs see your name is all that counts, right?  What about relationships and trust, nice words to include in your repertoire, but do those words put food on your table or pay your mortgage?  And let’s not forget the two most chic words of 2013, “engagement” and “collaboration”. Oh, how the experts like to throw those words in your face, if for no other reason then to show you how much more they know than you.

But enough of my ranting, listen in as I discuss these issues and words and the meaning of life, (in social media), with, Barbi Reuter, Sarah Malcom, Bo Barron, Michael Legazzo and I, some of the most well know and most influential commercial real estate professionals utilizing social media to bring in the money.  We are not the social media experts.  We are the pilgrims, the veterans, the ones with the scars with stories of the things we didn’t understand, we don’t understand and what we are figuring out as we go along. We are you after you start “getting it.” We are students of social media and cre, learning as we go along, trying to figure it out and willing to share our experiences with you so that you do not have to get the same scars as us.

During the show, we will also discuss why you should be interested in social media for your business and what services, (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest, among others), you should use and for what purposes.  Property manager, logistics expert, investor, property manager; this is not a one size fits all lecture.  We will help you figure this out for your purposes.

5 Podcasts that Will Make You Smarter

Recently, I was able to connect with one of my closest friends while driving home from a trip to Chicago.  This guy is the kind of friend that everyone needs.  He was in my wedding.  I was in his.  We were fraternity brothers at Murray State University.  He was the quarterback.  I was the receiver.  We even dated the same beautiful Southern girl (not at the same time) who I now get to call my wife.

iStockPhoto via jodijacobson

iStockPhoto via jodijacobson

He is the kind of friend when you haven’t spoken for a year, it is like it was yesterday.  Everyone needs at least one friend like this.  I am blessed to have a couple.

My friend was sharing with me an opportunity he has to leave the corporate world and start a business.  He has created something special that could be incredibly valuable to his customers and himself.  However, he told me that he doesn’t think he’ll do anything because he doesn’t have a clue about starting or running a business.

Fifteen minutes later I had brain-dumped all this information on him.  Now, I have started a business (that failed), and I have owned a business that I sold.  But the stuff that I was telling him surprised me.  How did I know this stuff?

Then it occurred to me that I was repeating a lot of great information that I had learned through listening to some incredible podcasts from businesses leaders across the United States (actually, most of them are in Nashville).

If you are not familiar with a Podcast, it is literally someone recording themselves speaking about some subject.  It is much like a radio show.  However, you can download these podcasts on your iPod, iPhone, or other smart-phone or mp3 player.  You simply subscribe through iTunes – for free – and they automatically download whenever a new episode is published.

Before I share with you which ones I love and recommend, let me share with you how I consume this information:

  • While working out - I can kill two birds with one stone when I engage my mind and my body at the same time.
  • While driving – great content is so much more effective than coffee at keeping me alert.  Not only that, but I can transform my car into a classroom and make the most of every moment.
  • On a plane – I’m actually on a plane as I write this somewhere between Nashville and Atlanta.  Were I not writing, I guarantee that I would be listening to one of the following podcasts.

My Top 5 Recommended Podcasts

  1. This is Your Life, A Podcast by Michael Hyatt – If you aren’t familiar with Michael Hyatt, you should be.  He has a top 100 (in the world!) blog on intentional leadership.  He has recently written a New York Times Bestseller called Platform:  Get Noticed in a Noisy World.  His is by far my favorite blog and his content is amazing.  His podcast is awesome too.  He is authentic.  You end up just liking him.  I get to meet him next month at our company’s National Conference where he is giving the keynote address.  I am also going to his Platform Conference the following week in Nashville.  Can’t wait!
  2. 48Days Online Radio Show by Dan MillerDan Miller rocks.  A mentor of mine suggested that I connect with him last year.  I ended up hiring him as a career coach.  He is also a bestselling author of 48 Days to the Work You Love and other books.  His podcast centers around careers, business plans, business models, and other career related info.  You can’t listen to him and not get fired up about what is possible.
  3. Ray Edwards Podcast - Ray probably has my favorite podcast.  He is very transparent and genuine, and he basically let’s you in on his life.  He is a productivity freak (I mean that in a good way).  His podcast is broken up into segments which I love.  He has a main message of each podcast, but also has a tech tip of the week, a spiritual foundations segment, and a segment with Stu McLaren who is great.  Ray is also a marketing genius.
  4. Entreleadership Podcast – I can’t believe that this is 4th on my list, but the others are just that good.  This is the podcast from Dave Ramsey and his main man Chris LoCurto.  Every show has a short message from Dave that sets the theme, but then they move to a guest interview.  The guests are amazing and are a who’s who when it comes to business.  You can’t get this kind of access to this kind of wisdom and experience anywhere else I’m aware.
  5. Podcast Answer Man with Cliff Ravenscraft – This podcast is obviously a little more technical.  I include it because at least the first three podcasts listed above are a result of Cliff’s expertise.  He is the expert when it comes to podcasting.  I hope to introduce my own podcast this year so I have been studying up.  Cliff is also a Kentucky boy like myself!

In one sentence, these podcasts are like being able to sit at the feet of these guys and learn from their wisdom.  And it’s free!

So who do you listen to that I don’t?  Who would crack your top 5?  Let us know in the comment section below!

Why You Should Use a Simple CRM – ClientLook – CRE Tech & App Review

I am a systems geek.  I’m not really a techie.  I love to use technology, but I just know enough about how it works to break it.  That said, when it comes to using technology in my Commercial Real Estate business, there is nothing more important than a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management).

iStockPhoto via Erikona

iStockPhoto via Erikona

On the front-end, I must confess to being a CRM-hopper.  I started my career in 2004 with a legal pad – literally.  Then I moved on to Outlook.  Please pay attention when I say this.  Outlook is not a CRM system – sorry Dad.  It is simply email with contacts and a calendar.

I then graduated to a real CRM platform in ACT! by Sage, then to Realhound, back to ACT!, and then to REA9 (Real Estate Assistant). All of these desktop applications have these things in common.

  • they all have a tremendous amount of functionality.
  • they are all loaded on your desktop/laptop (to be fair, some or all are coming out with cloud-based versions, though I see this as playing catch up).
  • they are huge programs.
  • they have bells and whistles on their bells and whistles.

Michael Griffin, the President and CEO of ClientLook, calls these and other desktop software programs Technology Legacy Anchors.  These programs tie you to your desktop – chain you there.

clientlook logo

I’ve been using ClientLook for over a year now.  What follows are the reasons you should consider switching to this cloud-based CRM system.

  1. ClientLook resides in the cloud – As opposed to the Technology Legacy Anchors, ClientLook resides in the cloud.  This means that your data can be accessed from anywhere where the internet can be accessed.  That means from your smart phone, a coffee shop, on the road, in an airport terminal, or even from a client’s office on their computer.  And we are way beyond worries of losing data at this point.  I would guess you have more of a chance of your office burning and losing your data.
  2. It is simple, simple, easy – In contrast to the other CRM programs, ClientLook is as easy as they are complicated.  It is formatted much like Facebook.  You can log notes on all your conversations and contacts.  You can schedule events and tasks and link them to projects and/or contacts all on your calendar.  It generates task lists.  It is super easy to search.

    Actual ClientLook Screenshot

    Actual ClientLook Screenshot

  3. It seamlessly syncs with Google – This is really what made it work for me.  I use an app called Calengoo on my iPhone 5.  It syncs beautifully with Gmail and Google Calendar which I use religiously.  Whatever I put on the ClientLook calendar, ends up on Google Calendar and on my iPhone.  Everything is synced automatically without me having to do anything.   This is the awesome part, though.  If I update a task or event with notes and next steps on my phone, it gets linked back to the correct projects and contacts in ClientLook.  This is a beautiful thing!
  4. It has Betty White – I am in my car all the time making calls.  I can be very productive while driving.  The problem is you can’t take notes.  You can forget to follow through on something committed to.  You can forget when you said you would call back.  This problem has always made me hesitate using windshield time to its fullest potential.  No longer.  ClientLook has virtual assistants.  You can call in and dictate notes, set appointments and next steps, etc.  You simply call in, leave a message with your account info and what you need recorded, then hang up.  When it is done, the VA will email you so you can confirm their work.  Now, on my phone, I have named the ClientLook VA number in my favorites list as Betty White.  So I make a call.  Then I call Betty White.  I make another call – then Betty White.  Nothing ever falls through the cracks, and my productivity is at an all-time high.
  5. It allows for virtual management of a team – If you manage a team, you can see what they are doing.  This really helps with a virtual team working on tasks together.  You can see notes, previous calls, etc.  You can see if someone is not making calls.  And this can be set up per the needs of the team.  Maybe you don’t need to see what someone else is doing in your company.  All that can be set.
  6. It is a great transaction management tool – You can give your clients access to their projects.  This means that they can log in and see what you are doing.  I have never lost a listing when I told my prospects that they have a way to hold me accountable.  This is also a way to allow your clients to drive you crazy so be very careful with this one.
  7. Great customer support – They respond to emails and listen to suggestions.  They have added features because I asked for them.  Super people!

Now, if I could change anything (and so that you know that this isn’t a sponsored post):

  • The search functionality is Google simple and fast.  However, when scanning through your contacts, it is difficult to navigate.  The user interface could be better.
  • Overall, the site runs a bit slower than most sites – for me.  This could be my 6,000+ contacts, but that should be pretty normal in the CRE industry.
  • There is no separate property database.  I simply used the Projects functionality and it works perfectly.  But for those power users of REA and Realhound, this is going to bug you.  To the rest of you, simple is the way to go, and I’m just talking to 100 people anyway.

So what CRM solution do you use?  What do you like about it?  What benefits would have to see to switch to a cloud based solution?  You can comment below!

The Day I Followed and Disagreed with Brian Tracy

About a year ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the national Sperry Van Ness convention in San Diego.  I’d never been to San Diego – that town rocks!  I was to speak on how to use LinkedIn to connect with prospects and aid in prospecting.  I have spoken at the Sperry Van Ness convention a couple of times before – always on some aspect of Social Media.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was to speak after lunch.  Right before lunch, the best-selling author and prolific speaker Brian Tracy spoke.  He gave a fantastic keynote on goals.  It was the best I’d ever heard on that subject.  However, at some point in his speech, he basically said that social media had no place in sales.  You might get known, but you’d be known and broke.  I felt 200 pairs of eyes turn and look at me – at least it felt that way.

I disagree with Brian Tracy, but he is also exactly right.  I’ve never made a sale directly from a tweet.  That may never happen.  You make a mistake when you make the means the end.  Social Media is a means to connect, build relationships, and add value.  Social Media is about connecting as humans – having an impact on someone.  Chris Brogan has a new book coming out called The Impact Equation that makes this point.

Over the past month, I’ve connected with @theBrokerList.  TheBrokerList.com is the idea of Linda Day Harrison, and is the first online CRE broker directory – very cool.  (Go ahead and stop reading this post and check it out.)  We actually spoke on the phone yesterday.  It turns out that she married into a family that is from where I went to college.  My mom is from her hometown, and I have a brother living there now.

I now like Linda on a personal level.  See how that works?  On a professional level, I am going to do some guest blogging on www.theBrokerList.com.  This helps her by bringing attention and fresh content to her site.  It helps me by giving me exposure to her viewers.  Now that I know her a bit and like her, I want to help her.

This is the power of connecting with a person versus generating retweets.  I tell stories in my blog posts because I want readers to connect with me on a personal level.  All of life is about relationships – relationships with your spouse, your family, your boss, your employees.  Business is about building relationships with prospects, earning the right to call them clients, serving them until you become a trusted advisor, and on….

Social Media is simply a new and trendy vehicle to accomplish the same end:  connecting with people.  I now find it ironic that I follow Brian Tracy (@briantracy) on Twitter.  He sells too much there – hehe.

How do you use Social Media to connect with people?  To build relationships?  To add value to people’s lives?  When do you make the means the end?  When was the last time you checked your Klout score?

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.

Commercial Real Estate Technology and App Review: Dropbox

I have achieved mobile status and have a paperless, virtual Commercial Real Estate office.  I will be reviewing and sharing with you the technologies and apps that make this possible.

Dropbox

Dropbox is my first review for one reason only:  I love it!

I was in an airport a couple of months ago.  I received a call from a client that needed a copy of their lease ASAP.  I was able to access their lease from our files through Dropbox on my phone.  I emailed it to my client from my phone walking from the gate to the plane.  It took less than 30 seconds, and I was a hero to my client.  That is the power of Dropbox.  It makes you more efficient and more valuable.  To start using Dropbox – click here.

4 Uses of Dropbox

1.  Dropbox acts like the “my documents” on a PC or ‘finder’ on a Mac.  The files are actually on your computer.  This is key so that when you are on your laptop or desktop, you don’t need an internet connection to access or work on your files.

2.  Dropbox syncs up with other computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.  I have Dropbox on my PC, my Macbook Air, my iPhone 4S, and my iPad2.  When a document is created, edited, or changed in any way on one of these machines, it is synced with all the others.  That is the magic of the cloud.  When I have my virtual assistant draft a lease, she saves it to Dropbox for my review.  Any changes that I make are synced, and she has instant access.  This makes Dropbox great for collaborations.  It is also a great way to never have to go back to the office (if you have one!) for a file again.

3.  Dropbox allows you to share folders with anyone you would like to invite.  Simply send them an email invite, and that person has access to the folder.  It is that simple.  My entire paperless office is on Dropbox.  My assistant has access to pretty much everything.  Any advisors working with me have access to just what they need.  It is a beautiful thing.  This is how I collaborate with all of my coaching clients.  Drafts of their prospecting letters and marketing materials are all in their shared dropbox folders.

4.  Dropbox is accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.  I shared with you that a file syncs up with any machine/smart-phone/tablet.  If you happen to not have one of these devices on you, then you can get to all your files by logging on to www.dropbox.com.  My wife likes to joke that if I have forgotten my phone then I’ve forgotten my pants as well, but it can happen!  (The phone – not the pants).

A Word of Caution

Dropbox has some limitations.  I had a conversation with a friend recently who is in the Information Security business.  His comment on Dropbox was that it was not the most secure platform in the world.  I asked him if I should be worried, and he said no.  There is a trade-off between security and usability.

Another limitation is the user has little functionality when sharing folders.  Maybe I want to invite someone to a folder, but I don’t want them to be able to edit, change, or delete.  The ability to limit users is not there.  If you invite someone to a folder, be aware that they have free reigns on those documents.

Conclusion

Despite the caution, Dropbox is an invaluable part of my business.  It allows me to be mobile and efficient.  It makes me more valuable to my clients.  It allows me to easily collaborate with my virtual team.  It is easy.  And it is free (to a point)!  It can be all these things to you as well!

I know many of you are already using Dropbox.  What ways do you use it?  How has it simplified your life?  What are some of the benefits that I failed to mention?  Join the conversation!