A New Year and a New Look!

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

2013 is here and I couldn’t be more excited.  One of the most exciting things is the redesign of my blog.  I will tell you up front that it is a work in progress.  However, let me take you through some of the differences:

  • WordPress.org – If you don’t blog, you may have no idea what the difference is between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.  Wordpress.com is the free version where WordPress hosts your blog for you on their servers.  Wordpress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress.  The big difference is that on a self-hosted site, I have much more control over the look and capability of my blog.  I’ve been putting off the switch for a while.  The new year was the time to jump in!
  • New Theme – I have left my first theme behind – Standard.  I am now using the Genesis framework with the Focus theme.  I’d love to hear what you think about it!
  • New Products – This is a soft announcement for some products that will be available in the coming months.  I am working on 3 ebooks.  One will be offered free of charge in exchange for you signing up for the email list (all those who have already signed up will receive this ebook as well!).  The other two will be sold at a great value.  The topics of the ebooks are achieving a virtual office, how to increase your income with a killer prospecting system, and how to becoming top of mind by developing your presence.

So this is simply a short post to give you an idea of what is to come.  Please give me your feedback on the look and feel of the site.  I want to hear the good and the bad.  This information will be very valuable as we continue to tweak the site.  I would also love to hear your thoughts on the ebook topics?  Would you be interested?  Would you like different topics instead?  Comment below!

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.

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!