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Workflows and Activity Plans in a CRM

What’s the difference between workflows and activity plans in a CRM? The answer to that question can play a very big part in which CRM you choose. Generally speaking, workflows are much more powerful than Activity Plans and CRMs that have workflows are far and few between.crm workflows 2 Activity Plans will absolutely do the trick, just not as powerfully. The industry started out with activity plans and they will stay around, probably forever. Choosing between the two is about how much time you’re willing to spend and how adept you are at learning new software.

My opinion is that a real estate business should use workflows, if you are capable of creating and implementing them. They are much more efficient and will streamline your processes like nothing else. That said, not everyone is cut out to be able to use them. They tend to be more complicated to learn, set up and implement. Depending upon you, your staff, and your needs, activity plans may be a better choice for you. 

The big picture difference between a workflow and an activity plan is that the former has the ability to branch. By branching I mean that certain actions are black and white. They are either done or they are not. But some actions are not that simple. Some require a decision about what to do next as a result of the answer to the reminder. Huh?

Let’s take an activity in an activity plan that is a reminder to check to see if there is a mortgage commitment. The to-do item comes up in your list. It says “Is the mortgage commitment in?”. If it was indeed approved, then you just mark that activity complete, right? Not really. If they got the commitment, you have other things you now need to do as a result. If they did not get the commitment, then you have a different set of tasks to perform.

In an activity in an activity plan, checking the box to complete it simply marks it as complete. If you want to take additional steps after you mark the activity complete, you have to remember to do that manually or have a very bloated activity plan.

crm activity plans

In a workflow, that need of having to take different actions depending upon what happens, is addressed. In the image below on the left, you would click in the box to complete the activity. Upon doing that, instead of it just being marked as complete, it comes up with two options, or actions

In the real world, when the mortgage commitment is received, sending a quick email congrats would be a good move. However, if the mortgage is declined, you might want to send a different email offering to help them fix their credit. As you can see in the boxes, clicking one of the two new check boxes will either send an email or start a new workflow. It’s all up to you, when you build each activity. This is the primary difference between workflows and activity plans in CRMs. 

crm workflow

workflow for crm 2






While this is the primary difference, workflows tend to come with many more options than activity plans. That’s what makes them so much more powerful.

Are workflows better than activity plans? Well, they’re more powerful and you can do much more with them. But, if they’re more detail and work than you want, then they’re not better, for you! They are more than you can use effectively, so go with activity plans. You’ll understand them faster and get them built and running faster. Activity plans are what we have been using for many years. They’re an incredible boon to our business to keep us organized. Some people want much more from their CRM than others. Some are perfectly content with less detail. Which one are you? 

Contact me and we’ll talk about it and figure out which best suits your needs!


Stability and Support in a CRM

Your CRM is not just another piece of software you need for your business. It can and should be the hub of your business. That means whatever you get, you need to always bear in mind the two most important CRM factors. The foundation is built on two things – stability and support in a CRM. You don’t want to roll out a new CRM to your staff and have them spend months learning it’s idiosyncrasies only to find out it’s not long for crm due diligencethis world. You really want to do your due diligence and give it the attention it deserves. 

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to predict how likely a company is to succeed in the long term. Since 1987 I have watched over 50 real estate specific CRMs get released. I reviewed every one of them! 19 of them are no longer in business! 

You’ll see the ones that have been around for more than a year or two if you do a little searching. You’ll find web sites that review them. There are also plenty of Facebook groups that talk about CRM on occasion so do some searching in there as well. If you don’t see them mentioned anywhere and their web site is hard to find, that’s not a good sign. 

I have also been involved at a leadership level with a CRM SAAS organization. I can tell you that stability does not happen overnight. It typically takes at least three years, but there are many variables.

  • Do they have a parent company holding them up until they can stand on their own?
  • Are they getting funding elsewhere?
  • What year did they come out of Beta and start selling?
  • How many users do they have?

Most will not tell you how many users they have, especially if they are newer and smaller. If they continue to add new users on a consistent basis that’s a good sign, but you typically have no way of knowing that either. See what they’ll tell you. Ask! If they have a Facebook Community, do you see new people coming in regularly? Is the count in the group going up? Just look for hints at long term health. Are they continuing to add features regularly? Are they fixing things that are not working or broken? What do other users have to say about them? This is not the time you want to do a half baked job of evaluating a tool. Do your homework!

Be very wary of what you hear from other people about the CRM. That’s a whole ‘nuther subject covered in this article. See if you can qualify their opinions. How much of it do they use? What do they use most? What is the most valuable features or features?

When you’re trialing the software, make sure to contact support. Do it multiple times, at different times of the day, for different reasons. If you don’t have any questions, make some up! You want to test their support to make sure they are responsive and capable. Phone support response should be within a maximum of 24 business hours and should be expected in the more established CRMs. If they don’t have any phone support, odds are decent they’re not very far along in the development of their product. Without phone support, there should be live Chat support for those questions you need answered quickly. If their only support is through email, you might want to consider waiting until they expand on that.

They all have to start somewhere and they will not all succeed. Taking your chances with a newer one can lead to the discovery of your all time favorite. I love watching the new ones grow and find their niche. That said, watching them grow versus experiencing the growth pains, is something very different. If you’re willing to take that chance because it has things you want, go for it. If you’re a single agent it could be worth the aggravation while you’re waiting to see if they mature and stabilize. You can afford to do that when you’re a single agent or maybe have one assistant. If you’re a team, maybe not so much. The time it takes to learn and internalize a CRM is significant, so you don’t want to waste all that time with a larger team. Do the homework up front. It will be worth it!

Oh – did I mention that I always put all this kind of information in the reviews on my site when it’s available?

How Safe is your CRM Data? Part 2 of 2

I would like to take a moment to ease some concerns about data loss…

that are either outright wrong, or simply overstated. They are that your data is not safe with a Web based solution. So just how safe is your CRM data?

There are actually two sub-categories here. Some people are afraid that the web based provider may steal their contact database, and sell it. There was an instance back in the 90’s when a major franchise provided a Web based solution for its agents, and unbeknownst to the agents, the people in their contact database were suddenly being deluged with e-mail and postal mail, soliciting the franchise’s mortgage company, title company, insurance company, etc. In that case, the franchise claimed a right to the data. Whether or not the franchise was entitled to use that database is not relevant here. It is just very different than a third party vendor doing it. Maybe that event is where this, what I consider to be irrational fear, came from.

A franchise using the data in their own CRM is considerably different…

than a Web based CRM provider actually compromising their user’s databases by selling the database, or soliciting to it. If they did that – their business would be over! It’s that pure and simple. They would be found out in short order, and their business would be done. For what? For a few measly dollars that they could get for the sale of that data. I am sorry – I just don’t see it. Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? Most certainly not. If it were that probable, it would have happened by now. Is it possible that it has happened, and I just haven’t heard of it? Sure, but I doubt it. People love to recount such horror stories and I’ve spoken to thousands of people for over twenty years, one-on-one and to groups. I have never heard of it happening with a third party vendor.

Another possibility is that a disgruntled employee could steal it.

Again, that is absolutely possible, but has not happened to date to my knowledge. It takes a great deal of time and effort to develop and market a CRM solution. To then allow such a thing to happen is extremely unlikely at worst. Having worked in that environment myself, I can assure you that it never even comes up. It’s not even a thought by anyone. The risk reward is just not there.

Additionally, people are concerned that their online database will simply be hacked, and marketed to. Is this possible? Sure. Is it probable? With safe crm databaseno statistical data to support this supposition whatsoever, my guess would be that it is about as likely as your personal hard drive being hacked, and having your contact database stolen from it. Very low odds. Also consider that Top Producer would be a perfect, well known target. Given that it has the largest market share in real estate CRM, to my knowledge it has not happened to them since they went online with their data in 2003.

With regards to an online solution simply losing your data…

they always have at least one redundant set of servers – a backup. That said, my advice has always been to do a monthly export of your data from a Web based solution. This leaves nothing to chance. While that export will not be a copy of all your data, it will be all or most of your contact data, normally including names, phone numbers, addresses, notes, categories, etc. 

There is actually another topic that bears discussion here.

That is the heavily blown out of proportion, and just plain misrepresented, topic of contact CRM solutions that hold your data hostage. Each Web based solution is very different with regards to how much data they make available for export, but all of them enable you to export at least some basic contact data. The answer to quelling that fear is simply to find out, before you decide on a solution. Exactly which, and how many fields are available for export from your chosen solution. Also consider weighting what data is most important to you. As long as you have the primary contact information, you have your inventory. As long as you have your sphere of influence’s names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses, you have far and away the most important information. Everything beyond that may seem absolutely necessary, but if you think about it, not having it would be a nuisance, but it would not put you back to square one, as losing your inventory would. Note also that even if you could export your sales and listings, emails, templates, etc., that you would not be able to import it into any other real estate CRM to any significant extent if at all. 

In summary, do an export of your contact data at least monthly. That way you can always go back to that if you make a mistake the CRM company can’t fix. If you ever need help with disaster recovery, if there is a way to help recover, I’ll find it. It’s always worth a shot to review everything together to look for ways out of the mess! Contact me!


How safe is your CRM data? Part 1 of 2

how safe is your crm data?


Your CRM data, your names and interactions, is your inventory.

Without it, you’re back to re-stocking the shelves for years, trying to pick up the pieces. If you lose it, the best you can hope for is to add back what you can from your paper files and hope not too many things fall through the cracks. But they will. How safe is your CRM data? What steps can you take to prevent its loss? You’ll be happy to know that it’s no big mystery. There are a few simple steps to avoid any problems.your crm data

There was a time not too long ago that would have necessitated that this conversation include backing up your data from your desktop because the CRM was installed on it. To my knowledge, there are no real estate specific CRMs left that are like this that are still being sold. If you are aware of one, please reply here and let me know. That said, the primary reason that they no longer exist is because everything has gone online. They are referred to as SAAS (Software As A System). They have gone online because SAAS products are always a monthly or annual subscription. This model allows them to have enough of a revenue stream to afford staff to fix, improve and support it. If you have a desktop CRM, be aware that it may not be that for long. You might want to make inquiries and possibly prepare for that eventuality.

Let’s define some terms before we begin.

Using the words database, backup and export is a little abstract. In more meaningful terms, we are talking about your livelihood. We’re talking about your inventory. You’ve spent anywhere from a couple years to several decades creating an inventory of people in your CRM who have given, or may give you business. Without them, you have to start all over again. You can re-create some of it with many hours of aggravating effort, but you will never replace all of it. All that time you spend re-creating it is 100% needlessly wasted time that grates on your every nerve while you’re doing it. It’s one of the most miserable things that can happen in your business life. The most religious backer-uppers are the ones who have been there. They know they never want to go through that again. The irony is that it takes so little effort to do it. Do I have your attention now? How safe is your CRM data?

Following is a little known fact. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense, but I had simply never thought about it. Everyone who likes Web CRMs always says, “I like Web based databases because I don’t have to worry about backing up.” Let’s think about this in some detail. Lets say your computer is stolen. With a Web based product, all you have to do is get another computer, log in, and everything is there like you left it. Very nice! And that’s the type of scenario people always think about when they think about what would happen if they had a desktop solution and their data is not backed up. They look at it in terms of a total one time loss. They think about losing their computer, or having a hard drive failure, or having a virus, etc., and losing everything.

But let’s say you were working on your database on a Web based product,

and you accidentally delete 200 of your contacts instead of putting them into a different category like you thought you were doing. More and more how safe is your data?real estate CRMs now have a Trash or Recycle Bin. This means that if you delete a contact, it will be stored in the recycle bin. There also usually exists the ability to EMPTY that recycle bin. The main thing here is, DON’T DELETE what is in the recycle bin unless you are positive  that you will never need them. Why? Because most if not all CRMs will tell you that if you delete it from the recycle bin, they can NOT recover it. If you delete them from trash, you are bleep out of luck. So what can you do to protect yourself? You can do periodic exports, say monthly. That way if need be, you have your own copy of the data you can then import back into the CRM. Just bear in mind that exports never contain all of your information. See “How much of your data can be exported?”

Another data issue to be mindful of is whether or not all of your data remains as it should.

When synchronizing to Google, Outlook, your phone or wherever, that can introduce problems. Different CRMs are better than others at syncing. Names can be lost, addresses can be changed in error, calendar items can shift times. How safe is your CRM data? Even if you do not sync with other programs, you want to monitor your data. One way to do it is to keep track of the number of contacts you have. This isn’t easy because you are always adding and deleting contacts, but it can be done if you just check once in a while. Unless you know every contact you and/or your team members added and deleted, it’s tough to keep track. One or two up and down from what you think it should be is probably not an issue. Just keep your eyes peeled for a larger number of discrepancies. 

I would like to take a moment to ease some concerns about data loss that are either outright wrong, or simply overstated. They are that your data is not safe with a Web based solution.

Next week – Part 2 of 2!

No such thing as the best CRM

Would you let someone tell you the car they have for sale is the best one for you?

And they tell you this before they even ask you what needs you have? There is no such thing as The best CRM. The best one is the one that suits your needs. The old axiom is, the best one for you is the one that you will use. choosing a real estate crm

The first thing you want to do is sit down and list your needs. CRM can be anything from keeping your contacts in order to running the majority of your business with it. Activity Plans vs workflows, buyer preferences search, phone dialer, SMS, email, MLS integration, and many more. You can download my book for free here, where you will find a list of features that CRMs can have. Use Coupon Code freecrmbook

Now that you know what you need, will you be the one to set up the CRM and implement it?

Are you capable of a good understanding of its capabilities and how to set up things like activity plans or workflows? If it’s just you, then you’re going to have to knuckle down and make it happen. Another possibility if you don’t have an assistant, is to hire a virtual assistant who is familiar with the CRM you chose, just to train you. 

Another aspect of learning a CRM is the time required to learn, set it up and implement it. Will you make the time? If you have a thriving business that is keeping you very busy, how do you get the time to do it? It can be done. I’ve helped many busy agents learn how to stick with a CRM once they get it. If you’re interested, you can read my tips about that in a series of blog posts on the topic here.

If you have an assistant who understands technology, you may want to ask their advice.

Their experience with any CRMs could be a gold mine for you. As always though, because they used one before doesn’t mean it will be the right one for you. If they used it for another agent, find out what their operation was like. If it’s similar to yours and they had the same needs, that might be a good option for you. Having an assistant to set up your CRM for you takes care of both potential issues. Lack of technological experience or time can be mitigated to a very large degree by the assistant. 

One thing you don’t want to do is to assume that because that very productive agent in your office is using the XYZ CRM, that that CRM is the best one for you too. It always comes down to your specific needs and preferences. Also, many agents use a CRM only to a small degree and therefore cannot really tell you how good or bad it is. If there was one CRM that was best for everyone, I would only sell that one. On the contrary, I have selected several that I consider the best that cover a range of needs.

CRM ResearchIt’s very easy to do a quick search and talk to a couple CRM vendors…

and then make a relatively hasty decision. That can be a very costly approach. Choosing the wrong one, spending time with it, and then finding out it’s not right for you sucks up a lot of time and brain power from you and/or your assistant/s. Spend the time up front to talk to more people and more vendors. Search on that CRM’s name with the word review after it. Don’t put too much value to the vendors reviews. They’re obviously cherry picked. When you come to a review site, if most of the CRMs on the site are not real estate specific, I wouldn’t put much credence in their opinions. Anyone that knows the real estate industry knows that the best CRMs for real estate agents are the ones created specifically for real estate. If you are a complete tech nerd and want to spend the time customizing a complicated generic CRM so it works for you in real estate, it’s an option. It is not one I would recommend for most. Much more on that topic is available in my book as well. 

Need help choosing a CRM or learning how to use one? Do you have a team that needs to adopt and implement a CRM. Contact me!

Combining Activities in Workflows

Efficiency is the desired end result

but – with regards to Combining Activities in Activity Plans, I would advise that you think things through before starting There are different considerations to use when deciding whether or not to combine them. 

Keep in mind that Activity Plans should always be constructed with the long term goal in mind. That goal is that they will be used by other members of a team, whether you have one now or not.

No activity plan can hope to take every detail into account. Every transaction is unique. That said, a good activity plan can take the vast majority of the transaction’s details into account. The majority of transactions are the same to a great extent. The assistant takes care of the plan items. The agent takes care of the unique items.combining activities in activity plans

What are the considerations?

1) If the activities will always be accomplished together, whether you are interrupted or not, then you MAY want to combine them. i.e.; Erect Yard Sign/ Affix Lockbox. If they are always done together, then make them one activity. If not, then don’t. That sounds obvious, but note that I said may.

2) Why may?. Because if you are sending out Client Listing Reports, to the Seller/s, then you want that report to be as long as possible. This gives the Seller/s the perception that you are doing a lot of work for them. Combining activities shortens the list, and lessens the perception. A few extra clicks to complete the activities is a small price to pay to strengthen that perception.

3) One of the more difficult aspects of a listing activity plan for instance, is keeping it both functional and impressive to the clients. A typical listing plan’s activities are very heavily weighted to the first week or two. Sending the Sellers a Seller report weekly would include all the details you’ve been doing. After the first couple weeks the activity level goes down significantly other than showings and feedback. This would not be the time to combine activities for instance.You want to consider beefing up that report by adding maybe weekly activities like Promoted in weekly office meeting, Sent flier to local agents or Searched MLS for Agents with these Buyer needs and contacted. The goal is to show the Sellers consistent activity in your Seller reports.

4) In some offices, a listing or transaction file cannot be submitted to the front office unless it complete.

If that is the case in your office, then there is no need to have each form being submitted as a separate activity, unless, once again, you want the Seller/s to be impressed with that long list.

If your office does not mandate a complete file, then they should be separate activities. One of the points of the plans is to not let things fall through the cracks. Separate activities ensure that. What takes more time; backpedaling when a form is forgotten, or a couple extra clicks to complete the activity reminding you that you need it?

5) One of the goals with activity plans is to have every single detail (to-do, letter, call) in the plan, anticipating the day when you either hire an assistant, or have to replace one. Every detail that is in someone’s head becomes a liability, a potentially overlooked detail, and a learning curve, for the replacement. This means a loss of time to you, in that you have to communicate that detail to the new assistant, and/or do the backpedaling for them.

6) No detail should be on a paper list. (See Bill Luke’s letter towards the bottom of that page for emphasis on that point, by a team that was big paper list users.) Paper lists get lost. Paper lists can only be in one file, on one desk at a time Those same details, when in the activity plan, can be viewed by anyone at any time, without having to waste time locating it. All participants in the transaction, can see all the details of the transaction from their computer. No more walking to someone else’s desk or file cabinet. No more need for sticky notes, voice mails, etc.

And if the agent is out of the office and wants to review the progress of a transaction, it can be printed out, and every detail is in the report. Nothing is in anyone’s head. Nothing is on a separate paper list.

If you do not have an assistant, and you ask someone to step in for you for a day, 2, or more; everything is there.

7) The ‘Notes’ in the activity plans should be used as a dynamic operations manual. They describe in detail what the activity is about, for the benefit of the new ‘assistant. This eliminates a tremendous amount of training time. Another benefit is that the notes can be changed at any time to reflect changes in the nature of that activity as your business changes. The next time they use it, they will see the new procedure.

The best thing you can do when creating Activity Plans/Workflows is to sit down and build a flowchart that delineates what you have to do in the order you have to do it. Here is a list of free flowchart utilities. This is when you make decisions such as combining activities in activity plans or not, as well as many others. Combining activities should only be done when there is no benefit to having them separately. Having it all laid out in a flowchart will make it easier.

Need help? That’s what I do! Contact me here!

Pros and cons of a Virtual Assistant

If you’re ready for your first assistant…

…or maybe your fifth, have you considered the pros and cons of a Virtual Assistant? There are clear advantages and disadvantages to both. Let’s take a look at what they are!

Have you ever sat down and thought about which of your admin tasks have to be done locally versus them being able to be done remotely? Fortunately, the vast majority of processes and tasks that need to be done can be done from anywhere in the world. Pretty much anything you can think of is something they are already doing. They are already managing mailings, emails, follow-up calls, transaction management, and more. You may not be comfortable with it, but you need to know that all your staff does not need to be local. 

The fact that a virtual assistant is not physically there with you has upsides:

  • You don’t need another desk, computer, phone line or any other hardware. The VA’s are already set up with everything they need.
  • There are no issues with scheduling. The VA is task driven and they get the work done at their own pace.
  • You don’t have to worry about water cooler activity! Let’s face it, time is lost with employees for silly things like this. With a VA, you’re paying them to get specific tasks done. They often charge per task but they also charge by the hour. You can keep it task oriented until you’re comfortable with the person and then maybe go to hourly projects.  
  • You don’t have to worry about personality conflicts with other office personnel. Not everyone gets along with everyone else. Tension in the office is not a thing when they are not in the office.
  • VAs are more easily replaceable if they are not working out. The number of VAs available makes it easier to find another one.

Clearly there are pros and cons of a Virtual Assistant You can certainly hire someone local with experience and the following are also applicable to VA’s. The challenge tends to be that there is simply less of a pool to choose from when you are looking locally. You have a nearly infinite number of choices of experienced people with VAs. The likelihood that you can find someone with the following locally is much smaller.

You won’t have to train them on many processes

The VA has other customers for whom they are working and each agent does things a little differently. VAs know what you need to in many cases because they worked with so many people.  They can be advisors as to how to get things done more efficiently for you.

You won’t have to train them on any software

Same deal! Although there are many kinds of software and VA’s certainly don’t know all the software, you can search for a VA based on your needs and what you are already using if that is the case.

Along with Pros and cons of a Virtual Assistant, another issue worth delving into is with which CRM software the VA is experienced. Often, a VA has one they decided they like to use and they recommend that one if you are not already using one. This is a potential issue. Because a VA likes a CRM software does not mean it’s the best one for your specific needs. VA’s do a lot of transaction management so they tend to use CRMs that are strong with that. That’s not a bad thing, but it may be different than your primary needs.

You really should do your research and get your own CRM implemented prior to hiring an assistant.

Then when you’re ready, you find a VA who knows that CRM. If they don’t know it and it’s a popular CRM, they may be willing to learn it. Also note that if the VA already knows the CRM, part of what you hire them to do can be to train you on it If you aren’t up for finding your own CRM, then using the VA’s preference will work. It’s just not the best case scenario. You definitely want a CRM so go ahead and use theirs.

For help with choosing a CRM, organizing your team, or building workflows, contact me so I can help!

Brokerage versus Team? Which way do you go?


What is your goal, besides helping people of course?

To reach a specific annual income? Isn’t that the bottom line? The question is, starting a brokerage versus a team. Do you need to have your own brokerage to reach your monetary goals, or would your own team suffice?Team Consulting 

For a time, I was the roving technology specialist for the RE/MAX Region of SEPA. I visited over 100 offices and met with the brokers to help in any way I could, to get them organized with tech. On my visits, I would often make it a point to ask them how and why they became brokers. In private, the majority of them said that in retrospect, they wished they had not done it. Many offered without prompting that it was ego driven and not worth it. This was not one or two brokers. This was dozens of them. Be honest with yourself. If you want a brokerage so you can have your name attached to it, you have lots of company, but most of them want out of the club.

I taught exam prep classes for years as well as real estate continuing education. I have a clear bias with regards to the topic of Brokerage versus Team. One reason is because I taught thousands of students going for their license or taking their MCE classes. It was positively frightening how little the vast majority of the experienced agents understood their profession in a legal context. The majority did not have a full understanding of agency, contract law, or Fair Housing Law for that matter. They are prime candidates to end up in court out of ignorance of the law. For this reason, as well as seeing other agents activities while I was doing transactions with them, I personally would not consider being a broker versus having a team. In class, I often brought up the brokerage conversation. If someone said that they wanted to be a broker, I would offer the following for consideration.

If you have your own office, unless you hire an office manager, you’re it.

You’re chief cook and bottle washer, recruiter (which is a never ending job), and on and on…. Your production takes a serious downturn or becomes zero because you have so much to deal with managing an office full of agents. In all of the offices I visited, the best ones had hired a manager. Being a producing broker and the office manager translates to a mediocre at best office most of the time. There are inherent problems with competing with your broker and not having them available to speak with because they are out doing business. 

Now that you’re a broker and your production has dropped, you’re now dependent upon your agents for your income instead of yourself. Who would you better at motivating, yourself or your agents? If you’re dependent upon their production then you have a vested interest in how well they perform. Is that what you enjoy? Do you enjoy managing and training people? Are you good at it?  Then maybe it is a good move for you. If not, might you instead want to continue to list and sell, but have people helping you do more of it? When you have a team to deal with the details, it frees you up to do an insane amount of high quality referral generating business if that is your desire. 

If you have a team, obviously you will have to manage and train them as well, but it’s a one at a time process, and you decide how quickly you want to grow. There is no pressure to grow quickly so you can eat. Your personal production is already there, so you don’t have to scramble to get a lot of agents feeding the cookie jar as soon as possible. Would you rather be doing 100 sales a year with primarily your own production and maybe a buyer agent or two? Or would you rather have to manage 20 agents to get 300 sales and net less income? Are these numbers realistic? No. It’s just a concept. But the concept is real.

Another consideration is that if you are a broker of record, you are legally responsible for your agent’s actions.

Every time you bring someone on, you have to pray that they will not get you into legal trouble. As a broker, you’re herding cats. As a team rainmaker, you can be the driver of a lean and mean machine. You make all of the decisions for how business gets done, legally. If you end up in court, it’s on you, not one of the cats.

We need people to be brokers and leaders. Of that there is no doubt.

The question is, are you cut out for it? There are people who are better at managing and training than they are at prospecting and selling. These are prime prospects to be brokers. God bless those who are there for us when we’re starting out. But after I knew what I was doing, it was a no-brainer. I wanted to build a small team with quality people in an organized and methodical way. I was better at production than management so it was never a question for me. What are your skill sets? Try to take ego out of it and then make your decision based on those skill sets. You’ll be a happier camper if you consider these things.

Brokerage versus Team? Which way do you go? Need help making this decision or getting your team organized and online? That’s what I’ve been doing for over 20 years. Contact me!

Nine Tips when hiring admins

First things first. In another article, I wrote about creating workflows and activity plans that are assigned to your staff people. These activities can also have detailed instructions about what each activity requires to be completed correctly. Having these activity plans/workflows in place before you start hiring admins will make training much easier and faster. 

At one point I was the regional roving technology expert for RE/MAX SEPA. I watched as teams and brokerages grew in over 100 offices and I worked with them all to help them with their tech. If you want to open a brokerage versus a team, that will be my next article. I’ll discuss the pros and cons I learned from the horses mouths. In either case you need an admin. I picked up some things along the way, first having my own small team and then watching the RE/MAX region teams and brokerages, as well as people I’ve worked with over the years. Here are some of them! Nine tips when hiring admins! Hope it helps!

Now that you have that taken care of, whom do you hire? 

  1. Your staff needs to get excited by good technology. They need to be the kind of people who recognize how much better it makes them. Optimally they have already seen it at work elsewhere. Transaction managers love the ability to create detailed workflows because they know how much better and more efficient it makes them. Are you a techy? If not, it’s even more critical that you surround yourself with people who are. Don’t get hung up on hiring younger people because you assume they know tech. There are plenty of admin types who are older, but have experience with tech. 
  2. One good type of person to hire is an ex real estate agent. A common way to lose an admin is for them to decide that they want to go out on their own. They get the admin aspect of the business down and think they’re ready. They don’t understand that the hardest part is to find people to work with, but they’re convinced they can do it now and you lose them. If they already tried and decided it was not for them, you don’t have to worry about that as much. If you come across someone who has been in real estate sales, they know and understand the business. This makes it far faster to train them. Why would you hire someone who failed? There are many reasons why someone fails in real estate sales. Sometimes it’s because they’re too detail oriented and spent too much time getting set up, while ignoring getting new business. They now know that sales is not for them, but maybe they do like the industry. Could you use a detail oriented person?
  3. Empty nesters tend to be good prospects if they are getting back into the workforce because they tend to be more stable. 
  4. What is especially true for your first staff person is that they be able to handle a crushing schedule. It‘s a very fast paced business and you want someone who is also expedient by nature. A slow moving, slow talking prospect is not what you’re looking for.
  5. My first assistant was my wife, who was also my buyer’s agent. My second assistant was part time and she was very good, but she was what I call a robot. Once she understood exactly what I wanted, she would get it done perfectly every time. That said, she couldn’t think for herself. She wasn’t capable of making creative decisions outside of trivial things. Try to get someone who is capable of both.
  6. I mentioned that my first assistant was a Buyer’s agent. She was my wife and that makes it a little different. Generally speaking though, you want to hire a person to be strictly an admin first. If you haven’t already put systems in place, this is the person that will do it for you. If you hire a top Buyer’s agent first, the issues you already have will just be magnified. You decided to hire someone because you need someone to attend to the plethora of details that come with your expanding business. If you hire a Buyer’s agent and they’re good, that problem is now worse. Buyer’s agents are for income generation, not admin. Hire someone to get and keep you organized and then hire a Buyer’s agent, then let them sell and soar.
  7. Make sure you have a written contract that states an evaluation period and stick to it. Some people look great in the beginning but then it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason. If you make the evaluation known, you’ll likely get a better effort and it will be no surprise when they are evaluated. In that contract, you also want to have language that addresses database ownership for all employees.
  8. Pay them what they’re worth. Good admins that know real estate, tech and are driven, are hard to come by. Having someone whom you have spent time and money training leave because they are underpaid is more costly than paying them properly to begin with. 
  9. MOST importantly, don’t fall into the trap of letting down on your prospecting. There is a tendency to relax after hiring your first assistant. After those years of having to do every detail yourself, having someone do it for you is a wonderful thing. But you have to pay them! Make sure you stick with what got you to where you are. There will be time to let up later. 

I highly recommend a book called Who, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. I was introduced to it when hiring tech support and on-boarding people in a SAAS startup. It covers the process from defining your needs up front through retaining the employee. 

Need help getting ready for a new assistant or setting up your team? Find some here!

Lose less money when you hire your assistant

When you hire your first staff person you will lose money!

It’s unavoidable! So how can you lose less money when you hire an assistant? I’m not just talking about their salary, but more importantly, potential income. When you hire someone you have to train them. The time you take to train them is the time you lose prospecting, hence the loss of income. While seeing a dent in your income is unavoidable, you can control the size of that dent, significantly.

Something else you have to deal with is delegation.

You started your business yourself. You know exactly how you want things done because what you’ve been doing, works! It’s working so well that it’s time to get an assistant. Is it going to be a little tough to let go? Many people have a problem with delegation. If you want things done right, do them yourself! Right? Not any more. Now you have to trust someone else to do it right. The question is, is there a way to do it so that they get it right too?

Using Activity Plans/Workflows tackles both of these!

Before there was software, I was an operations manager in a computer room and print shop. One challenge was to make sure the people on my team knew what was expected of them. It was either verbal training or an operations manual. Both took a lot of time. When I was an agent, the same challenge applied.

If you’re using a CRM and Activity Plans/Workflows, you can create an operations manual, but it’s a very different kind of operations manual. A conventional operations manual is essentially a book that you create that details every action that everyone must take and exactly how to do it. The problem with a conventional operations manual is that day-to-day details change, frequently. Then you have to go back to the manual and make the necessary changes. Then you have to distribute it. As much of a pain as that is, the more difficult part is getting people to read the changes as they are made.

If you’re using a CRM with the right capabilities, that changes dramatically. When you’re creating an activity in an Activity Plan/Workflow, there is spot to make informational notes. In the Activity, you can say how you need it to be accomplished in detail. You can even add scripts if the activity calls for it!

If possible, the goal is to have your Activity Plans/Workflows created before you hire your first staff member, even if it’s a buyer agent.

If you have them set up before you hire anyone, you’ll save a tremendous amount of time. The new person will have a to-do list with explanations in each activity about how to complete it.

Another benefit is that you only have to change that activity and you don’t have to distribute those changes. The next time a staff member opens that activity in their to-do list, the new instructions will be there. This is far more efficient and effective.

The bottom line is that training and delegation take much more time if you do it without activity plans/workflows. If you want to minimize the loss of income when you hire new staff, introduce to a well defined set of steps, replete with instructions on how to accomplish them. Take control of your business plans. Remember the old axiom; failing to plan is planning to fail!

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