The world of business is littered with clichés, and real estate is no different. Coaching seminars, podcasts, conventions, that one older relative so many of us have who seems to have every Henry Ford quote memorized (now replaced for others by the “Quotes” stream on Pinterest) … there is no shortage of sources for these little turns of phrase that surround us.
Clichés have their purpose — they’re often grounded in truth, and when they’re not too folksy they do tend to resonate with us more deeply than textbook business practices. However, they can also occasionally become a placeholder for where useful content should be: meaningless buzzwords.
In this first installment of a three-part series examining “The Tyranny of the Urgent,” let’s cut through the noise and look at a few solutions to help real estate agents fulfill the mantra of perhaps the No. 1 cliché thrown out by the coaches and educational offerings I’ve experienced: “Work smarter, not harder.” Without further ado, here are three great tech solutions to help you do just that by assisting you to become more organized, beginning the process of bringing order to the chaos.
“Trello? Is it me you’re looking for?”
I have to hand it to Seth Price at Placester. Not only does he have a wicked fashion sense (his fluorescent pant choice at Inman Connect San Francisco sent almost as many shockwaves through the industry as Zillow’s “Coming Soon” announcement), but he possesses and shares a mountain of knowledge. Past the real estate stats and best practices, however, Seth introduced me to Trello, and I can honestly say it’s had an incredible effect on my business.
We all wear a lot of hats these days, and those hats tend to fill our days with no shortage of tasks to accomplish. Enter Trello, a brilliant Web-based project management platform that has the flexibility to double as a personal task management system. Highly visual, Trello uses a series of “boards” a la Pinterest on which you can place “cards” to organize your thoughts and the tasks at hand.
For example, you can set up time frame-related boards labeled “Now,” “Today,” “This Week,” “This Month” and “This Quarter.” I would then suggest a board labeled “Incoming” where you can place new tasks for later sorting and the most satisfying board of all, “Done.” You then add cards to each of the boards to lay out your time and priorities, easily dragging and dropping these cards to aid in re-evaluating your plan of attack. It’s one thing to have 20 to-do’s written down on a piece of paper; however, having those tasks as cards that you can sort on the fly offers a clarity that will help you to eventually drag more of those cards over to the “Done” board.
For my account, I’ve instead created boards related to areas of my life and projects within them. I have a board for each of the projects I’m working on within our brokerage group; personal boards relating to fitness, travel and household tasks; an Inman board where I jot down article ideas; and a business planning board where I place those big ideas for the future. As an agent, you could have a board for each listing or transaction, or each client.
Do you have a checklist of tasks that you use to manage each new listing? Create that checklist once and then you can copy and paste it into a new card; Trello will ask if you’d like to it automatically create multiple cards based on line breaks in what you posted. Voila! Multiple cards at the click of a button. If you prefer fewer cards, you can also easily add checklists to the “back” of any card as well.
If you have a team, Trello also supports multiple users and allows you to assign tasks making transaction management a snap. Finally, you can manage all of this on the go via the excellent iOs and Android apps.
2014: the year we organized contacts
We are highly connected as a civilization, which can make the process of managing “your contact list” a challenging one. We have many contact lists — Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, Outlook contacts, Gmail, etc. — and things can get confusing once we start connecting with people on multiple platforms. It may be obvious that your Facebook friend John Doe is also firstname.lastname@example.org, but who is realestaterockstar4U@gmail.com and why is he in your list?
After trying a number of different contact consolidation options, my choice is Contacts+ (iOs). Contacts+ links with your social media platforms and your contacts and allows you to consolidate contact information quickly and easily. The app automatically downloads the contact’s Facebook profile photo or you can select your own, which makes this platform excellent to help keep track of the many people we meet; it’s always nice to put a face to a name. Each contact has a layout with tabs on the side of their contact data where you can instantly view their various social media profiles, including LinkedIn. These little touches provide fantastic information when you need that refresher before calling or emailing. The app also supports group functionality for further organization — you can create contact groups as you see fit, or the app’s Smart Groups feature attempts to do it for you.
“I’m gonna make some cash, I’ve got 20 stories in my pocket”
Let’s face it, social media can be a huge time drain, even when you’re using it for productive reasons. Even if you’ve wisely created lists on Twitter to track the activity of your influencers, there’s no shortage of great articles and tips posted daily that can benefit you. That “one hour per day” of social media research can often become all morning if you’re not careful. For these reasons I’m a huge fan of Pocket.
Pocket allows you to save these informative stories, videos and other content from the Web to view later. Once you’ve saved the information to Pocket, the list of content is visible on any device — whether you’re on your phone, tablet or computer. It features fantastic integration with Twitter, as well as browser extensions for Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Even better, the content is available offline, which makes it great for commuters or airline passengers who already have SkyMall memorized. Those worried about data usage can set the app to download content only when their device is on a Wi-Fi connection, and the app makes sharing content from Pocket with your Facebook, Twitter and email networks a breeze.
Whether you’re looking for a way to simply save an article or two for later reading or a solution to organize an extensive mobile reference library via the app’s tagging functionality, Pocket is worth a try. It will be interesting to see if Facebook’s new “Save” feature ends up being integrated into the service as well.
“Technology without strategy is just a shiny distraction”
There are countless other apps, websites, programs and tools on the market that are all designed to assist the user with time and behavior management. Ultimately, the barometer as to which tool is “best” is your personal preference. The task of deciding which business tools to embrace is ultimately like choosing a new gym — the best pick you can make is the one you are most likely to actually use. Technology without strategy is just a shiny distraction, and if it’s just an icon “island” in a sea of application noise, even worse.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to organization, business planning and productivity; however, there are a variety of strategies and best practices that you can use in tandem with technology to help make sure you’re running your business and that your business isn’t running you. Oops, another cliché — maybe somebody will make an app for that, too.
Bret Calltharp works as business development specialist for Metro Vancouver Properties, a 10-office Re/Max franchise group in Vancouver, British Columbia. You can connect with him on Google Plus, Twitter (@remaxjedi) or by email at email@example.com.