If it’s January, it’s Agent Appreciation Month at Inman. Join us all month to celebrate all that agents do.

We’re off and running in this new year, and there’s no better time to pause and reflect on the past year in business — what goals you achieved, what worked and what didn’t, and how you can improve. You might have had your best year yet, or maybe you fell short of your goals; either way, there’s always room for improvement.

If you want to take your business to the next level, there’s one area in particular that makes all the difference in determining whether you fall short, meet or exceed goals: your process.

The processes you put in place for your business are the foundation on which you build success. Without a process, your work becomes disorganized, chaotic and overwhelming. You become reactive, and your business suffers as a consequence.

When you embrace processes in your business, your work becomes more predictable and manageable, and you become more proactive as a result. You operate more efficiently because you know what needs to happen and when. And most importantly, you’re able to deliver a consistent and exceptional client experience. 

You might have the ugliest listing or the most challenging client, but no matter what gets thrown at you, you’ll have a tried-and-true process to handle it and fall back on when the rest of your world is on fire.

Architecting this kind of business-altering process is a process in and of itself. It doesn’t happen magically. It takes time, reflection and a dedication to continuous improvement.

Fortunately, there’s a framework that can help you get started on the right path. Our team has personally applied this simple framework to our own business, and because of it, we have been able to take on more clients and increase our sales while delivering a 5-star experience to our clients.

The first step in getting started is to make time and prioritize it with ease.

1. Set aside the time

Getting the most out of this framework requires your undivided attention. It shouldn’t take more than a day, so pick a date, and do your best to avoid distractions. Set an out of office message, or schedule short breaks to address any urgent matters — whatever you need to do to ensure you’re 100 percent focused.

If you work as a part of a team, it’s best to involve your entire team. Schedule a one or two-day work session with your team. Use tools such as Zoom or Google Meet to connect virtually. You can also try tools such as Miro or Whimsical to use as a virtual whiteboard. Even just a shared Google doc works just fine if that’s what works best for your team. Designate a note-taker, or set your Zoom meeting to record so you can go back and take notes later on.

2. Keep your business goals in mind

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of nailing down your process, take some time to revisit your business goals and set new goals for the year. This process doesn’t have to be arduous. Spend a little time thinking about what you want to accomplish in the coming months. 

Do you want to improve your overall client experience? Take on more clients? Reach a certain level of sales? Aim for three to five business goals you’d like to achieve over the next year.

When you set these goals, make sure they’re SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. You’re more likely to achieve your goals (and know that you’ve achieved them) if you tie them to tangible results. Once you’ve set and understood your primary business goals, keep them close by as you begin to architect your process.

3. Map out your current process

Chances are you already have some process in place, but you probably haven’t documented it. In this step, walk yourself and your team through a typical transaction, and map out everything you do — every action you take — from listing to close. Once a prospect becomes a client, what do you do? 

Here are a few questions to get you started: 

  • How do you onboard new clients? What does that experience look like?
  • What activities always occur no matter the transaction? When do these activities occur?
  • What common roadblocks do you encounter? How do you usually resolve them?
  • What tools or templates do you use during a transaction?

For listing agents:

  • What steps do you take to list a property? What activities can you front-load before going active on the MLS?
  • Who are your preferred vendors (stagers, photographers, etc.)? When and how do you introduce them to your clients?
  • How do you communicate with interested buyer’s agents?
  • How do you receive offers? How do you present offers to your clients?

For buyer’s agents:

  • How do you find properties for your clients?
  • What steps do you take to submit an offer once you’ve found the right property?
  • What forms and documents do you need to collect to be compliant?
  • How do you keep your clients informed throughout the transaction?

No step is too small, so feel free to jot down whatever comes to mind. If you’re a part of a team, you might also want to note who is responsible for each action. Do you have a transaction coordinator or admin who does some of these things for you? Try applying the RACI matrix, which designates the different levels of responsibility — responsible, accountable, consulted and informed — each team member has with a specific activity or task.

4. Find ways to improve your process

Now that you’ve gone through mapping out your workflow and the processes you currently have in place, it’s time to think about what you can do to improve. 

First, take inventory of what you’re currently doing and how it’s going. What part of your current process is working? What’s not? If what you’re doing isn’t working, why is that? 

Question every part of how you do things. For instance, maybe you’re using a tool to help you manage transactions, but it hasn’t proved useful, and you aren’t realizing your return on its investment. Perhaps there’s an alternative tool that might serve you better, or maybe the tool isn’t addressing your specific needs.

Here are a few more questions to contemplate as you look over everything you’ve just mapped out:

  • Is there a way you can automate repetitive or manual activities?
  • What tools or templates can you use to help you manage all of these activities?
  • What new technology can you invest in to better streamline your workflow?
  • In terms of client experience, at what touchpoints can you delight your clients and improve their overall experience?
  • What can you do differently to help prevent burnout and ensure you’re not “on” 24/7?

In our business, we found that one of our biggest struggles was communicating effectively with parties outside of our team. We would get inundated with calls, texts and emails that would get buried in inboxes. So we decided to implement a messaging tool that would allow us to work out of a shared inbox, which resulted in faster response times and increased transparency among our team members.

5. Implement and continuously improve

Once you have a good list of potential improvements, it’s time to implement them. But before you scrap your entire process as it is, choose just one to three areas of focus. Think about which improvements will have the most impact on your day-to-day, and start with those. The idea is to make a few incremental changes and assess how those changes may have made things better or worse for your business.

As you go through your newly architected process, continue to assess what’s working and what isn’t. Make a note of any activities you may have missed when initially mapping out your workflow, and always be on the lookout for ways you can continually improve. 

Now, it’s your turn! Dedicate some time to this activity, and set you and your business up for success in the new year. 

What improvements do you plan on making to your current process? What tools have you found to be the most helpful in managing your transactions and business overall? Please share with us in the comments section below.

Lindsey Hood is the marketing manager at Jointly in Austin, Texas. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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