Real Estate Is A Strange Business
The human side of the business requires compassion, openness, and a lot of emotional intelligence. In fact, most of your time is spent in those “soft” zones of human psychology and (if in escrow) perhaps human neurosis. Then you get a new listing or open an escrow and BAM! you are expected to function like a right-brained CPA and be organized, analytical, and on top of deadlines, complex processes, and strict formal timelines.
Keeping track of the many detailed processes in real estate can be deceptively difficult. Panicked buyers and needy sellers calling can break even the most focused person’s concentration and allow the occasional to-do item to slip through the cracks. We’ve all been there at one time or another trying to remember if something actually got done or not. Or worse, trying to remember something we were sure we need to remember and didn’t want to forget. Now what the heck was it?
The root of the problem is just how many individual steps and processes are involved in a single real estate transaction, listing, or office management. Unless you are one of those people who can remember PI to 50 digits or something, keeping it straight in your head is nearly impossible! Most of us use checklists of some sort to try and help. Not all checklists are created equally though.
My Checklist on Steroids Approach
I’m going to lay out a checklist approach that I used for managing our listing marketing. This approach works great for managing and conveying a lot of information at a glance. It also creates a foundation from which to work with and manage assistants when you are ready. To get started, here’s a sample of a spreadsheet. It is a little ugly perhaps but there is a lot of information in there. Now let’s talk about what this thing is showing and why:
- First of all, this is a spreadsheet. This isn’t a word doc, or a pdf you print out and check off with a pen. You need to be able to see all of your listings in one place at one time. A spreadsheet allows you to scroll back and forth so you aren’t limited in the number of tasks or houses you can track. Closed or expired listings can be hidden easily when they are finished so you can stay focused on your live listings without losing your old information.
- It doesn’t really matter which spreadsheet program you use but if you have (or will have) an assistant you need to be able to share the document through a file-server, Gdrive, SkyDrive from Microsoft, etc. (If you don’t know what this means, just send me a note and I can help you out.)
- The list of properties goes down the left side while a list of tasks goes across the top. Your task names would be descriptive like “order flyers” or “post on facebook”.
- Some of the tasks are grouped by color which helps to break up the information a little and also to correspond to some form of logic depending on what suits you. For example you could group social media tasks, tasks handled by your assistant, or tasks that should be done at the same time.
- The cells in the sheet have the date when a task is started. Blank means it hasn’t been started yet while an X means it isn’t going to happen. (For example ordering a yard sign is a common task but for a condo it may not be possible.)
- You might have noticed that the last two listings have a couple other things going on. First, there are some dates with a # sign in front of them. This means that the task is started but not done yet. A work in progress. An example would be designing a property flyer or setting up a property website.
- There are also some dates that have an * in front of them. This symbol represents tasks that are done but not verified yet. Was the placement of the yard sign checked? What about looking at the craigslist ad once it was posted to check for errors? Most tasks will have a verification step that can (and ought to) be performed.
At first this kind of spreadsheet can look messy and confusing but once you get used to it, it conveys a tremendous amount of information very quickly about:
- What is done
- What is a work in progress
- What is waiting for confirmation that it was done right
- What is still waiting to get started.
As your business grows, tracking tools like this allow you to scale up without finding out the embarrassing way that communication isn’t as simple as it used to be! A similar approach can be used for tracking employee training, new buyer relationship building, etc. Any process that lends itself to a list and will be happening repetitively in your business can benefit from a visually based system.
Do you have an awesome system for running your office? I’d really appreciate hearing about it!