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2007-02-18 09:04:00

Growing Your Business by Growing Your Team

Amber Riviere

 

Super athlete Michael Jordan can’t win a game by himself.  Emmitt Smith needs a talented choreographer to win "Dancing with the Stars."  Both of these sports figures are talented in their own right, but they need teams to bring them over the top. The same holds true in real estate.  An agent can be successful with good business practices and consistent lead generation, but a team allows the agent to pursue larger goals than he ever dreamed possible alone.

As a broker, I understand the value of a team and know how important it is to create one with highly specialized players.  However, as I prepare to take my business to the next level over the coming year or so, I can’t help but lean away from the traditional model of a brokerage firm to create one in a more of a virtual setting.

I decided to sit down with a couple of virtual assistants to talk about the advantages of building a virtual support team and determine the most important considerations to make before hiring.  Dianna Giguere of South Sound Lane Virtual Assistance and Betsy Talbot of DelegateNow explained how virtual assistants can give a real estate business the competitive edge.

Virtual assistants (VAs) allow agents to hire experts in marketing, web design, listing coordination, transaction coordination, and lead generation without committing to full-time staff.  VAs need no training, no benefits, no office space, and no breaks. The agent pays for exactly what he needs when he needs it.  While the “team” is busy with the marketing, listing, and closing details, the agent can focus on revenue-generating activities that will take his business to the next level.

How does an agent assemble the team that will help him climb to the top?  Dianna Giguere suggests the first step is to recognize that, just like real estate agents, virtual assistants have specialties and unique skill sets. 

  • If you need someone to coordinate your listings to free your time for business development, then search for that specialty when reviewing virtual assistant services. 
  • If you want a transaction coordination service to follow up on all the details of your closings, make sure your virtual assistant understands the closing process and has been trained on SettlementRoom or a similar program. 
  • If you want to update or increase traffic to your web site, hire a web designer or a search engine optimization expert. 

The point is, don’t expect a single VA to do everything.  Virtual assistants are highly specialized professionals, offering specific services in the many facets of a real estate business.

One of the most important things for an agent to keep in mind is that he must know what he wants before hiring a VA.  Expectations must be realistic from the start and must be clearly communicated to the virtual assistant.

While the virtual assistance industry is relatively new, there are already many companies available to help, but how does an agent start the process? 

First, ask around. Chances are, someone you know may be using a virtual assistant. 

Second, decide what you can delegate and what still needs your specific attention.  Betsy Talbot says that a good rule of thumb is to think of each of your activities as either administrative or revenue-producing.  Do you want to spend your time producing more revenue or performing administrative tasks? 

Also, keep in mind that you may still wish to have an in-house runner to perform certain tasks, such as filling flyer boxes, delivering keys, etc. 

Once you decide what administrative tasks you want to delegate, start interviewing virtual assistants, and always ask for references.  It’s important to learn as much as possible about a VA, including certifications, training, and experience. 

You may also want to ask the VA if he or she works with multiple agents in your area.  Remember, this is your business, and you want to make sure you assemble a team as talented and dedicated to your success as you.

Once you find a virtual assistant for the first administrative task, such as listing coordination, make sure you agree on the specific checklist of items you want the VA to perform for each listing you assign. The templates should be designed and approved by you, which means that your next new listing will simply require an email from you with the pictures, MLS info, and home details. 

The VA will take care of updating your web site, designing a virtual tour, designing/printing brochures, sending email/fax blasts to your list of contacts, etc.  The time you spend in clarifying the checklist and templates when you first hire your VA means you never have to worry about format or timelines again.  Your VA will do that for you.

After talking with Dianna and Betsy, it’s easy to see how a virtual support team can truly leverage a real estate business.  It’s important to see your team as an investment in the future of your business.  Gary Keller, author of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, says “Experience shows that a hiring an effective assistant should easily double your sales volume.”  Add up your sales volume, double it, and then compare that to the cost of hiring the virtual assistant experts you need.  This is one equation that is easy to solve!
 
(Amber Riviere is broker, CENLA MOVES, LLC, Alexandria, LA)

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