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How to Systematize Your Business for FREE with Google

Tom Sylvester
8 min read
How to Systematize Your Business for FREE with Google

In last week’s podcast, Michael Woodward talked quite a but about systematizing his business.  Two of his favorite books, The E-Myth Revisited and The 4-Hour Workweek, both talk about creating systems to help your business run more effectively.  This topic is near and dear to my heart as just like Michael I work a full-time job while investing in real estate.  There are a lot of benefits to having a job while investing in real estate, but in order to balance both it is so important to create systems to run your business.

There a a ton of free apps out there that can help you systematize your business.  Below I will show you how to do it by using a couple of FREE apps from Google.  You can use this as a starting point to systematize and automate a large portion of your business.

Google Mail (Gmail)

What is it?

Gmail is Google’s free email system.  It provides you a free email address ([email protected]) and 15 GB of storage space.  It is available via the web and also with apps on Android and iOS.

How It Helps Systematize

Signing up for Gmail will give you a a Google account, which will give you access to the rest of the apps mentioned in this blog.  Additionally, GMail has some great features for systematizing.

  • A Single Inbox– GMail allows you to receive and send all of your emails from multiple email accounts in a single place.  I have a personal email account as well as one for each business.  Rather than having to login to different email servers/applications, I just pull up Gmail on my computer, tablet or smartphone.  You can configure each email address to use it’s own signature.
  • Labels – Labels are a way to tag emails.  They are similar to putting emails into a folder, but a lot more flexible in that you can apply multiple labels to an email.    You can create as many labels as you want.  I use labels to tag emails for each of my email addresses, each member of my real estate team (office manager, property manager, accountant, lawyer, banker, insurance agent, etc) as well as to manage my flow of work (@Todo, @WaitingFor, @Office, etc).
  • Filters – Filters are a way to have Gmail automatically do something when certain criteria is met.  Having an IT background I really love this feature.  It becomes extra powerful when combined with labels.  You can automatically label email from a person, to a person, with a specific subject or with/without certain words.  You can then adjust how your email is displayed base don the labels.
  • Labs – Google offers new and experimental features with Labs.  These features are small tweaks that enhance or let users customize Gmail.
  • Search – Everyone knows that Google is a great search engine.  They apply their expertise to your email, allowing quick searching of all your email in seconds.  Since you have 15GB, this allows you to keep as much email as you want by archiving it and being able to retrieve it quickly.

Tom’s Setup

I create labels for each email address (ex. Sylvester Enterprises email sent to [email protected]) and automatically apply it to incoming email with a filter.  I also automatically apply labels to emails from each of my business team so that I can easily identify emails from say my lawyer.   I also create labels for things that I need to do (ex. @Office for things that I need to do when I am at the office).  I process email once a day and apply labels such as @Office, @ToRead, @WaitingFor to each email.  This way when I am at the office, I know what emails to look at.  I use the “Multiple Inbox” Lab, which allows me to not only have my main inbox, but also 5 additional inboxes.  So to the right of my main inbox, I can see what Office Work I have, what items I am waiting on someone else for, what emails/articles I need to read and emails for my real estate business and email for my other business.

Google Voice

What is it?

Google Voice is a free Voice over IP (VoIP) phone service that offers a free phone number as well as many other related features.

How It Helps Systematize

  • Free Phone Number – When you create a Google Voice account, you get to select a free phone number.  This number can be in in location you want.  So if you live in Florida but operate your business in New York, you could get a local New York number.  This means that you can have a new number for your real estate business or marketing which is separate from your personal or other phone numbers.
  • Free Calls/Text Messaging/Voicemail – Once you have your Google Voice number, you can make phone calls with it as well as text messages.  You also receive a free voicemail account.
  • Call Forwarding – When someone calls your Google Voice number, you can have that call ring on one or more phones.  For example, it could ring your cell phone and your home phone.  You could then answer it on either phone.  You can send certain people to ring through to certain phones, or set certain phones to ring at various hours of the day.
  • Multiple Devices – You can use Google Voice from your computer or cell phone.  This means you always have access to your phone number as well as the ability to make calls/texts, see past calls/text and well as voicemails.

Google Drive

What is it?

Google Drive is a cloud storage service that connects to other Google services.  By storing files on Google Drive, they can be access from multiple devices.

How It Helps Systematize

  • Access Your Files Anywhere – Cloud storage means that your files are not stored locally on your computer or phone, but instead in the cloud (on Google’s servers) so that you can access them from anywhere that you are connected to the internet.
  • Access Your Files on Any Device – Your files are synced across all of your devices.  So you can create a document in the morning from your office computer, continue working on it later in the day on your tablet while waiting for a meeting to begin and share it with others from your cell phone.
  • Share Files – Instead of having to mail or email files, you can share them with people directly from Drive.

Google Calendar

What is it?

Google Calendar is an electronic calendar that offers many useful features to track your schedule.

How It Helps Systematize

  • Access Your Calendar Everywhere – Your Google Calendar is available from anywhere with an internet connection.  You can access it via a web browser or using an app/widget on your mobile device.  There is even an offline mode if you are not connected to the internet.
  • Bring Multiple Calendars Together – You can create multiple calendars (and color code them).  This means that you can track both personal and business meetings in a single place.
  • Share Your Calendar – You can share an individual calendar with people.  Your business calendar can be shared with people involved in your business, allowing them to see your calendar.  This can be useful people in your business to be able to see what meetings various team members have.
  • Reminders – To keep you on track, you can set custom reminders so that you don’t miss meetings.
  • Connected to Other Google Tools – Because Calendar is part of the Google suite of tools, you can easily attach items from Google Drive or create an event from Gmail.

Google Docs

What is it?

Google Docs are cloud based office tools for creating and viewing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.  With Google Docs, you may not need to spend hundreds of dollars on other office tool suites.

How It Helps Systematize

  • Connected to Google Drive – All of the files are stored in Google Drive, so you get all the benefits of that.
  • Simple Tools – Some office tools are very complex and overkill for most situations.  Docs provides simple tools to get the job done quick/easy.
  • Available on Multiple Devices – Not all office tools are available on all devices, but Google Docs are.

Google Maps

What is it?

Google Maps is an online map service.  You can search for places get a ton of information.

How It Helps Systematize

  • Street View – You can search for a street or address and see actual pictures of the area.  This is useful to see and understand an area before or without ever going there in real life.
  • Meta Data – A traditional map will show roads.  Google Map is interactive, so when you search you will find information things in the area such as businesses.  You can then find out additional information about these businesses.
  • Navigation – From Maps, you can generate direction or use turn by turn navigation from your mobile device.

Example Workflow Using These Tools

At this point you may be saying to yourself “that is all great Tom, but how does all this help me systematize my business?”  Look at each of these tools as building blocks.  Then look at each thing you have to do in your business.  Create the process flow and identify how these tools can help with the process flow.  Below is an example of common process for real estate investors that can utilize these tools.

Filling a Vacant Apartment

The Setup:

  1. Create a folder in Drive with “Process Flows”.
  2. Create a new document or spreadsheet using Docs with the steps needed for filling a vacant apartment.
  3. Add an entry to Calendar 45 or 60 days before a lease is up for each apartment.  Attach the process document from Drive with the process to the Calendar entry.
  4. Add the documents to Drive that will be used in the process, such as the lease.

 The Execution:

  1. You will receive a notification from Calendar that a tenant’s lease is up.  You will have the process for renting the apartment attached to the Calendar entry that you can open and follow.
  2. The first step in the process is to see if the existing tenant would like to renew their lease.  You can grab the renewal letter from Drive and email it using your company email address in Gmail.  You could also call/text the tenant from Google Voice.  If the tenant wants to renew, you can grab the renewal Docs from Drive.  You can email the documents to the tenants to sign and return and apply an @WaitingFor label to the email in Gmail.  This will serve as a reminder that you are waiting for a response from the tenant and can follow up if needed.  Once the tenant signs the documents, they can be stored in the property folder of Drive and a new Calendar entry can be created for 45-60 days before the lease is up.  You can then remove the @WaitingFor label from the email because it is complete.
  3. If the tenant does not want to renew, you can grab the advertising material from Drive and begin advertising the apartment.  Perspective tenants can call the Google Voice number.  You can schedule the perspective tenants a time to view the apartment and put an appointment in your Calendar with the property address.  Using Google Now (another tool that I didn’t mention) you can be notified when you need to leave to show the apartment (based on traffic on your route), which may be earlier than your Calendar reminder.  After collecting applications, you can scan/take a picture of the applications and store them in Drive and screen the tenants using the tenant screening process in Drive.  The lease paperwork can be grabbed from Drive for the approved tenant to sign and signed copies can be stored back in Drive.  Move in picture can be taken and stored in Drive as well.

*Quick Tip: In the above example I mentioned “You” quite a bit.  After you have created the process, you can replace “you” with “someone else”.  The person who the work is outsourced to can step into your shoes.


The tools listed here are just a small number of the tools available for free to help you systematize your business.  If you have not started to systematize your business, you are probably spending more time doing the things you need to do to make your business run, and you are probably doing them inefficiently.

What tools have you used to help systematize your business?  What aspects of your business have you systematized?
Photo Credit: manfrys

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.