The Simple Business Book Tip That Dramatically Reduced Errors in My Company

by |

James Altucher has a podcast that I enjoy occasionally. One of the things he said was some of his greatest mentors were people that he has never met, but their words on paper had a profound impact on his life.

I can relate to this. There is so much great information in books. The two biggest problems I have is finding enough time to read them and sifting through all the garbage. On average, I read about 50 books a year.

Once you’ve read 20 real estate books, you pretty much don’t need to read one of those again. All the information is just rehashed. You get less and less out of each minute spent reading those books. That’s why I have moved on to business books.

The Simple Checklist

I am starting to feel the same way about business books as I used to feel about real estate books, but there is one book that I’ve started implementing, and it has had a huge impact on my business. The concepts are pretty basic. As a matter of fact, you might already be taking this action but not consciously…

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Bread

The boring old checklist. Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto opened my eyes to how impactful a well thought out checklist could be. The basic idea in the book is that checklists can reduce errors and increase discipline in an organization.

Related: The 5 Whys: A Simple Exercise to Get to the Root of Problems—& Solve Them

Atul Gawande is a surgeon, and he is researching the effects of checklists for preventing human error in surgery. The results are astounding. They found that implementing checklists for repetitive processes dramatically reduced the amount of mistakes that happened, which in their case saved lives.

Throughout the book, images of my own business kept coming up. I was remembering the mistakes that we had made. According to this, most of them were preventable. All we needed was to be more deliberate in what was in our checklist and its use.

I’ve been in business for a while. I’ve created, recreated, and accumulated quite a few checklists, but our process for using them was broken. Some “checklists” were never even written down. Depending on who did the work, the outcome was different. This needed to change. We needed consistency.

I am not going to lie. It was a struggle. It is difficult to force employees to do things differently than the way they have been used to doing them.

Checklists I Use

Here are just some of the checklists that we have written or use on a daily basis in our real estate investment business.

  • Rent-Ready Checklist: We use this prior to a tenant moving into one of our properties to verify that everything is in working order. We test everything. There is no worse way to get off on the wrong foot with a tenant than to have them move in and have five work orders in the first week of them living there.
  • Tenant Screening Checklist: We make sure we have all of applicants’ information before approving their application.
  • Pre-Construction Checklist: We use this before a contractor starts work. We make sure that the contractor has a copy of the contract and a copy of the scope of the work. We have copies of the workman’s compensation and liability insurance and a bunch of other little things.

Related: The Simple Mentality That Sets Successful Investors Apart From the Rest

There are quite a few other things as well, but these were the first ones that came to my mind. Just these few checklists have saved us countless man hours and have made our business run more smoothly. I have no way to measure the effects on morale, but life becomes a lot easier when you don’t have to rush around putting out fires that could have been prevented in the first place.

Do you make checklists too? How do they help you run your business?

Let’s discuss in the comments section!

About Author

Mark Ainley

Mark Ainley is an investor, managing broker, and property manager with almost two decades of experience in real estate. Mark found his way into real estate by purchasing and flipping condominiums prior to the great recession, and since, he has built his own portfolio of rentals alongside co-founding GC Realty & Development LLC (GCR&D), a full-service real estate brokerage, property management and investment firm, and GC Realty Investments (GCRI). He has rehabbed and stabilized over 450 properties and currently manages over 900 investment properties throughout the Chicagoland area. Mark was featured on CNBC’s TV show The Deed, which chronicled one of his rehabs. He has also been featured on podcasts like The BiggerPockets Podcast, The Real Estate Mogul Podcast, Joe Fairless, REI Diamonds, and Positive Phil.


  1. Brian Gibbons

    Awesome awesome post I love it!

    Bullet points on instruction to condense time is all we have is time. No on and on explanations when training people or when communicating with people

    My check lists:

    Buying on Subject to
    Buying on lease options
    Buying on wraparound mortgage
    Buying on a land contract
    Interviewing a property manager
    Interviewing an acquisition manager
    Marketing the property for cash
    Marketing the property for terms buyer
    Marketing for private lender
    Marketing for joint venture partner
    Prequalifying lease with option buyers
    Prequalifying owner financing buyers
    Giving a speech regarding homeownership
    Giving a speech being a private lender
    Giving a speech being a joint venture
    Learning how to negotiate with home sellers
    Learning how to set an appointment with the home seller

  2. Andrew Chou

    Atul Gawande’s s book “The Checklist Manifesto” was inspiring for me too. We recently implemented a checklist in our company for a manual month-end process and it makes life a lot easier, not only for everyone involved, but also for me in my gradual attempt to automate it.

    I also highly recommend his books “Better” & “Complications”.

  3. Giovanni Isaksen

    Love James Altucher’s books, here’s the science (but also hysterically funny) behind them: .

    Atul’s book scared the #$&@ out of me to think that so many useless deaths were caused by easily prevented mistakes in surgery. On the other hand it reinforced what I had learned from the best small business book ever written: ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ . Yep, OK I’m preaching here but if you read Altucer’s, Achor’s and Gerber’s books you’ll understand 99% of what it takes to succeed in growing a business.

    Good hunting-

  4. Ayodeji Kuponiyi

    I’ve started running checklist after realizing that it’s time-saver. I currently have a tenant moving out and I’ve utilized BP into coming up with a move out check list, screening prospective tenants, getting bids on making the unit rent ready(paint, carpet cleaning, etc) and expectations to current tenant regarding their security deposits.

    Besides real estate, I used checklist in my marriage 🙂 and it helps my relationship with my wife. Such as telling her I love her 3-5x a day, hugging her, and getting my share of things done in the house.

    I’m working on setting up a checklist for investment property criteria and with property management.

  5. Nathan G.

    Somehow I ran across this blog article via a post on LinkedIn. I’ve always been a huge fan of checklists. When I first started working in Property Management, my wife and co-workers joked about how I had a checklist for everything. They even occassionally refused to use them…until they ran into problems. They now admit the importance of a good checklist system and even work with me to create new ones.

    I haven’t read the book because I’m already such a big proponent and user of checklists. Maybe I should read it just to see if I’m missing something.

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here