5 Systems You Need in Place to Run Your Business Remotely
Most of us have read that hiring a good assistant earlier rather than later is the way to scale your business. And most of us ignore that advice, often because we’re way too busy doing the stuff an assistant would do. We don’t have the time to find one let alone train them to take over. Deciding to run my business remotely forced me to examine what activities I was doing that required my physical presence and figure out who was going to do them after I was gone.
I had an agent on my team who was going to handle things, but they quit without giving any notice. People come and go so my recommendation is that you focus on the “how” rather than the “who”. Put a system in place, write out detailed instructions for it, then if you want someone else to manage it they can, but it will be much easier to replace them if that time comes.
Following the advice in Millionaire Real Estate Agent, I keep a running list of all the tasks it takes to run my business and who is responsible for them. When thinking about being overseas for 3 months, I identified the top five things that had to be done well in order for the business to keep running smoothly.
- Snail Mail Not everything happens via email, and there is paper mail that needs immediate attention like letters from the IRS or your insurance company. I’ve had a UPS mailbox for several years and in the past when I’ve been in other states they have forwarded my mail to me. Now that I’ll be overseas I’m using their scanning service. Rather than pay an assistant $15/hr to drive to the mailbox, I pay $3/week for them to scan the mail I’ve received. I simply reply with a list of what they should forward, shred, or hold for pickup. Recently I didn’t notice the last envelope in the scan PDF and told them to shred everything. They caught my mistake and called me to say they thought one of the envelopes had a check inside, which it did. This is why I buy them lunch every so often!
- Money It’s great when checks show up in the mail but how do I get them deposited? That can also be handled by my mail processors. They keep a deposit stamp for me and will run checks across the street to the bank and deposit them. As for my agents, we’ve got an online bank account with a mobile app enabling them to deposit checks with their phone right after closing.
- Phone & Txt My clients rely on me to talk them down when they’re stressed or need advice. I could limit them to email but I think they would feel I was less accessible. My business number has always been a Google Voice number and this will allow me to keep the same phone number and be reachable anywhere I have wifi - calls can be answered on my phone, tablet or laptop! Additionally if I need to take time off or will be unavailable while traveling, I can forward the number to someone else on the team, or have them monitor voicemail and txts online.
- Boots on the Ground All of us at BiggerPockets know if we’re investing out of state we need “boots on the ground”. There are some things that cannot be done right without a live human being. As a real estate agent I need to put signs at properties, take clients on showings, and solve problems like beeping smoke detectors and missing keys. In my case I use a sign valet service to install and remove my property signs, and other agents on my team to help with showings. For all the random small stuff I have a couple reliable friends who like to earn extra money running errands. There’s usually someone you know who can use a few extra bucks now and then, or who is interested in learning about real estate and willing to trade time for education.
- Clear Communication My biggest concern is that my clients and colleagues not feel like I am difficult to reach. If people don’t feel they can call me (or think I’m on vacation), they’ll call someone else and that’s bad for business. Since I’ll be changing time zones it is important to clearly communicate where I am and when & how I can be reached. To do that I updated my email signature with a link to my blog, Instagram, and my WITWIM page (Where in the world is Micki?) which has dates, time zones, photos and links to my local hangouts. This way people can feel a part of the adventure and track me down easily. I already use video chat for team meetings and client meetings and that face-to-face time makes it much less noticeable that I’m half-way around the world. Additionally I plan on holding standard office hours when people can drop in to a Google Hangout and chat.
- Bonus System - Travel I know I said five, but I have to admit that if I didn't have someone else organizing the travel part for me I wouldn't be doing this. If you want to find a place at the beach and plant yourself, you don't need this kind of help. But to spend each month in a different country involves a lot of logistics - accommodation, travel to/from, internet service, work space, not to mention language barriers, groceries, and laundry! Hacker Paradise takes care of all of the above so all I have to do is show up and get to work. We even have a Slack channel so we can all get to know each other and make plans before we arrive.
Will everything run 100% smoothly? Probably not, but it never does in real estate, that’s what keeps things interesting. Will I lose some potential clients? I might, but I already have a handful of buyers and sellers who have signed on knowing I was headed out of town. They also work from home or remotely and love to travel and think it’s really cool that their agent can help them buy an investment property while hanging out in Asia. They support my goals and dreams, while I support theirs, and those are the people I want to work with!
What would you like to know about working or investing remotely? Please share your questions in the comments or DM me.
These systems also apply if you are staying put and investing outside your local area.