MS Access, LibreOffice Base, etc. -- Making my own databases for mah biz

25 Replies

So I originally thought using these types of database programs would require weeks of my time to get working for taking care of my organizations requirements for tracking all the stuff I need to track for creative real estate stuff. I was originally going to use just spreadsheets.

However I played around a bit with LibreOffice Base today and it seems a lot easier than I thought, plus I found an excellent wikia site dedicated to both the abstract concept of databases and specific database implementations and definitions, so I'm gonna keep messing around with it, because it seems to me like maintaining and using a spreadsheet is a much more difficult and clunky affair than maintaining and using a database.

I plan on marketing super heavy in the next few months as well as possibly forming tons and tons of business relationships in real estate, and I cannot afford to be disorganized. I'm very finicky when it comes to systems that I use all the time.

I've investigated the various CRMs and all that and either they cost money or they're ugly monstrosities and web based. Plus there's no true customization except for Podio and Podio makes me want to remove my eyeballs out of their sockets with a fork. This database stuff seems awesome and I don't mind spending a few days creating a database system for myself. In fact, if it turns out to be a powerful enough tool I might not think anything of spending 2+ weeks.

What I'm wondering is if anyone around here has experience using these types of programs and what their experience has been? Because this stuff seems like it could be super powerful. Plus with these databases in the future there could always be ways to interface them to networks/web stuff since its all standard stuff

Max,

Well I have had some experience with SalesForce property base. This CRM is customizable, however some aspects of it also makes me want to remove my eyeballs with a fork. When it comes to CRM's though it is pretty popular and straight forward. Hope this helps a little!

Rob

If you are going to create a database, why not just use MS Office?

I don't know how to create databases in any language, and I don't look forward to learning curve with any. But, it may be necessary. I just don't find anything simple to use that meets my simple needs.

This is an interesting discussion.  Sometimes I see people who are very smart, working on the wrong things because it's what they know or enjoy.  I'm guessing you enjoy working with and learning technology.  That's all good and it should be a big benefit for you.

But I kind of feel like your cart is before your horse here.  Databases are irrelevant if you have no sellers to put in there, no data about houses, no info on cash buyers.

My focus is on activity that generates MONEY.  Get activity going first.  I do this for a living and I can tell you - until you have a $5,000 a month ad budget, you can pretty much just capture this info on spreadsheets.  Unless you are spending BIG BUCKS on marketing, you won't have enough data to create an "organization" problem.

You may already be working on all the right things (other than this DB thing), so I'll just say to others: Don't spend you time on adminisTRIVIA - focus on finding SELLERS.  Nothing happens until you generate leads and find deals.  If you are not 100% focused on that, you are probably not working on the most important aspect of this business.

You can use Access through Microsoft to store you data and use it. and you probably have it in your computer. 

@Dev Horn

Good point but I like my way better. I officially challenge you! I will check back with you in June of 2015 and we shall review two things:

1. My progress in closing deals including total profits

2. Whether my organizational finickiness helped, hurt, or "didn't really affect things either way"

If it turns out my obsession with organization hurt or was irrelevant, you win. If it turns out my organizational system worked wonders for me and I just pumped pumped pumped, I win.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Originally posted by @Joseph Ball :

If you are going to create a database, why not just use MS Office?

I don't know how to create databases in any language, and I don't look forward to learning curve with any. But, it may be necessary. I just don't find anything simple to use that meets my simple needs.

 The cool thing is it seems with these programs all this stuff can be created using the graphical interface. I'm hoping programming or scripting won't be necessary or only minimally. I shall find out soon

By the way I don't have any legitimate MS software, I'd have to pay or pirate. Fortunately base seems to use standard database formats anyway so the DB should be compatible.

Hi @Max M. ,

I created a little Ms access database to do book keeping and property management. Like you said, most of the things are GUI so it is pretty easy to pickup. The nice thing is that you could easily change it to meet your new requirements. The downside is it runs on a single computer only, no cloud access, no smartphone apps. If I have to start all over again, I would go with either Office 365 or MS Sharepoint. May be I'll migrate to them later on when needs arise.

I would advise again using pirate software. That's morally a wrong start.

Cheers,

Kevin

@Kevin N. that's why I like the database idea so much, I can customize it exactly to fit my requirements.

Yea I don't plan on pirating any of this stuff. I'll use LibreOffice Base.

Right now all my stuff will be done from my PC so that's just fine. I even use Skype for my phone service at the moment. The cellphone I do have is so crappy it's hardly worth using except as a last resort.

It sounds like the 365 Access and sharepoint however will become useful later on. Migrating to it might be a pain but I don't think it'll be a big deal.

@max

Libre office is very similar to ms office, but like a couple versions behind.  I use both.  Im a systems analyst and design custom databases during the day using ms office among other programs.  I started tracking real estate related in a custom ms access database i built then transferred it to libre office when that computer was getting too old and slow, but i didnt want to spend the money to upgrade.  And libre office is free!

A couple suggestions to get started quickly......create a spreadsheet in calc to keep it simple.  You can link to 1 spreadsheet to pull the data into base if you want to do more complicated queries or forms.  You can link to multiple tabs as seperate tables and if if you link everything is dynamic so you can make changes from either program.

Keep it simple until you figure everything you need to track - its easier to build than modify.......and most importantly.....dont forget to BACKUP.

Good luck and enjoy!

Microsoft SQL Server Express is completely free and is a nice database platform.  I've used it to do data analysis on the Milwaukee market by downloading data from the city.

@Rick C. yea I noticed that when I was really cavalier about trying to insert or delete fields into tables that were already saved, from the base table edit GUI, weird errors started occurring although that seems to be avoided by just inserting stuff at the end instead of trying to insert new fields between other ones.

Are you saying that if I link a table in the database to calc I might potentially be able to insert fields in whatever order I want, and move them around, in calc, or delete them, and then it would be appropriately changed in the table of the database without those weird errors that destroy the table? As I understand, the order of fields in the table of the database doesn't matter anyway since how they're displayed in practical use will depend on custom queries/displays and/or forms that get set up.

I also liek the idea of having spreadsheets and database tables synced, that makes a lot of future things very easy both getting and giving spreadsheets

Edit:

I was planning on one of the following backup protocols to start with:

1. Place the database file in my dropbox folder so it saves to there + running a batch file from time to time which copies from the dropbox folder to another location (incase a corrupted DB gets saved to dropbox at some point)

2. The reverse: Place the database file in a purely local folder and occasionally run a batch file that copies it to dropbox.

Which makes more sense?

@Max M.   I am an IT guy and have been for 20 years, and would have to agree with @Dev Horn . People have a tendency to treat IT as a cure all for there business needs, its not, sharpen you business process first. Then use IT as a tool to make it better. Then when you can afford a decent budget enlist an expert. In the mean time for some of your minor stuff I recommend using a Microsoft product online. Maybe Access in Office 365, then there no need to back up, and you can use it anywhere. 

Originally posted by @Carlton B. :

@Max M.  I am an IT guy and have been for 20 years, and would have to agree with @Dev Horn . People have a tendency to treat IT as a cure all for there business needs, its not, sharpen you business process first. Then use IT as a tool to make it better. Then when you can afford a decent budget enlist an expert. In the mean time for some of your minor stuff I recommend using a Microsoft product online. Maybe Access in Office 365, then there no need to back up, and you can use it anywhere. 

Carlton B... where have I seen that name before...

Any relation?

-

 Hey man it's not a cure all, it's just my way of systematizing my basic operations. I'm particularly fussy about these things. I learned the hard way in my World of Warcraft & Diablo 3 real money business that unless I plan on doing tiny amounts of biz, systems are needed. I don't plan on doing this part time. I'm going whole hog, and just the thought of how many people/leads/relationships I'm going to have to deal with makes my head spin. Without a management system my ability to maximize followup while minimizing slamming everyone with excess/incorrect communications will either be seriously hampered, or cause me to take 5 times more time and energy to handle, and make me want to tear my hair out.

I am fortunate because I have a 6.5 month timetable before I actually have to reach a level where I can make a living, and in the worst case I can live on very little while I build things up after that. This is a marathon not a sprint. What I do in terms of finding and executing on deals in the next 2-3 weeks matters little. However, what I do immediately after that, in the next 2-3 months, however, is crucial. And with a couple weeks of systems/procedures building integrated with my start of marketing method campaigns, I will be capable of hitting a much bigger stride half-way to June and really fire up those afterburners. Whereas without the systems I'd be drowning in a sea of calls, sheets, marketing campaigns, e-mails, e-mail accounts, scheduled stuff, etc. that I don't know what to do with.

After some initial forming, the system will have to be built and refined as I e-mail, call people one by one. As more kinks are worked out, things move faster and faster until the next kink, adjust, then even faster until the next king, adjust again. In a couple weeks I have a system that works for me far more than I work for it.

That's one of the advantages of working on this database now since I'm also working on my operational procedures. 2 birds with one stone

@max...the @ thing doesnt work right in my phone

Yes.  Create your tables in calc...one per tab.  When you want to open in base open...new...linked and navigate to your spreadsheet.  Structure changes will bave to be made in calc (Easy)...data entry or queries can be made from either program...enjoy!

Originally posted by @Max M. :

I am fortunate because I have a 6.5 month timetable before I actually have to reach a level where I can make a living...

Why didn't you say that earlier?  With that much time to build a sustainable real estate business that can support you, I'd just take the holidays off and get started in March or April...

@J ScottGud vun!!!! Would you like to be part of the June challenge as well?

We must keep in mind that my goal is maximum throughput on a 6.5 month timetable. If my goal was maximum throughput on a 1-2 month timetable, what I'm doing now would probably be a waste of time, since taking 2-3 weeks to systematize would eat too much of that time. However on a half year timetable I would lose throughput without proper systematization. Keep in mind my goal isn't to make every little thing perfect, but to take the biggest snags involved in repetitive tasks that I'll be doing 100,000 times and removing them. Essentially I want to put the 20% of effort that gets rid of 80% of the snags. The 20% of the snags that would take 80% of the effort I will skip.

Probably the best benefit of this is that after closing 1-2 deals 80% of the work is already done for organizing paid marketing methods like mailings, since I will already be well versed in creating databases from spreadsheets, and importing/exporting spreadsheets to/from my database.

I certainly can't afford to take a big chunk of time off because it takes a lot to get these systems set up and the kinks worked out. Procedures will also be worked out in tandem with the systems for 3+ free marketing methods. This takes time and testing. It might be a month or two before I can hit full stride on these systems and achieve a high level of marketing saturation. If I'm lucky and a deal gets closed quickly, that's a whole 'nother can of worms because now I have new marketing systems to implement, procedures to define and refine, and V.A.'s to hire and train. That will easily take another 1-2 months to get running smoothly. That's already 4 months gone before I can hopefully achieve a high level of saturation/smoothness with various paid/free marketing methods given my experience/resources/time.

That only leaves 2.5 months to hopefully hit enough traction with all these methods that I'm getting enough deal throughput to make my transition out of my mom's place an awesome one instead of a really rough one.

Then we must remember Mr. Murphy. He will likely come to visit many times. Who knows how far he will push back the timetable.

Therefore, according to my calculations, 6.5 months is BARELY ENOUGH!!!

@J Scott 

I will check back with you in June of 2015 and we shall review two things:

1. My progress in closing deals including total profits

2. Whether my organizational finickiness helped, hurt, or "didn't really affect things either way"

If it turns out my obsession with organization hurt or was irrelevant, you win. If I do not get back to you, you win. If it turns out my organizational system worked wonders for me and I just pumped pumped pumped, I win.

Not sure how your failure would translate into my win, but since I have nothing whatsoever to lose, I guess I'm in!

Of course, I have a feeling I already know how this is going to end.  When people obsess over the easy stuff, it generally means they're avoiding focusing on the hard stuff; and those who avoid focusing on the hard stuff, never accomplish the hard stuff.  In this business, if you don't accomplish the hard stuff, you don't get very far...

I'm not saying this to "win"...I'm saying it in the hopes that you'll recognize what you're doing and perhaps change your strategy.

On top of that, your belief that 6 months is plenty of time to launch your business and start making enough money to live on is flawed.  Six months isn't much time at all, and that's especially true if you plan to waste the first 10-20% of it on unimportant stuff (at least unimportant at the time you're doing it).

Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Homer gets into a contest with a professional eater to see who can eat a 6 lb steak the fastest...the contest starts and the camera pans over to Homer who is buttering a piece of bread.  My recommendation to you -- stop filling up on bread and start focusing on the steak!

@J Scott 

A hearty barb my good sir! Your name has been locked in to the challenge manifest!

Btw what's the hard stuff you speak of? For me every single detail of this business is hard, I don't have basic life skills

Originally posted by @Max M.:
Btw what's the hard stuff you speak of? For me every single detail of this business is hard, I don't have basic life skills

Finding deals.

If you spend some money and are lucky, you'll get your first deal in a couple months...I started in this industry with plenty of business experience, plenty of cash and at a time when deals were simple to find, and it still took me a year to get my first deal going.

These days, some of the best investors I know are having trouble finding good deals...I know plenty of smart people who have spent thousands on marketing (and 6-12 months) and haven't yet found their first deal.  The market is tough in a lot of places, especially for those without experience.

If you don't have basic life skills and want to be a successful investor in the next 6 months, I (again) highly recommend that you stop focusing on the unimportant stuff and start focusing on the things that will get the cash flowing.

How do you plan to find properties?  What is your marketing strategy?

Originally posted by @J Scott:

How do you plan to find properties?  What is your marketing strategy?

Pre first deal free strategies

1. Craigslist/etc. sites, e-mailing, calling, voicemailing, replying to FSBO/rental ads, my goal is to smoothly contact hundreds of people per day efficiently

2. Having wholesalers that don't work with no/low/negative equity situations pass me those garbage leads in return for fees or JV if they lead to closed deals. The goal is to build up dozens or hundreds of such contacts.

3. Building up a list of qualified retail buyers in various areas, though mostly local, qualified as being the type of buyer i'm looking for to buy these properties. They can actually find properties for me in the places they want to live (and I can help them get into them). Also having a qualified retail buyers list in a specific area means I have more leverage to be the optimal choice to deal with for certain people looking to sell in that area.

At first I tried doing this stuff immediately. I quickly realized I was completely overwhelmed with the disorder and chaos, especially when I imagined doing this hot and heavy for months at a super high rate, and trying to avoid accidentally contacting the same people 20 times. I actually became afraid of what would happen if I started getting callbacks and interest, because I couldn't even handle basic operations without wanting to put a bullet in my head, it was so much to deal with.

How would I organize it all? How would I organize my property info sheets? How would I keep track of every single relationship I built, what happened last time I talked with someone? When's the last time I talked to someone?

The bigger I get with this, the worse it will get.

Craigslist is a lot more sophisticated a marketing strategy than it seems. I had my e-mail address with gmail "permanently" blocked from sending emails after only 8 e-mails sent per day. This means now I have to potentially keep track of many e-mail addresses, maybe proxy servers, etc, and standardize a way to send lots of e-mails without getting my e-mail addresses screwed up.

And let's not forget, the real meat of this business is how I deal with people I get in contact with. How can I concentrate on these things when I'm bogged down with administrative disaster? Especially when I can't even remember anything about someone I contacted say 5 days ago, or 5 weeks ago?

The goal of my systems is to take all this mess and put it somewhere so I don't have to remember it all, I can just pull up anyone at any time with ease. I recently learned this database stuff is much easier than I thought. As I learn more stuff about it I'm positively dripping with anticipation with just how easy it will be for me to punch in and keep track of everyone I market to and deal with.

It's a people and marketing business, and when you're talking about tons of people and tons of marketing, it becomes an information business too. Some personality types may be okay with doing that helter skelter but not me. I need to market much heavier on these methods than most newbies, due to my situation.

Max, you can do  this!  I know you can,  Please do not allow anyone to discourage you.  As a child I was non-verbal for 8 years [learned to read at 3 but had no way to tell anyone] and I was made such "sport" of for being such a loser. The physical and sexual abuses were beyond belief, and no one seemed to care because I was the mentally retarded, spazzy loser with no way to communicate, and most likely no one who would have cared if I could.

I was told that my son would never walk or talk-and that is BEFORE he got sick- and he now, at 20 years old, owns his own home free and clear, teaches extremely basic code to Autistic children[ actually learning with them, not the sterotypical IT Autistic],is working on the third book in a fantasy adventure trilogy he is writing, has cleared most of the trails in the location that will one day be THE Autistic retreat center of the world, and he has already been approached about management there.  He is a co-chair of the AutHaven retreat, and just yesterday was asked to be a part of Divergent Labs' think-tank, "Rhizome."

So, you are not, and have no need to be anything close to a loser. You CAN do this!  And you people betting against him, yeah, that'll make it 10 times harder for him, but I'm betting that despite your negativism, Max will release the winner he already is under the burden ofall of his scars  and worries.