Here you are on a real estate blog and you see a post about small business technology. If you’ve been investing in real estate for awhile, you’re anxious to see what I have to say. If you’re new, you might be wondering what I’m doing. When you’re starting out in real estate, and many experienced investors for that matter, you must treat your real estate investing like a business and not a hobby. To that point, I’ll dive right in.
Technology is critical for small businesses. You don’t want to go overboard with it and you don’t want to spend a lot of money. I’m going to show you a couple of products that are going to help in both of these areas. I might not get to everything in this blog so subscribe to our blog and check out the other suggestions coming soon.
Google Apps Standard Edition
I’ll admit that I’m a little late to the game on this but I was waiting for it to hit the critical mass. A year or more before and Google Apps was not something that would have worked for what we needed. What I’ve seen lately, especially with releases this year, is that Google has a focus on organizations and enterprise software. While you might not be a 2,000 employee shop, what it means is that Google is taking what they’ve learned from focusing on the individual to their enterprise software. That’s good for small and large businesses.
Google Apps Admin Panel
What you find signing up for Google Apps Standard Edition is that it’s free! You get to add up to 50 users to your organization through and administration panel. This is much more than we need but it’s nice to know we can still grow. The administration panel is a big differentiating factor from regular Gmail and Google Apps. As an administrator, I can actually manage the accounts and settings for each user.
Alright, this isn’t your grandma’s Gmail. This is email hosting to replace Exchange hosting, which is exactly what my organization did. You get 7gb of storage for the Standard Edition and up to 25gb for the Premier Edition (cost of $50/user per year). 7gb of storage is much more than you’re going to find at any exchange hosting companies, especially for the price. I was a bit skeptical at first but I’m sold on everything now.
For a small business, the switch to Gmail should come with more options, not less. You can configure this to work with your domain so instead of CoolREICompany@gmail.com or “sent on behalf of jared@CoolREICompany.com” you can work just like you do in Exchange as jared@CoolREICompany.com.
Gmail is an amazing tool. They do provide tools for you to sync your calendar with Gmail so you can continue to use a desktop email product like Outlook or Thunderbird but after I got it all setup to sync, I ended up just using Gmail. Gmail is such a great interface with so many features (far too many to list here) that it’s all I use now. It’s easier to use and easier to manage a high email workload with their archiving feature, easy use of labels, and their grouping of emails in threads (this one is the space saver). If I have a single email sent out to multiple people that we then reply back and forth on it 10 times, it shows up as one email instead of 10 in my inbox. I can easily open it up to see everything else. This is a huge productivity builder!
This part of Google Apps replaces your Microsoft Word suite (Word and Excel) and puts it all online. You may wonder how these apps work online and I was definitely skeptical. Google delivers here with very stable apps that auto-save, which negates any Internet connection issues. This is definitely what you need for collaboration within or outside your company. Nothing else comes as close to making it easy to share and collaborate with others.
Some cool features include the ability to share any documents in a folder (new feature) with anyone or even make it public and the ability to make your spreadsheet easy to fill by your users. Do you make the spreadsheet easy to use by just sharing it? Well, I’m sure you know that spreadsheets aren’t always easy to fill by non-spreadsheet users. That’s why Google offers a very easy to create form that integrates with your spreadsheet automatically. You can literally have the form created with a website address for users to submit their answers to the spreadsheet easily in 10 minutes. This is great for an event sign-up or a questionnaire.
This calendar does a great job of making it easy to use, some cool new features, and the look and feel of a calendar that everyone can instantly use. This is great for events as you can chose to have people share comments and see who else has accepted. In this one way they’ve done a better job than online invitation companies like eVite who have been doing just that for 10 years. Google calendar has all the options you need.
Although this is still listed in Beta, it functions very well. You can upload your existing contacts, create groups, and this all integrates with your calendar, mail, and Google Talk.
When I was an IT/Business Consultant, I used chat all the time for quick questions/answers. Lately I tried using Skype but it was using up all the resources on my computer, which made it pretty unusable. I just recently installed Google Talk and I have to say, this is the best chat software I have used! It’s fast, uses almost no resources, and it’s intuitive. I can video chat, call people, send voice mails, and even send SMS messages. This all integrates with my Contacts so it already has all the information.
If it sounds like I’m a salesman for Google Apps, I’m not but I easily could be. What makes a great salesman is when they are selling something that they truly believe in and I truly believe in Google Apps as a solid product. They provide the most intuitive interfaces that I’ve ever worked with, the performance is great, and they provide everything I need for free. This is definitely a good base to build your real estate empire!
If you need any help, let me know.
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