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Technologies to Help Real-Estate Agents Grow Their Business

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Real-estate agents are under great pressure these days to engage clients in new ways. With so much information now readily available at buyers’ and sellers’ fingertips, agents must find unique strategies that create value and help them grow their business.

Thankfully, some new technologies and tools can help you expand and improve your company’s client-engagement efforts, be more efficient and offer greater value. As your business uses technology to grow, make sure you have the right amount of coverage to support that growth. (We’ve created a full list of risks for real-estate agents to consider as they grow.)

Here are four types of technology to consider, along with specific tools that can help you grow your business:

1. Lead-generation tools

Continuously finding new clients and prospects is essential to growing your business. Some tools are making lead generation easier. Curb Call is an app that lets prospective buyers request showings on specific homes from agents who are available. It’s a convenience for buyers, but it allows you to connect with buyers who’ve yet to engage their own agent.  Doorsteps, owned by Move.com, is a site that lets you answer questions that future home-buyers have about the home buying process and, in the meantime, generate potential client leads. 

2. Data-gathering apps

Providing clients with the data they need to make informed home buying and selling decisions is a pivotal part of the real-estate business. Homesnap Pro is an app that allows you to glean more insights into homes on the market. You can use it to read remarks on homes from other agents and find out about commission splits. You can also create Multiple Listing Service (MLS) profiles of homes for clients that can be shared electronically.

RPR Mobile, created by the National Association of Realtors, is an app that combines GPS, camera technology, voice recording and text messaging. You can get current and historical MLS data on homes, but also get valuation, school, assessment and foreclosure information. The app lets you create home reports that can be shared with your clients as well create personal audio notes about homes.

3. Video-production technologies

Attractive videos of home listings are par for the course these days, but you may be looking for new ways to use video in your agency. SpeakingPhoto allows you to snap photos of homes (or whatever you want) with a smartphone or tablet and quickly turn it into a video that can be shared via social media, email or wherever you’d like. An audio feature allows you to record a voiceover, too.

Matterport is a 3D camera technology that allows you to take impressively real video footage of homes and upload the video online within a couple hours. The video can be shared via a link and added to a home’s MLS listing or easily embedded on a web site.

4. Efficiency tools

Several apps can help real-estate agents work more efficiently. CamScanner lets you snap high-res photos of documents and share them. Dotloop is an online collaboration tool that allows you to create “loops” with individual clients that remind them about key steps they need to take in the home-buying or selling process and discuss progress toward those steps and share and sign important documents.

While maximizing technology to grow your real-estate agency is important, don’t forget the essentials—like making sure you have the right protections in place. Having the right coverage will help you feel more confident as you grow your business.

 

Next Steps:  Are you looking to expand and grow your small business but don’t have time to keep up with the latest trends and technology? We’ve got you covered with the weekly Small Biz Ahead newsletter. Sign up today and start receiving the weekly newsletter chock full of the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.

Why You Should Consider Adding Services to Your Retail Business

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As you aim to draw in younger consumers and grow your revenues, one trend can help: Offering extra services that improve shoppers’ experience while saving them time or money.

Alton Lane, a men’s clothing chain that has expanded into several U.S. cities, is one such retailer that’s taken a services-based approach. The store allows its clients (not “customers”) to book personal appointments with style experts who help them select custom-fit clothing that matches their tastes and style preferences, while they sip on a beverage of their choice. The store uses 3-D body scanners to ensure the clothing will fit well and provides delivery, so men don’t have to schlep bags out of the store.

“Most guys we know don’t like the typical shopping experience,” CEO Colin P.G. Hunter told the Boston Globe in 2012. “We treat them like they are coming into our home.”

While not every small retailer can afford to offer such high-end services, many can add low-cost services and perks that help them fend off competition from big-box stores, which tend to offer minimal frills. But before you look to expand your store’s services, make sure you have the right amount of insurance coverage lined up. (We’ve put together a primer on key risks small retailers face.)

Here are some tips for effectively adding services to your retail business :

1. Look for natural extensions to your operations

The best services to add are likely those that naturally accompany whatever you sell. A sporting goods store may offer equipment rentals or tune-up services, a shoe store may offer shoe repair or insole replacement services, whereas a gift store may offer free wrapping or a service that reminds customers via email about upcoming occasions they may need to buy gifts for, such as birthdays and anniversaries.

Some retailers come up with unique services that shoppers are unlikely to find elsewhere: Northwest Sporting Goods & Supply, a sporting goods and landscaping equipment store in Winsted, Connecticut, offers archery classes, trailer hitch and bike rack installation, and small-engine repair services, according its website. The store also offers U-Haul moving van rentals on site for customers who need to transport their purchases somewhere.

2. Get the pricing right

Should you offer the extra services for free or charge a fee? That may depend primarily on the cost of offering those services to your customers. Having an on-staff tailor is likely expensive, so unless the price of your clothing covers the cost of hiring a tailor, you may need to charge extra. Other services, such as free gift-wrapping, likely come at a low cost but are seen as a major value-add to your customers. 

3. Promote them widely

If you do offer services, make sure to actively promote them. You might feature the services on a “services” page on your website or mention them in your email newsletter or by the checkout counter.

Customers will likely see these services as a convenience and added value to their shopping experience. Today’s younger consumers, such as Millennials and Generation Z, seek richer experiences when they shop, so the more perks and experiences you can offer, the more likely you are to win their business.

 

Next Steps:  You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.

5 Scenarios That Mean You Should Invest in Updating Your Tech/Software

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To upgrade or not to upgrade?

That is the perpetual question facing small tech businesses. With software and hardware changing so rapidly in the tech world, it can be hard sometimes to know when to upgrade. When are you jumping the gun and spending money you don’t need to yet? When are you waiting too long and hindering your business growth? Here are five ways to know when it’s the right time to invest in upgrades – because your small tech biz can’t grow if you’re not keeping pace with the industry’s standards. And as your business grows, be sure to check your coverage and our guide to possible risks to make sure your business is safe to expand.

Scenario 1: When Your Company Appears Out-of-Date

Company reputation matters. That’s especially true when it comes to a small tech company’s software and hardware capabilities. If your customer-facing experience appears to be out-of-date in any way, that’s poison for your company. Are possible customers turning away from you because they see you as behind the curve compared to the rest of the industry (including your competitors)? It’s time to upgrade. You want to be sure that your company always conveys the ability to meet customers’ needs, with the most recent-as-possible tech. Otherwise, you’ll develop a reputation that will stunt your business’s growth.

Scenario 2: When Your Productivity Tools Are Hindering Productivity

Every small tech business needs the right tools to be effective and productive. Those tools could be programs – like Photoshop, Evernote, Quicken, or Dropbox – that streamline your company’s productivity. Or those tools could be things like graphic cards, RAM, or hard-drive storage that help run your operation. As your business expands, your software and hardware may fail to keep up with your needs. Limitations and inefficiencies can hold back your productivity, so as soon as you see this happening, update your tools to ensure you’re firing on all cylinders.

Scenario 3: When You Can Comfortably Afford To

Chances are when you started your small business, you were budget-conscious about what technology you purchased. That’s as it should be. But given how vital it is for your small tech business to be up-to-date, you want to stay ahead of the curve. So, when your business is really gaining momentum and cash flow, that’s a good time to update. Instead of seeing that success as a windfall, channel it into upgrades that will ensure you continue to keep pace with the industry. The result will be that you’re perfectly positioned to possess the tech to sustain your growth.

Scenario 4: When You’re at Risk

A recent survey showed that security threats like malware, employee error, and phishing attacks are serious concerns for small business owners. Those threats can be especially catastrophic for those who make their living with technology.  That’s why the moment any of your technology becomes outdated in a way that leaves you vulnerable to a cyber attack, you need to update. Whether it’s anti-virus programs, operating systems, wireless security, or something else, you want to ensure you’re never at risk. Every small business owner thinks it will never happen to them, until it does.  

Scenario 5: When You Need to Grow Your Business

As a small business owner, you naturally want to minimize expenses and maximize your profits. But the fact is that at some point the technology you depend on to run your business – or that is your source of business – is going to hit a ceiling that you have to blow through if you want to continue growing. There will come a time when your business just can’t go anywhere else without a move up. You need to be very honest with yourself about knowing when that crucial moment comes, even if it may result in a bit of a financial burden. A good decision to upgrade will make up the money you spend in no time.

 

Next Steps:  Are you looking to expand and grow your small business but don’t have time to keep up with the latest trends and technology? We’ve got you covered with the weekly Small Biz Ahead newsletter. Sign up today and start receiving the weekly newsletter chock full of the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.

Barber? Stylist? Here’s How to Take Advantage of the Beard Craze

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Beards are everywhere. It has become a massively popular trend for men to let their facial hair sprout. That trend is a golden opportunity for hair salons and barber shops looking to grow their business. Some stores are even reporting 30% increases in revenue thanks to this new fad. It makes sense: beards benefit from professional care just as much as the hair on the top of our heads. Here then are a few ways your business can take advantage of the beard craze to help take your success to the next level.  And as your business takes off, be sure your barber shop and hair salon coverage is updated to handle your growth. You should also check out our risk management guide for your business to make sure you’re safeguarded for all that more success brings.

Offer Professional Beard Services 

It goes without saying that the best way to take advantage of the beard craze is to offer beard-related services if you don’t already. But here’s what needs to be said: nobody will come to your shop for a shave or a trim if you don’t provide high quality service. You need to offer great beard care to ensure customers leave your store happy and want to come back. That means either hiring stylists and barbers who already have the know-how, or getting professional training for your current employees. No, YouTube “How to” videos don’t count. The better the quality you provide, the more you’re business will expand.

Sell Beard Care Supplies

Chances are you already stock a healthy selection of hair products to offer customers. Be sure to also add beard care supplies (brushes, oils, trimmers) to your shelves. Make sure you also have a nice range of offerings on hand. A good selection of beard products can be hard to find at a local drugstore. So if you conveniently have the good stuff on hand at your hair salon or barber shop, your bearded customers can stock up while visiting you, instead of going elsewhere.  And that means more money in your register.

Teach Your Customers Beard Maintenance 

Here’s a hard truth: customers aren’t always going to want to come to your shop every week for their beards. But their beards still need regular care, right? That’s why you should teach your customers proper at-home beard care. You can ask your stylists or barbers to do this during a regular visit, or you could even offer short in-store workshops. Teaching your customers how to properly take care of their beards will show that you know your stuff and earn their gratitude. More importantly, it’ll earn their loyalty. And the next time, they (or their friends) want a professional working over, they’ll come to you.

A Beard Can Be Turned Into a Haircut

Men who take their beards seriously often take their whole look seriously. Frequently, that means they like their haircut to compliment their beard. How can that help your business? Well, if a client comes in with beard needs, you could provide (gentle, not salesy) style consultation and encourage a haircut that would accentuate their beard. Or, it could work the other way around too; your stylists or barbers could recommend a beard cut to play up a haircut. Either way, it could easily lead to a little extra business to help you become a one-stop place for the bushy bearded.

 

Next Steps:  You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.

Do You Need to Upgrade Your Dental Equipment?

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The decision to upgrade equipment is not one that most dentists take lightly. New equipment can be costly. It can also come with a learning curve that temporarily disrupts the established routines that keep a practice running smoothly.

Although these are important considerations, carefully considered equipment upgrades may be warranted and advisable, especially given the continuous advances in dental technology today. In fact, new equipment that raises the level of the service you provide and the quality of the dental patient’s comfort and care may be just the right investment to make in the future of your practice.

These guidelines can help you evaluate if an equipment upgrade is in your best interest.

Essential Equipment

Practice essentials, such as the hydraulic patient’s chair, cabinetry, dental delivery systems and lighting are long-term investments. When maintained routinely and in accordance with manufacturer recommendations, you may never need to replace these types of equipment. Chairs can be reupholstered, and a maintenance program can help you keep both large and small equipment in like-new working order. And insurance will help protect your investment from the unique risks to a dental professional.

Specialized Dental Equipment

Innovations in dental technology are opening up new options for patient care and raising the bar for dental restorations, cosmetic procedures and endodontics. To keep pace with your competitors, here are some of the technologies to consider now and to watch for the future:

  • Digital X-rays have largely replaced traditional X-rays, resulting in less radiation exposure for patients and staff and better resolution than film.
  • Intraoral cameras capture and display digital images from inside the patient’s mouth. This allows the patient to see what you see – which is helpful for both educational purposes and case documentation.
  • Cone beam imaging creates a 3D digital model of a patient’s anatomy, offering a new standard of care for dental implant treatment planning as well as orthodontics, endodontics and other clinical imaging needs.
  • Dental sleep medicine diagnoses and treats patients with sleep apnea through the use of oral appliance therapy and upper airway surgery.
  • Open CAD/CAM systems allow you to fabricate chair-side restorations for cosmetic crowns, onlays and veneers.
  • Dental lasers provide a minimally invasive way to remove tooth decay, perform biopsies, remove lesions, and clean and whiten teeth.

Making a Decision

To determine the viability of a new purchase for your practice, carefully evaluate these important questions:

  • How will your patient care standards improve?
  • How will your practice change? What new services will you offer? What existing services will be improved?
  • What additional practice coverage will be necessary to insure your new equipment and protect your office?
  • Will your practice productivity go up?
  • What return on investment can you expect to receive?

For any purchase you may choose to make, be sure that you and your staff receive the training you need to maximize your use of the equipment. Also create a plan for marketing your investment so your patients can learn about your practice improvements and any new services you have to offer.

 

Next Steps:  You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.

5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy into the Next Big Thing

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In the small tech world, it seems like there’s always some software, hardware, service, or gadget that is claiming to be The Next Big Thing. You know, the kind of technology that promises to revolutionize your business and the world. The problem is, it can be hard to figure out early on if The Next Big Thing is the real deal (think: iPhone), or just unmerited hype (think: Google Glass).

It can be especially hard for a small business owner to decide if it’s worth spending your hard-earned money on the new technology. How do you distinguish hype from truth? We’ve collected five key questions to ask yourself the next time you hear about The Next Big Thing and find yourself wanting to hop aboard.

When adopting a new technology consider the impact it may have on other areas of your business. For instance does this Next Big Thing affect your insurance needs? It’s a good idea to check your insurance coverage. Changes to your business often create new risks, so it may be time to review a guide to risk management.  

1. “What Will the ROI Be?”

As a small business, you need every dollar you spend to provide a return on your investment. You don’t have the cash flow of a Fortune 500 company to gamble on investments that might not pan out. When The Next Big Thing’s (let’s shorten that to TNBT from now on) hype machine is hard at work, you’ll hear a lot of vague promises and marketing speak about what it can do for your business. Ignore it. Do your own homework. Ask questions. Speak to those who have tried it. Try it yourself. Make projections. Consult your accountant. Before you spend anything, make sure you know exactly how TNBT is going to make your money back and how soon.

2. “Will This Help My Business Grow?”

If you’re happy with the answer you came up with above, go one step further and ask, “How much will TNBT grow my business?” Adopting a new tech should always mean pushing your business forward. So, look at how TNBT could change your business. Will it streamline productivity, expand your services, connect you with more customers? You want to be sure new tech generates new and better business that will see your company improve and grow.

3. “How Much Will It Really Cost Me?”

Most technology comes with two costs: the one you see, and the one you don’t. Take printers, for example. On one hand, there’s what you pay for the printer. On the other hand, there’s the hidden long-term costs like ink cartridges, repairs, paper, and set-up. TNBT in tech is no different. It can come with installation fees, needed upgrades, employee training, and more. When you’re thinking about integrating TNBT into your business, be sure you’re aware of all the costs involved. Most importantly, be sure you can afford them. 

4. “Do I Really Need This Now?”

Frequently, TNBT sounds so exciting, so game-changing, you’ll feel like your business needs it right now. The reality is, that’s not always the case. When hype swirls around a new tech, it can be more about what it will do some day, not what it can do right now. Or, it may not even be properly tested, developed, or functional yet (think: the widely unpopular Windows 8). You wouldn’t buy an unripe banana and then eat it right away, would you? So, ask yourself: “Is this something I need immediately? Do I feel this technology is ready right now?” You may find you do need it right now. And that’s okay. Just make sure you’ve honestly answered that question for yourself before diving into TNBT.

5. “Do I Want It Because It’s Cool, or Because It’s Actually Useful for My Business?”

It’s the job of the company releasing TNBT to make the product sound like the coolest thing since the iPhone.  They pay a lot of money to create marketing buzz that will make you feel completely left out if you don’t get their product. But just because something sounds cool, doesn’t mean it’s actually useful (think: the Apple Watch). So, before you get too far along in your decision process, take a moment to step back and ask yourself whether it’s something your business really needs. If you’re a cloud accounting software company, chances are you probably don’t need a 3D printer—no matter how cool it is.

 

Next Steps:  Are you looking to expand and grow your small business but don’t have time to keep up with the latest trends and technology? We’ve got you covered with the weekly Small Biz Ahead newsletter. Sign up today and start receiving the weekly newsletter chock full of the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.

How to Hire The Right Employee to Grow Your Small Tech Biz

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Hiring the right employee to grow your small business is always important, but it’s especially key in the constantly changing small tech industry. That’s because you need to not only prepare for your current growth plans, but future ones too. You have to find an employee who is future-ready and eager to stay up-to-date with the shifts in your industry. Here are five tips to help you hire the kind of employee who will help your small tech business grow into the future.

And don’t forget: because new employees mean new insurance needs – especially in the tech world – be sure to not only update your business coverage, but check out our guide to potential risks so that you can safeguard yourself against them.

1. Invite a Tech Pro to Interview a Candidate With You

To find the right hire, you need to make sure a candidate really does know the small tech business. You don’t want to hire a resume embellisher. If you’re not technically inclined (or even if you are), a good way to filter out the pros from the posers is to include your top tech guru in the interview process. They’ll know exactly what to ask. If you don’t have a tech guru, use your network to find one to help you. Either way, you want someone on hand to ask the right questions that will get you the right employee.

2. Test Their Knowledge

Because a lot of small tech is driven by ability, you don’t want to test their theoretical knowledge alone (as you would above). You want to test hands-on knowledge too.  Can your potential new employee actually do what they say they can – whether it involves hardware, software, coding, or design? Devise a simple assignment or test to find out. Now, don’t overdo it. Too much heavy testing can scare good candidates away. But you do want to look out for yourself, and make sure a new hire’s skills and knowledge are all there so they can hit the ground running when you do hire them.

3. Make Sure They’re Constant Learners

Because the tech world is constantly evolving, your small business needs someone who is always evolving too. They should be passionate about learning the next big thing, because that will keep your business growing and up-to-date. How do you check for that? You can look at their social media feeds to see how often they’re engaged with the latest industry news. Or, during an interview, ask them where they think a technology that impacts your business is headed. Do what you have to in order to make sure your hire is someone who will voluntarily keep pace with the ever-changing tech world in a way that will help your business remain current. 

4. Ensure They’re a Good Company Culture Fit

Knowledge and abilities aren’t everything. You also want your new hire to be a good culture fit who adjusts seamlessly to your company’s values and team dynamics. A good way to do that is to just talk to them without any mention of their resume or the job. Just get to know them.

  • What’s their favorite food?
  • What are they passionate about beyond their career?
  • What Seinfeld character are they?

Find a way to get a sense of who they are, not just as employees, but as people. You’ll land a better hire as a result.

5. Offer a Career, Not a Job

Hiring the right employee isn’t just about candidates proving themselves to you. It’s also about what you offer to draw the perfect employee to grow your business. Because talented tech workers are often ambitious and passionate, one key thing to do is offer a career, not just a job. Promise them challenges, career advancement, and the possibility of both personal and corporate growth. Offering a home where employees can grow with the company, and make their mark on it will go a long way towards attracting the right kind of employee; one who will make a long-term difference for your company.

 

Next Steps:  Are you looking to manage your employees more effectively but don’t have time to keep up with the latest research and trends in talent management? We’ve got you covered with the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter. Sign up today and start receiving the weekly newsletter chock full of the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.

What You Need to Know About Managing New Accounting Employees

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Having new employees join your accounting firm has the potential for making your life easier, and talented employees can help catapult your business to the next level. New additions to your company don’t automatically become star employees, though. First you must guide them in conquering your company’s learning curve.

Here are five tips to ease the transition for your new accounting employees that will help ensure they settle in and become successful additions to your team.

1. Prepare

Avoid waiting until new employees start working to tackle logistics such as the location of their workstations and the scope of their responsibilities. Write up job descriptions and detailed lists of duties and expectations to give employees on their first days, along with the company manual. Include in the welcome materials information such as the firm’s organizational chart and its history. This will give them some perspective and a deeper understanding of your business.

Prior to adding to your employee roster, check your accounting firm coverage to ensure that you’re adequately covered as an employer. And consult an accounting risk management list to consider the unique liabilities your company may face.

2. Immediately Give Them Real Work

Instead of handing new employees busywork that doesn’t advance the goals of your company and wastes everyone’s time, assign initial tasks that will be a part of their regular responsibilities. Doing this gets them in the right frame of mind from the start, and their performance will help you gauge their ability level. Make sure that along with their assignments you give them the necessary support and tools to perform at their optimum.

3. Be Realistic

You most likely have big plans for your new employees, but remind yourself that they are new to your company and your way of doing business. Training will take time, and they are bound to ask a lot of questions along the way. Seemingly simple tasks may take new hires a while to master, so take it slow and steady when it comes to your expectations.

4. Remember to Provide Feedback

For the first few months, new employees are likely to be unsure about whether they are hitting the mark with their performance. Although they may think or hope that they’re doing a good job, they can’t be sure unless you give them constructive feedback. Alerting them to what they’re doing right and where they need to improve allows you to steer them in your desired direction from the very beginning. This prevents new hires from developing bad habits, and it fosters a positive work environment by keeping lines of communication open.

5. Make the Experience Welcoming

Being the “new kid on the block” can be nerve-racking. Ease newbie employees into the office fold by ensuring that everyone is friendly and helpful. Giving tours of your facility soon after employees first arrive will make them feel comfortable in their new surroundings. If you have several established employees in the office already, arrange for meet-and-greet time during the first few days. Consider going out for lunch or holding an informal after-hour’s event in the office. Employees who get to know you and the rest of the team are likely to assimilate more quickly.

New employees can be just what your accounting firm needs to meet growth goals. Doing whatever it takes to make new hires feel welcomed and well-equipped is your best bet for creating an office environment where they are likely to succeed.

 

Next Steps:  Are you looking to manage your employees more effectively but don’t have time to keep up with the latest research and trends in talent management? We’ve got you covered with the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter. Sign up today and start receiving the weekly newsletter chock full of the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.

Hire Temporary Help to Grow Your Real Estate Business

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As an entrepreneur, you are probably naturally self-reliant and may enjoy the satisfaction that comes with managing everything on your own. Although being independent is generally a positive trait , it can hinder your business’s growth if you don’t know when to rely on other people’s time and expertise.

Real estate agents are busier than ever these days, competing for new business and helping clients buy and sell properties. Outsourcing some of your non-profit-generating tasks can help you focus on activities that actually make you money.

Before you outsource, however, make sure to have the right insurance coverage in place to deal with your real estate agent risks.

Here, then, are some tasks you should consider outsourcing:

1. Administrative work

Always answering calls and emails and filling out and organizing documents? Even though it can feel unnatural to hire someone else to do these everyday administrative tasks, consider the time savings you could reap. You might be spending several hours a week just answering inquiries and dealing with paperwork and bookkeeping when you could be meeting new clients or focusing on helping your clients. You can hire a freelance administrative assistant who works in your office or you can use companies like Agent Solutions and Real Support that specialize in providing virtual assistants to real estate agents.

2. Odd jobs

If you find yourself needing a lot of help, or well-trained help, hiring a part- or full-time virtual assistant may be  the best solution. A virtual assistant “can tackle everything from incoming calls to coordinating new listings in the Multiple Listing Service,” writes Gina Thelemann on Inman.

However, even if you don’t have the money (or time) to hire and train an assistant, consider paying people to perform infrequent jobs for your real estate agency. Perhaps this could include running short errands—like picking up or dropping off documents—or even writing copy for your web site.

Several apps and online tools, including TaskRabbit, Fiverr and Elance, can help you find people willing to perform short-term tasks,  sometimes for as little as $5 or $15.

3. Photography & Staging

You, of course, need to make the properties you sell look as attractive as possible to prospective buyers. It makes sense, then, to hire professionals to take photos of the properties and help you decorate them most effectively.

Professionals will have tools and best practices that you may not know about. A photographer, for example, can use lenses and editing techniques to make a room look bigger or brighter or turn the photos into animated slideshows.

Brad Sage, vice president of operations at Toronto-based Sage Real Estate, told Realtor Mag in 2013 that his firm hires professional photographers and pays $100 to $140 per listing for photos and $500 to $2,500 per listing for videography services. Though the firm has on-staff marketing expertise, hiring professional photographers helps ensure the firm stays on top of the latest trends in real estate photography and maintains the image of being a high-quality real estate firm.

Whenever you outsource, evaluate the people you’re working with in advance and make sure they are reliable and have the expertise you need. Elance and TaskRabbit let you read reviews of prospective workers, but you can also use online review sites like Yelp. Even when you’re outsourcing, you want to make sure you’re hiring quality help that upholds your company’s image and reputation.

 

Next Steps:  Imagine a world where your employees show up on time, work smart and deliver results for your small business day in and day out. Not there yet? Sign up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter and we’ll send you the best science-backed strategies on managing productive, happy employees—including tips on how to get them to show up on time!

5 Ways to Get More Accounting Clients

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As an accountant, you know that a constant inflow of new clients is the key to a financially self-sustaining company. Acquiring more customers may prove one of your most challenging tasks, but the following easy-to-implement business building tactics can help you create a thriving practice.

1. Spread the Word with Public Speaking.

Get past the jitters commonly associated with public speaking, and you can reap the benefits of sharing your knowledge with captive audiences. As an accountant, you’re a credible professional expert worth listening to. Take advantage of this positive reputation by sharing your kernels of wisdom. Audiences are bound to take your message seriously, which should conclude with a call to consider your services.

Many organizations include speeches from outside experts in their regular programming. Organizations where you might share your expertise include chapters of Kiwanis International and Rotary International, investment clubs, the local Chamber of Commerce and professional associations, such as those for physicians and lawyers. In order to get yourself invited to speak, send an introductory email to the individuals in charge of programming that highlights your accounting background and lists various speech topics.

2. Write a Blog.

Develop a lively, readable blog that touches on topics of interest to your clients. If it is well-written and addresses common concerns and questions, over time you’ll reap the benefits of writing a blog, which include notoriety as a go-to expert in your field. Your blog is also an effective marketing tool that can be sent out to prospective clients.

3. Develop Referral Partnerships.

Teaming up with other businesses to refer each other’s services is an age-old marketing ploy with a high success rate. Get together with small businesses that complement yours and agree to suggest each other’s services when appropriate. Piggybacking off of each other’s marketing efforts can create exponential results. For instance, teaming up with a small business lawyer is an obvious match.

If you do decide to partner up with another business, protect yourself and your company by reviewing your accounting practice insurance policy prior to doing so. There are likely to be liability risks associated with teaming up. If you’re unsure of any potential risks—no worries—we’ve developed an easy to review list of accounting risks for you.

4. Encourage Rave Reviews.

In this age of reviews, word-of-mouth advertising is a highly effective way to call attention to your accounting company. An increasing number of people check out reviews prior to even considering using a business. Not many accountants take advantage of the power of public opinion, so this gives you a chance to shine.

Build up your reviews by asking existing clients to write them. Offer incentives for doing so, such as a complementary tax assessment or a giveaway. The ideal time to ask for reviews is as soon as you finish work for clients when you’re fresh on their minds. Encourage as many reviews as possible by making the process simple to complete.

5. Sell Accounting Packages.

Many accountants are unfocused in their approach to selling their services. Rather than highlight your skills and background and sell your time, which puts the spotlight on you, refocus on clients and their needs. Offer accounting packages tailored specifically to customers. For instance, appeal to various categories of clients by offering deals such as basic tax packages, as well as more extensive bundles that include services like consulting on budgeting, tax flow and strategic tax planning. People are more likely to respond and answer your call to action when they see exactly how your services can help them.

Though it might seem a bit daunting to get the attention of prospective customers, if you follow these tried-and-true methods, you’re sure to see some new business coming your way soon.

 

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