Bitrix24 – A Recommended Business Management Tool For Real Estate

A real estate client of mine needed a business management tool that would enable her to have a birds-eye view of her business and at the same time help her business grow. I recommended Bitrix24.

Bitrix24 is easy to learn and intuitive. Anyone who uses social media like Facebook or Linkedin should have no problems learning it.

She started by explaining to me what processes are followed in the business. When a potential seller contacts them, they do a free market evaluation in order to determine the value of the seller’s property. If the seller decides to list, the property is advertised for a year. If the property has not sold during that time, the seller needs to sign documentation to relist the property. If there are buyer queries, there is a procedure to be followed to match the right buyer to the right seller. There is also a procedure for closing a sale.

Using Bitrix24, I set up automatic lead captures for the free market evaluations from her website. I then wrote and set up the procedure which is followed to do the market evaluation to ensure that each market evaluation is done in the same way. I also wrote and set up an automatic series of follow-up emails to ensure that the lead is kept engaged with the company until they decide to list.

Once the potential seller decides to list, I wrote and set up the procedure on how to handle a new listing. I also set up a reminder system for follow-up with the seller at set intervals after they listed their property. In addition, I set up a reminder system to alert them to when their listing agreement is due to expire and if they don’t renew, to send them an expiry notice. Again, if a seller’s listing expired without them taking action to renew it, I wrote and automated the email follow-up with them to encourage them to list with us again.

With Bitrix24, it is also easy to generate reports on the number of new listings received during a particular period, how many sales were made, how much commission was earned, the average days a listing is on the market before it sells, the growth from year to year, etc at the click of a button.

Another advantage is that when each employee logs onto Bitrix24 every morning, there is a complete list of what they should be doing during that day with deadlines attached. This ensures that no tasks can fall through the cracks. It is also very easy for employees to communicate with each other using Bitrix24, eliminating the need for back and forth emails or meetings.

This year to date there has been an increase of over 50% compared to last year in the number of sales made, which is very gratifying. The number of people that have chosen to list with us has also increased dramatically with the automatic follow-ups.

There are other useful features in Bitrix24 which I haven’t covered here which have definitely helped to streamline her business.

I believe Bitrix24 can be customized easily to fit any kind of business. However, customizing it for a real estate company has worked extremely well with excellent results.

How to Achieve Your Goals in The New Year

Achieve your goals

During a recent survey on successful people, it was discovered that one of the main difference between the top achievers and the rest was that those in the top 10% had clearly defined goals.  When the researchers probed deeper they found that the people who were in the very top ranks of the highest achievers were distinguished by the fact that they had their goals written down.

The tragic thing is that most people wish for far more than they will ever need, but because of an inability to set realistic goals they end up with far less than they could have attained.

Why do so few people set goals?

  • They have never been told about it.  Although they could have at some time experienced the pleasure of a short term goal setting and getting, they don’t realize the importance of consciously setting goals.
  • Fear of failure.  Many people never try anything for fear that it won’t work.  They often do not realize that the superachievers are just human like them and that they have put in very long hours of work to achieve their success.
  • Procrastination.  We intend to do things, and make goals and change our lives but somehow we never get around to doing it.

How to set and achieve your goals for next year

What is your overall business aim for next year?   Would you like to start a business, expand your business, expand your client base, create a new range of products or services, or simply to earn more?  There are five measures to set and achieve your goals.

1.  Is your goal clearly defined?

This is where most goal plans fail.  It is useless to have a goal to earn more this year.  You must know how much more you want to earn.

Take the example of a passenger ship.  What would the results be if a ship were to chart its course in “some port in the ocean sometime in 2014?  Compare this vague goal with “I wish to expand my business so that it can earn me $4 million this year.”

2.  Is the goal believable?

Do you think you can achieve what you have set out to do?  Your goal can be ambitious, but if you prepare a detailed plan you might see that it is quite possible to achieve.

3.  Is the goal keenly desired?

Without a strong motivation, you will stray off course.  You must really want it more than anything else to be able to achieve it.

4.  Do you have a detailed plan?

Do you know exactly how you are going to reach this goal?  Have you broken it down into a step-by-step process?  Have you prepared a budget?  If you are unsure, you can learn from the experience of others who have attained something similar.

5.  Are the benefits vividly imagined?

You need plenty of continuing motivation to give you the strength to remain steadfast in the face of all the temptations that will surely come along.  Picture yourself in 5 years’ time, having achieved your goals, living the benefits that achieving the goal will bring.

Once a detailed plan is drawn up, you realize that what until now was a vague dream, can be readily translated into reality.  You become excited about your goal and have no trouble seeing yourself do the hard work to get the reward and then being able to enjoy an early retirement free from money worries.

So how do you get started to achieve your goals?

Starting is always the hardest thing and in goal setting, it pays to start small and build up some confidence with little successes.  Once you start to do this the excitement of having accomplished the little things will lead you on to the harder tasks.

It has been proven that the completion of cycles (or tasks)  provides us with energy and that a lot of uncompleted cycles in our life makes us fatigued.  If you get out of bed late one morning, fall over your shoes, stagger out to a kitchen full of last night’s dirty dishes, climb into a filthy car full of rubbish and then face a desk covered in papers you will understand how tired a myriad of uncompleted cycles makes you feel.

Once you get into the habit of finishing a job before you start the next, you will discover a whole new energy source.

Try the following exercise next weekend.  Get a sheet of paper and write out a list of those things you have been putting off that need to be done around the house.  Now write against each item the time it will take to do, and write on the list when you intend to do it (today or tomorrow).  Next, get stuck into it and make sure you keep at it until it is all finished.  You will be amazed at how good it makes you feel and how much energy it gives you.

If you are serious about running a successful business, you will need to master the art of setting and achieving your goals.  If you can do it, and it is not difficult, your success is guaranteed.

Delegation and its consequences

What is delegation?

Delegation is sharing tasks and authority with your team in order to accomplish your goals more quickly and effectively.

What happens if you don’t delegate?

• Your stress levels increase because you have more work than you can cope with
• This leads to unaccomplished tasks on your plate
• Your small business suffers
• Client expectations are not met

What happens if you do delegate?

• You can meet the demands of your business
• You create competence in your employees
• You nurture a sense of responsibility and trust
• Your small business benefits
• Client expectations are met

Why is it so difficult to delegate?

I encounter small business owners daily who find it extremely hard to delegate. They know that it’s the right thing to do, but are scared of losing control of the outcome. They know that they can likely do the task themselves more quickly and better than if they delegate it. They also are afraid that the time it will take to supervise the task will be more than if they simply did it themselves.

I met a business owner with the motto: “If I do it myself, I know it will get done.” This may be true, but he has a huge amount of stress because he tries to do it all himself, and the prospects of his business growing past a one-man show is very slim.

A simple example of the consequences of delegation

A client contacts two small businesses to complete a similar project. The deadlines are tight.

The owner of Company A understands how critical time is. Because time is so tight, he cannot go back later to reconsider or check the work done. He considers that his team have made some mistakes in the past, so he decides to tackle the project himself.

The owner of Company B also understands how tight the deadline is. He also realises that he won’t have much time to review the work done. He therefore sits down and breaks the project into specific parts. He then delegates each part to a team member. This frees him to check the work, since he has also noticed that his team has made some mistakes in the past.

Both the small companies meet the deadline with their projects. However, Company B delivers a more complete and well-thought out project. Company A with its overburdened manager ended up sacrificing quality just to get the job done.

Who will the client chose for the next project?

6 Reasons Why Things Go Wrong in a Small Business

It may seem discouragingly pessimistic to start the new year thinking about business failure.

However, being aware of potential pitfalls help you avoid them in future.

Areas where businesses seem to most often experience problems:

1. A bad idea from the start

Introducing a product or service for which there is neither need nor demand is the surest route to failure.  A good idea must be commercially viable in order to succeed.

2. Unchartered waters

So many small business owners launch into their ventures without a plan or clearly defined goals.  It is like starting a journey through unchartered territory, without a map or even a destination.  How will you know when you are there?

3. Forgetting to budget

Very few small businesses yield a large profit from day one.  You need to budget so that you don’t run out of money just before you make it big.  Start-up costs often turn out to be much higher than expected.

Money is the life-blood of your business.  A cash-flow squeeze is the single most common cause of small business failure.

Sentiment can compound the problem.  Small business owners are often reluctant to charge people (especially family and friends) for the real worth of their products or services.

4. The human factor

Personalities play a crucial part in the success of failure of a small business.  Business partnerships are comparable to marriages:  tough times, long hours and constant contact can bring out the worst in the relationship.

Small business owners often cannot bring themselves to hire people to do the things they can’t or don’t have time for, or even to ask for help.  Others make the mistake of hiring someone just because his/her labour is cheap.  It is better to have someone who is competent working two hours a week than a full-time incompetent soul.

You are the driving force behind your business:  progress will depend on how much energy and enthusiasm you put into it.  If you’re prepared to do whatever it takes to succeed, you will succeed.

5. Falling off the rails

So many small businesses fail because their owners underestimate the importance of keeping up-to-date with simple day-to-day matters, picking up problems only when they have reached serious, even irremediable proportions.

One serious mistake can take you years to recover from.

Expanding too quickly when you don’t have the infrastructure to handle it can prove fatal.

Failure to keep up with what is happening in the marketplace can lead to major setbacks as you lose touch with customer requirements, new trends, and what your competitors are up to.

6. Marketing mishaps

Many small business owners assume that their wonderful product or service will sell itself – and they learn better, too late.

However, there is no surer way to learn a lesson than through your mistakes.

Staying a step ahead

Just because you are achieving what you set out to do doesn’t mean that you can sit back and relax.  Some guiding points:

  • Retain your focus and stick with your original, researched concept.  At all costs maintain your planned path, and stay with your market.
  • Be meticulous about keeping up to date with your financial management and accounting systems.  Maintain stringent controls and don’t take too much money out of the business.  Outsource this to a reliable VA if you don’t have the time to spend on it.
  • Customer service is paramount.  Develop personal relationships with your clients.  Extra special service is something people are prepared to pay even more for.  Poor service is the quickest and most effective way of shedding customers and a good reputation.
  • Keep up to date:  ensure that you are constantly aware of trends and take time out to establish what your competitors are doing.
  • Continuous marketing is a vital ingredient of growth.  Never sit back and expect business to keep on flowing your way, even if things are going really well.  Think constantly of new ways to improve your marketing strategy.
  • Take time often to reassess your goals, your direction and your strategies.

May this year be the year that you exceed your dreams for your small business!

The Basics of a Business Continuity Plan

Any organization is at risk for the following:

  • Natural disasters (floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, fire)
  • Environmental disasters (like chemical spills)
  • Accidents
  • Sabotage
  • Losing key personnel
  • Cyber attacks and hacker activity
  • Theft
  • IT system crashes
  • Power and energy disruptions

Sadly, many small business owners never take the time to develop a plan to address disaster striking.  It is only once they have experienced first-hand the devastating consequences that they wish that they had implemented a plan in advance. This is a great pity, because a Business Continuity Plan is the least expensive insurance for a small business.  In fact, it gives your organization a competitive edge.  Perhaps it may not seem so now, but when the time comes, it will be worth its weight in gold. A business continuity plan that works means that your company will survive a disaster and can continue its operations no matter what the circumstances.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A Business Continuity Plan is simply a proactive documented planning process that insures that critical services or products are delivered during a disruption. It stipulates how employees will communicate, where they will go, and how they will keep on doing their jobs in case of a disaster. It is important to identify the core operational systems and work processes so that the services and products can be delivered to your customers, no matter what happens.

What is included in a Business Continuity Plan?

Every business is different, and you will have to analyze what the bare minimum is for your business to survive.  A few ideas of what to include are listed below:

  • Who your key personnel and backups are
  • External contacts
  • Critical equipment (eg. PC’s)
  • Critical documents (everything you would need to start your business again)
  • Responsibility list of who does what and how they should do it if disaster strikes

Who needs it?

Every organization and business should have a Business Continuity Plan.  It is especially important for small businesses as they are far more vulnerable to external circumstances.

Why do they need it?

  • It ensures that a business has the resources and information needed to deal with disasters.
  • It safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, its reputation and its value-creating activities.
  • It gives an organization the opportunity to identify the potential impacts of disasters that threaten it, and to develop a framework and system of responding to the disaster in a timely and appropriate manner.
  • It is becoming more and more common that potential customers want to see that there is a Business Continuity Plan in place to protect their interests in the company.
  • It safeguards your company’s reputation.


It is essential that once a Business Continuity Plan is in place, that all staff should be trained as to what their role is in case of disaster. To further streamline the implementation of the Business Continuity Plan, you should test it from time to time, making the necessary adjustments where hiccups are experienced. Most importantly, the Business Continuity Plan must be updated regularly as the business changes.  It is not a document to be compiled and then forgotten about. A Business Continuity Plan is not just there to cover high profile disasters.  It is about being ready for any incident that may cause disruption to your business.  Rather be prepared than sorry.

The importance of small business planning

Starting your own business is a lifelong dream of many.  Whether the reason is not to work for a boss, doing what you are passionate about or claiming financial independence, the vision often does not extend beyond opening the doors of the business.  Where should the growth of the business take it in the next few years?

No one gets rich without having a clear idea of how to accomplish it.  Success in any field needs a structure.  Yet the lack of planning in new businesses is ridiculously high.  You can temporarily get away without a plan if you run the business on your own (even if research has shown that only 7% of unwritten goals reach fruition).

However, the moment you employ other people, you run into problems.  You need to communicate to them what the business is trying to achieve, and how the jobs fit together into an integrated whole.

You also want to communicate clearly to potential clients that you have set up your business with the intention of growing it.  You need to be able to demonstrate that your business with its current team can get the job done, and that policies and procedures are in place to ensure this.

What unfortunately often happens is that early business success makes us think we don’t need a plan.

If there is not a plan with a clearly defined direction and guidelines, you become so task orientated that you lose sight of your goals. There may be a vague goal that revolves around increasing productivity, but without actionable steps it does not mean much.  You will not have significant growth in your business.

Ultimately, business failure comes down to one thing:  lack of knowledge.  Setting up a clear plan with actionable steps helps ensure that you and your employees know exactly where you are heading and how to achieve it.

A small business needs to be far more nimble and flexible than a big business.  Create your plans keeping this in mind.  If necessary, get outside help or hire people with the right knowledge to guide you in setting up a business plan.

Henry Ford said:  Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.  What are you doing to get ready for your business to flourish?

Feel free to contact Virtual Productivity Solutions for advice and guidance in setting up a business plan.

Avoid the major pitfalls that send 95% of small businesses into failure

Whether starting your current business is your first shot at being an entrepreneur or your tenth try at freeing yourself from a job you hate, you want to make sure that you fall into the roughly 5% of businesses that succeed…and perhaps you’ll even skyrocket your profits and find your way into the top 1% of income earners.

You can find many recommendations, in the form of different philosophies and ideas, on what it takes to become successful in what you are doing.  However, you want to make sure that throughout the process, you are keeping yourself in check and avoiding the pitfalls that could cause you spiraling into business failure.

There are several mistakes that a beginning entrepreneur can make.  Eventually, these can lead to complications in your business, or even a complete business failure.  Most likely, you can expect the first year to two years to be the most difficult, simply because you will be working the hardest for lowest financial returns.

A lot of the work in these early years includes determining your organizational structure, developing basic business policies and identifying needs for success.  If one of these areas is overlooked or missed, you may find yourself starting over again.

The major way to avoid pitfalls in your business is to make policies and then stick to them.  The policies should include how you will build and maintain strong customer relationships.  It also includes finding the best solutions for getting contracts signed, upholding your work ethic and keeping up the quality of products or services that will keep your customers happy.

At the heart of any successful business is a bold vision and strong policies.  By defining your own policies now, you will be able to find the best customers and will avoid the downfall that many beginning businesses run into.  The terms of service that you create are the ones that will stabilize your success for years.

Not sure where to start in creating your policies? Contact Virtual Productivity Solutions to find out how we can take your vision and translate it into solid policies that will serve as the foundation for your business success.

Ways to Address Workplace Conflict

Ways to Address Workplace Conflict

Conflict can be defined as a disagreement between two parties.  This disagreement stems from a perception of a threat to their needs, interests or concerns.  And because it is perceived, emotion is involved.

Conflict can occur between two colleagues, between a manager and a staff member, or between the company and clients.

Some causes for workplace conflict could include:

  • Poor communication channels
  • Unclear policies, procedures and rules
  • Unclear job descriptions
  • Unclear reporting structure
  • Operational changes

Most of these causes can be addressed to minimize conflict.  Yet conflict is a normal occurrence in any workplace. Conflict leads to a decline in productivity.  This is a crucial problem that needs to be addressed without delay.

Some ways to address conflict I have found useful are listed below.

Conflict between two colleagues

  • It is best to focus both parties on the goal.  This can be done by discussing the matter with both parties.
    • Allow each party to state their problem in about 5 minutes or less in front of you and their colleague.  They are not allowed to interrupt or restate their position until they have stated the other person’s position to their approval.  It forces them to look at the other person’s side.
    • Ask each party what they see as the ideal outcome for the conflict.  Which steps would they like the other party to take?  Are there any solutions or better ways to work so that this conflict does not occur again?
  • Another method is using a group meeting for them to air their opinions on how to reach a goal, and then having other people give input into achieving that goal. Often the conflicting parties will gain a more objective perspective this way.  They could even realize that they were not as different as they had initially thought.

 Conflict between yourself and your manager

This type of conflict can sometimes be rather obscure (sensed, rather than outright conflict).  One way to avoid this conflict is by open communication.

It is your job to let your manager look good.  It is essential that he/she be updated on any progress made, problems experienced, etc. Discuss your feelings of conflict with your manager.  Ask for suggestions from his/her side on how you can solve the problem.

It is essential to take the differences out of the emotional sphere into the rational by focusing on the goal or end result the organization wants to attain.

Conflict between the company and clients

It is crucial to actively listen, because someone who initiates the confrontation is not necessarily objective or rational. No one can argue with an emotion.

  • Recognize the emotion.  When a person is upset, they appreciate it if other people can understand what they are feeling (eg. anger, disappointment, feelings of hurt or rejection, etc)
  • Accept the emotion.  By listening actively, you can communicate to the client that their feelings are totally legitimate, and that you understand and accept that they feel that way.
  • Probe the emotion.  Sometimes the issue raised with your company may have its origin nowhere you’d expect to find it.  Probing the emotion diffuses the emotions and opens the door to reason and logic.

While conflict is a normal occurrence in the workplace, it can have a detrimental effect on productivity.  Therefore it is preferable to find the quickest informal resolution to the conflict you can, in order to maximize productivity and save the costs and unnecessary time of a formalized conflict.

What methods do you use to resolve conflict in the workplace?  Please share them below.