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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Commercial Edition   |   March 2009

3 Tips for Working Virtually

A tight lending environment requires the ability to always be there for clients and closings

Commercial property-buyers make decisions based on many factors. When choosing a mortgage broker with whom to work, a company's reputation is important to a property-buyer, as is the ease in working with
that company.

Buyers also often need to move fast to secure a mortgage loan so they can close their deal. There is a sense of urgency, and the broker who is ready and able is often the one who wins the buyer's business.

Whether you manage clients from a remote office regularly or work from the road only occasionally, you must always remain present to keep your business growing. It's not impossible. In fact, today, it's quite the opposite -- cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), Wi-Fi networks and other quick communication tools allow us to manage our work away from the office effectively.

Here are three tips that brokers can follow to succeed in a virtual environment.

1. Stay in the loop

For brokers who work from home -- or for those who work from hotels while traveling -- some things are necessary for success. Along with the mandatory computer and helpful PDA, here are some must-haves:

  • Online and phone connections: A wireless network or high-speed Internet access is a must to stay connected. In hotels, in-room conveniences such as speakerphones and data ports are helpful, as well.
  • Business support and conveniences: At home, having a copier and printer often is essential. At hotels, they also are important, as are 24-hour business centers.
  • E-mail-communication guidelines: Having clear guidelines for e-mail communication keeps it from becoming a time-waster. Unsubscribe to e-mails that offer no value to you. Only copy people on e-mails who need the information. Choose specific times to read and answer e-mails so you can have uninterrupted time for your most strategic work.
  • Conference-call and Web-conferencing software: These programs can help you connect to meetings from anywhere.

2. Stay on course

Having project-management tools and guidelines helps you stay on top of your projects and deals. Before leaving your office, be sure you have people who can handle things during your absence.

If your team members start on the same page with techniques and rules already in place, they will have a much better shot at success.

Every project should include:

  • A project agreement (e.g., scope, boundaries, risk tolerance and constraints);
  • A project plan (e.g., schedules, budgets, milestones, risk management and change management);
  • A team communication plan (e.g., status reports, approval process and e-mail distribution); and
  • Lessons-learned records (e.g., what worked and did not work with the project so you can increase your chance of success on future projects).

3. Read the room

Understanding the sentiments in the room allows you to address and resolve any issues arising between departments or individuals, even when you're not there. Cutting to the chase and repairing communication breakdowns immediately will let a deal continue.

You can do this virtually through applications like instant messaging. Emoticons and quick, unedited responses can communicate volumes -- though sometimes giving false impressions -- and also signal when you should pick up that old-fashioned technology: the phone.

You are here

No matter where you operate from, making yourself easily reachable for your clients and for your co-workers and staff can ensure your success. You can use technology to your advantage to keep tight communication. In addition, to keep things running smoothly, setting up guidelines will empower your team to help your clients in your absence.

Ultimately, by staying connected and available, you'll likely close more deals and see many favorable outcomes just by being accessible.


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