Must-Must Have Systems & Tools For Realtors

No matter what stage you’re at in your real estate business journey, the right tools can help you get organized, reach your goals, stay out of trouble and save you dozens of hours with automation. But systems and tools will only work for you, if you use them consistently.

In this 4-part Series, I share the must-have systems and tools you need (along with why and when you need them) so that you can create a profitable real estate business you’re proud of.

Listen Now:

FREE Download: 51 Must-Have Tools For Realtors


Episode Transcript:

Hello hello, Jen Percival here. You’re listening to the women rocking real estate show where I try to share different ways to build a real estate business that you’re proud of, without using tactics that make you feel…well not excited about and not proud of.

Today’s episode is all about business systems. Doesn’t sound very sexy, I know, I get it…..BUT….you cannot run a viable business, any business and real estate is certainly no exception without systems.

So, you need systems to run a successful business – that’s fact #1. Fact #2 is that you need systems you’re actually going to use consistently. Because if you have systems and you’re feeling good about yourself for just having them, but you’re not using them…..well you really don’t have systems do you and if you don’t have systems, you don’t have a viable business. Make sense?

So You need systems and you need systems you’re actually going to use and that is what this series is all about. I’m going to be diving into what I believe are all of the systems every agent on this planet needs, whether you’re brand new to real estate or have been doing this for decades – everyone needs the same systems. What may be different, is the TOOL you use for that system and we’re going to unpack all of that as well.

Now if I tried to cover all of this in one episode, it would be at least 2-3 hours long and I don’t think anyone wants to listen to me ramble on for two hours about anything, let alone business systems and tools.

So I am going to be joining you every week for the next 4 weeks, instead of every month like I usually do. Each week I’ll be doing a deep dive into all of the systems that I recommend agents need under the umbrellas of Operations, Marketing, Sales and Scaling. I’m also going to be covering the tools I recommend for those systems, depending on what stage your business is at. Hopefully these weekly episodes will also be much shorter and easier to consume AND even more importantly, I’ve also created a cheat sheet that gives you links to 51 different tools I’ll be recommending, so that you don’t have to remember and go hunting for them. You should be able to find a link to download it from the show notes wherever you’re listening to each episode, otherwise you can head on over to my website at womenrockingrealestate.com/tools and find it there.

Alright before we dive into the good stuff, a quick shout out of love to all of you that took the time to leave me a review on apple podcasts. I read each and every one of them – sadly often more than once due to my unhealthy need for validation, so they always give me the motivation to keep creating these episodes. Big thank you to Sam M, Boise Idaho girl, Kristin, Staci, 3xthecharm, Lori, Marina, Lovedrawsomething, 124MSW, Vilija, Kaso4 and Jessica. You all rock and appreciate you so much.

Ok let’s get to why you’re here.

This week we’re going to be talking about all of the systems you need that fall under the umbrella of the operations of your business. Now operations sounds really boring, I get it. But they make up the foundation of your business and when they’re overlooked, you’re guaranteed to run into problems.

System #1 – Money Management System

Given that, the first system that every realtor needs, is a money management system. Poor money management at best can get you into trouble and at worst can actually bankrupt you and I am not being dramatic when I say that. I know an agent that didn’t file or pay taxes for 2 years and owed over $200k. She had spent all the money she made and ended up having to file for bankruptcy. Nighmare. So setting up a money management system from day one is a great best practice and if you’ve been in real estate for awhile but haven’t got this set up, now’s the time to start.

I recommend everyone has a separate business credit card (one with a rewards program like travel or cash back) and every single business expense goes on this credit card. Never ever mix personal and business expenses – I’ve seen so many agents get audited and not be able to write off business expenses that they used a personal account for as well. So you want a business credit card. You also want a business chequing and savings account. All of your commission cheques go into your chequing account and then you immediately transfer income tax and any other state or provincial taxes into your Savings account. Here in Ontario, we get paid an additional 13% in HST which is a sales tax on our commission cheques. So many agents go and spend that money instead of putting it aside into a savings account.

Next you want to integrate your bank accounts with an accounting software. The tool I recommend is in the cheatsheet for this episode. On a quarterly basis, you want to import all of your transactions into your accounting software and reconcile your income and expenses. Whatever you show as owing for tax instalments, pay it quarterly. Whatever money is left in your savings account, keep it there. Tax season will be a breeze and there will be no unexpected surprises.

As soon as it makes sense to, incorporate or in the states form an LLC. Keep all of your money in your company and only take out what you need. When it comes to managing your money – remember that there are two ways to build your wealth. One is by making more money obviously, but the other is by spending less money and in my opinion this one is really under-rated. But it’s the strategy I used to build my own wealth. Never spend over your means, but the real secret is to never spend to you means. For one, real estate is really unpredictable and when you spend to your means every year, there becomes a lot of pressure and financial need to keep making more money. Just because you do really well one year, doesn’t mean you will the next. But even if you do really well for years, don’t spend it it all. I saved between $100k and $200k every year I’ve been in real estate. Some of that money I used to purchase more real estate, some of it gets re-invested back into my business and the rest is invested inside my company, in the stock market. I have everything I could ever need, but I rarely splurge on expensive things. I question almost everything I spend money on that that strategy has worked really well in helping me accumulate wealth.

There’s a really good book about Money Management called Profit First, that I recommend everyone reads and implements.

System #2 – Goal Setting, Business Planning & Tracking

Alright moving along, the next system that every realtor needs to have in their business, is one to set annual goals, a business plan of how they’re going to get there and a mechanism for tracking where they are in reaching those goals. I can’t tell you how many agents I talk to that don’t have a goal set, let alone a plan of how to get there or a way to track it.

You are running a business. Most businesses require a loan to get started. Banks will only loan businesses money, if they have a business plan. Just because you aren’t taking out a loan to run your business, does not mean you don’t need a business plan. Viable businesses set annual goals, have plans to achieve them and always know where they’re tracking. Your business should be no different.

Now this doesn’t have to be a complicated process and often people over complicate it to the point of overwhelm which leads to avoidance, which leads to no business plan. Don’t fall victim to that trap. In my Foundations of Success program, I teach a very simple model of setting an annual goal and turning that goal into 10 projects that will help you reach that goal and then a strategy for taking each of those 10 projects and turning them into simple daily action steps.

When it comes to using a tool for this system, I recommend a program called Notion. We’re going to be talking a lot about notion in this episode because I use it for so many of the systems I recommend. I liken it to a one-stop-shop tool.

At it’s heart, Notion is a free project management tool, but it actually does so much more than just task management which is why I recommend it . When it comes to project management tools, I have used them all. Like legitimately tried them all. I love technology, so if a tool exists to do something, I love trying them out. So I have used Trello, Asana, Monday, Clickup, Podio, Hive and the list goes on an on. But they just don’t compare to Notion because they lack flexibility and customization in what you can use them for.

When it comes to goal setting, business planning and tracking your progress, notion allows you to do it all. In my Foundations program, I created a custom Notion template to help you set goals, develop associated project plans and a business dashboard for you to quickly and easily see, at a glance, how you’re tracking. So if you haven’t set up a business plan for this year, there’s still almost half a year left. According to statistics, you’re 42% more likely to accomplish your goals if they’re written, but in my programs, I’ve found the stats to actually be higher. Remember that writing your goals once and assuming that’s enough, is mis-guided. It has to be a living, breathing part of your business that you look at DAILY. You can’t just set goals and not have a plan for achieving them by taking consistent daily action.

System #3 – Task Management

One of the ways to do that, is through the next system I recommend that every agent needs in their business and it falls under the bucket of project management and includes a way of creating to do lists for your business (and frankly your personal life). Now before you think, task management is something you already know everything you need to know about, hear me out.

If you don’t have a digital task management system that you use consistently or if you have notebooks all over the place with things you need to remember scribbled down, there may be a few things you could do to optimize your task management.

When you’re new, you might be able to get by with what you’ve been doing when you only have a few clients and transactions. But when you’re new and don’t know what you don’t know, having a to-do list with repeating tasks guiding you through each step that needs to be taken, can keep you out of hot water both legally and with your client’s satisfaction with your services.

Being disorganized has no place in real estate and jotting reminders down in a notebook does not equate to being organized. The stakes are too high and people’s biggest assets are on the line. You owe it to your clients to be extremely organized and to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. There are so many things that need to get taken care of in the process of trading in real estate, that even someone who has completed hundreds of transactions can miss something. That’s actually often when people get complacent – they think they know everything and it only takes one time to make a crucial mistake that can ruin your career and reputation. It happened to me early on in my career and cost me some significant dough to rectify, so I’m speaking from experience, not judgment.

So having a system where you can brainstorm all of the tasks that need to be completed when you’re working with buyers, sellers and renters is critical, but why re-create that task list every time you get a new client or listing? That’s not efficient. You need a system to generate those tasks automatically for every client and every transaction. The less you have to think about it, the better.

Task lists are also super important when trying to develop new daily habits. We know that it takes on average 67 days to form new habit and being able to track your progress daily is a big success factor. When we’re able to give ourselves a checkmark every day, it releases feel-good neurochemicals that make us much more likely to repeat the habit. So using a project management system for building new habits can be very beneficial as well.

Lastly, you’ve heard me talk before on the podcast about working IN your business vs. Working ON your business. You will never have a hard time being motivated to work IN your business because you are intrinsically motivated to complete the tasks. You’re never going to procrastinate loading a new listing on MLS, but you very likely will when it comes to setting up your CRM or creating videos or updating your website. Why? Well there’s two reasons:

The results you’re hoping to see, aren’t as clearly connected to the activity. You loading a new listing is very clearly tied to you selling the property and getting paid, but you creating video marketing content doesn’t feel as closely connected to you getting paid.
If whatever you’re working on for your business is overwhelming or uncomfortable or you’re not even really sure where to start or what to do, you’re even more likely to procrastinate and avoid working on it.

This is where having tasks lists comes in very handy. When you can focus on one project at a time, that tackles a project ON your business where you spend an hour brainstorming all of the tasks you’re going to need to do to complete that one project, you are like 100 times more likely to actually complete the project…..because you don’t have to “think” at all. It’s when we start thinking about something too much, that we get into trouble being productive. Stop thinking and start doing. The only way to effectively do that is with task lists where when you sit down to work on a project for your business, you don’t have to think at all about what you’re going to do. You’ve already got a pre-planned task list and all you have to do is start doing the first thing on your list. No thinking involved and no opportunity to get in your own way and feel lost, overwhelmed and discouraged. You have purpose and when we have purpose, we get shit done.

So what tool should you use for task management? Well obviously there’s a million of them, but I am a big fan of tool consolidation. Finding ONE tool that will allow you to consolidate a bunch of things so you only have to build a habit around using that one tool and again that’s why I recommend Notion. In my Foundations program I created a Business Dashboard template which gives you an at a glance view of all the tasks you’ve got on the go – one for creating daily habits, one for your business to-dos, one for personal and one for your business project plans that are tied to your annual goals. The beauty of notion is that you can use what you want and delete what you don’t use. It’s totally customizable and flexible depending on how you like to set your business up. As I’ve also mentioned, it is free but the only drawback to the free account is that if you delete something by accident, there’s no backups. So you do have to be careful about that.

Now full disclosure, the learning curve with notion is a bit steeper than some other project management tools, but that’s only because it’s like a blank slate that you can make your own. It doesn’t come pre-built and that’s actually the beauty of it and why it works so well for so many different systems you need in your business.

If you like playing around with software, you can find loads of free training materials on how to use it. If you want something pre-built, you will get access to all my Notion templates in my Foundations of Success program and just to clear up any bias suspicion, I am not an affiliate for Notion so I don’t have anything to gain by recommending their program.

System #4 – File Management
Alright up next is probably the most boring system of all, but it too falls under the umbrella of an organizational system and that is file management. In real estate, it’s really important that you have an online file management storage solution. Why? It may be obvious for many of you, but you’d be surprised by how many agents I meet that are storing all of their files on their computer instead of in the cloud.

There’s 3 reasons this is problematic. Number one, you will always need remote access to all of your files. If you’re ever away on vacation and you need to access one of your transaction files, you need to be able to do so from anywhere. The second reason, is for file backups. If you’re storing everything on a laptop, what happens if it gets stolen or lost? You never want to be in a position where you’re trying to recover lost paperwork and have to contact your client to get a copy. Not a good look. The third reason is storage space. You will accumulate a lot of files in real estate and if you follow my lead generation strategies, you’ll be creating video files which take up a ton of space. If you don’t use a cloud based storage system, your computer will very quickly run out of space and when it does, everything stops working properly, including all your programs.

So now that we know why you need an online file storage solution, what are your options? The three most popular tools are Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud. With google drive you’ll get up to 15 GB on their free plan, iCloud gives you 5 GB and lastly dropbox gives you 2 GB. I have personally always used Dropbox as I like it’s simplistic interface and smart sync feature, but many people swear by Google Drive.

It’s a personal preference, but whatever option you choose, you want to organize your folders and create a consistent file-naming system for easy and quick access. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to remember where you put something or what you called it. I always organized my transactions in folders by year and then created separate folders for each transaction. Inside those folders I had two separate folders – one for final documents and one for working documents. Keeping them all in the same folder got confusing fast. For the final documents I always used the same naming convention.Every document in a transaction had an associated acronym and the file was always titled by the address followed by the acronym. Easy peasy.

Now if you’re using Notion for your contact and transaction and task management, all of your files can actually be stored on it as well, so that is another option as long as the file is smaller than 5 mb.

System #5 – Time Management

Alright the last system under the umbrella of Operations is using a time management system. Now I dove really deep into time management in episodes 53 and 54, so make sure that you tune into those episodes, but I just want you to reframe your relationship with time and to really view it as a system that you need in your business, if you want your business and your life outside of real estate to operate efficiently.

In a nutshell, I recommend using your calendar to schedule EVERYTHING. Get all of your personal stuff in there at the beginning of every week and then schedule time in your calendar for everything business related that you need to get accomplished that week. Both time dedicated to working IN your business on client-centered activities and transaction related stuff as well as time dedicated to work ON your business on client attraction activities, lead gen, marketing, etc.

If you don’t make time for all of it and schedule it in your calendar, I can guarantee only the stuff you’re intrinsically motivated to get done, will get done. All of the other stuff that also really needs to get done to grow your business, will just keep getting pushed down on the to do list and will make you feel like crap. So remember, if it’s not in your calendar it doesn’t exist.

The other tool that I recommend you use for your time management system is Calendly. You’ll want to sync your personal calendar with calendly and use it as a tool for clients and prospects to book various types of appointments directly in your calendar. Although setting up multiple appointment types isn’t available on the free version of Calendly, there is actually a great workaround for how to do this and I teach it in my Foundations of Success program, so it is possible on the free version.

So when a prospect books a home evaluation directly in your calendar, If you’ve already blocked everything off, you shouldn’t get double booked and you shouldn’t need to erase time you’ve set aside to work on your business. My rule is if something truly urgent and unexpected comes up, then you have to use the erase – replace method. Anything that gets erased, must be immediately replaced the same week in your calendar.

Using a time management system like this makes sure that you have dedicated time to work in and on your business, but more importantly it will force you to get more structured with your time, which will ultimately set up great habits that will help you maintain some balance in this crazy business. If you don’t have a time management system in place, when your business starts doing really well (which it will), then you’ll have zero control over your time and you’ll end up sacrificing too much of your personal & family time and ultimately it will hurt both your health and your relationships. I don’t want that for you and neither do you!

So those are the 5 systems and associated tools I recommend that fall under your business operations. If you want a cheat sheet with all of 51 the tools I’m going to be recommending in this series you can download it from the show notes or go to my website at womenrockingrealestate/tools. Many of the programs I recommend are free and for those that are paid, I’ve got some discount codes included with the download, so be sure to check it out.

Alright next week, I’m going to be covering all the systems and tools I recommend under the umbrella of marketing your business. You’re not going to want to miss it, so make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast so that you’re notified when new episodes drop.

I’ll see you next week and remember the more you learn the more you’ll earn, but only if you’re implementing what you lean.

Until next time.

Jennifer Percival