Miguel Berger, Broker at Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate Tech Valley in Albany, New York joined the franchise in February of 2001.
As someone who readily embraces technology, Berger has been on the cutting edge since his first day in real estate.
This includes outsourcing and employing virtual assistance; something the industry has been slow to embrace.
Why a Virtual Assistant Makes Sense
After opening his own independent brokerage in 2001, Berger saw great value in hiring top assistants that would work virtually, thereby reducing his overhead and time spent managing employees. His first hire was Donna Trainor, an Albany, NY bookkeeper
“Donna keeps my books straight and notices if anything appears irregular,” said Berger.” “She is also a great tax resource. It is nice to know where you are financially at any given moment and have peace of mind that someone is watching out for you and your business.”
Berger does admit that initially it was a financial decision based on economy of scale: an approach common to many startup businesses.
Later, using offsite professionals became a growth decision for his business. In 2002, Berger heard about Angela Allen, a writer, real estate SEO specialist, and tech geek who lived on 25 acres in rural Kentucky.
While other brokers were struggling to understand Wi-Fi and to successfully work wirelessly across their offices; Berger outsourced his marketing to a remote professional 900 miles and three states away. He entrusted her with the growth of his business and hired her to be his virtual marketing department.
“I’ve been working with Angela of WickedWriter.com for over ten years now,” said Berger, “and we have never met face to face.” Berger says the two use email and phone conferences to plan, discuss, and brainstorm. “Since Angela has real estate clients across the country, she helps me stay informed of real estate trends in other areas. If I have projects I want to pursue, she usually has ideas and approaches that really help.”
“Angela is a marketing machine and is constantly challenging me to do more and become more creatively. I appreciate Angela for pushing me to always think outside of the box. I consider both Donna and Angela an essential part of my team.”
Virtual Assistants Offer Flexibility and Support
Berger likes working with remote professionals. By doing so, he can add staff without adding distractions to the office. There is no need to create physical space for these employees and there are no limiting schedules. Berger knows real estate is not a 9-5 job and using remote specialist’s means he can email information to his bookkeeper or his marketing specialist any time, provide the target deadline and forget about it.
“I call Angela and ask her to work up a project, do research, or develop a plan when it comes to my mind,” says Berger, “and she gets it done. I send all my financial information to Donna and she keeps my books in order and provides me with detailed reports at any interval I choose.”
Virtual Assistants Make Financial ‘Cents’
Financially, Berger says it makes sense to use off-site specialists. “Especially during the last three years, I couldn’t have justified having a person doing marketing full time, it’s not affordable. By using Angela, I don’t have the full-time overhead. She works on the projects I need, when I need them. Likewise, there’s no need for me to have a full-time bookkeeper in the office when Donna can provide all the services I need from her location. It’s about efficiency,” said Berger, “it’s not just about overhead.”
Berger said he can be anywhere and still manage his business with technology, “There’s no water cooler talk on my dime. There are no distractions in the office. You ask for it, you pay for it and you get it. You are no longer required to have people in the office to work. And, honestly, the fewer people there are in the office, the more work gets done. There are fewer non-work related issues to be discussed and the work place is more focused and productive.”
Berger says his agents aren’t in the office much either because they are out working. Recently, Berger expanded his offsite service providers to include individuals who had been working onsite. His administrative assistant, Laurie, had a baby a short time ago and is currently working from home.
“She knows what she needs to do and she doesn’t have to be in the office to get it done. With software like GoToMyPC, she’s working on the computer in the office, from her computer at home,” said Berger. “She does our ads for open houses, handles our relocation information, and isn’t distracted by worry over what is happening with the new baby elsewhere. And, I didn’t have to train someone new. It’s great. Everyone wins.”
New Approaches to Old Challenges
Berger has always employed new approaches to old challenges. He maintains that he never wanted his to be the biggest brokerage, merely the best. Every step he takes helps to ensure that.
“Before negotiations with Better Homes and Gardens,” said Berger, “I’d never encountered a franchise that would allow me the freedom to provide the personal service I want and the freedom to continue to incorporate and adopt new technologies at the speed I require.”
Decisions, like success, depend on providing the best service, continually improving productivity and providing an environment for individuals to perform at their personal peak levels,” says Berger. “I achieve that through new technology, an open mind and my affiliation with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. At the end of the day, it is a productivity issue.”