Real estate outsourcing & using Virtual Assistants in your company is a no-brainer at this point, going hand-in-hand with using technology to streamline your business. Clients are pressuring real estate professionals to provide more & more value... for less and less money... and this trend is showing no signs of reversing. An effective approach to outsourcing is a prudent cost-cutting measure in today's market.
The only real question is exactly how to use real estate VAs. And, I can tell you as someone who does it for a living: this is a tricky question.
Not every task is right for outsourcing. You need to be thoughtful & focused when delegating parts of your business to outside help. Sometimes even tasks that outsource well don't ultimately make enough of a boost to your bottom line to justify delegating them (unless you just want to revel in laziness, which is fine, but not cheap).
To select & automate some VA tasks that will continue to have a positive impact on your business for the months & years to come, you need to focus on one simple outcome: Return On Investment (ROI).
Why ROI is the key to outsourcing success.
The most important factor for success in outsourcing is to focus on ROI. Not just short-term (1 - 3 months), but long-term (annually and longer).
Whenever you think about real estate virtual assistants, you can't treat them like an off-the-shelf product or like hiring a local expert. VAs tend to be one- or two-trick ponies: good at following directions for a few specialized parts of your business, but (usually) not able to grasp & make significant "big picture" contributions.
The tricky part of your job when hiring a VA (and our role as a service provider) is to help you select the right tasks for outsourcing that will lead to a sustainable (ROI-positive), long-term, scalable, "hands-free" automation of very specific aspects of your business.
To get the right type of ROI, you need to look at your VAs as an investment. Just like researching a fix & flip: you need to calculate out expenses, probable return, required cash upfront, potential risks, and all contingencies that might cause problems.
If you don't already know how to do something, but you're outsourcing it to a Virtual team member who's potentially on the other side of the world, you're going to have a bad time. Your best bet is to outsource those menial, repetitive tasks you could teach to a 5-year-old in your sleep. Start with the easy tasks first, build your back-office, free up more of your time, then automate & outsource more.
Calculating Return On Investment for Real Estate VAs
Let's take an example.
Imagine you are currently spending 2 hours a day (10 hrs/week) on menial tasks like updating & checking your calendar, sending appointment reminders, responding to emails, updating CRMs, etc.
Let's say you value your time at a mere $25 / hr ($52,000 / yr).
That means these menial tasks are costing you $250 / week, $1,000 / month, or about $12,000 a year! That's not even considering the opportunity cost of those lost hours - hours you could have spent generating more revenue.
For those same $12,000 (or 480 annual work hours), you could have hired one of our overseas VAs full-time (40 work hours per week - about 2,000 hours a year). Even assuming your VA works about 75% slower than you (1/4 your pace), they would still be able to complete all those menial tasks, and then some.
Now, what if you value your time at $50 / hr? $500 / hr? How much is every hour worth to you, that you spend on menial tasks you could outsource & be rid of once and for all?
The problem is: it's not so easy, is it? You can't just take $12,000 (or even $120,000), fork it over, and never mind your emails or calendar, or CRM again. There's a process. There are potential pitfalls. So everybody wants to know: what's the trick? What does it take to guarantee a positive ROI on your outsourcing efforts?
How do you guarantee a positive ROI?
Short answer: you can't.
There is no such thing as guaranteed positive returns. Even in spite of my best efforts, including turning many potential customers away (!), some people use Virtual Assistants in a way that is neither cost-effective nor profitable.
Our goal with all our Concierge VA packages is to assist you in making this positive ROI a reality. It takes time from everyone in our company to build collaborative campaigns that enhance your business, and we do this full-time for a living with insider views into hundreds of real estate businesses.
That said, I can give you several bullet-point pieces of advice that in my experience seem to be a good indicator of positive ROI potential:
- Outsource tasks that expensive people do.
In all likelihood, you are one of the highest-paid people in your company. You might also have mid-level managers & administrators below you who are making >$20 / hr (or more).
Anything you do, that doesn't require your full brainpower, physical presence, or license/certifications should be ripe for outsourcing.
This is an easy way to earn positive ROI (especially if you start small and only outsource new tasks in small bite-sized chunks) because the cost difference is so great.
- Outsource repetitive, menial duties.
One day, technology will probably eliminate a lot of these menial jobs. If you've been around for more than 10 years, a lot of work that used to get done has probably (hopefully) already been automated in your business via the use of great online tools for marketing, advertising, data management, transactional documentation, and more.
However, none of these tools work on their own... and they might never be that fully automated. This means you need to have a combination of computer AND human power to use them effectively, even if the human side of that equation involves work that's boring, repetitive, and nearly mindless once you know a basic procedure.
That is the perfect description of the types of work you should be outsourcing, and believe it or not we have overseas VAs who would literally love to do this work!
- Outsource low-level communications.
Phone tag, call answering, email back-and-forth, appointment scheduling, and social media interactions can all be a huge drain on your time while barely moving the revenue needle (if at all).
Virtual Assistants might not be able to handle complex Q&A, negotiations, or client relations, but they can definitely get someone on the phone for you, schedule an appointment, send out reminders, and pre-qualify inbound leads before you waste your time on tire kickers.
These are some of my favorite tasks to have outsourced, as they are not only ROI-positive but also relieve the huge drain of annoying client communications.
- Outsource skilled tasks that don't require a physical presence.
Virtual Assistants aren't only for the easy & menial duties in your business. VAs can also be a great resource for professional services & skills as diverse as software programming/web & graphic design, to financial planning/accounting. Any skilled work tasks that are not sales- or negotiation-based are perfect for overseas VAs.
These types of technical tasks might not even make sense for you to hire someone locally, so you're probably already "outsourcing" them by hiring contractors either locally or abroad.
These are also the perfect type of tasks to delegate to your back office, as you can get the exact same quality of work much cheaper than you could in your local markets.
While there are plenty of other concepts you can consider when aiming for a positive ROI on your outsourcing efforts, these 4 points are pretty dependable.
Your best-case scenario probably will involve a combination of 2 - 3 of the above, but make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew! A common mistake we've seen comes from people who try to implement too many tasks at once, get bogged down by the amount of training & communication involved, and ultimately end up right back where they started.
Instead, focus on picking one or two simple tasks that you can easily describe to a person over the phone & in writing.
Watch over your VAs like a hawk when the tasks are first being implemented, refining their training & SOPs as early results and feedback starts coming in. Wait until the task has been implemented in a repetitive, dependable, and nearly automated way. Then, and only then, is it a good idea to start adding more back-office seats to handle more and more tasks for your business.
I'd love to see more companies taking advantage of the global labor force to get a competitive edge & free highly talented, educated, and ambitious local staff to focus on building and growing a really profitable, innovative, and valuable business.
If you have any stories about how you've accomplished this, we'd love to hear them in the comments.