My clients used to come to my office. I’d sit them down at an impressive modern conference table where they could enjoy the view out of the bank of windows overlooking Lake Union and ask them to fill me in on their needs for a home. Then I’d open up my laptop, connect it to the overhead screen, and we would look through choices of homes they might like to go see. They were impressed and happy with the sleek office environment, the coffee was good, and we were all ready for the next step.
Now I meet them at Tully’s (or Starbucks) and we all look at my laptop. The view is still pretty good, happy coffee drinkers intent on their computer screens or deep in conversation, the urban scene going by outside the window. I buy the coffee. Going out on a tour, I usually bite the bullet and just pick them up at their home or hotel.
There is a huge reduction in cost, but don’t we all miss the old solid real world office environment?
Not so far.
Actually when my CEO told me that we were going completely virtual I lost a lot of sleep for the next couple of weeks! My overactive brain came up with all the reasons that it was a terrible idea to give up that lux conference room and the view. The big copy machine, the 24 hour access. The ability to hold team meetings (to which a third of the agents were always late) where we could go grab lunch afterward. And most especially, a place to take my clients at 11 p.m. to sign the docs that have to be faxed in that night because they are going to be on a plane the next morning.
Now that it’s been four months, I’m here to report that none of the disadvantages that I was afraid would occur actually have. Yes, I have spent money on faxing something at Kinko’s a couple of times. But it’s a LOT less than paying for the office for the entire month would have been! And I’ve met my clients in a convenient wi-fi spot. Never once has one of them asked why we’re not meeting at the office. They seem to feel it works great for their schedule that I choose somewhere most convenient for them, rather than asking them to come to my office (of course we are not neighborhood based, since our leads come to us from the Internet we work all over the Seattle Metro area and so it would usually be hard for many of them to come to any specific location anyway).
On the other hand, I provide them services that the non-virtual agents wouldn’t dream of offering. They get virtual tours of the properties they are considering before they ever get into town. I can video conference with them so that we can talk face to face while they are in the comfort and convenience of their own home. I provide them with numerous cutting edge tools to minimize their time and maximize their search capacity. For this reason, most of my clients including the youngest, most tech savvy and driven of them, seem very satisfied that they are getting the best service our always changing tech world can provide. That gives them and me more time to concentrate on the properties, their time line, the negotiations, and all the rest of the business of making it happen.
What about the team? What about those great face to face team meetings? Now I arrange to meet an agent for training or a conversation online. I sit down at my laptop where I love to work…I have a home office but my best view of the forest outside my windows is from the dining room table. I do still have to comb my hair since we’ll probably be video conferencing, but those videos will be on the heads of avatars walking around the board room or a private office in our new virtual office environment. It takes me two minutes to leave my kitchen and sign in and “get to my meeting.” Training is easy because we can record the session and the trainee can play it later as many times as they want, they don’t even have to take notes. Oh, and I can also play that for someone else who missed the session. Do I miss the lunches? Well, no one is stopping us from getting together…hey, it’s a great excuse to do a blog of a local hot spot!