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"Mr. Internet - Virtual Assistants - Virtually Profit!"

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Michael Russer Photo
4/2/04 Interview with Michael Russer

Russer Communications
1124 Las Olas Ave, Suite 100
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

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The Real Estate­Technology Interface

  1. Real estate will always be a people business; machines can take agents away from the reason they got into real estate - to work with people.
  2. The use of virtual assistants (VAs) is a development that bridges the gap; VAs are live people who are highly specialized to get real estate work done from a distance.
Initiation into the VA Movement

  1. Russer has always been frustrated trying to find adequate talent to accomplish what he needed done in his various companies; his interest continues to be finding a way to draw on the talent of others while avoiding managing and the other hassles of employing them.
  2. Russer has joined with a few other people to foster the development of the virtual assistance industry; they have helped the industry focus on real estate and other vertical markets.
  3. Russer personally uses the services of VAs in lieu of employees to accomplish the high volume of work necessary to keep up with his speaking and writing commitments; a team of VAs across the US and Canada run his company.
  4. To maintain a successful business and a balanced life, agents need help; traditionally, that has meant hiring people onsite and managing them, but using VAs is the alternative.
Comparing Onsite and Virtual Assistants

  1. Onsite assistants (OAs) are employees while VAs are independent contractors working for a number of agents; VAs save you the additional costs associated with paying wages (2 to 2.5 times the hourly rate).
  2. With VAs you also save the costs of providing office space, equipment and software ‹they have their own setup and know how to run it.
  3. Hiring a VA is easier than hiring an OA because personal qualities are not a factor; the VA's skill set is what is important.
  4. A VA picks up creative ideas from associating with other RE professionals to the benefit of your business.
What VAs Can Handle

  1. VAs can handle whatever tasks do not require physical presence, such asCMAs, coordination of transactions and listings, drip email marketing, pay-per-click search engine positioning and email lead screening; an effective approach is to use a team of VAs, each with a specialty service.
  2. Judy McCutchin saves over $150,000 per year in overhead by using 3 or 4 VAs and just a single OE vs. her previous team of 8 OEs; a VA screens her website leads, forwarding to Judy the ones that meet her criteria and referring others to a list of brokers; the referrals generate $75,000 per year.
How to Work with a VA

  1. A misconception is that a VA is a coach and consultant ‹they are highly skilled technicians; you need to define clearly what you want a VA to do.
  2. Start by assigning something simple and measurable to build confidence about letting go ‹e.g., screening phone calls or something you haven't taken time to handle such as pay-per-click search engine positioning.
  3. Rick Miner, a Seattle agent, hired a VA expert in pay-per-click and within 12 hours got a lead from Goggle that will pay for the VA and the positioning for the next 10 years.
  4. Don't try to give one VA everything; stick with the person's specialty.
Where to Find Good VAs

  1. REVA Network ‹a free community of real estateVAs and RE pros interested in using them ‹is a good place to visit online (without any commitment) for information about the industry and how VAs can help you.
  2. If you hire through that group, you must do your own due diligence; you would be hiring each VA for his or her specific specialty and so would have to manage the process yourself.
  3. An alternative approach is to use REVA Teams ‹the next evolution of VAs because it saves you management responsibility; this source asks you to fillout an assessment (free and confidential) that helps you and the team understand your business.
  4. REVA Teams follows with a telephone interview, and if accepted, you are assigned a team leader responsible for assembling and monitoring other VAs within the network to accomplish your work; your point of contact is a single person.
  5. Other advantages of the team approach include accountability and backup support.
Who Qualifies to Use REVA Network

  1. REVA Network chooses agents who are clear about what they want done and whose work can be put into a process form that is easily documented ‹theservice does that for you.
  2. If you are uncertain about what you want done, Russer advises that you get business coaching to define tasks before approaching any VA.
The Future for the VA Industry

  1. VAs are changing the way small business is being done; people from all disciplines ‹real estate, insurance, financial planning, law, medicine ‹have the ability to tap into master talent not otherwise available to them.
  2. The evolution is likely to continue in the direction of the team-based model because it answers the challenges of using VAs.
  3. Within the next 12­18 months, REVA Teams is expected to be the largest VA organization in the world.
Favorite Web Sites

  1. (for VA information), (for doing anything online) and (for powerful RE tools) are awesome resources.
  2. ePowerNews is Russer's site that presents the cutting edge of what's happening with VAs.
  3. is an extremely helpful service for tracking email.
Contact Information for Michael Russer:

(v) 805-882-1170
(f) 603-720-5823

Real Estate Sites & Tools in this Briefing:
Rick Miner's site
REVA Network
REVA Teams