As this is being written, we are just a few days before Christmas 2016. What new technology did you find in your Christmas stocking? Technology tools that will help you build a stronger business this year? There is certainly no lack of options to choose from, although for some of them, you’d need an extra large stocking. Following are a few of the tools and products that will help you get the most out of your business this year.
A Wireless Network—While this technology is still developing, the convenience of anywhere access within your office is tough to beat. Work at your desk, carry the laptop to the conference room to work with clients, or conduct training. No difference in how you use your machine.
You can connect to other systems within your office. You can add a video projector for marketing presentations. You can add a music system to provide background music throughout your office from a PC server. The list of options continues to grow as new tools enter the marketplace.
As wireless systems proliferate to more hotels, airports, coffee shops, libraries, and so on, you gain the ability to work from more venues, thus gaining even more opportunities to expand your business.
A Digital Camera—These tools are extremely helpful when creating marketing materials, such as open house fliers, marketing comparison enhancements, post-closing communications, such as just moved photo cards. You can enhance your client records with photos and use the camera to help promote consumer-direct events.
You don’t need to be on the “bleeding edge” with this. While camera resolution is important, four mega-pixels or more will be adequate for enlargements up to 16 by 20 inches, a size you will only rarely use.
The important features are that the camera is easy to use, small enough so you will actually carry it with you, and have a built in flash, and a basic zoom lens to handle various size compositions without excessive running back and forth to frame the shot.
While you don’t need to buy film or pay for processing to see your results, you will find that an extra data card or two will come in handy. Also, consider the battery life for the unit. Mine uses rechargeable (15 minutes to full charge) batteries so two sets are sufficient.
A Digital Scanner—Scanning technology has come down in price to about $500 for a functional unit with automatic paper feeders good enough to handle loan paperwork. By creating a file image, you can distribute the data throughout your office while leaving the paper securely stored in your file cabinets.
All the work can be done with the image file. Organize with specific lender stacking orders. Scan support data for other documentation, eliminate lost file items, and keep client records separated for easy recall. Scan tax returns, bankruptcy documents, and divorce paperwork and you will not have to ask for that data again for that client (other than taxes each year).
You can copy the scanned data along with your LOS loan data records onto a CD or, if you need more room, use a DVD for long-term storage. Much smaller to store than boxes upon boxes of old files. In most states, if you copy your final loan files to image form on non-changeable media, you will not need to retain the paper files. Check with your local regulator for the law in your location.
External System Hard Drive Back-up—Lose your data files, lose your business. The importance of routine daily back-up can’t be overstressed. But it is not enough to simply back-up to tape or other media unless you remove a copy from the premises for safekeeping.
The fastest way to back-up today’s larger hard drives is to copy everything to another hard drive. External drives with capacities of 360 GB are readily available for under $300. Using high-speed USB connections, the file transfer rates are reasonable for most offices. If your company is bigger than that, you will likely have an IT staff to administer this process for you. However, for a small broker, a one-click hard drive back-up is very welcome.
Many mortgage companies miss doing this critical step and seem to get away with it just fine—as long as nothing happens. But hard drives are mechanical equipment with delicate parts spinning at high speeds. If something happens, it is often very bad indeed. With current back-ups available, restoring your business is just a matter of installing a replacement drive and restoring your data. Without a back-up, restoration is only possible by hand entering all the original data again—if you have it all available.
Portable GPS Navigator—Are you lost? Late for an appointment and find the road you know blocked with traffic? If your current car does not have a built in navigation system, one of these little devices can save the day. GPS is a satellite-based system that is accurate to within a few feet.
You get voice notification of turn-by-turn directions to get anywhere you need to be. This is much safer than reading a map or even printed turn-by-turn directions you printed. If you work in a large metropolitan area, these devices can be lifesavers in a literal sense as they let you focus your attention on the external scene around your car, not the fine print on a map. If you make a mistake and take a wrong turn, the system will reanalyze your position and create an alternative route on the fly.
Color Laser Printer—Nothing says it like color. When you print marketing materials, whether from your LOS system or other software, the difference of appropriate color is dramatic. Color helps you focus the borrower’s attention on what they need to see. Color can provide an accurate replacement for otherwise expensive letterhead to further enhance your company image.
Color printing technology was initially limited to either using an inkjet printer, or to very wealthy folks who could spring for a $20,000 piece of hardware. But now, color laser printers are available for under $1,000 with good speed and excellent color representation. You can use these for photo reproduction in property brochures that make standard open house fliers seem almost primitive.
The Apple I-Pod—This leader of the pack product is not just for storing music, but the current model allows you to store photos as well. Photos of happy clients and homes sold that you financed. The list goes on to the extent of your imagination. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket and it is easy to carry with you for instant use. Of course, you may wish to retain a little space in the device memory for suitable music to enhance your ability to recharge your personal batteries during some down time.
Do you really need everything on this list for the way you work? Perhaps you already have similar tools that work well for you. If those tools are more than a couple of years old, you will be impressed with the improvements in the current models. In technology, every year produces better products for less money. There are also bragging rights to the latest technology tools that some people enjoy.
Proof of concept is how any technology tool will help you become more efficient at your primary task—creating and closing quality loans. The items on this list will help you do that for 2017.