Using Technology to Manage Your Business

How do you use the technology available today to manage your business? I was looking for a new way to manage my contacts so I sent a message out to the Society members about how our members use technology to manage their contacts, clients, investors, vendors, and consultants, etc. We all need to be organized to effectively manage the information flow typical to our real estate business.

Following are some of the responses I received from Society members that I hope might assist you in using technology to manage your business.

Chris Dischinger, S.E.C.
Louisville, Kentucky

For my part, I have used ACT contact management software since the early 90’s (my database is that old and many of the contacts date back that far). It is a great program and I am sure I don’t use 20% of its capabilities.

The reason I like ACT is that it is simple to use, it is an industry mainstay which means they keep updating it (I first started using it in the old IBM 286 DOS computers, before windows was even available), it interfaces with Microsoft WORD, and I now have it synchronized on my phone (2,000 contacts complete with notes on my cell phone wherever I go). ACT also works with OUTLOOK so that I can e-mail straight out of ACT.

ACT creates a record of phone calls, e-mails and faxes so that I have a record of interaction with contacts. My assistant shares the database with me so that we can schedule appointments with or for each other and I can review the tasks that she completes when I am out of the office.

I could go on and on as to the many benefits of this software to my daily business and personal needs. One piece of advice I will share is that whatever program you chose, start slow and don’t try to do everything the first day. The basic operation of ACT is easy to learn. Your database and expertise will grow over time.

Don Dobroski, S.E.C., CCIM
Rochester, NY

I started out with outlook but found it too cumbersome for communications and history. Now I use outlook (2003 version) for my master database but when I start working with a contact, I transfer the name to ACT for the same reasons Chris gave. I like the ease of writing documents, the ability to easily create a history for documents and other communications and the ease of finding people. I have over 500 contacts in my database. Have not lost anyone yet. I have the ACT 6 for 2004 version. I have found good compatibility with Microsoft Office 2003 so far. Another benefit is that you can set up your own e-mail groups within ACT

If you are not already using outlook, my recommendation is to go directly to ACT. They will give you free set-up help for the first 30 days. If you want to export all outlook names to ACT, you can do that also.

Steve Eustis, S.E.C., CCIM
San Angelo, Texas

I have been using “Ares for ACT!” for a couple of years now ACT!, in association with CoStar (a nation commercial real estate information provider) to specifically design an ACT data base format for commercial real estate. It is call ARES for ACT! and it has not only the people part of contact management but also a module for your property listings, comps, etc. It does flyers, everything you can imagine – and more – to run a paperless commercial real estate office.

You can learn more about it by going to the web site for Costar: click on products then choose Ares 6.0. It is a great system (I’ve been using just the people part for several years and probably only about 10% of its capability). Jeff Latimer was an expert at it and is who introduced it to me. I have thought about seeing if CoStar would make a presentation to S.E.C. on not only Ares (the ACT contact and property software that you would buy for your in-house use), but also all of CoStar services and what they can offer us. CoStar has data on millions of properties all over the county -comps, rent rolls with lease expiration data, web marketing, exchange info and many other services. I am not a CoStar member although I have considered joining (they do not have the data on any building in San Angelo like they do on every building in every major city in the U.S.). I do however really like their “Ares for ACT!” software for my contact database.

Jackie Hellingson
Executive Director, Society of Exchange Counselors

I used to use Access and loved it. Our online database is designed to work off line with Access. Since Access is part of Microsoft Office, I never had compatibility problems. It is my understanding that ACT sometimes doesn’t integrate well with other programs.

William E. Stonaker, CCIM, SEC
Grapevine, Texas

Like Chris Dischinger, I have used Act for years, since an earlier DOS version. I agree with what Chris said. However, I think the Microsoft system and Act don’t always work perfectly together. I would also suggest that you look at using Outlook for the same reasons and it obviously will work so well with all other Microsoft programs. There is one more plus: you don’t have to buy another program – you already have Outlook. But you might want to look at the newest version of Microsoft Office that should include Outlook
I agree with Jackie that Access works seamlessly with Microsoft and Act doesn’t always. One of my investors is a certified Act specialist and he agrees. But, unless Access has gotten much easier, Ted doesn’t want to go there. Besides, it is way too much for what Ted (or I) would ever want. Access is probably the most powerful relationship database in the market In short; my only problem with Act is the compatibility with the Microsoft OS and Office programs.

Try using Outlook for your needs and see how you like it. You might take a class on it. The next time I upgrade, I am going straight to Outlook and ditching Act


In total, I received 11 responses from Society members. Three preferred Outlook; five used ACT with one managing 11,000 names, and others recommended Gold Mind, Palm 7 or PalmTreo 600, and Access.

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