Eight Tips For Launching Your Real Estate Investing Career

Eight Tips for Getting Started in Real Estate Investing

Introduction

This article is just the basics for getting started in real estate investing. This is not a how to article but an article that gives you some information about things to do to get started. Everything in this article is tools that can be applied to helping anyone get started in real estate investing. I am going to give you my eight keys to getting started. Nothing is right or wrong but reflects the point of view of the author. Laws and legal practices vary from state to state, and laws can change over time. The author does not vouch for the legality of his opinions, nor is there any intent to supply legal advice. The author strongly encourages the reader to consult with professionals and an attorney prior to entering in any real estate transaction or contract. The author is not a writer but he is a real estate investor. There will be grammar mistakes and errors, so don’t be too critical of the grammar but focus your energy on what is being said. With that said prepare yourself to think a little differently and expand your mind. Let’s get started on an amazing adventure.

The Eight Tips are as follows

1. Desire
2. Goal Setting
3. Learning What To Do
4. Attending a Real Estate Investing Seminar
5. The Billings Montana Market
6. Finding a Mentor
7. Your Real Estate Team
8. Just Do IT

1. Desire

Before we get in to the bolts and nails of real estate investing in I want to talk to you about desire. If you are going to be successful at anything in life including real estate investing you have to have the desire to do it. Desire is defined as longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment. Desire stresses the strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim. In real estate investing if you don’t have a desire to learn and grow as a human being and really get satisfaction out of it, then real estate investing is going to be hard to do. When I go out and look at a property it brings me a lot of enjoyment. Every aspect brings me joy from talking to home owners, figuring out how I can make a deal work, to buying the house and to finding a good homeowner or tenant for the house. Real estate investing may not be for everyone but real estate investing can offer anyone the financial freedom we all crave for. If you do not have the desire for real estate investing that is ok, it can still help you to live your dreams and help you to get where you want to go in the future.

Why is real estate investing an amazing avenue for anyone to live out all of their dreams? Let me ask you a few questions. Do you have enough money to do anything you want? Do you have everything you want? No debt? A nice house? Great Marriage? The freedom to do anything regardless of how much it costs and the time it takes? If you have all of these things then you are one of the few people in America who does. Most people may be working fifty hours a week and making just enough to pay their bills. In today’s day and age most people are living pay check to pay check never really knowing if they will make enough to pay the bills that just keep piling up. If you cannot keep up with your monthly bills how are you going to plan for retirement or send your kids to college or have time to enjoy life. The answer to all of these questions is becoming financially free. Now it’s not going to be easy everyone will have to get off the couch and out of their comfort zone. Real estate is proven to be one of the fastest ways to get your out of the rat race of the nine to five and begin living the life you deserve to live. Everyone wants something different out of their life. Some dream of traveling the world, spending more time with family, volunteering, golfing, laying on a beach, giving back to the community, or anything that will make them happy. There are thousands of things that make people happy.

Making it in real estate takes a person who has a strong desire to change their lives for the better and think big. Anyone can become a great real estate investor. It is going to take a lot of work and can be a struggle at times but in the end it will be the most amazing feeling ever. The people that make it in real estate investing all have a few things in common. First they run their real estate investing business like any other business out there. Second they get out there and network with anyone and everyone. Some people might be like me and have a hard time talking to other people. If you are that is ok, anyone can learn how to become a people person, it just takes hard daily work. You have to push yourself past your comfort zone. The third thing is that you cannot be afraid to fail. Everyone has failed at something but the most successful people out their learn from their failures. The fourth thing is that you have to put a good team together. I will go into putting a team together in a later chapter. The concept of putting a team together is so that when you don’t know something you have team members that know what to do and can help you with questions. The can also make sure that you are not working yourself to death. You do not want to be the person doing everything in your business. Doing everything is a receipt for failure. You have to put together good people who you can trust and rely on. The fifth thing is that you need a mentor. Sixth and final is the desire to do it. No one can become successful at something if they don’t want to do it and don’t get satisfaction out of what they are doing.

2. Setting Goals

Having goals is one of the most important aspects of achieving what you want in life. You don’t want to just have your goals up in your head you want to write them down and past what you have wrote on the wall somewhere or in the bathroom mirror. You want to review your goals daily and read them out loud to yourself. This way you remind yourself everyday why you are building your business.

How should you start to write down you goals? First off you should think big, and by big I mean HUGE. If your goals are too small you will easily achieve them and have nothing else to look forward too. You should start off by asking yourself the question if I had all the money and time in the world what would I do, what would I buy, how would I spend my time, and how would I spend my energy. Are you starting to write these down? Well you should be. Think about what you want, spending time with family, traveling the world, the best cars, a castle, owning a small country, running for president, having the biggest real estate investing business in your area or in the country. Whatever your dreams and what you want out of your life, write it down. Some of my goals are becoming free, traveling the world, having a Ferrari, having 10 vacation homes all over the world. Right now I am just trying to get you out of your comfort zone of thinking and let your imagination run.

There are several ways to set goals. I have learned a lot of ways you can set you goals and there is no right or wrong way. The best ways that I have found to set your goals is to break them up into two categories. First your short term goals. This should be goals from a month out to around a year. The second is your long term goals these goals are you think big goals and what you see for your future.

For year one I like to first make a list of what I want to achieve this year and I will give you an example of how to do that. For year one you want to be very specific first you want to list what you want your income to be at the end of the year, next how much cash in the bank you want (this is money in your checking account, not assets). Next you want to list how much you are going to give. Giving is a very important, this can be giving to charity, giving of gifts to friends and family, giving to your school or anything you can dream of. As long as what you give brings joy to others who need it more than you. Next list what bad habits you have that you want to eliminate. Weather is be quitting smoking, spending too much on junk, drinking too much, working too much, not spending enough time with family, too much TV, not exercising and many more. We all have bad habits that need to be changed in order for use to grow as human beings. Under each of these bad habits list out some steps that you can take in order to quit them. If you bad habit is being lazy and not exercising enough what can you do to change that. Well you can get a gym membership or a home work out program. Commit yourself you following through with a plan to work out 3-5 days a week. For you to change these bad habits you have to be totally committed and follow through with a detailed plan you set for yourself. After you have your plans in place you should start listing several things you want to achieve or do in the next year. This can be start a successful business, spend time with family, travel to 2-5 places and so on. Now under each of these you should also write a detailed plan on what you need and what you need to do in order to achieve these goals. Finally you should take all of this information you have a write on page on what you see your life being over the next year. Doing this is a great exercise to really see what you want out of life.

The Best Investment Guide

The best investment guide would cover investment options and investment strategy. This investment guide would be complete and start with basic financial concepts and expand to include the entire universe of investments. That’s a tall order, so let’s just start with a simple version, and talk about all of the investments in the world in plain English.

Your best investment is a good, complete investment guide. I’ve been tuned in to the world of investing for 35 years and have read over 100 books on investments and investing. Most of them center on the stock market or some form of investment technique or get-rich-quick scheme. Many are time sensitive and out of date by the time you read them. Many tell you how to invest money like the author did when he made his millions.

What you seldom get with an investment guide or book is an understanding of investment basics and a simplified blueprint of your many investment options. So, here’s your simplest and free best investment guide to all of the investments in the world. There are only 4 different investments or asset classes out there depending on how you categorize things. Once you bring it down to this level you have a basic framework to work with.

CASH EQUIVALENTS and other safe investments pay interest. Either your principal or rate of interest is fixed for a period of time. Examples include U.S. Treasury bills, money market mutual funds and bank savings accounts. Advantages include high liquidity (access to your money) and safety, low risk.

BONDS are long-term debt instruments and they pay more interest income than the above. Examples include U.S. Treasury bonds, corporate bonds and bond funds of various types. Advantages include relatively high interest income with a moderate level of risk.

EQUITIES or STOCKS represent ownership in a corporation. Examples include blue chip stocks, growth stocks and equity funds. Advantages include ample liquidity, growth and some income in the form of dividends. Risk is significant and profit potential is high.

ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENTS is our final category. Examples include real estate, gold, and foreign investments. Advantages include high profit potential and an alternative to stocks when they are out of favor. Risk can be significant here as well.

That’s about as simple as an investment guide can get. All investment options can be fit into one of these asset classes. The important thing is that you have a perspective, and that you understand the investment characteristics of any investment before you invest money. For example, someone pitches an investment to you. Where does it fit in our above format?

How does it rate in terms of: safety, liquidity, growth and profit potential, income provided and risk? All investment options can be and should be rated in terms of the above to assure that they fit your needs and risk profile.

If you learn how to invest you’ll have a means of supporting yourself for the rest of your life. Once you have a sound understanding of investment basics you’ve built a great foundation for learning how to invest. The best investment guide would cover both.

A retired financial planner, James Leitz has an MBA (finance) and 35 years of investing experience. For 20 years he advised individual investors, working directly with them helping them to reach their financial goals.

How to Invest and Prosper

Learn how to invest money and prosper; or don’t learn how to invest and continue to invest and lose money. It’s fun to invest money when you are winning. Get a financial education and see for yourself. You will NEVER feel left out once you know how to invest with a sound investment strategy. Let’s start that financial education now.

INVESTMENT BASICS

You can not put together a complete investment strategy without an understanding of the investments that are included in the package. Nor can you build your own house without knowledge of the pieces, parts, and tools required. Concentrate on investment basics before you decide on what plan to go with, or you may not be able to finish the job successfully. This means that you need to understand the investment characteristics of stocks and bonds, and how they compare to each other and to other investment alternatives.

Only then can you learn how to invest and put together a complete investment strategy. Like I said, it’s fun to invest when you’re making money; but you’ve got to start with the investment basics. Most people don’t know stocks from bonds. Start by reading articles or other publications that get down to the basics. For example: what are stocks, what are their risks and potential rewards, and how do they compare to bonds and other investment alternatives.

Now you are ready to learn about mutual funds, which are the investment of choice for most average investors. For most people they are the easiest and best way to invest in stocks and bonds, plus other asset classes. Mutual funds are simply investment packages that are professionally managed for you. To pick the right funds you’ll need to understand the asset class they invest in: stocks, bonds, money market or specialty (other).

HOW TO INVEST

Now you’re ready to learn how to invest and put the pieces together with a sound investment strategy. ASSET ALLOCATION is a crucial part of your investing and financial education, because how you allocate your money to the various asset classes will determine your success or failure… more than anything else. Simply put, how much should you invest in stocks vs. bonds vs. other investments? This is also called your asset mix. It’s much more important than what specific investments or funds you pick.

Once you’ve put a balanced portfolio of investments together you’ve got a great foundation. But if you want to continue to build and prosper you’ll need an ongoing investment strategy to make additions and changes over time as necessary. Read articles on investment strategy, asset allocation, and how to invest. It will all come together for you if you start at the beginning and build a step at a time.

Learn to invest like your financial future depends on it. With Uncle Sam in debt up to his eyeballs and employers fighting to survive, it does.

A retired financial planner, James Leitz has an MBA (finance) and 35 years of investing experience. For 20 years he advised individual investors, working directly with them helping them to reach their financial goals.

All Credit Cards Are Good

All credit cards offer many benefits and features. Some come with a few disadvantages. To convey my point I will leave the disadvantages for others to write about. All credit cards are good in their own way for their own purpose and for that specific applicant. There are many credit cards for applicants with good credit, bad credit or with no credit at all. There are the so called “bad credit cards” and the “good credit cards.” Bad credit cards fit consumers looking to build “good credit.” Good credit cards fit consumers with good credit looking to take advantage of benefits that suit their daily lives. So are all credit cards good? Yes, because in some cases you have to start somewhere and sometimes, it comes at a price.

Consumers with good credit attract the credit cards that would better suit their income, credit history, spending habits and paying habits. Many credit cards that approach consumers with good credit tend to offer great transfer rates and lower interest rates on future purchases as long as the consumer’s credit doesn’t change in the wrong direction. Everyone has their individual needs and perceptions of their credit. So the only challenging factor for someone with good credit is to maintain the good credit status and keep a close eye on your credit limit to credit debt ratio. In my opinion, your ratio should be at around 25% to 40% because it is a responsible level to be proactive in managing your credit cards. A 25% credit limit to credit debt ratio would be $250.00 balance on a $1,000.00 credit limit. Investing in a credit monitoring service also helps to keep a third eye on your credit so you can focus on your busy life.

Consumers with bad credit attract the credit cards that seem to be outrageous because of interest rate, credit line or terms of the agreement such as annual fees and processing fees. In my opinion, their is no such thing as a bad credit card as long as they report the account to Experian, Transunion and Equifax (CSC Credit Service). Instead of them being called bad credit cards they should be called credit building cards. If you cannot get over yourself by accepting a credit building card, maybe a secured credit card from your bank would be the best choice as long as they report to the credit bureau. Never think bad credit is forever or that it can’t ever improve, it can with responsible steps. If you get a so called bad credit card then make sure you fulfill your end of the agreement, and don’t make excuses for not paying on time or letting it charge off because it was only $300.00. I think one factor that makes that type of card good is that the credit lines are usually no more than $500.00. That low of a credit line is a good thing because worst case scenario your minimum payment is between $15.00 – $25.00. Not bad for establishing a credit line that will be worth dividends in the long run. Yes, it will benefit you as time is established behind the credit card. Credit building cards are only short term because once you have began to establish yourself with 2 – 3 credit building cards your score will reflect the responsible habits and your score will begin to rise. So are bad credit cards good, of course they are.

Whether you have good or bad credit cards the responsibility is the same. Make your payments on time and watch your credit limit to credit debt ratio. These two simple steps, if followed consistently, will keep your credit cards as the good benchmark for your credit score to be based from. I have only referenced your credit cards that allow minimum payments and not any other types of credit cards or other credit lines on your credit report. I have also not referenced the impact of derogatory items on your credit report that would affect the establishing of your credit. All cards have benefits and features that are advantageous to consumers or contain hidden value, even if the card does not seem very desirable. When you decide to get any credit card base it on your own financial need and on the advantages that will benefit you and your credit profile. Credit is life and life is credit, understand it wisely.

Credit Cards For Bad Credit

Bad credit credit cards are offered by many banks as financial tools to help people establish or re-establish their good credit rating. Bad credit credit cards are primarily intended to make it easier to obtain and re-build credit, which is good for consumers and merchants as well. For all practical purposes, bad credit credit cards are just like regular credit cards, but they are specifically for high risk cardholders. If you have arrears, defaults and general bad credit score or bad credit rating, you may find that bad credit credit cards are available to you. Bad credit credit cards are considered the best choice for credit card deals if your credit score is below 550.

If you find that there are problems in approval of a traditional credit card then you can apply for other options like prepaid debit card, First Premiere Bank Cards and Orchard Cards and secured credit cards. Applying for these cards is exactly like applying for a standard credit card, with applications available on paper and online. Bad credit credit cards typically have a higher interest rate and lower credit limit than standard credit cards, but the issuers are more lenient when looking at past credit history. The fact that bad credit credit cards carry a high interest rate (most likely 20% or more) shouldn’t prevent you from getting one in an effort to get your credit back on track. Still, it is true that bad credit credit cards must be used responsibly, or your situation will just worsen.

From astronomically-high interest rates to ridiculously-exorbitant fees, erroneous information abounds. When it comes to bad credit credit cards, the myths definitely abound. In fact, bad credit credit cards are some of the most misunderstood financial tools of all time. Fortunately, the myths are oftentimes unfounded and bad credit credit cards are no longer the stigma they used to be. You might be relieved to find out that bad credit credit cards can actually have pretty decent interest rates. With so many credit card companies and so many different offers, it’s easier than ever for consumers to take advantage of reward programs. However, you must consider the factors such as financing fees, annual fees, introductory offers, credit requirements, availability of online banking, and others.

In spite of the additional fees bad credit credit cards are an excellent method for the people with bad or no credit, to improve their credit rating and to enjoy the benefits of credit cards. There are many other benefits to consider, which might be more valuable than a low rate. By paying off the monthly balance and avoiding high interest rates, you steer clear of more debt and show yourself to be a lower risk borrower over time. However, as you maintain regular payments, the creditor may gradually increase the spending limit. If you use a bad credit credit card for small purchases for a year or two and consistently pay the entire balance every month, not only will you not be charged interest, but you will rebuild your credit and be able to get lower rate loans in the future.

As you can see, bad credit credit cards are unique cards geared towards people who have had trouble getting approved for a standard unsecured credit card. However even with bad credit, its still possible to find a credit card for you, even if it means that you have to pay a slightly higher rate of interest. So if you are trying to rebuild your credit don’t think about it to much because bad credit credit cards when used properly are a cheap way to rebuild your credit.

Credit Cards – Guidance and Useful Tips

Credit Card companies have introduced a lot of specific cards based up on the customers satisfaction and their current necessities. The severe competition led the worldwide banks and credit card companies to introduce numerous card products and numerous offers been introduced and its still continuing. Lets see some details behind this. Every surfer possibly came across hundreds of affiliate sites and the worldwide banks own websites promoting number of products. But, what’s the catch? and where to find the exact details?. Every one trying to market their products in numerous ways like text ads, RSS feeds, niche websites, pay-per-click and article marketing. But it’s very easy to hide the traps by using some exclusive attractive content.

Important and Informative: The FICO score normally known as “Credit Score” is become an unavoidable thing for people in america. This credit score determines the person’s benefits with the banks and other financial institutions. Lower credit score makes the banks to reject one’s application for any financial approach. But a lot of new credit cards have been introduced and named as Bad Credit Credit Cards and Guaranteed Approval Credit Cards helping the people with bad credit. Also “youdeservecredit.org” provides a reliable solution for people with bad credit to obtain loans and recommendable credit cards. It’s always important to read the term and conditions of a credit card, before applying for a credit card. Always try to make the payment in time, or apply for a credit card which provides the option to pay overtime.There are some specific offers available, which allow its card members to pay the amount in overtime. Cards like Platinum Business FreedomPass Credit Card from OPEN(sm) the small business team and Bank of America Rewards(TM) American Express® Card provides the flexibility to its card holders to pay in over time.

Total Protection: It’s a more important thing to consider about the security provided for the card holders. Because we cannot see the Total security Protection with every offers, only some specific offers provides this facility to ensure its card members safety. It’s very important to ensure that the card provides 0% fraud liability. There should be absolute fraud protection against unauthorized use, online and offline. Some recommendable offers on these categories are BoatU.S.(TM) Platinum Plus® Visa® Card and Financial Rewards® Visa® Platinum Plus® Card are considerable products, but there are still more products offering this security services available in U.S market.

Fee and Interest Rates: This is the most important thing to keep in mind before applying for a credit card. because it has been estimated that more than 100 million americans carrying monthly credit card debt. There are possibilities that even if you make the payment on time, the credit card companies might charge you. So, the card holders must watch out for carrying balances. Also the fixed rates are not constant, the credit card companies may increase the interest rates by informing you, 15 days prior to change. Mostly this communication happen through your monthly credit card statement. So, spend some considerable time and go through your monthly statements. So one should be careful before applying for a credit card. Should read the user agreement thoroughly and also it is must to enquire about the conditions apply section. There are lot of cards have been introduced as low interest credit cards, no annual fee credit cards etc.. some specific offers are Discover® More Clear Card and Chase Freedom Cash are recommendable offers but there are still more offers to go.

Reward points: The credit card companies compete against each other with attractive incentives such as cash back, points reward schemes and balance transfer offers at zero percent. There are lot of new offers have been introduced in U.S by worldwide banks. but please think twice because, no one will offer anything in real life just to make others to enjoy benefits. The most gentle offers will carry this exact proportion (profit 50% plus customer satisfaction 50%). The Discover® Motiva Card and Blue from American Express® are good based on its card members opinion.

Some Useful Tips: Ask yourself these questions that do you need the card?, can you afford a credit card? and will you be able to pay the monthly balances each month?. Think twice before purchasing anything. Because, chances are there that you won’t be able to pay, when the credit card bill comes in. As a credit card consumer, you can request and obtain a free credit report once in every twelve months. You can obtain your credit report from the three major credit reporting companies 1.Equifax, 2. Experian and 3.TransUnion. Be smart when using your credit card at overseas. Because a lot of complaints filed with credit card companies that the consumers have been charged extra amount. Don’t use your credit cards at less reputable places.

Complaints and suggestions: If you would like to file a complaint about any credit card issue, go with the reliable organization. As far as i know the bbb.org is one of the best at its services and they are well experienced to handle all the issues. The comptroller of currency and the Federal Reserve Board are also best places to go for the solution. Before filing a complaint, please discuss with the same credit card company regarding your issue. Because every organisation have their own concern about their customers.

I will also recommend to read a lot of articles about credit cards, because every article has its own opinions and advantages, that’ll let you know the exact details about every new credit card offers. Please use the credit cards based on your convenience and not for luxury. Because having your own money in your wallet will be more comfortable and safe. Even there are a lot of debit cards have the same advantages like credit cards. But as you know, these new debit card offers are based on your own amount and there’s not even a single dime comes as credit.

Jagan babu vasudevan is a Financial Functional Expert, researching about credit cards for more than 7 years. Conducting surveys about credit cards. And researching how to make credit cards work for the card holders.

How to Evaluate The Right Medical Software Package For Your Practice

Medical software programs abound within the healthcare profession and their various functions and features can be confusing and complex to the unfamiliar. The chief aim of medical software programs is to ensure the efficient operation of a health care center and mechanize workflow. In order to make intelligent decisions about the right software to improve your practice, leading to enhanced patient care, it is necessary to have a general understanding of its various uses and applications. There are hundreds of companies competing for physicians dollars, offering clinical as well as cash flow solutions. This article will focus on the differences between web based versus local medical software programs and important information to consider for small practices. The purpose is to assist health care practitioners to make the right choices for their operation.

Medical software programs serve a variety of functions including organizing patient information, tracking patient’s accounts, diagnosing symptoms, billing and insurance claims. There are two methods of operating these system, local or web based. Local medical software systems are either located on your PC or more often, a dedicated server in your office. The other choice is to use a web based system. BOth have their pros and cons.

The cost of local medical software programs vary greatly depending on their function. For example electronic medical records systems range from $2000 to $20,000 for a small practice, in addition to the PC itself along with maintenance contracts which can be up to 30% of the purchase price per year. The major advantage of these systems are your increased ability to have control. There are no worries about the connection being down. Faster response time can be accomplished with more advanced PCs. consultants or the vendor can be utilizes to add customized features. It is noteworthy that running locally, using available resources, does not exclude the accessibility of the internet to gather valuable information. There is no doublt that these systems have their drawbacks in terms of start up cost and advantages in how you can manipulate their usability.

The other choice, web based systems also have their relative upside and drawbacks. Low start up cost is one of the benefits – an electronic medical records package can start at $100 per month or, as an alternative, a pay per use paradigm beginning at $5 per patient. There are no other expenses at the outset other than what is already probably in existence – a PC with a standard web browser and a high speed connection. The great thing about these systems is that you can hook up to them from anywhere – whether at home, a clinic, a hospital,or anywhere else where there is internet access. One risk with a web based service is that if the vendor ceases to operate, there may be considerabe delay in accessing patient information.

It is wise to assume that there is no one perfect medical software program for the small practice. A number of factors need to be taken into consideration which can only be answered through careful evalution. Your practice, your personal style, your budget, your purpose, and you your level of risk tolerance are some of the considerations, once thoroughly evaluated, will lead to an optimal decision . The features the software provides must be useful to you in the context that it is used. For example there is no point in having a particular decision support tool for diagnostics if it is not relevant to your practice. When choosing a program for a small practice, it is always wise to remember – simple is better. Something that is easy to use for office staff without unnecessary and extraneous features will always perform best for the practitioner and their staff.

Thousands of practices ranging from small sole paractices to large multi- care health care centers use medical software programs to manage their billing, clinical and administrative functions. choosing the right medical software programs will require diligent research using available resources such as The Healthcare Informatics Resource Guide, Health Information Management and Systems Review and Medical Software Reviews. This combined with a careful assessment of your pracices needs and budget will bring you to the ideal solution within your context. Above all, the desire to remain current in the ever changing medical profession will be an absolute requirement and serve you well in all areas of the profession.

The Alternative Workplace – Changing Where and How People Work

I was visiting with an agent recently, and he was talking about losing a key employee that was moving because their spouse was transferred to California.
He was talking about not wanting to deal with the hassles and challenges of replacing someone he had finally trained to do a great job. Their responsibilities in the agency included office manager and Account Manager for large Commercial accounts.

My suggestion was to keep the person, and allow them to work from California. His first response was to point out that the person was not licensed in California. However, the idea was not to write new business in California but to continue their current job from a remote location.
Although it took some time, this owner came to realize what is becoming a national trend – the migration to Alternative Workplaces. When, where and how people work is changing on a daily basis.

If your agency is considering Alternative Workplaces, here are 6 questions you will need to answer as you make your decision.

Question #1

Do You Have A Business Reason For Considering An Alternative Workplace?
Working virtually is not “benefit” or a “perk”. Creating an Alternative Workspace is no different than any other decision regarding the operation of your agency. Moving to a virtual way of doing business requires a business decision that supports how your agency does business.
Here are some valid reasons to consider virtual staff:

o Difficulty in finding qualified staff

o Alternative to brick and mortar due to limited workspace

o Desire to retain qualified staff

As with any business decision, “do the math” and determine potential revenue (such as new/retained business), anticipated expense (such as the cost of expanding workspace or building a new office) and projected ROI (based on income earned or expenses saved).
If you don’t have a definite business decision that will make the agency money – do not consider an Alternative Workspace at this time.

Question #2

Does Your Agency Have An Open Culture and Proactive Management?
Rigid agency cultures will have a difficult time adjusting to the transition to an Alternative Workplace. Even though you explain why some staff are able to work from home and others must come to the agency every day, your decision can still create resentment.
If your agency is considering an Alternative Workspace, a good time to begin is immediately. Agency culture is not changed overnight. Having a flexible culture is essential to working virtually.
Here are some milestones that indicate an open culture and proactive Management:

o Staff feels safe approaching Management with suggestions and concerns

o Staff has a strong level of trust in Management

o Management feels safe confronting staff with areas of needed change

o Management has created a consistent method of communication with the staff such as regular staff meetings

o Management informs staff of their plan to introduce new ways of doing business, such as changing to Alternative Workplaces

Question #3

Are You Willing To Establish Clear Ways To Monitor Staff Productivity?
One of the first questions I am asked is, “How do you monitor performance for staff that work from home?” The answer is actually quite simple.
Every staff position needs, and deserves, a clear job description that includes measurable requirements, expectations and boundaries. The old stand-by where owners want staff that “are mature enough to know the right thing to do and just do it” is an excuse for leadership that is not willing to lead.

When it comes to virtual staff, job descriptions and expectations are even more critical. Looking over their work during the day is not possible. Instead, Alternative Workplaces require structures such as:

o Well defined job descriptions that include measurable expectations and productivity

o Well defined consequences that includes both positive and negative results

o Scheduled reports to Management that provides accountability

o Regular communication with the virtual staff so they have regular feedback on the quality of their work

Question #4

Does Potential Virtual Staff Have A Home Office Environment Suitable For A Professional Way Of Doing Business?

Just as an Alternative Workspace needs the right person, it also requires the right work environment. A clean desk and professional workspace is important in the agency; and it is even more essential for virtual staff. The kitchen table is not an appropriate work environment.
Before implementing an Alternative Workspace, Management will want to establish clear guidelines for working virtually. Some of these guidelines might include:

o A dedicated workspace with a desk

o No indoor pets, such as dogs, that can create distractions and inappropriate interruptions during business phone calls

o Adequate lighting

o No young children

Question #5

Is Management Willing To Invest In Tools, Training and Technology Required For Alternative Workplaces?
Alternative Workplaces require a considerable investment in tools, training and technology. Some agencies may try to limit their expenses by asking staff to use their own computers. However, privacy laws and computer liabilities such as viruses and hacking make it essential for an agency to have equipment it can monitor and control its use.

Here are some investments needed to implement successful Alternative Workplaces:

o Computer/Monitor (If dual monitors are used in the agency, it should also be part of a virtual office)

o Printer

o Dedicated Phone Line

o Web Cam

o Internet Access

o A virtual private network (VPN) is a private communications network often used by companies or organizations, to communicate confidentially over a public network. A VPN can send data e.g. voice, data or video, or a combination of these media, across secured and encrypted private channels between two points.

o DSL: DSL stands for digital subscriber line. It uses ordinary telephone lines and a special modem to provide an Internet connection that can transmit high-bandwidth information to a user’s computer. A DSL line can carry both data and voice signals. The data part of the line is a dedicated connection to the Internet and does not interfere with use of the telephone. DSL is high speed and is always connected to the Internet.

o Cable Internet: Cable Internet uses your local cable TV line to receive broadband Internet content. This data rate far exceeds that of modems and is about the same as DSL. Your local TV cable company is typically the cable Internet service provider.

o Dial-up access: Although Dial-Up may be available and reduce expenses, it is not recommended for an Alternative Workplace. Slow performance will affect the quality of work provided by your staff.

o Satellite Internet: If cable or DSL aren’t available in your area, or if the slow dial-up access speeds are not acceptable, consider using satellite internet. It’s available to you if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and have an unobstructed view of the southern sky. The service is expensive and the data rate is not as fast as a direct line, but it is a good connectivity alternative if you live in an isolated location.

You will also want to consider additional resources such as:

o Online Agency Management System (such as TAM Online or AFW Online)

o Computer Training

o Cell Phone

o Soft Skills Training Including:

o Effective Letter Writing

o Email Etiquette

o Public Speaking

An important consideration for any agency is consistency in how files are stored, applications are configured, etc. The reason is so that, if a staff member is out because of illness, termination, etc, any other member of the staff can easily slide into their position. This is also true with your virtual staff.

Some items to establish consistent methods include:

o Outlook – How folders and signature is set up

o Paper Port – If your agency uses Paper Port, the folders should be set up the same

o Voice Mail message

o How activities are recorded

Question #6

Is Agency Management Aware Of Legal Implications Of An Alternative Workplace?
Tax laws are always a consideration when dealing with changes in how you manage staff. But Alternative Workplaces have created new considerations for staff working offsite.
Many of these changes have been brought about by the Gramm, Leach, Bliley Privacy Act (GLBA). Some areas to consider include computers, cell phone, PDAs and other electronic devices:

o Protection of NPI (Non-Public Information) and other client data

o Method of destroying data stored at the Alternative Workplace

o Method of backing up and restoring data

Because of the legal aspects of Privacy Laws, you are advised to consult with your attorney and E&O carrier to determine your risks and resolutions.

Tips For Staying Focused

You may have up-to-date technology and training, but you must have also effective strategies that help your employee stay focused. Here are some tips that will help them:

o Start working at the same time. Treat telework days like regular workdays: get up, get dressed, and be “at your desk” at the usual time.

o Establish a schedule. Keep work hours similar to the ones you would keep if you were working at your office. Your manager and your co-workers will appreciate knowing when you’ll be available.

o Limit distractions. Be careful not to replace office-based interruptions with home-based ones (such as children, neighbors, and friends).

o Plan ahead. Take the appropriate work home. Some work may be better suited for the home office than other work, so be sure to plan the telework a day ahead.

o Take breaks. Plan time to get up and move around. Consider going for a walk or a run during your lunch break to keep your mind fresh.

o Focus on objectives. Work with your manager and colleagues to define clear goals and objectives against which your performance can be objectively measured.

o Consider using instant messaging. Similar to a chat room, IM is a fast means of communicating with one or more people in real time over the Internet. IM gives you a way to show and update your communication status throughout the day. For example, when you need a couple of hours of undisturbed concentration, set your status as “Busy” and let everyone know that you’ll be slower than usual to reply to e-mail messages and phone calls.

What It Would Take To Be Productive?

One night I was kinda bent out of shape that my ipod battery wasn’t working (I sent it to Apple and all is well now.), but I noticed that I was able to give a little more attention to my other devices. I cleaned up my computers desktop, the top of my desk, work on my Palm Pilot, do the dishes and vacuum. It didn’t take me long to find that my devices that I use to try and save time, really are the things that consume all my time. I already knew long before hand that I had to force myself to stop on a computer project (and in this sense a project would consist of changing the background of my ipod, or the icon set for my Windows Desktop.), but I always thought I would get these things to help me save time and have more content and information at my figertips.

So to make all these things more I would need a technical assistant, someone who will configure my devices and look up new gadgets and software that would be more beneficial for my over all life style. Here is a list of duties for this assistant on the following devices.
Laptop/Desktop computer:

*Always have a cool wallpaper, if I get bored of it he’ll change it

*Keep it updated, configured so no annoyances happen

*Figure out how to get my wireless on board card to work with Linux

Palm Pilot:

*Keep Contact info updated (check monthly to insure info is current)

*Find cool free software that does not have demo/trial annoyances

*Corrolate (or at least enter) School, work, extra projects and my wife’s schedules

*Keep the Palm Desktop software, Outlook and Kontact (Linux’s Outlook) updated to device and vice versa

*Manage my accounts and my “get out and stay out of debt” plan

Ipod:

*Manage mine and my wife’s songs, make the necessary playlist

*Take mine and my wife’s lecture recordings and convert them to mp3 and then zip them and upload them to my website.

*Make custom tracks for my music class (explaining what song, artist and time period is playing, along with anything else I need to know about the music for that music class

*Make custom tracks for all my other classes so I can listen to them to study.

Now if he or she were able to take care of all these things I would be able to go to work, study, hang out with friends, work on my website, work out, do all the stuff around the house that I need to, and even hang out with my wife…if she’s not at work. I would have it setup so that we would meet on a Saturday or Monday and decide about the current wallpapers, computer settings, Palm Pilot settings, and iPod settings. The assistant would be able to call to remind of any appointments, help me with any studying, and do all the wasteful searching on the internet for the few things that I would stand in need of. I was talking to my wife about this idea, and with out missing a beat she said, “and be a Nanny too.” Not that we have kids, but just to take care of the dishes and car oil changes and whatnot.

An Outsourcing Success Story

A psychiatry clinic in Texas was having a very hard time documenting medical reports and records. Most of the reports were handwritten with the legibility of the reports such that even the physicians’ own secretaries could not decipher them. Besides the time wasted on writing the reports by hand and the expense of photocopying them for patients and referring physicians, the clinic was facing problems with getting these reports ready on time.

The backlog of reports to be delivered was piling up and was reaching alarming proportions. Auditing of the records was proving to be a huge problem. The clinic administration desired streamlining and moving towards a paperless office to address HIPAA regulations and improve operational efficiency. Also, the stakeholders (patients, referring physicians, government agencies, and billing office) wanted to implement an electronic medical records system, and this led them to reevaluate their existing operational processes.

Having the records transcribed locally by medical transcriptionists in the US was an expensive affair as the average rate charged by American medical transcriptionists was about $15 an hour. Recruiting in-house transcription staff was a Herculean task as it involved a lot of formalities and huge cost implications. It worked out to about 40 cents per line to get a report transcribed using in-house staff.

As more than 50% of the physicians were ESL (English second language) dictators, most American medical transcriptionists were not too keen to take on these jobs. This was when the clinic decided to outsource the work to India where the same job could be done at about $5 an hour or at 8.5 cents per line.

After contacting and reviewing many vendors, this clinic approached an Indian medical transcription company having its office in California and requested them to assist in streamlining their existing infrastructure. The Indian company deputed two of its outsourcing consultants to do a comprehensive investigation of the existing infrastructure with specific reference to time-to-chart metrics, a critical analysis of the need for creating and maintaining electronic patient records, the need for a web-based document management system, and a cost-benefit evaluation of maintaining electronic patient records. The consultants identified many critical areas and their repercussions on the day-to-day functioning of the clinic. Specifically, time-to-chart issues lead to cascading effects onto the entire chain of healthcare, patient care, and provider accounts receivable management, thereby leading to poor business performance of the physicians’ practice and affecting the profitability of the clinic itself.

The Indian consultants made several recommendations. Firstly, they opined that the job of transcribing psychiatry files be done by an exclusive team of medical transcriptionists who were well versed with psychiatry because they felt that transcribing psychiatry files was a specialist job. Secondly, they offered the use of a toll-free dial-in dictation system whereby the physician could start dictating straightaway either via a cell phone/mobile phone or through any landline phone connection. Thirdly, technical staff could have this toll-free dial-in dictation system up and running within half an hour of receiving an E-mail request from the client. Fourthly, the physicians were also offered the option of utilizing a brand new digital Dictaphone that would be provided to them free of cost. They were also shown how to log into the Indian company’s secure file transfer protocol server to upload their dictations and how this whole process could be automated with the use of software that would also be provided to them free of cost. Fifthly, the physicians were also told that they could access the Indian company’s exclusive online physician portal wherever they were, using a PDA or Blackberry. They could also view, edit (if necessary), and E-sign the transcripts, and they could also fax or E-mail the transcripts to their patients or the insurance companies. Lastly, the clinic was offered a one-week free trial where different doctors were asked to dictate files. The clinic was delighted to see that what had been such a cumbersome process all these years was done in such a simple and cost-effective way by the Indian company. The Indian company was then entrusted with the task of handling the entire transcription process starting with capturing the dictation, transcribing the reports, editing them, quality control checks, and delivery of the final transcription reports.

The clinic’s physicians realized that outsourcing improved time-to-chart (TTC) metrics, that they could concentrate on patient care instead of documentation, that insurance companies were billed sooner, and that they themselves received payment sooner. Moreover, electronic medical record management facilitated easier audit of healthcare facilities which is one of the US government’s objectives.

Staying competitive is the most critical aspect in today’s business world. Harnessing technology and global sourcing of talent is the mantra of success. With nil-to-minimal investment, a paperless office can be established in a healthcare facility and HIPAA compliance ensured. A transition from a stage where medical reports are handwritten to a stage where processes are done electronically can be done smoothly and without any hassles when there is a dedicated team working on it.

Outsourcing makes good business sense especially when profitability is taken into account, all businesses primarily being run with the profit motive in mind. Thomas L. Friedman said that in this twenty-first century, the world is flat. Nowhere is this truer than in the field of medical transcription where a physician can dictate a report at noon in the USA, have it transcribed and edited in India an hour or so later, uploaded to his office almost immediately, and find the report ready for him to sign before he leaves for the day.