Viewing by month: November 2011

Make sure your office passwords are secure

In today’s high-tech society, business operators need to be cautious not only about securing their physical premises to avoid theft, but also about making sure their online systems remain protected from cyber threats.  Passwords used for internet activity play a key role in preventing unwanted criminal access to important business details (such as bank accounts and client databases), and it is for this reason that CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise owners and managers need to encourage careful password selection by staff members within their organisation as well as practicing this themselves. 

The US-based provider of password management applications, SplashData, recently released its list of the worst passwords of 2011.  In an effort to encourage the use of stronger passwords, SplashData identified the most common passwords used, which was compiled from files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers. 

In the list of 25 passwords, the top 5 were:
• password
• 123456
• 12345678
• qwerty
• abc123

According to SplashData’s CEO Morgan Slain, hackers can easily break into many accounts just by repeatedly trying common passwords.  He cautioned that even though people are encouraged to select secure, strong passwords, many continue to choose weak, easy-to-guess ones, placing themselves at risk from fraud and identity theft. 

As a CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise owner and/or manager, what tips can you provide your staff to ensure strong passwords are enacted? Morgan Slain recommends against having passwords that are easily guessable, such as a short or common words in the dictionary, as it “is like leaving your door open for identity thieves”.

SplashData suggests the following tips for creating more secure passwords:
• Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters
• Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites
• Consider the use of a password manager application that organises and protects passwords and can automatically log you into websites. 

As businesses move to store increasing amounts of data online, it is now more important than ever to ensure strength in the passwords used by yourself and staff members.  By avoiding common mistakes and educating your staff about the importance of password protection, you will be well on your way to protecting your CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise from online threats.

0 comments | Posted by George Tarbey on 28/11/2011 at 11:06 AM | Categories:

Add value to your business with regular performance reviews

Performance reviews are an important business tool that enable company executives and their staff members to discuss both the successes of and challenges faced by employees in a productive manner. 

As a CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise owner and/or manager, conducting planned performance reviews are an essential part of running your business, and will help your sales agents remain productive and on target to achieve the agency’s goals. 

The most successful performance reviews will see managers sit down with their staff in a productive environment to communicate in an unrestricted fashion.  CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise managers and/or owners should note that while these sessions are an opportunity for management to highlight to staff both their achievements as well as any performance concerns, it is also a valuable forum for employees to voice their own feedback.  Such two way communication will likely see management gain insights into their own business practices and how these are viewed by employees, and could lead to business development opportunities.

In order to best prepare for performance reviews, it is important for sessions to be planned well in advance and scheduled with ample time to talk about all relevant topics.  With solid forewarning about an impending performance review, both management and staff have sufficient time to gather their thoughts about what needs to be discussed, as well as to prepare any necessary information (such as data reports and the like). 

Conducting a well-planned and prepared for performance review can potentially result in the following benefits (among many others) for your CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise office:

• The highlighting of potential business development and growth opportunities, as staff members are encouraged to bring their own ideas to the table;
• The identification of inherent weaknesses within your real estate organisation that can be curbed before resulting in greater damage;
• Giving your staff members direction and a target to work towards, often boosting productivity;
• Allowing management to congratulate staff members at an individual level, likely improving morale. 
As a CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise owner and/or manager, conducting regular performance reviews with your individual team members has the potential to add significant value to your business and will often help your sales agents remain productive and on target.  To get the most out of the review process, your meetings with staff should be planned in advance, well prepared for and encourage open discussion and two-way feedback.  

0 comments | Posted by George Tarbey on 22/11/2011 at 9:05 AM | Categories:

Protect your real estate business from fraudulent behaviour

Fraudulent behaviour is unfortunately a common issue faced by many business owners.  It is important that as owner and/or manager of a CENTURY 21 Real Estate franchise you take the time to implement measures to protect against fraud and identity theft.

While specific legal definitions can vary from location to location, according to the New South Wales Police Force fraud can broadly be defined as ‘an act on behalf of a person that is deceptive or deceitful in some way in that it causes them to receive a benefit that they are not entitled to.’

With many organisations, including real estate franchise businesses, now relying on online (and often faceless) methods of transacting and communicating, fraud is of increasing concern, with many businesses at greater risk of falling victim to damaging scams. 

As owner and/or manager of a CENTURY 21 real estate franchise you may wish to take the time to educate your agents and staff members about common fraudulent practices, and provide suggested measures that can be adopted to help prevent fraud from occurring within your real estate office.  Simple education will help to raise awareness about the issue. 

General guidelines you may like to consider to help keep fraudsters at bay include:
1. Install security software to protect and encrypt the personal details of your staff and clients
2. Install internet protection software to prevent online viruses and potential hackings
3. Advise your staff to ignore suspicious emails and not to follow email links if there is any doubt whatsoever, particularly when it comes to banks and other financial institutions.

If you would like some helpful tips on how to protect your office, staff and clients from common fraudulent behaviour, the NSW Police Force provides a list of organisations that you may like to visit:
• Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)
• Australian Communications and Media Authority  (ACMA)
• Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
• Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)
• Australian Federal Police (AFP)
• Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AusTRAC)

Fraudulent behaviours are scarily common and see both businesses and individuals targeted. Franchise managers and owners need to look to protect their businesses, staff and clients from all means of fraudulent behaviour by implementing the appropriate security tools, employing caution when handling personal information, especially clients’ details, and operating intelligently.  

0 comments | Posted by George Tarbey on 14/11/2011 at 4:42 PM | Categories:

The importance of community engagement

When running a business, whether large or small in size and revenue, some of the most important aspects to consider in your marketing plan are the initiatives you can take to become more involved with your local community.  Such engagement will give your franchise a valuable platform on which to build strong relationships and to increase goodwill and standing amongst residents and other businesses. 

For franchise operations, the importance of marketing at a local community level can often be overlooked, especially when large-scale efforts are happening at a national level.  While such campaigns are also of high priority, appealing to your community at a specific, local level can prove to be a very successful, cost-effective way to build your business, while also allowing you to thank the community for their ongoing support. 

So, how can your real estate franchise look to connect with and give back to the local community?

Sponsorship of local sporting teams
The sponsorship of local sporting teams can be a highly effective way for real estate franchises to get their names out there in a positive way.  Not only will this likely see you providing a local team with much needed uniforms, equipment and so on (and perhaps even the means to play in the first place), it also shows that you are committed to the activities of the local community. 

From a marketing and branding perspective, such sponsorship can see you achieve opportunities for public relations, as well as the display of your logo and company name.  

Fundraising events
It is widely acknowledged that people like to do business with philanthropic organisations.  This doesn’t have to mean the donation of large sums to charity – many real estate organisations can make a positive impact by holding smaller fundraising events for causes aligned with business values – an example could be a Pink Ribbon morning tea.  Such events can give your office a means of raising much needed funds for worthy organisations, as well as an opportunity to interact with local residents who you may not necessarily have come into previous contact with.  

Local community initiatives are an excellent way for your real estate franchise to give back to the community - and can contribute to the success of your business.  

0 comments | Posted by George Tarbey on 02/11/2011 at 9:25 AM | Categories: