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Manage Business in a Flash

Never one to bypass a new technology that might be useful for his business, Ricardo Remis discovered USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash drives about a year ago and has since used the compact devices much as he’d use a computer hard drive. Just a couple of inches long and usually equipped with a lanyard and clip, the USB drives provide mobility that goes beyond the traditional desktop or laptop.

“It completely changed the way I do business,” says Remis, broker-associate with The Keyes Co./Realtors in Wellington. In real estate for three years, Remis sold $2.5 million in properties in 2006—roughly half of which involved international buyers—and is looking to duplicate that production this year. To get there, he relies on a $60 Dane-Elec flash drive that holds 2 gigabytes of information and graphics.

It’s Remis’ second flash drive. His first one held only 512 megabytes of data and, as with all technology, it wasn’t long before manufacturers were selling lower-priced yet larger-capacity models. “The low storage capacity made my first flash drive obsolete pretty quickly,” says Remis. “The one I’m using holds my entire hard drive, and is always fastened around my neck.” Flash drives (also called jump drives or thumb drives) are small, lightweight removable and rewritable devices that have, for many computer users, replaced the 3-by 5-inch floppy disk because they hold more data. For the trendier segment of flash drive users, some companies offer novelty versions (i.e. a plastic thumb, plastic sushi, rubber ducky, etc.)

Remis says having his important information in a compact format and on his person at all times has made him more effective and efficient. Here are five benefits he derives from the device:    

1. Keep Data Current
Because Remis is an active real estate professional who divides his time between his home office, broker’s office, customer locations and his own vehicle, his information constantly changes or needs updating. He has one laptop and two desktops in his home, and also relies on PCs located in different offices. To make sure he always has the latest information on him at all times, he stores listing pictures, contract forms, Multiple Listing Service (MLS) information and other pertinent information on his 2GB flash drive. 

“Before I got this drive, I had no idea which of my computers was updated and which wasn’t,” says Remis. “Now, I only save the latest information to the flash drive, and work from that.”

2. Quickly Create Fliers
Just last month Remis needed 100 fliers in a hurry. He designed them on his home desktop, saved the information to his flash drive, and then drove to his office to print them out on a commercial-grade printer (which he doesn’t have at home). In the past, the same exercise would have required Remis to create a CD, which didn’t allow him to make changes or corrections at a later date.

“If I made a mistake, there was no way of correcting it once I got to the office,” says Remis. “The flash drive allows me to change things as needed and create a more professional product.”

The flash drive holds all of Remis’ latest data. His laptop and desktop simply provide the software needed to run or access those files.

3. Plug-and-Play Convenience
Because Remis stores listing presentations (in English and Spanish) on his flash drive, when he’s at a client’s home or at work, he can simply plug the device into the client’s computer or his own and view the information. “I just ask [the clients] to plug it into their PC,” says Remis, who has freed himself from having to tote around a laptop to appointments, “and sit back while my most updated presentation comes up quickly.”
4. Back Up Valuable Data
When Remis’ laptop hard drive crashed a few months ago, the consequences could’ve been catastrophic in terms of lost data, information and photos. Thankfully, he had the hard drive backed up onto his flash drive. He was able to plug it into a new unit and get up and running in minutes. “It was a lifesaver,” says Remis. “Everything was right there, uncorrupted and ready to use.”

5. Store Performance Numbers
Flash drives aren’t only for client- and customer-oriented information; they can also be used to store operational and business data. Just last month, for example, Remis sat down with a new office manager and was immediately asked for a rundown of his sales performance. “It took seconds to plug my flash drive into the office computer,” Remis says, “and pull up my entire sales history for the last three years.”

Thanks to advancements in technology, Remis is anticipating a time when 4GB USB flash drives will be able to store his entire PC hard drive plus videos and movies. “In the future,” says Remis, “I see myself storing my entire PC on one of these little gadgets.”

This column, designed to offer examples of how salespeople and brokers are using technology in their offices, won first place in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association. The column is for general information only. Opinions expressed here don’t necessarily reflect an endorsement of the views by Florida Realtor magazine or the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).
Remis’ Tools

Desktop: Pentium III and Pentium IV standard desktops
Drive: Dane-Elec Flash
Laptop: Sony VAIO
Printer: Canon S300
Software: Act!, Mach5 Mailer, Microsoft Publisher

2GB Flash Drive Options

  1. A-Data PD2 USB 2.0 Flash Drive, A-Data—$35;
  2. Dane-Elec 2GB Flash Drive, Dane-Elec—$60;
  3. Kanguru 2GB Flash Drive, Kanguru Solutions—$55 to $75;
  4. RITEK Mini Spin 2GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive, RITEK—$40;