- Promote company-wide growth and success by providing continued training to agents and staff.
- Set a deadline for converting to a paperless office, and don't let excuses win.
- See Donna Jo's Tips for Paperless Success →
Located in Albany and Corvallis, Oregon, Coldwell Banker Valley Brokers (CBVB) is a 65-broker office that has been in operation since 1983. They are consistently known as a top producing office in their area year after year.
Donna Jo Merrifield, the Vice President for Business Development and Principal Broker, believes in continued training for her agents. CBVB provided over 500 hours of training in 2014 including pre-licensing classes, new agent training series, technology workshops, webinars, talks by expert speakers, and more. Their educational programs along with a paperless transaction management workflow are key contributors to their success.
From 2013 to 2014 their combined office sales volume increased by nearly 16%. Donna Jo is pleased with the growth:
Every year we get better and better. That’s our goal. Every month in 2015 thus far we have exceeded our transactions written and closed. I would like to see another 10% increase at minimum on either side.
The office used to produce a mountain load of paper and it wasn’t long before operational problems began to pile up along with stationery costs. Donna Jo lamented over the paper-based processes they previously used:
Thick Stacks of Paperwork: "I would do a lot of paperwork. Sometimes those files would get to be 4 or 5 inches thick because we required all correspondences included in each file."
Rising Storage Costs: "There were a few times we had to expand our storage unit because there were so many transactions and they were so big. I used to make the joke that ‘we should buy stock in paper because we are using so much of it’."
More Paper, Less Time: "We started out with paper-based checklists and big transaction envelopes. Everything required on the checklist would go into that big transaction file and the principal broker would review it all manually and initial each page."
As time passed, the paper problems kept getting worse. Eventually, the principal brokers started thinking: "what if we never had to even touch paper for the most part?". That sparked Donna Jo to begin searching for and finally finding a paperless system.
She initially settled on a product for her accounting team to test the waters. They spent months getting their account set up only to be met with headaches. The breaking point came when her accountants said “either you get rid of this system or you lose our services”.
The system they were trying wasn’t user-friendly. Donna Jo sought advice from other real estate companies who used the same system. They told her it was a decent product, but could take a year or two to function effectively.
“I just didn’t have a year or two to wait on a system to meet our needs,” Donna Jo recalled.
She resolved to find a better solution despite the initial let down. She researched other products and asked for demos and free trials. Unfortunately, most companies were not willing to let her sample their system with a free trial.
We would ask if we could have a temporary account and try the system out - and a few of them told us ‘no you can’t do that’. But with Pipeline, they said ‘Yeah! Your first 5 are free - go check it out.’ We thought that was really cool.
After the free trial, they discovered Paperless Pipeline was the solution they had been looking for.
We finally said ‘this is it - no more excuses, no more reasons to say next year’. We chose Paperless Pipeline - and we are so glad we did. We’re never going back. Pipeline gave us that big ‘Aha’ moment and all we could think of is ‘why didn’t we do this sooner?’
They began adding all new listings into their new Paperless Pipeline system while letting the existing paper-based files close out. And within a few months, they were running a fully paperless office.
Ease of Use: The most important thing to Donna Jo and her team was ease of use. Like many real estate offices, they have agents with different levels of technical skills. Some are novice users of the internet and computers while others are highly tech-savvy.
We knew we had to have a program that was easy to learn and quick to pick up through just a couple of trainings.
Time Savings: Their fast-paced office needed a system that could keep up. Having to trudge through piles of paper slowed down the workday. Pipeline streamlined their processes, and cleaned up their desks and filing cabinets as well.
Whenever you’re creating a transaction or when I’m reviewing documents, it goes a lot faster and easier with Pipeline rather than sitting here with stacks of papers and manually reviewing and initialing each document. That’s been great - and very efficient.
Ability to Work On-The-Go: Donna Jo loves Pipeline's built-in mobile support. Agents can access any transaction, document, and correspondence from anywhere — from meeting rooms, local coffee spots, and even the beach.
When agents are out and about or need something immediately, they have access to it on every platform. It’s on my iPad, my phone, or my computer and laptop. If the lender needed a disclosure statement, I am able to pull it up on Paperless Pipeline and can email it right there. People are impressed because they ask for a file and I am able to forward it to them right away. It’s just much quicker and easier.
Pipeline’s Customer Support Team: Donna Jo wanted a product built by a company centered around customer support. She also needed to have access to documentation and training for her staff. The quality of support was a major factor in CBVB's decision to go with Paperless Pipeline.
I was really looking at the help support team. If you need help, you will get it in a matter of minutes. If it’s after hours, you will still get a response in no time. You can message them if you need them - but you won’t need it often. Especially with the Paperless Pipeline help site. You just watch a couple of videos - it’s easy!
High Value, Low Cost: Cost was a huge factor for the CBVB team. They wanted to get out from under the rising costs of storage and stationery. They also liked how Pipeline structures its pricing plans. To Donna Jo, it made perfect sense to be able to pay by number of transactions per month instead of by users. And they were pleased that Pipeline didn't lock them in with long-term contracts.
Another thing we really liked about Paperless Pipeline is that we weren’t tied to a contract. The other companies wanted us tied to them for at least a year or pay a lot of money to break the contract. That bothered us because it’s scary not knowing if it’s going to work and what you will have to do. With Pipeline, we’re saving money on storage and are more efficient so we can do a lot more during employee hours. We have hundreds of transactions in the system - and over thousands of documents. So, if you were to take that and multiply it by the cost of paper you are looking at quite a bit of savings.
At our staff meetings we do a tech tip where we pull up something we’ve learned that will make their lives easier. It takes 5 minutes to teach a new trick in Paperless Pipeline. They are able to take notes and learn things that can save them time.
I called recommended brokers and others in the Coldwell Banker system who used Pipeline. I chatted with a lot of people and asked about Pipeline and their help system - and they all said ‘it’s awesome.’
We trained our staff and they began uploading things behind the scenes. Our agents kept turning in their paperwork and didn’t know we were making it go paperless. We took baby steps to let them get comfortable with scanning or emailing their files into the front desk admins. Now, the agents are now directly submitting things in to Paperless Pipeline. We are still able to help our not-so-tech inclined agents get their documents in even if they need a little help.
It just took a bit of time for all of us to decide to change our way of thinking from paper to paperless. From having to initial all of these pages to now being able to click. It just took a little change of mindset and habit, but we quickly got used to it and we just absolutely love it.
Drastically changing the way you operate your business is never easy. Improving the CBVB team, providing continued agent education, and going paperless were Donna Jo's top priorities. Her drive to adopt a paperless solution for her team has resulted in huge long-term wins.
If I could go back several years, I would tell myself not to be scared. Go paperless - just set a date and time and get a plan on how you’re going to implement this. The main thing I would say is “don’t wait anymore and stop putting it off”. My life is just so much easier now. I can review documents anywhere, so they are not piling up back at the office. It’s just so easy. I think it's human nature to say 'but we’re comfortable. Things are ok'. But sometimes you have to say ‘it could be better'. And now, with Pipeline, it really is - and I'm really grateful.
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