April 8, 2019

JF1677: How To Systematize Your Business So You Can Spend Your Time Doing What You Want #SituationSaturday with Sarah Noked


Ah, the perpetual vacation, the motivation for a lot of beginning investors and experienced investors to build a large real estate portfolio. One problem: you can have all the properties in the world, but if you’re the only reliable worker, that’s not much more than a very time consuming JOB. How do we change this or scale a business with our time in mind from the beginning so that we can reach our goals of having free time to do as we wish? Sarah Noked is here to answer that for us today. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


Best Ever Tweet:

“There is such a wealth of talent in the online space, it’s amazing how entrepreneurs are leveraging that in their businesses” – Sarah Noked


Sarah Noked Real Estate Background:

  • A Certified Online Business Manager, putting systems in place for businesses to scale
  • One of just 3 worldwide Certified OBM® (Online Business Manager) Trainers
  • Based in: Haifa Area, Israel
  • Say hi to her at https://www.sarahnoked.com/bestever/


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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff.

First off, I hope you’re having a best ever weekend. Because today is Saturday, we’ve got a special segment for you called Situation Saturday. Here’s the situation, Best Ever listeners – do you want to systematize your business so you can safely delegate and go take a vacation? You deserve a vacation, don’t you? Yes, you do, but you’ve gotta have a system with your business in order to do that… And with us today we happen to have one of just three worldwide certified Online Business Manager trainers. She is a certified Online Business Manager putting systems in place for businesses to scale. How are you doing, Sarah Noked?

Sarah Noked: Hey, Joe. Thanks for having me on.

Joe Fairless: My pleasure, nice to have you on the show. Well, I just did a little intro for you; you’re based in Israel, you’re from Toronto… Before we get into how to systematize our business so we can delegate and go do our vacation, can you just share with the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Sarah Noked: Yeah, absolutely. As an online business manager, I’m a certified one and I certified back in 2012. There’s a lot of buzz around virtual assistants, and what virtual assistants can do for a business; an online business manager is a type of virtual assistant that’s more focused on management.

A lot of my clients, a lot of our clients happen to be serial entrepreneurs, a lot of them have invested in real estate and are real estate investors, and I think it’s really important to have people on your team, whether in your own investing business, or I’m sure a lot of your people, because I was listening… I also had a landscaping company at one point, and I also wanna be a real estate investor at one point… But a lot of the times we continue doing everything ourselves; as an online business manager, we are mainly focused on helping our clients build out their team, put systems in place, get automations in place… All of that good stuff. So we really help to automate businesses in an online, virtual sense.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So you help automate businesses in a virtual sense… Will you use maybe a concrete example of what that would look like?

Sarah Noked: Yeah, absolutely. I have a client who made quite a handsome dollar in real estate investments; he’s also based in Toronto. And he has a business on the side, it’s a passion project; he’s a smart guy, he understands e-mail marketing and he understands all the different components of having an online business, and metrics, and he reached out to me because he wanted somebody to manage basically the day-to-day of his business at his team, so that he could focus his energy on what he was really good at, which was creating content and being a serial entrepreneur and creating this amazing product to put out into the universe.

I thought it would be interesting to talk to your people about the possibilities of what their time would look like and how much more time they would have to focus on investing and finding properties, and listening to the podcasts, and all of the stuff that needs to happen to stay ahead of the game when it comes to real estate… And I think a lot of the times we still stay in the day-to-day of our business; it’s still us maybe in our inbox, answering e-mails, or maybe having something to do with real estate, or doing some research, or even looking at metrics. So one of the things that I wanted to bring to the table here in this conversation today was metrics, and numbers. I know real estate investing is a numbers game, right Joe? Am I right or am I wrong? I’m not a real estate investor, so back me up here…

Joe Fairless: Oh yeah, you’re 100% right. I imagine that’s a common theme throughout any successful entrepreneur that you work with. They’re focused on the ROI.

Sarah Noked: That’s right. So I think metrics, gathering the metrics and keeping an eye on that is something that a manager in a business typically would do… So as an online business manager, we’re kind of like a VA on steroids, in a lot of ways. I hate saying that, but it is the truth, because we are really focused on management, and really taking stuff off of the business owner’s plate, so that they can go and focus on the fun stuff – passion projects, and having more time, whether it be time with your family, or time to go and do that amazing thing that you’ve always wanted to do, or have a better career, and stuff like that.

Joe Fairless: I do know what virtual assistants do, I get that… And this is a new term for me, an online business manager; you’ve just mentioned one thing that you do is gather the metrics and track that – let’s start with this, and then we’ll get into some specifics… Just so I have an idea of more specifically what are the tasks that you do. As you said, a VA on steroids – which you probably don’t like, but it’s a way to describe it that helps me understand it, because I understand VAs. So what are some specific things that you do?

Sarah Noked: Project planning. Let’s say you’re doing a real estate investment, or you’re doing some sort of build – I don’t know if that falls under real estate investment, but let’s say I’m wanting to invest in a few apartments, for example… So you may have a project going where you’re keeping track of certain things; maybe you spoke to a few different real estate agents, maybe you’re doing a little bit of research as a part of that project… One of the main things we do is project planning; having a place where — as an entrepreneur, you might have a lot of ideas, you might have a lot of things that you want to accomplish as part of the project, but you have nowhere that you’re keeping track of anything, or keeping track of moving pieces.

Joe Fairless: Sure.

Sarah Noked: Would you say that’s what a real estate investor [unintelligible [00:07:16].24]

Joe Fairless: Yeah, absolutely. Project planning/project management.

Sarah Noked: Exactly. So we would do the project planning and management. Also, I’m sure a lot of your people probably have a VA. Sometimes our relationship with the VA can be stressed if there’s no standard operating procedures in place, so something that we do for business is putting SOPs in place; making sure that if there’s a recurring task that’s happening in a business, that it can be standardized and done in a way that is approved by the business owner, and managed by us. So having the VAs kind of working at a much higher capacity, and making sure that they’re being completely optimized, among the other team members as well, making sure that everybody is working, making sure that the projects are being planned, and somebody is being there to drive the truck and making sure that the right things are happening… Because the OBM (online business manager) is very much aware of the vision and the goals; we’re up  there in that big picture, with the entrepreneur, on what’s happening, and then we can focus down on the team, and take that piece off of the client’s plate – the team, the project planning, the metrics management… All of that high-level stuff that is really hard to delegate and trust somebody to do.

OBM is not a new term. It started in 2010. Even before that. But I’ve been one since 2012.

Joe Fairless: If it started in 2010, why are there only three?

Sarah Noked: Well, there’s only three trainers worldwide.

Joe Fairless: Okay.

Sarah Noked: I reached out to Tina Forsyth – who runs the international association of OBMs – last year and I said “Look, we need to get more people on the ground, training and nurturing people like myself, who can be great managers in the online space, and help entrepreneurs free up their time, so they can actually do more of what matters for them, and less of the day-to-day BS that maybe they’re not so happy about doing anymore.

We had a back and forth, and she was like “Alright.” I actually flew out to [00:09:12].18] Canada, I trained with her about a year ago, and since then I’ve trained almost 100 OBMs this year through my program. So I am actually an OBM in practice, I have my own roster of clients, I have an agency here… There’s quite a few Anglos living in Israel like myself, and we have an agency here where we provide high-level — I have an MBA, I’ve worked in corporate business development… I’ve got a family, and like you say, Joe, I’ve gotta do what I love, and I have to have a job that allows me to spend time with my kids and my family, so that’s sort of why I do what I do… But in doing so, I’ve realized “Wow, there’s so many entrepreneurs and serial entrepreneurs out there that really do need a higher level of support”, which is why I went into the training piece. There’s only a few of us because it’s relatively — it’s not new, but it’s definitely in its infancy, this industry.

Joe Fairless: Do you also match your client up with virtual assistants?

Sarah Noked: Yes, I do. Hiring and firing is definitely part of what we do. It’s sort of like the managing of the day-to-day, the team, the projects… It’s all of that stuff. And finding the right VAs… And not only VAs; sometimes it’s about finding a graphic designer. It depends on the type of business. It might be about doing high-level research, or even phone calls; managing the people who are maybe doing phone calls and following up on collecting rent, I imagine, and all the business that comes along with real estate investment.

Joe Fairless: And what is the investment to use your services?

Sarah Noked: The investment to use an OBM starts at about $65/hour. We have packages in our agency that start at about $2,500. So we work on a retainer, we become quite an integral part of the team… And in saying that, there has to be a real connection between the client as well. We wanna feel invested in the business, and connected to the business.

Also, I do wanna mention too that because I train OBMs, and because I’m quite active in the community and I have quite a following of OBMs myself, I also focus on match-making. If somebody from your audience were to contact me, located in Texas, or whatever, and maybe needed an OBM that could meet up locally once in a while, or just somebody in the area, I have quite a few OBMs all over the world that I would match-make that client with as well.

That’s the beauty of this – there’s such a wealth of talent in the online space, and it’s just really amazing how entrepreneurs are leveraging it in their business.

Joe Fairless: Let’s say that you’re completely booked up, and you’re not an option for a Best Ever listener to work with, and you’re unavailable to give referrals. When a Best Ever listener looks to hire an online business manager to help them do the things that you mentioned – the metrics, putting in a standard operating procedure, planning and project management, hiring and firing team members – where should they find this person, and then what are some questions they should ask this person before?

Sarah Noked: Yes, if we were booked out and I didn’t have anybody to matchmake them with, there’s actually quite a large directory of online business managers that exists if they go to the International Association of Online Business Managers; there’s quite a huge network of us.

I would say some of the questions to ask are — and I’m all about hiring, so I’m all about having those practice tests; they’re given ahead of time, but… Creating a procedure for something; some sort of intake process, or something that happens perhaps when you purchase a real estate property, or maybe you update your books… Something recurring that happens – test that person on how they document a process. Ask them if they like documenting processes… Because I think that’s a really important thing about the role of an OBM – being able to put things down on paper, so that they can hire the rest of the team.

Also, what’s their experience managing team members? Would you say a lot of your listeners have teams of people that they work with?

Joe Fairless: Sure.

Sarah Noked: So it’s like “Well, what’s your experience managing a team?” And then I also like to really ask those random questions like “What do you like to do on the weekend?”, which isn’t always so kosher in a lot of ways, but I think it really brings that, a side of people that you can really feel if that person is gonna resonate with you and take your business to the next level, meaning helping free up your time so that you can maybe focus on getting out into the real world and maybe having an eye on some properties, or maybe building even, stuff like that; or learning more, having more time to listen to the podcast.

Joe Fairless: Anything else that we haven’t talked about as it relates to how to systematize your business? …which is basically the solution here – you bring on someone who can manage your team. Anything else that we haven’t talked about that you think we should?

Sarah Noked: Yeah, one of the things I tell my clients, and I tell everybody who will listen, is if you do have aspirations to be a better delegator – and I know that’s a hard thing for people to do – one of the small steps you can take is just by keeping a paper next to you on your desk, and write down all the recurring tasks that happened in your business. And if you’re doing stuff online, or you’re doing stuff that can be put into a system, which is basically any recurring task, there’s a function called Loom – a screencast of whatever you’re doing; I always tell my clients, if you’re sending out a specific e-mail or there’s a particular process that is recurring in your business, take a Loom screencast, and when you have that OBM or VA come on your team – and this is a great test project, what I was talking about before – have that person document what you’ve done in the Loom.

You might be talking them through it; it might feel really bizarre at first, but you can say “Here’s how I file stuff, here’s how I do this”, and they can search a document of those recurring tasks; when you keep that page next to you and you document all your stuff – that’s the stuff that will go into your project management tool, and that’s when an OBM can help manage on a day-to-day, making sure that those recurring tasks that don’t really need you doing, fall into either the OBM does them, a VA does them, or somebody else on the team does them, but it’s not your responsibility to follow up. It’s not the business owner’s responsibility. So it’s been delegated, it’s been put into a system, it’s been automated in the sense of either the client is not doing it, and the VA is doing it, in that automation sense, or we found a software to take care of scheduling, or whatever.

So I think it’s important to take note of the recurring task. A lot of the times as entrepreneurs we feel like we need to be doing everything ourselves, but I think at the end of the day when you look at that page, circle the things that really need you doing – anything else can really be delegated to a VA, or an OBM, or somebody else on the team. And I think it’s important to just remember that it doesn’t need to be done by you.

Joe Fairless: What are some characteristics of a good-looking documentation process?

Sarah Noked: I have an SOP template that I give out as a freebie on my website… But I would say just making sure that the policy is clear, the procedural steps are clear, making sure that passwords are shared, and stuff like that… A good-looking one is just one that a great Fiverr can do, without asking too many questions.

You might create an SOP in your own business, and then a VA might come on and they may be like “Whaat…?” So I think it’s important to have somebody else look at it, have a team member double-check and see “Okay, that’s great that you understand this process, but can somebody really from the outside be able to complete this task?”, so if God forbid something happened and the person who is responsible for completing that is no longer available to do it, can it easily be transferred on to somebody else’s plate without it being too much of a kerfuffle. I think the indication that the system is there, it’s documented properly, everything is considered…

I’m very much one for being clear about policies and procedures. We have certain policies, and I wanna make sure that those go into the SOP (standard operating procedure) so that everybody who looks at that knows what I’m expecting to be done.

Joe Fairless: I’m on your website… Where is that document?

Sarah Noked: If you go to sarahnoked.com/bestever, I’ll go in right now and update it so that the SOP template is there as well. So if you actually go onto my blog – it’s on the sidebar at the blog, the SOP template.

Joe Fairless: Cool, perfect. And thank you for using the word “kerfuffle”.

Sarah Noked: Yeah. [laughs] It just came out.

Joe Fairless: I know, I love that it was just smooth; you didn’t think about it–

Sarah Noked: Yeah, I know. To be honest, I kind of use that word all the time.

Joe Fairless: Okay, it’s not the first time you’ve used “kerfuffle”.

Sarah Noked: No. [laughs]

Joe Fairless: Well, thank you so much for being on the show. I enjoyed our conversation.

Sarah Noked: Yeah, thank you. I hope it was helpful for your listeners.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, absolutely. I really liked the tip on if we think this is interesting, but we’re not sure, well then let’s just write down all the recurring tasks that we have in our business, and then let’s get a list of those tasks, and then we’ll make a judgment call like “Okay, I really don’t wanna be doing these tasks. How do I outsource this?” And that’s usually where a virtual assistant comes into play. But if you’re looking to have someone oversee that virtual assistant while overseeing some more high-level business things, like you were mentioning, like project management and project planning, then this is a great solution.

Thanks again for being on the show. I really enjoyed it. How can the Best Ever listeners learn more? It’s your name…?

Sarah Noked: Yeah, my URL is sarahnoked.com/bestever.

Joe Fairless: Perfect. Well, thanks a lot. Have a wonderful weekend, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Sarah Noked: You too!


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