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Staying Organized, Motivated, and Informed

Staying Organized, Motivated, and Informed

In the world of real estate, success is measured in square feet leased and contracts signed. This user stays organized, motivated and informed with his HP Palmtop.

By Alexander S. Arancio

As the Director of Leasing for a small privately held real estate investor/developer, I travel extensively, and perform tasks daily that require a little more organization and planning than my brain alone can handle. A typical week in my business life can involve; negotiating a lease, evaluating a new acquisition, attending a convention, writing status reports, meeting with contractors, showing a vacancy to a retailer, cold calling for prospects, and several administrative tasks.

I believe that any job can be broken down into three aspects: Organization, Information and Motivation. Over the years I have used just about every system imaginable to deal with these business basics. Unfortunately, each method fell short of my expectations and I inevitably moved on to another system. That all changed when I discover HP's "computer in your pocket."

Below I describe how I use the HP Palmtop in the real estate leasing industry to organize, inform and motivate. Be advised that my use of the Palmtop is still a work in progress. I continue to discover new and unique ways to handle different situations each day, thanks to the flexibility and adaptability of the HP Palmtop. This is it's most valuable attribute.

ToDo list displaying Business and Personal priorities and section headers

 Organization

Every job requires organization and the HP 200 LX provides several tools to organize your life. Here is how it organizes mine.

ToDo list

This is my main user interface, the compass that points me in the right direction for the day, week, month, and year.

I split my ToDo list into two groups; Business and Personal. Business item priorities begin with an A and are followed by a number which designates its importance in relation to other Business items (i.e., A1 - Most important; A5 - least important). Personal items begin with a B and have the same number system. Two repeating ToDo's put headings in the appointment book for each section. (The headings are listed with A0 and B0 priorities, respectively, so that they always remain at the top of the corresponding section. See above.)

I have a macro set up to create new ToDo items (most of which are phone calls). It automatically enters the ToDo with A1 priority. Each evening (or morning during breakfast) I'll go through my ToDo list and change priorities as necessary. If need be, Ill manually change the priority, but only after careful consideration of all other items; personal as well as business.

I use other system macros to automate my Appointment Book and make it possible to share information between the Appointment, Phone and Memo applications to produce a highly effective system of follow-up and organization. (See the sidebar on page 24 for a more complete description of my macros.)

Phone Book

In commercial real estate, who you know is sometimes much more important than what you know. However, a large network of contacts is only valuable if you have a tool that effectively allows you to organize and manage it. The HP Palmtop PhoneBook application is such a tool.

The default format of the PhoneBook found on the HP Palmtop is adequate for most users. However, a salesperson needs to keep more detailed information about contacts. One of the first things I did was to modify PhoneBooks .PDB data file by opening it in the built-in DataBase application and pressing (MENU) File Modify to modify the structure of the PhoneBook.

Almost every contact I have is associated with a piece of property we own, are buying or are selling. If not, then the contact relates to a vendor or personal contact. I added fields for property/ project, name of secretary for each contact, square footage/area the prospect is interested in, and how the contact was obtained. I also have data fields to keep personal information on each contact (i.e., spouse, kids, hobbies, etc.). This allows me to know the client or retailer better and build a better relationship with them.

I have created a number of macros to help organize the information in PhoneBook and provide a more effective way to build relationships and interface with these contacts (see Macros sidebar, page 24).

Memo

I use Memo in conjunction with my ToDo list to automate the process of mailing information to prospects. I have four separate macros set up to create ToDo items for sending something to a prospect; a follow up letter, a draft lease, a letter of intent, or a brochure, respectively. Each macro not only creates the ToDo, it makes an entry in a Memo file called LIST.DOC (using SmartClips from within Phone). Each entry in LIST.DOC shows name, address, the property the prospect is interested in, and type of business the prospect is involved in. The LIST.DOC file is printed at the end of the day and handed to my secretary for further processing. She prints a cover letter, mails the brochure or whatever, and gives me the list back with the date the brochure was mailed. I use my Completed macro to mark these items as done. The ToDo entered above is a delegated ToDo, with the secretary's name and a priority level of A9. This lets me keep track of the items that I have delegated to my secretary.

At the end of the day I manually merge LIST.DOC into a monthly archive file so that LIST.DOC is empty for the next day.

I also use Memo to write letters, notes and reports. Since many of these are very similar, I have master forms that I call up, modify, and save under a different name. This process lets me quickly update weekly and monthly status reports, so that they are current and ready to print when needed.

Quicken

Each business trip results in expenses and Quicken is well suited to track these. I use a method to log business expenses described in the User Profile by Michael Allgood in The HP Palmtop Paper (Vol.4, No.2, Pg.30). The method involves creating temporary accounts for each category and currency (i.e., sterling lodging, dmark dining, etc.). Expenses are added to the appropriate temporary account, conversion to U.S. dollars is done at the end of the trip and expense reports for reimbursement and IRS purposes are easily printed.

This is a very simple and easy method of making sure no business expense gets missed. It also allows you to get reimbursed quicker because the report is finished at the end of the trip. Just print it out, staple your receipts, and submit it to accounting.

Now that I'm organized, the next step is to stay motivated. You can have all the organization in the world, but if you're not motivated to do your job, your not doing your job.

Motivation

In the field of commercial leasing, or any commission-based job, motivation means money! The more motivated you are, the more deals you close, and the more money you make. However the commission is calculated, working for commissions is not a road easily traveled. Because of this, I have put my Palmtop to work helping me stay focused and motivated.

Database

I use the built-in Database application to produce a clear picture of each and every deal I'm working on. The main entry screen has data fields for all the basic information about a particular deal (see top of this page).

My real estate Deals database has fields for: Lessee (tenant) name, Center (pre-listed with all of my centers) name, Contact, Use, Lease type, Terms: Unit and Area (in square feet), Type of Deal (land lease, unit lease, land sale or BTS which means the landlord Builds To Suit a space for the tenant and charges them rent for the land and an amount for the new building) Lease Term, Minimum Rent, Renewal Options, TIs (which are Tenant Improvement money the landlord pays), Free Rent, Percentage Rent (which is additional rent paid based on the level of sales achieved), Security Deposit amount and if received, Financial Info on file, and the Broker bringing the deal to me.

The database also includes the following motivation fields:

Disposition -- shows the status of a deal and is changed as the deal progresses from Negotiating to Executed. As the negotiation proceeds, a lease file changes hands between myself, the secretary, the property manager, and the asset manager. This field also lets me keep track of who has the file. I also indicate here if the deal is Dead.

Probability -- is my own instinctive estimation of the chances of the deal actually closing (25%, 33%, 75%, 100%);

Commission -- is the total amount I will make on the deal less any amount to be paid to a broker. Lastly, I use the note field to keep a complete chronology of every step along the way. Each time a phone call is made, a meeting held or correspondence sent, or received, I log its date, time and basic topic.

As each deal is closed and executed, its Probability is put at 100%, moving it to the top of the list, and Disposition is changed to Executed. The last field Paid is not checked until I actually receive the commission check.

My columns view is not only a great motivator, showing me which deals are going to close and summarizing my accomplishments year-to-date, but it's also a good accounting tool, keeping track of my receivables. At the end of the year, any deal marked as Executed gets archived to a separate file.

The power of this approach is two fold. First, it gives me a complete chronology of events that occur from the first contact between myself and the prospect, as well as giving a clear snapshot of the basic deal parameters. Secondly, by structuring the columns view and sorting by the Probability of a deal executing and Commissions to be paid, I have a quick way to keep my focus and motivate myself to accomplish the most important and most likely projects at hand for both myself and the company. This in effect prevents me from wasting time on a deal that won't happen.

I have also enlisted the Daily Greeting feature of the 200LX as a motivator. By editing the APPT.INI file, replacing the default tips and suggestions with positive affirmations, I have an automatic confidence booster every morning. The information you choose to put in this file can be anything from Have a nice day to You are the greatest salesperson in the world!. Just be sure to change the COUNT variable under [FORTUNECOOKIE] settings to the exact number of entries you will have.

Information

I can still remember carrying around three-ring binders with 30 page sections for each shopping center. I would have to call the home office to get a lease abstract faxed to me, or have my secretary dig through a lease file for some detail on a tenant. I felt as if I was chained to my office no matter how far away I got from it!

Then I discovered that I could take my office with me in my HP Palmtop. The Database, Memo, had room for most of the information in the binders. Lotus could easily handle the 15 rent rolls (spreadsheets with lease details on every tenant). PhoneBook let me carry my complete databases of prospective tenants. And I could put all of this in my breast pocket. The value of all the information tripled because now it was always available.

Lotus 1-2-3

As I said earlier, a rent roll is a summary or roll call of each tenant at a particular shopping center. A typical rent roll will have tenant name, unit number, square feet renting, rent, and lease expiration date. A spreadsheet is well suited to hold this information since columns must be totaled and calculations made to determine the Percent of Vacancy. These rent rolls are used by just about every department in our company, so it is important that they are accurate and available at all times.

Our accounting department updates these rent rolls once a month, sends them to me in spreadsheet format on diskette, to be uploaded to my Palmtop via Cpack. Eventually, the files will be sent to me by CompuServe binary E-mail so that I can retrieve them using acCIS from remote locations.

I keep a complete rent roll for each property in Lotus on my Palmtop. As a new prospect becomes a tenant, I update the report and recalculate my occupancy levels. I use occupancy levels as another way to set goals. This information used to remain in the office, unavailable when I really needed it.

HP Calc

Probably one of the most used applications on my Palmtop, HP Calc quickly replaced my HP 12-C business calculator. HP Calc opens with a simple calculator, but has a number of useful functions, including Time Value of Money, Cash-flow, Business Percentages and many more. Press (MENU) Applications to get a list of them.

I have customized the function keys on my HP Calc opening screen to make the more heavily used functions easier to access. (See tip, page 57 for more on this.)

HP Calc's Time Value of Money (TVM) application lets you solve problems involving a series of cash flows. For example, retailers will ask for certain work to be performed by the landlord to lower the start up costs for the new store. This expenditure is paid back over time in the form of additional rent. Money is worth more today than tomorrow because of interest. A TVM calculation allows the landlord to determine how much to increase the base rent to cover the additional expenditure with interest.

HP Calc also has a Cash Flow application that enables you to calculate internal rate of return (IRR%), net present value (NPV), net future value (NVFV), and net uniform series (NUS). In real estate, a cash flow can signify the flow of money between the tenant (rent) and landlord (TIs). By specifying these flows and the amount of interest that impacts them, it is easy to determine the overall value of a potential investment. You can plug in different values, playing what-if scenarios, until you reach an acceptable return, and then make counter offers based on your calculations.

Finally, HP Calc's Solver application is a wonderful little utility that lets you write your own equations to simplify many calculations. I have a Solver formula to calculate commissions on a specific deal, and another to determine the purchase price of a new acquisition. They are simple formulas that are very specific to my company, and of little use to the typical user.

Database

I have created another database to collect information on potential new shopping centers for acquisition (NEWACQ.DB). This database allows me to keep a complete record of the center name, location, owner/agent, anchor tenants, market conditions, accessibility, design of the center and more.

Other essential tools

Each of the above tools help me fulfill my organization, motivation and information needs. On top of that, I received help from some excellent third-party products and services.

Buddy <See Shareware/Freeware index> -- An essential tool for Palmtop users is the shareware program called Buddy. This program adds dozens of functions and shortcuts to the HP Palmtop, including multiple macro capability. Normally, you are limited to a set of 10 macros. Buddy lets you easily set up a set of 10 different macros for each built-in application.

acCIS -- Without the ability to communicate, the Palmtop would be nothing more than a nifty personal organizer. acCIS is a program that automates communication with the CompuServe Information Service, providing an easy and seamless way to send and receive E-mail and facsimiles.

CompuServe Information Service -- CompuServe lets me transfer binary files as well as E-mail. This lets me send and receive documents created by a word processor or spreadsheet program, making it easier to transfer files that need to be shared between offices (i.e., leases, rent rolls, budgets, etc.).

CompuServe also lets me fax documents without a fax machine. I create the message to be faxed in Memo and save it. I use acCIS to connect to CompuServe and E-mail the message. CompuServe provides a cover page and sends the message to the fax number I provide. This service has been very useful for me when traveling and in need of a print-out of something from my Palmtop. Ill send the document via CompuServe E-mail to the fax of the hotel that I'm staying at, and then pick up the document at the front desk! Its a lot easier than carrying around a printer.

Internet -- I'm also a subscriber to the commercial real estate listserve on the Internet. I generally get between 20 and 40 messages per day. Some are properties for sale, some are companies looking for properties to buy, some are brokers looking for space or landlords looking for retailers. All are sent immediately upon posting of the message. I have all of my Internet E-mail forwarded to my CompuServe account, which lets me use acCIS and my HP Palmtop to process Internet E-mail wherever I am.

In the end, time is money

I just returned from a two day trip to evaluate a new acquisition near Atlantic City, New Jersey. I type my evaluation of the property in Memo and then pop open PhoneBook to look up some contacts of store owners in the center. Then I run my CALL macro to schedule phone calls to three people I need to contact. Flipping open my cellular phone, I call each person. I get through to two of them, I press my Completed macro for each, and type comments into the note field of each. I don't get through to the third person, so I press the Attempted macro, which sets up a ToDo to remind me to call them tomorrow.

Next I do some quick cutting and pasting of notes into Memo, and I'm ready to fax a report to my boss via CompuServe, (the old man doesn't have E-mail yet). I pop out my Flash card, pop in my Motorola fax/modem card, send the fax, and then download waiting forum messages and E-mail, along with weather and stock quotes. I check my voice mail and get some updates on deals that are pending and type them into my Abstract database, then pop open HP Calc to recalculate commissions for the year. Then it hits me! I just completed an enormous amount of work in a very organized manner and in a very short period of time. I cant wait until the next day, the next deal, the next chance to really put my Palmtop to use.

In the field of commercial real estate investing, the value of information is inversely proportionate to the time that it is available. Time is money and the HP 200 LX makes the gathering of important information easier and faster!

Macros help integrate the built-in applications

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