Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Want to know what mobile users see when they visit your site? Pick up your smart phone, open your browser, and type in your URL. If you do not have a mobile-ready site you’re in for a huge surprise!

With a large percentage of the market moving onto mobile devices, you simply must have a mobile version of your website these days. Mobile website design is completely different from full-size browsers. There are severe limitations in screen size and bandwidth capabilities of these devices that must be considered.

My suggestion is to keep it simple! Mobile users want easy access to information. For real estate agents, that means easy access to MLS searches and contact information. We also include a link to a mobile version of our blog.

The Branch Team Mobile Website

If your site is running on WordPress, there are a number of plugins available that will detect mobile devices and send users to the mobile verison of the site. One of our WordPress-based sites uses Plugin Buddy Mobile to create a mobile version of the site. Other than creating and uploading a mobile banner, this was a 10 minute set up. The limitation for real estate agents is access to a mobile-ready IDX solution.

We chose to develop a stand-alone mobile website using a simple PHP script to detect mobile users and send them to the mobile website. This choice was driven by our access to the RE/MAX of Texas mobile-ready property search. While we could have purchased another mobile IDX solution, the cost is prohibitive since not only do we have to pay the IDX provider, we also have to pay our MLS another monthly fee to feed the data to the provider.

You may also want to register a .mobi domain name and set up an m. subdomain for your websites. Mobile users will often try using the .mobi top level domain ( or m. subdomain ( when they’re looking for a mobile version of your website.

Mobile computing is not only here to stay, it’s going to become an even larger percentage of your web traffic. Is your website mobile friendly?


It’s All About Trust


Trust. There’s a word we hear almost all the time in today’s business environment. But it’s more than a word. It’s the basis for long-term personal and business relationships.

One of my favorite movie quotes on the subject is when Erin Brockovich is talking to Ed Masry about her bonus at the end of the movie. Erin says, “Trust? You want me to trust you? Don’t use big words you don’t understand.”

Trust in never inherent although a certain level may be associated with a profession or brand. Many people will give a certain level of trust to their doctor or lawyer based upon their years of education, training, and experience. Larger brands are often more trusted than smaller operations. But in the end, trust has to be earned.

I remember originating mortgages several years ago. I worked for a small brokerage firm. As I would initially meet with people, they would be standoffish and apprehensive. As we worked on their loan application and processing, we would get to know each other better. There was always a definite point in time where I knew I had earned their trust. How did I know? They would stop reading the various forms and would simply sign them.

At that point I could have had them sign over their house and they would have done it. I never violated the trust I earned. Why? Because trust is a fragile thing though. Violate that trust once and you’ll never get it back again.

Mary Alice from Desperate Housewives said, “Trust is a fragile thing. Once earned, it affords us tremendous freedom. But once trust is lost, it can be impossible to recover. Of course the truth is, we never know who we can trust. Those we’re closest to can betray us, and total strangers can come to our rescue…”

Trust means doing the right thing even when it’s not profitable. Trust means admitting mistakes. “I’m sorry” and “Let’s see if we can fix this” are what great businesses are all about. We’re all human and we make mistakes. Show me someone who has never failed and I’ll show you someone who has not yet reached their full potential.

Trust is not a tagline or a marketing strategy. Trust should be a core value of any successful business.

 Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR

This post is a submission to the ActiveRain / Adobe EchoSign Trust Contest. I could possibly win a prize. You can find out about the contest by clicking here.

Service Provider Spotlight – Carrillo’s Lawn Service

Carrillo's Lawn Service

I was out chatting with Jose Carrillo the other evening while his crew was working on my lawn and landscaping. I realized that he has been handling the care of my lawn and yard for 14 years! It’s hard to believe some times.

Jose is a rarity in today’s world of service providers. He provides first-rate service and always over-delivers on the work completed.

Need a great lawn care company? Call Jose Carrillo at 214-566-8597!

The Extra Mile

The personal quality necessary to achieve outstanding success in business is that you must be willing to go the extra mile.

The Extra Mile

Licensed from iStockPhoto

It’s the “Under Promise, Over Deliver” concept and “If you are always willing to do more than what you get paid for, the day will come when you will be paid for more than what you actually do.”

Robert Cialdini, in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, discusses what he calls the Law of Reciprocity. Basically it says that when you do something for someone else, there’s an unstated obligation for them to want to do something for you in return.

So when you go the extra mile for your customers or clients, you’ve just set the stage for that law to take effect. But it’s only on that “extra mile” that it works. When you give what might be considered “normal” service, or “adequate” service or even “good” service, you haven’t earned the right to expect that law to work for you.

In fact, even performing “knock-out” service often isn’t enough to gain you an advantage. We’ve all come to expect that from any number of businesses.

You’ve really got to do something special in order to gain an advantage in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Then, and only then, can you expect to create that nearly compelling desire in your customer to want to reciprocate. This simple truth says it all:

“There’s no traffic jam on the extra mile.”

Setting Up a Texas Limited Liability Company

I received a call from a local broker who I’ve known for years. I’ve been pushing her to change her business entity from a Sole Proprietorship to a Limited Liability Company. She finally got around to thinking about it. She spoke to her attorney who quoted her $750 plus filing fees of about $310 and an annual fee of $150 to serve as the Registered Agent. 

Online Filing

Licensed from iStockPhoto

I told her she could file the documents herself and not only save the $750 but the $150 annual Registered Agent fee as well.

Note the following does not constitute legal advice. Always seek legal advice prior to setting up any entity as there are pros and cons to each of them.

Since she had decided to file as a single member Limited Liability Company, she needed to gather some basic information. We would need the following:

  • Company Name and Address
  • Name and Address of the Registered Agent (her in this case)
  • Names and Addresses for all Members (her in this case!)
  • Credit Card for the $300 Filing Fee

The hardest part in Texas is making sure you can use a company name.  You can pay to search but I search them at no cost on the Texas Comptroller’s Website.

Let me explain what makes this interesting. I own Realty Revolution LLC. If someone wants to form a company called Realty Revolution REO Services LLC, their application will be rejected because the name is similar to one already in use. What I usually do is search on the first two words to see what comes up. If other companies are using the name, you can check to make sure they are in Good Standing. If not, you can usually get the name.

The lesson in this is to stay in Good Standing by filing the annual Franchise Tax Return and the Company Information Report!

Once you’re certain the name is available. Visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Website. On your first visit, you’ll need to file a request to set yourself up as a user. Once you have a User ID and Password you can log onto SOS-Direct and file your application online.

She needs to file for an EIN with the IRS. This can be done online at the IRS Website.  Since this is a real estate brokerage, she also needs to apply for an LLC Broker License. Visit the Texas Real Estate Commission Website for details.

Going through a web filing step-by-step is beyond the scope of this blog. If you have real problems, contact me and I will assist you.

Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR

A Review of Social Media for the CEO

Gina and I attended a book release party a few months ago. Eve Mayer Orsburn was releasing her book titled, Social Media for the CEO – The Why and ROI of Social Media for the CEO of Today and Tomorrow.

Social Media for the CEO

Licensed from iStockPhoto

With more and more companies adding social media to their marketing campaigns, many CEOs want to understand how to go about setting up a social media campaign and how to determine the ROI. Eve explains why companies need to embrace social media. She outlines the simplicity of it and drives home the idea that it can have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line.

The main portion of the book is composed of case studies of companies, both large and small, setting up social media campaigns. Many of these are household names—The Mayo Clinic, Anheuser-Busch, Lane Bryant, and General Motors. In all there are 14 case studies presented in the book.

The single biggest take-away is called, “The Social Media Equation.” While I will not give it away here, Eve lays out a simple formula that anybody can execute.

Social Media for the CEO  can be found on

Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR

Fax Reader by Smalltalk Consulting Ltd and Follow Me Fax by EDocFile Inc

I don’t often write blogs about software but every now and then a company stands out and deserves to be recognized. This time I came across two great companies and products in a single project.

Over the past couple of weeks we began to transition from an online fax service to a fax machine and a fax server in our office. We had had problems getting our faxes from time-to-time so we either had to find a new online service or bring it back in-house. The goals were to remain paperless, retain functionality, and have no increase in cost.

The Brother 7820N can be used as a traditional paper fax machine or a paperless fax using Brother’s PC-FAX software.   We had an old laptop so we loaded it with a fresh copy of Windows XP Pro, PC-FAX, and we had a nice little paperless fax server up and running.  Remain Paperless, Check!

Follow Me Fax by EDocFile Inc

With an online fax service you typically get your emails via email in PDF format. We were able purchase Follow Me Fax which can convert the TIF format from the Brother into a PDF and send it out via email. We soon discovered that the TIFs produced by the Brother fax machine have a flaw that prevents the PDF engine in Follow Me Fax from producing a PDF file.

EDocFile, the software developer, was responsive and we were able to troubleshoot the issue. While they could not solve the ability to make PDF issues (it’s a Brother issue), they did update Follow Me Fax to deal with the odd files names produced by the Brother fax machine. The good news is we are able to forward the emails as multi-page TIF files.  

The only downside to TIF files was that we would not be able to view faxes on our iPhones. We’re mobile quite a bit and the ability to view faxes on the road was a capability we wanted to retain.


In my quest for a solution, I came across Fax Reader by SmallTalk Consulting. Fax Reader is an application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod that was designed to read multi-page TIF files.  I quickly purchased a copy on iTunes and installed it on my iPhone. 

I had problems getting it to work and dropped the developer an email at 2 in the morning. I was really surprised to get a response within a few minutes. We exchanged emails and determined that I had failed to allow Location Services to be active in the software. I made one quick change to the Location Services settings and we were up and running. Retain Functionality, Check!

We will be terminating the online fax service saving about $15 a month. We’re porting the number to our fax machine in the office at a cost of $2 per month. Follow Me Fax was $99 and Fax Reader was $3.99.  We were able to reduce our costs by $13 a month with an upfront investment of $103. The project pays for itself in 8 months. No Increase in Cost, Check.

The developer of Fax Reader has given me five Promo Codes for a free thirty-day trial. Email me if you would like one of them. 

Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR