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Opinion Editorials

15 Gas Saving Tips for Agents

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Gas got your tounge?

In these times when everything from apples to zucchini is going up, and you need a small loan to fill up the tank, we’re all looking for money saving tips. Here are a few to get you started:

Consolidate your travel

If you service your own listings, set aside a day of the week for exactly that task.  My day is on Sunday, this keeps me from sitting long periods in traffic.

Order office supplies online to be picked up at the store.  This forces you to create a great list of needed items and gives you a shot at grabbing any forgotten items there at the store in one trip.

If you have an appointment to show property, try to schedule other tasks in the same area of town for the same day. 

Narrow your daily hours of operation.  Your day in the home office should begin during normal business times, but leaving the house should not happen until after morning rush hour and you should be home before the afternoon rush hour.  All driving tasks should be scheduled between these times.

Have lunch during off peak times- avoid the lines and the traffic.

Do your banking on Saturday morning.  Avoid the long evening lines, and by all means avoid the drive-thru.  Time saving is not always a money saving.

Fit shopping and errands into your round trip.  If you are off to an appointment, allot time to make stops on the way to and from to make necessary stops. 

Avoid rush hour at your destinations, and it is always a good idea to call ahead to ask when is peak and off peak times for regular stops.

Take the tollway whenever possible, but avoid driving at top speed.  Drive 5 miles an hour under the speed limit to reduce the amount of wear on your vehicle and improve your overall gas mileage.

Optimize your vehicle

Once a month make sure you evaluate the pressure in your tires, this is one of the most commonly overlooked areas in which to assure you’re getting the best gas mileage.

Quarterly maintenance is crucial.  Have your wheels checked for proper balance and alignment, as well as changing your oil regularly.  Never wait until the sticker expires in your window, make it routine.

Drive with the windows up but the air temperature at a higher setting.  This will reduce the amount of compressor usage, and reduce wind resistance on your vehicle.

Remove unnecessary weight from your car.  The golf clubs, or the extra signs are not items you should drag around in your trunk.  They weigh your vehicle down creating drag that decreases fuel economy.

 Avoid the Pumps

Many folks allow the tank to run dry and then fill completely up, but we suggest keeping your car at 1/2 full at all times.  By reducing the weight of the fuel carried, you’re reducing not only wear on your vehicle but reducing drag on your car, thus burning less fuel.  Also, staying at 1/2 full all the time keeps cash in your pocket by avoiding price spikes and spending large amounts of cash at fill up.  You’re also doing right by the environment by not filling up and leaving gas at the pump equating to less demand overall- there’s a million of us nationwide, and as a group we can make a huge difference in demand.

We can appreciate the need for higher income agents to drive a vehicle deserving of their income and status, but is it really necessary?  It is totally chic to go economy and lose the Texas sized Caddy or the Mothership Mercedes.  There are many luxury hybrids or more fuel efficient vehicles on the market right now that will not only help the environment, reduce oil dependence, but will also gain you a respect from your clients and peers on a much deeper level because you’re leading by example.

Who would have thought a Green Agent was really just an Agent with common sense?  Altough many agents around the country see gasoline as a cost of doing business, and can afford it, many consumers cannot. Agentgenius.com is asking all agents to lead by example because it is the right thing to do-  Encourage your peers, write about it on your site, offer tips to your readers, and by all means share your ideas to reduce fuel usage in your own business.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Jim Duncan

    May 20, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I bought a bike yesterday. I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to fully implement it into my business (note to the IRS – but I am).

    If only for going to lunches in town or to listings a couple of miles from my house, it should help save a few bucks. Right now, every dollar counts.

  2. Mariana

    May 20, 2008 at 11:46 am

    This is awesome! I love the gas talk half full/half empty concept.

    We just got rid of our 4-door Ram Truck in favor of a nice, red Jeep. MUCH better on gas. I also moved and now (luckily) live close to the cheapest gas station in the city – on average 10cents cheaper than other stations.

    Like you, I also service my listings once a week – same day. I drive around either between 9-2 and/or after 5pm. I also double book myself with errands on my way.

  3. Candy Lynn

    May 20, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    My F250 4 door 4×4 diesel truck always added a certain credibility to my horse property clients but I’m changing from big truck to Hyundai Santa Fe driver. Traded in the truck yesterday, sad day.

    Its part of my effort to be more “green”. I am also selling large gooseneck horse trailer that requires large truck to pull in favor of purchasing an European style trailer designed to be pulled with smaller vehicles.

    I love the whole concept but it sure feels strange not having a big load truck to drive around in.

  4. Teresa Boardman

    May 20, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Here are some outside of the box ideas that have cut my gasoline expenses way down:

    Drive a fuel efficient Vehicle, mid sized or smaller.
    Work close to home – most of my listings are within walking distance.
    Say no to listings that are far away.
    Limit your service area for buyers.

  5. Art

    May 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    This is just silly. The amount we spend on gas is so small compared to total cost of running a business. If you keep your tank 1/2 full you just waste more time (time has value) at the pump. How about eating less. That will not only save world resources but save on gas for transportation of the food and you’ll weigh less and use less gas.

  6. Jon Griffith

    May 26, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I wasn’t aware of how much gas I was burning because of my driving style. I recently sold my ’98 Toyota Tacoma which commanded a 16 gallon price tag every fill-up and only managed to cough out a measly 17 miles/gallon. With older technology installed in the truck, I wasn’t able to see how my driving habits affected the potential savings I was missing out on.

    Now that I have a new 2008 Honda CR-V, I can watch at any given moment what my current MPG consumption rate is, and the speed at which I accelerate from a stop and drive on the highway are evident in real-time. Now, I’m quickly learning when to let up on the gas pedal and when to give it a go. I have been able to commute on the highways at above 30 MPG just by slowing down. I always thought it was ridiculous that driving slower saved fuel because I factored in the additional time the engine was burning fuel. What I didn’t know was that the increase in wind resistance as you drive faster and faster is exponential, and the difference between 65 and 75 MPH is far greater than the difference between 55 and 65. So sacrificing that extra bit of speed is making up for itself at the pump.

    However, one challenge is to actually gauge the benefit based on a steady fuel price between fill ups. This is the wrong planet to attend on a daily basis if one wishes to see gas prices remain at a certain level for more than a week. 🙂

  7. Vancouver Real Estate

    May 26, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    These are great gas saving tips. Any savings are good to have. But, what is beyond $4.00 a gallon gas? i.e.: once we arrive at optimal savings and feel we have adjusted our budgets to the new reality what do we cut out or change once gas hits $6.00 to $8.00 a gallon?

  8. Benn Rosales

    May 27, 2008 at 7:54 am

    @Vancouver the best position is a total reduction nation wide for demand- anyone that was privy to the mid 80s has seen this movie.

    It’s funny, last night (about 6-7ish) I was driving down I-35 coming home from the movies at 60 mph, bare in mind last night was the night everyone has to be home to prepare for the work week.

    Now anyone that knows anything about the United States knows doing 60 mph on I-35 at the end of a holiday knows that that is next to impossible, but the fact is, no one was on the road. Nor were they there Thursday, Friday, Saturday, nor Sunday and that tells me, people remained local this Holiday weekend for the most part- the reduction in demand is already happening and will translate in the coming months.

    Now, I realize that my study is not scientific, but I am a study of behavior and habit, and 60 mph on I-35 was definately a new habit/behavior to behold- I was at the airport Sunday as well and Austin International was a ghost town- I noticed AAA said travel would only be down slightly, I have a feeling they’ll be making an adjustment in that figure shortly or they’re lying through their teeth.

    Last evening I was at a gas station in front of our local grocer on the way home- cheapest gas on the block- no cars in the bays.

    Demand is going down and maybe we’ve all adopted new habits a long the way that will keep it down- I know our family has, regardless, we’re doing the best we can to do our part.

  9. MikeBike

    September 26, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    If you are trying to save as much money as you can, by not putting it all into your gas tank, a motor cycle is a good idea. But it worries me with all the motor cycle related deaths. I have a pocket bike that i have a lot of fun on, but i guess that is not any safer.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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Opinion Editorials

Easy ways to help an unhappy customer

(EDITORIAL) We’ve all had to deal with an unhappy client or two, and maybe some situations didn’t play out too well. Here are some simple tips that will help.

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unhappy client

Who here hasn’t had a client get aggravated for what seems like no good reason?

(Raise your hand!)

Who here hasn’t had that awkward “I hear what you’re saying, but…” conversation?

(More hands!)

Whether you’re providing marketing work, strategic planning services, graphic design ideas, or basic business advice, you’re going to run into the occasional client who Just. Is. Not. Here. For. It. And it can be so hard to help that unhappy client get back to a place where you can all come together to get the job done.

(Hands! Hands! Hands!)

Especially in this day and age of angry emoji reaction clicks, dealing with confrontational feedback can require a new level of diplomacy and tact. You’ve got an unhappy client who doesn’t have the ability to communicate their “why” to you, so instead, they go nuclear and your inbox is suddenly filled with the kind of unhappy vitriol you’re more used to seeing in your Facebook feed.

How do you handle it?

Because… you can actually handle it.

First and foremost, understand where the negative reaction is coming from. They’ve asked you for help with their cherished project. Maybe they wouldn’t be happy with anyone’s work. Maybe they can’t quite communicate what they want. Regardless of where the sticking point is, understand that the sticking point is (a) not your fault and (b) not going to be acknowledged by them.

So then, the second step… remove yourself from the criticism. Even if they make it personal, remove yourself from the situation. Look at it in terms of the work. The client wants X. You feel you have given them X, but they see it as Y. Can you see it from their perspective? Because if you can, you are way more than halfway there. Where are they coming from?

If this is an external review, on Google or such, just ignore it and move on. It’s done. You can’t argue it. But if it’s feedback you’re getting from a current client and your project is still in play… seriously, take a deep breath and give it a harder look. It might feel personal. But is it?

The best assumption to make is that there is something else going on. If you can keep your cool and work with your unhappy client to determine what’s making them uncomfortable, in a non-confrontational way, and to get them to an acceptable delivery — you’ve won. Because you’re continuing to provide them the service they’ve come to you for.

So take a look at the situation, and figure out the best response.

1. Is the argument clear?
Don’t waste your time trying to establish whether you’re right or they’re wrong. Instead, look at framing it in terms of what the client is trying to accomplish. Ask them to give you specific examples of what they hope to achieve. Allow them to tell you what they feel isn’t good… in fact, encourage them to tell you why they’re unhappy with what you’ve given them. All of this will help frame what they’re looking for and what you need to give them in round two.

2. Is their feedback relevant?
Well, yeah. There are times when you know that your client knows nothing. But they feel the need to demonstrate that They Know What They Are Doing.

Let them.

Just let them tell you, and let it go.

And… keep searching for that nugget of truth in what they’re saying. Their feedback may seem ridiculous. But what’s at the heart of it? Look for that. Look at this negative reaction as a signpost for what they’re truly after.

3. IS IT WORTH DEBATING?
This fits right in with number 2. They feel passionately that you need two spaces after every period. Is this something you really need to argue? CHOOSE. YOUR. BATTLES.

If your client really wants to engage on an issue … two spaces, or the use of a particular phrase … then let them say their piece. Then say your piece. But giving them room for an out. And once again, think about it from their perspective.

Maybe it’s someone who didn’t spend all their time in their first post-college job debating the niceties of the Oxford comma. Does it ultimately matter to the overall success of the project? If it does… go to the mat. Show them, with respect, why it’s important. But if it’s just a point of pride for you, the provider? Can you let it go?

I can’t sometimes. So I get it if you can’t. But still, it’s a good point to keep in mind. A good question to ask yourself, as a provider of a service. Which sword do you fall on… and why?

Clearly, you shouldn’t just roll over because a client has turned nasty. But neither should you turn every unhappy client response into your personal cause du jour. When you encounter negative, hostile client reactions, take a moment. Try to see it from their point of view. At the very least, the shift in perspective will help you handle their concerns. And at best, you’ll re-frame the discussion in a way that gives you both a handle on how to move forward.

You might learn from the exchange. Or maybe you’re just right, dammit. But you still have to think about what’s worth getting worked up over.

Finally, don’t let it bring you down. If it’s serious enough that you have to part ways over their reaction, help them do so amicably. Point them in the direction of someone you think might be able to accommodate their ideas. Stay positive for them, and for yourself. Then chalk it up to experience, and take the lessons on to the next client.

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Opinion Editorials

This website is like Pinterest for WFH desk setups

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) If you’ve been working from home at the same, unchanged desk setup, it may be time for an upgrade. My Desk Tour has the inspiration you need.

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Man browsing desk setups on My Desk Tour

Whether you’re sitting, standing, or reclining your way through the pandemic, you’re most likely doing it from home these days. You’re also probably contending with an uninspired desk configuration hastily cobbled together in 2020, which—while understandable—might be bringing you down. Fortunately, there’s an easy, personable solution to spark your creativity: My Desk Tour.

My Desk Tour is a small website started by Jonathan Cai. On this site, you will find pictures of unique and highly customized desk setups; these desk configurations range from being optimized for gamers to coders to audiophiles, so there’s arguably something for everyone—even if you’re just swinging by to drool for a bit.

Cai also implements a feature in which site users can tag products seen in desk photos with direct links to Amazon so you don’t have to poke around the Internet for an hour in search of an obscure mouse pad. This is something Cai initially encountered on Reddit and, after receiving guidance from various subreddits on the issue of which mouse to purchase, he found the inspiration to create My Desk Tour.

The service itself is pretty light—the landing page consists of a few desk setup photos and a rotating carousel of featured configurations—but it has great potential to grow into a desk-focused social experience of sorts.

It’s also a great place to drop in on if you’re missing the extra level of adoration for your desk space that a truly great setup invokes. Since most people who have been working from home since the spring didn’t receive a ton of advance notice, it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of folks have resigned themselves to a boring or inefficient desk configuration. With a bit of inspiration from My Desk Tour, that can change overnight.

Of course, some of the desk options featured on the site are a bit over the top. One configuration boasts dual ultra-wide monitors stacked atop each other, and another shows off a monitor flanked by additional vertical monitors—presumably for the sake of coding. If you’re scrambling to stay employed, such a setup might be egregious.

If you’re just looking for a new way to orient your workspace for the next few months, though, My Desk Tour is worth a visit.

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