A Tech Makeover Story

By now, we’ve all heard 2009’s ballad of loss. Last year was no cakewalk for many Americans: The fallout from the near collapse of the financial industry, the upending of the real estate market, and record-high unemployment rates were nothing to sing about. Despite the overall gloom, some entrepreneurs knew brief moments of hope, particularly those who invested in technology. Their small outlays in hardware, software, and social media resources helped them to do better financially.

So Black Enterprise invited owners of large firms, single-person shops, and part-time businesses– or somewhere in between–to share their stories with readers. We asked one simple question: How have you used technology to make over your business? We received numerous responses to our tweets, as well as to our Facebook and LinkedIn queries, and selected three companies that reflect the variety of resources available and the ways in which even a small investment can make a huge difference in revenues, outlook, and mindset.

Company: Nancy Alert & Associates L.L.C.
Principal: Nancy Alert working under RE/MAX Allegiance
Location: Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. (also licensed in Maryland)
Type of Business: Real Estate
2009 Revenues: $200,000-$250,000
In real estate, 2009 was just an ugly year. I decided I needed to get back to revenues of the year past, when I was making real money. I wanted to do what I could to make myself stand out and measure those efforts to see if they worked. So I implemented a number of new (to me) technologies to improve productivity and save time.

I have added DocuSign to my business. It costs $19.95 per month, with no contract required. You can cancel at any time or just order a month here and there. With DocuSign I can get my clients’ signatures on a contract or lease, even if they do not have a printer or fax machine. I send the contract to my clients via e-mail with a link to DocuSign; then they adapt a signature and sign and initial where indicated, and that’s it. I e-mail the signed contract to the other parties.

Another service I use is eFax ($9.95/month, discounted through RE/MAX), which does not require any equipment or implementation on my part other than to start giving out my 800 fax number. If I am out of town and receive a faxed contract or lease, I can forward that e-mail to my clients, have them sign and e-mail it, then send that document to all parties.

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