Tight budgets mean lean operations.

Is that Haiku?  Or something Confucius said?

Hardly; it’s just reality.  In a difficult market, you do lots of cutting.  You cut marketing, you cut facility expense, you cut personnel and you get to work covering as much as you can by yourself.

Now there is light at the end of the tunnel  and we know we have to gear back up to meet the oncoming demand . . . but the dollars are still tight.  How do you start getting done what you used to hire people to do?

Here’s an idea for you:  why not investigate bringing in a college intern to handle a few focused tasks?  You know:  the ones that are keeping you tethered to a desk and not out in the field meeting the people who will drive your business through the upturn.

Many colleges and universities have internship programs where pre and post graduate students, usually in their final semesters before graduation, take on tasks in the real world to apply some of what they’ve learned and gain experience.  Often the cost to an employer is minimal and sometimes free.

In most cases, the task(s) must be well defined with a beginning and an end and ‘grunt’ work – things like running errands and photocopying – is frowned upon.  But think about what an intern might be able to do for you:

  • Optimize your web presence.  You have a magnificent tool in the Help-U-Sell website.  It blows the pants off anything else that’s out there.  But it requires your attention.  It must be optimized, localized, keyword-ized and continually refreshed to be most effective.  Plus there’s everything else you do to be visible online:  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Zillow, Trulia, blogs and on and on.  Who better to take this task on than a 21 year old marketing major who’s grown up at a computer?
  • Do marketplace intelligence.  Our markets are turning rapidly now.  Everything’s shifting.  It’s a great time to do a thorough analysis of your market to determine the opportunities that are emerging.  Where are the high turnover areas?  What properties are most in need of a short sale expert?  Who’s facing foreclosure?  What’s happening to the demographics?  Gathering this valuable information is something none of us have time for, but a motivated business major could handle with ease.
  • Competitor research.  Who’s doing what?  What programs are working and which ones are not?  What are the numbers?  Marketshare? Price ranges? Again, a business or marketing major would be ideal for this.

And that’s just three.

So how do you find programs in your area?  The same way you find anything else:  Google.  Try search strings like:  ‘Birmingham college university internship’ or ‘internship opportunities in Orlando’ or ‘Boise State intern program’ You’ll be amazed at how many programs you will uncover.  Learn all that you can;  then, before you go through the proper channels, fill out all the paperwork, submit and wait, wait, wait . . .

Call the business/marketing/IT schools directly.  Ask for the person in charge of intern programs for that department.  Pick their brain a bit:  what does a good intern opportunity look like?  How have interns helped small business owners like yourself in the past?  Offer to meet with this key person and present to students.  Becoming involved will not only increase your chances of success with an internship, but will expand you circle of contacts.  Once you’ve put a personal spin on it, then go back and do the paperwork.

We were talking about this on the Roundtable Call yesterday and Ron McCoy mentioned that he frequently teaches real estate pre-licensing classes at his local college.  He said that he – and everyone else who teaches these courses – is always looking for brokers to come in and present their programs to the class.  What a wonderful opportunity for Help-U-Sell!  And, if you’re looking for an intern, maybe someone in that class will help you navigate the academic bureaucracy to get it done quickly.

If you run with this idea, I want to know how you do.  Tell me how you found your program, what you had to do to get it started, what was difficult and what worked well.  Good Luck!

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