Real estate investors know all about waste and how much it can hurt an investing business. Gary Harper, founder and CEO of Sharper Business Solutions, knows all about how to identify hidden sources of waste and eliminate them to improve real estate investing operations. “We help scale real estate businesses,” he explained at a recent Think Realty National Conference & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. “We’re constantly helping real estate companies look for waste and redundancies that can be eliminated to improve their operations and their bottom lines.”

Mapping Your Way to Greater Success

Harper has refined and arguably perfected an art called process mapping, which real estate investors use to identify where their real estate strategies may have extra steps that cost them time and, as a result, money. “First, you lay out your entire as-is process, which is how you do it today,” explained Harper. He added investors must be willing to dedicate some time to this mapping process if they want it to be effective because they need to identify every single step in their business. “Once you have mapped it, walk through it,” he said. “Look for waste and re-work, which is what we call it when more than one person is doing something that only really needs to be done one time or when one person is repeating something that only needs to be done once.”

Harper said that real estate businesses often have another serious drain on their resources that many investors believe is unavoidable: wasted time. “If you give someone a job and then you wait three days to get it back, that is three days’ worth of waste,” he said. Once these time-wasting points in the system are identified, an investor may be able to improve the process and save some time and, by extension, money. “In St. Louis, we found an opportunity to [help a client] save $30,000 a year. That’s an entire employee,” Harper observed.

Going Forward

Once you have walked through the entire process, you should have identified a start point, an end point, decision points, and areas of opportunity in your real estate investing process, Harper said. Areas of opportunity tend to be places in the process where an investor might incorporate automation or time-saving strategies. Harper recommended asking yourself these questions:

  • What departments in our company does each process affect?
  • Who is in this with us [inside and outside the company]?
  • Who is responsible for each step in the process?
  • Where does the process travel [inside and outside the company]?
  • How long does each step take?
  • Is there an opportunity for automation?
  • How many times does each process get done each day?
    • Follow up: How long does it take? How many contacts are involved? What is the total time?


These are some, but certainly not all, of the crucial questions that Harper asks clients about their business processes when he and his Sharper Business Solutions team study a real estate business.

“We also do time studies because I want to know the cycle time from start to end,” Harper said. “I’m always looking to see how long things take, how many times they get done, and where there is opportunity to improve the business.”

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Carole Van Sickle Ellis is the editor-in-chief for Think Realty Magazine. You can reach her at

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