Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently sat down with Omar Albahra, General Manager of Bahra IT Solutions, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak and Omar had a far-ranging conversation that focused on Bahra IT Solutions and its work with the real estate vertical, Podio, and Formstack Documents; how Formstack Documents helps customers save time; and what’s ahead for Bahra IT Solutions. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Bahra IT Solutions Background
Zak: Tell me about Bahra IT Solutions. What is your focus?
Omar: We provide small-to-medium sized companies the tools they need to run their business. We have developed a specialty to offer solutions to US-based real estate investors. We started with a small group of investors, and then through referrals, we were working with 300 to 400 real estate investors in the last four to five years.
When researching solutions for the vertical, we found Podio as highly customizable to meet the needs of our customers. And then, we looked for complementary tools such as Formstack Documents.
Zak: Can you tell me more about who your customers are and the processes you support them through?
Omar: When we start with a new client, we prepare to set up the system they need, rather than selling the system we want to sell. We want to build a foundation and long-term relationship with our clients, so we need to understand their business and the problem we’re solving. Once we do that, we build the automation they need to get there to make their life easier. It starts with automating the system and implementing the CRM to help their business grow.
Zak: How are you finding your customers as you add new customers? Or are they finding you?
Omar: We haven’t had to look for customers for a long time. Our customers for the last three to four years are all referrals.
Zak: That’s a great position to be in.
Omar: We get referrals from old clients and from businesses that we have partnered with. That’s the only way we take on new clients right now. For us, getting referrals is great because they already know the value we can contribute to their business. They’re already sold on the idea, so it’s the dream!
Zak: Can you tell me more about Podio and how it’s used by your customers?
Omar: We work with customers in many different markets. While our main clients are in real estate, we also work with marketing, insurance, and more. We also work with healthcare companies to build their CRM, and Podio is a portal that’s a very dynamic CRM they can use to customize anything they need to—from basic CRM functionality to complex ERP systems or inventory management. It does everything you need it to for whichever vertical you’re in. That’s why we consider it an excellent tool. It’s generic enough to fit what you need, but you can customize it to fit your business. We usually build it for our real estate clients, and they use it to acquire their leads and close their deals.
Zak: What types of integrations are you typically working with?
Omar: We have several third-party integrations. If the customer has a website or landing page, is running Facebook ads or marketing campaigns, even cold calling, we can accommodate that. All of these activities feed into the CRM, where agents can work on their leads, contact them directly, work by geography, and have the ability to call, text, or send automated email follow-ups. And Formstack Documents is a key Podio integration for us.
Bahra IT Solutions & Formstack
Zak: When did you come across Formstack?
Omar: We started using Formstack Documents around the same time we got into real estate because, in this industry, we were dealing with lots of contracts. Documents are a very important part of the business. We deal with multiple types of agreements, and that’s where Forsmtack came into play.
We started working with Formstack Documents because it’s a really good product that does exactly what you need it to do. It’s easy to create templates and edit them as you need to. There were other products on the market, but your product was the only one that allowed us to work on a Word template and PDF documents. A lot of our clients are registered realtors, so they have special templates they need to use, which are issued by the government or other associations. Those are usually provided as a PDF document, and you can’t really use any other document type. So Formstack was the product that allowed us to have control of the document and allowed us to generate the contracts in the format our clients needed them to be.
Zak: Can you share a specific use case?
Omar: An agent can start their communication with a potential customer, generate a document, and send it out for signature, right through the CRM. Most of our clients are real estate investors. They purchase a property from the owner and then find a buyer for it. So usually, the system will be built in a way that the first module will be the lead acquired, and then they’ll need to generate the document, which is the contract, and send it out for signature. When the contract is signed and sent back, it kicks off the deal.
Zak: You mentioned the types of templates that they’re using for their documents being issued by the government and associations. Can you expand on these types of documents?
Omar: If you’re a licensed realtor in the US, you have to use the contract that was issued by the state. This is what we use most of the time. A lot of clients can use their own contracts, which are very complex—we’re talking 10 to 15 pages long. And usually, there are potential addendums to that contract.
With Formstack Documents, it allows us to generate those documents and be able to generate addendums attached to the same document before it’s sent for signature. That’s the significant added value for us because otherwise, you have to generate the contract, generate the addendum, and then send them separately.
Zak: Sounds like significant time savings for the realtors.
Omar: Yes. Generating contracts manually takes at least 20 to 25 minutes, but using automation through Formstack, it’s a few clicks, and it’s done in seconds. We can also prefill most of the default fields that they need to fill out. So, generating the contract goes from 25 minutes to a couple of minutes. You don’t have to worry that you forgot something either. You’re sure that everything was done correctly, and we can add a variety of checks to ensure that required fields are filled or edited as needed.
Zak: How are those addendums set up in your document templates?
Omar: When we do the setup, you upload your main contract configured within the CRM, Docs, and eSignature. You add the addendum separately. Formstack Documents has a feature called data routing. Instead of integrating with the document directly, it adds a logic layer between the document and the integrations. You can generate multiple documents through that route. In this case, it’s the main contract and addendums, and then put the final output of that route into one document and send it as one document for electronic signature.
Zak: Have you taken a look at our eSignature solution, Formstack Sign?
Omar: Yes, we just started offering your electronic signature service. So far, the clients using it have liked it because it’s terrific, it’s affordable compared to the competition, and it gives them the exact functionality plus extra features that they don’t find in other products.
What’s Next for Bahra IT Solutions
Zak: Where do you see taking your business in the years ahead?
Omar: That’s a great question. We just started partnering with real estate education companies. We are building products for those companies to include in their training packages. We’ve been doing that with four or five companies at this point. It’s been going well. Most of these clients joining the training programs are just starting out, and they aren’t quite sure where they’re headed. We help them get started. We’ve been able to build relationships with those clients, and we’ve seen a lot of them go from one-man shows to companies of 15 or 20 people.
Our goal going forward is we’re working on expanding our team so we can provide more out-of-the-box services. So far, most of our services have been consultancy based, so it’s very custom products and services we provide for clients based on their requirements. So we’re trying to work with our technology partners to make services more turnkey, including Formstack, so we can give them the technology they need packaged in a way they can get started quickly—and at an attractive entry price to get started.
Zak: Prebuilt, verticalized solutions, that reduce the starting costs.
Omar: Exactly. So you can see what you’re getting, and start quickly.
Zak: Are you focusing on real estate investors, or are you looking to build on that?
Omar: The real estate industry somewhat chose us. Because our clients were in that market and since our business is primarily referral based, that’s how we grew in this industry. We started to have a really good reputation in the market. We’ve been trying to maintain that reputation, and that’s how we have been able to expand. With that said, we have been looking to continue to grow in other markets, and we want to continue doing so.
Zak: Alright, let’s wrap up with our lightning round! Omar, do you have any personal interests or hobbies you can share?
Omar: For me, hobbies are mostly finance-related—cryptocurrencies, online trading, things like that more than conventional hobbies like sports. I would say online financial stuff and my audiobooks. That’s it.
Zak: Do you have a productivity tip you can share?
Omar: Productivity is something a lot of people talk about, and it’s never really been something I was able to measure myself. For me, productivity is more about adding value. So at the end of the day, it depends on how much value I’ve added to my clients that day.
Zak: Do you have a favorite TV show?
Omar: Not really. I don’t spend much time watching TV. I try not to start watching too much, so I don’t get attached to something new. Most of the time, I would rather watch reruns because I can quit at any time. Not that exciting!
Zak: What’s your go-to lunch during the workday?
Omar: I like having Subway. Something light is probably the only thing I don’t mind having every day. That’s usually my standard lunch.
Zak: That’s a great segue to my last question. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What’s your take on that?
Omar: Uh…I would say so.
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