Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Technology Investor. Harry Newton
9:00 AM EST, Monday, April 13, 2009.
is simple. Bid low. Everything is on sale. And I mean everything. How low?
Start at 50% off. Boston's Hancock Building went for 50% off. Barrons will
happily give you two pages for the price of one. Even more if you commit to
are seven keys to buying low:
Offer cash. With real estate, offer cash and a quick close.
Don't get emotionally involved, i.e. you don't really care if you buy that
particular house. There are millions of others.
Be prepared to wait. Sometimes the seller has a "committed" signed
buyer, whose financing falls through.
Hold your ground. You don't care.
Split the difference between what the seller wants and what you're prepared
Don't get upset if the seller is insulted and gets upset. The seller is just
Use a technique I learned in Asia. Start to walk out the front door.
then there's the other side: Your local banks will increase their published
rates on CDs -- if you ask.
big plus to getting a bargain is not the price. It's the joy of winning.
real estate, the price you pay is the key factor in the project's ultimate
All "load" mutual funds will drop their load -- if you ask.
an entrepreneur, not an investor. Being your
own boss gives you control. Investing in someone else's business is a crapshoot
-- often one you lose. Control is my constant nag. I'm increasingly obsessed
with it. From Sunday's New York Times Magazine comes a charming story called
easy to draw despondent conclusions from the economic headlines. For instance,
if you were thinking of starting a laundry-and-dry-cleaning business that
requires consumers to pay for the value and convenience of an efficient
pickup and delivery service, you might be skeptical. Arent people
just beating their clothes on rocks down by the river these days?
The good news
is that not everybody has that attitude. Dominic Coryell, a 23-year-old
senior at Northeastern University, recently won a prize for collegiate entrepreneurs
on the strength of a business he runs in Boston called Garment Valet. The
proposition is basic enough: Customers use GarmentValet.com
to arrange laundry and dry-cleaning pickups and deliveries that thanks
to arrangements with building owners and managers dont involve
waiting around for the driver to show up. And its not a business plan;
its a business, with 14 full-time employees and about $950,000 in
revenue last year. Grim economy notwithstanding, Coryell says he believes
the company will fare even better after he graduates next month.
Student Entrepreneur Award, which Coryell won, comes with about $10,000
in cash and a variety of products and services donated by members of the
sponsoring group, the Entrepreneurs Organization. Rooting for the abstract
idea of the entrepreneur, whether a small-business owner or the hypothetical
Next Bill Gates, is one of the great clichés of American politics
and life. From consumers to politicians to whatever Joe the Plumber is supposed
to be, everyone supports entrepreneurs. Theyre pivotal figures who
will get us out of this recession. Some observers suggest that the downturn
is actually sparking entrepreneurship, as laid-off workers make a go of
a variety of new small businesses.
that, as Coryell notes, the thing about entrepreneurship is that nobody
knows what it is. To some, it means dreaming up a magic-bullet idea
that becomes the next Google or Facebook (or at least shows enough potential
to flip to a buyer like Google or Facebook). And then there are the
people who are more kind of operators at heart, he says, who
get involved in the complexities of an operation. He falls in the
latter category; Garment Valet was not even his idea. Another Northeastern
University student, Adam Jacknow, created it in the late 1990s, when he
was an undergraduate. They met when Coryell applied to be a driver as a
freshman, and he promptly ended up as the chief executive and owner of 49
percent of the business.
really got me involved was that everything I did there, there was a direct
response, Coryell says. If I wanted to make a flier and see
how many customers it would bring in, I could do that. Such elementary
experiments led to tinkering with the accounting, with sourcing strategies,
with figuring out which marginal changes really improved profits and cash
flow. Jacknow has focused more on proprietary software and other technology
that improves efficiency and that he hopes will fuel more growth.
of the young company is a reminder that entrepreneurship often depends more
on successful execution than radical reinvention. Originally focused on
students, the business has shifted toward young professionals who now make
up two-thirds of its customers; more recently, the company began deploying
a virtual concierge system involving special lockers in some
buildings so the exchanges can happen even in the absence of a doorman or
building manager. Garment Valet offers a variety of pricing options to remain
relatively competitive, but what it is really selling is the value of time
has affected the business, most notably through tighter credit terms from
lenders. So Coryell is focused on details, like how many active customers
remain loyal, meaning that they use the service at least every 14 days.
From a sales perspective weve done nothing but grow, month by
month, in this economy, he says, estimating that the company is on
track for $1.5 million in revenue this year.
certainly aware that some might see a service like his as an easy expense
to eliminate. Now is the time to show people that you can kick service
up and give them what they deserve, he says. The next step is operating
in a second city, by 2012, and slowly building a national brand. The
economy is what you make it, he adds. Spoken like an entrepreneur
one with student loans to pay.
weekend's franchise show. The New York/New
Jersey Franchise Expo is on this upcoming Saturday and Sunday at the Meadowlands
Exposition Center. If you're around, footloose and fancy free, the show could
be a hoot.
Only $10. Click here.
way to run a city. Click
iPhone / iPhone Touch apps. There are 25,000+
applications you can get for your iPhone. Some of my favorites:
News. I have Bloomberg, Google business, USA Today, NY Times, BBC Reader.
Handy Level, IWant, Pandora, Alarm Flash, Light, Convert It! and iTrans NYC..
Podcasts from National Public Radio and Bloomberg.
and Answers from an AARP Forum.
Q: Where can men over the age of 60 find younger, sexy women
who are interested in them?
A: Try a bookstore under fiction.
Q: How can
you increase the heart rate of your 60-plus year old husband?
A: Tell him you're pregnant.
Q: Why should
60-plus year old people use valet parking?
A: Valets don't forget where they park your car.
Q: As people
age, do they sleep More soundly?
A: Yes, but usually in the afternoon.
should 60-plus year olds look for eye glasses?
A: On their foreheads.
Q: What is
the most common remark made by 60-plus year olds when they enter antique stores?
A: "Gosh, I remember these!"
This column is about my personal search for the perfect
investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered
with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor.
I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three
reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column
is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect
Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas,
concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address
is . You can't
click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from
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in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some
look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please
note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay
Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense,
here and here.