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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Harry Newton

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9:00 AM EST, Monday, April 13, 2009. Today's message 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 longer.

There are seven keys to buying low:

1. Offer cash. With real estate, offer cash and a quick close.

2. Don't get emotionally involved, i.e. you don't really care if you buy that particular house. There are millions of others.

3. Be prepared to wait. Sometimes the seller has a "committed" signed buyer, whose financing falls through.

4. Hold your ground. You don't care.

5. Split the difference between what the seller wants and what you're prepared to offer.

6. Don't get upset if the seller is insulted and gets upset. The seller is just posturing.

7. Use a technique I learned in Asia. Start to walk out the front door.

And then there's the other side: Your local banks will increase their published rates on CDs -- if you ask.

The big plus to getting a bargain is not the price. It's the joy of winning.

In real estate, the price you pay is the key factor in the project's ultimate profitability.

P.S. All "load" mutual funds will drop their load -- if you ask.

Become 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 Work Study:

It’s 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. Aren’t 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 to arrange laundry and dry-cleaning pickups and deliveries that — thanks to arrangements with building owners and managers — don’t involve waiting around for the driver to show up. And it’s not a business plan; it’s 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.

The Global 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. They’re 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.

Funny then 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.

“What 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.

The story 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 saved.

The downturn 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 we’ve 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.

He’s 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.

This 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.

The way to run a city. Click here.

Favorite iPhone / iPhone Touch apps. There are 25,000+ applications you can get for your iPhone. Some of my favorites:

1. News. I have Bloomberg, Google business, USA Today, NY Times, BBC Reader.

2. Handy Level, IWant, Pandora, Alarm Flash, Light, Convert It! and iTrans NYC..

3. Podcasts from National Public Radio and Bloomberg.

Belated Easter cartoon.

Questions 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.

Q: Where 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 software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role 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, click here and here.