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

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8:30 AM EST, Wednesday, March 21, 2007: The perfect investment is your own business. You benefit in two ways. First, when you make profits, you put the money in your pocket. Second, when you sell the business, the buyer pays you ten times (or so) the profits you already put in your pocket. That's a lot better than being a salaryman, where you get paid once and Uncle Sam is your greedy partner.

I'm staggered at how badly most people run their own businesses. Items of late:

1. Our skylight vendor has messed around for four months, losing our order, building the wrong skylight, not getting the second specs right again, and generally acting stupid. And he's our second skylight vendor. The first one was even worse.

2. Our closet guy (a local variation of California Closets) has no brochures, almost no pictures of his work on the web, doesn't know to receive bank wires, or send photos through email and says, proudly, "I'm not computer literate."

3. I called nine people at my new dictionary distributor yesterday. Not one was in -- from the president on down. When I complained via email to the president, he suggested I take my business elsewhere. He forgot to apologize for his ineptitude with one customer, i.e. me. He doesn't need my business, he says, but then who needs customers, anyway? By the way, today he's on vacation in Costa Rica and seems to say that I should wait until his return. They don't have phones there?

The two biggest common problems among "your own" businesses are:

1. No one pays attention to sales or marketing. Believe it or not, most companies don't have customer service reps, whose job is to work with the customer. They have someone in charge of this (e.g. production) and someone in charge of that (e.g. finance). But no one is in charge of speaking to the customer, and perhaps up-selling him on a more expensive closet. The concept of having someone sitting by the phone ready to deal with customers seems to have bypassed most companies.

2. No one pays any attention to the process of serving a customer -- from taking the initial order, to processing it, to sending it out, to tracking the order. Most companies (except the big mail order companies, like LLBean, Eddie Bauer, etc.) don't have a simple way of looking up your order on their computer and finding where it stands. A remarkable number of companies still run on paper-based systems, all neatly filed away in hanging Pendaflex folders. The problem is that someone took the folder; it got put in the wrong place, or it simply got mislaid. Four months later, the customer's roof is done -- bar a skylight whose paperwork is lost. And the customer is going ballistic and will badmouth you to all his rich friends.

There is no excuse for not placing the customer at the top of the food chain. Ten years there was an excuse for not computerizing. It cost a fortune. But these days, computers are cheap; networks are cheap and the software to run it all is neither expensive nor complex. But you do have to be computer literate, which means read the instruction book, go to a course. And you do have to be willing to answer your phones, or at least stagger your people's lunch hours. All the people at my book distributor seem to take common lunch hours -- except for the telephone operator who takes one an hour later. She was perplexed that there was no one for me to speak to yesterday -- except her.

There are huge opportunities everywhere -- irrespective of the "competition." Most companies are not affected by competition. They shoot themselves in the foot by messing around with their customers.

This morning I just received this email from a lady who deals with customers at my book distributor, and who wanted some urgent information from me -- which I sent her last night:

I will be out of the office on Wednesday, March 21, but will be checking my emails. I will respond on Wednesday or Thursday.

I don't make this stuff up.

My friends swear by Want to make a PowerPoint presentation to five people in five cities, with you in a sixth? Easy. Their web site is awful. But the service, I'm told, works great. is incredible. It finds things. It shows a satellite picture that is good you can see individual houses and thus see how your new house is situated. And then it combines the map and the satellite in "hybrid" picture that's truly amazing. It's the best implementation of a technology called Ajax, which allows you to drag the map around your screen without having to wait for the Google (and the Internet) to refresh your screen. This technology is what makes Google maps so incredibly fast.

Whatever happened to God's eyesight?
A 45 year old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she had a near death experience.

Seeing God she asked, "Is my time up?"

God said, "No, you have another 43 years, 2 months and 8 days to live."

Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it. After surgery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a face-lift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck. She had someone come in and change her hair color and brighten her teeth!

After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. While crossing the street on her way home, she was hit by a bus and killed instantly.

Arriving in front of God, she demanded, "I thought you said I had another 43 years? Why didn't you pull me from out of the bus's path?"

God replied: "I didn't recognize you."

The best comeback line.
The following is totally untrue. But it's still a great story and is probably in your inbox this morning sent by some kind soul who thinks it's true.

Marine Corps General Reinwald was interviewed on the radio the other day and you'll love his reply to the lady who interviewed him concerning guns and children. Regardless of how you feel about gun laws you gotta love this!!!! This is one of the best comeback lines of all time.

It is a portion of National Public Radio (NPR) interview between a female broadcaster and US Marine Corps General Reinwald who was about to sponsor a Boy Scout Troop visiting his military installation

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: So, General Reinwald, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?

GENERAL REINWALD: We're going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery, and shooting.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Shooting! That's a bit irresponsible, isn't it?

GENERAL REINWALD: I don't see why, they'll be properly supervised on the rifle range.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Don't you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?

GENERAL REINWALD: I don't see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: But you're equipping them to become violent killers.

GENERAL REINWALD: Well, Ma'am, you're equipped to be a prostitute, but you're not one, are you?

The radio went silent and the interview ended.

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. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty 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 Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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