The Present Outside the Present

Those of us who’ve had small children will know the incredible but unforeseeable value of the refrigerator carton. Kids can make all sorts of things from robots to puppet theatres out of these cardboard structures. And, of course, how many parents out there have been bemused to give their infant toddler a gift at birthday or Christmas time only to find them more captivated by the box than the goodies inside?

I had one of these experiences recently. I had serendipitously taken part in an EzineArticles “100 articles in 100 days” challenge and only realised so after the event. Part of the challenge, of course, was a prize–a coffee mug adorned with “#HAHD” to signify the achievement. But, wait, there’s more.

When I responded to an email to register for my prize I thought at the time I’d be unlikely to actually receive it–being halfway around the world from Green Bay, Wisconsin, the home of EzineArticles, I was sure something would happen to see it get ‘lost in the post.’

I received this ‘present’ on my birthday. And not only was there a mug, but a pen, paper, some coffee, a mouse mat and more. But, the main thing that got my attention was the United States Postal Service ‘small flat box’ that the present came in.

This box was no ordinary box. I marvelled at it like it was sent from Mars or something. It had logos on it I hadn’t seen before. It specified the holding capacity in pounds not kilograms. It featured a small insignia map logo–a globe of the world, but not featuring Australia (Africa and Europe are featured in this ‘International Express Priority’ post actually). Finally, my address had “AUSTRALIA” marked in bold under the state details.

My wife and I mused for a good ten minutes about this box. It provided quite a pleasure-filled surprise for the day.

The lesson from this that I draw is, the simplest things can spur our minds. It also shows how big a world we live in. Having never travelled internationally, I’m awed by thoughts of places like America, the Middle East, and Europe.

The best things in life truly are free.

Negotiating Home Price – How to Give and Take

It’s your house-buying dream scenario: you find the house of your dreams, your agent presents your initial offer to the seller’s agent, the seller accepts the offer without a counteroffer, and the house is yours. Simple! And it sometimes happens just that way.

More often, house-buying is a series of negotiations. Now let’s look at some of the key give and take of negotiating a home price.

Know the market. You can learn much about the real estate conditions of your preferred new neighborhood by doing online research with the public records and real estate listings:

  • Gather the important details about the property and the neighborhood: is the house in foreclosure, is there a divorce proceeding, when was the last time the house was on the market; Google view the street to see what the house and the immediate neighborhood look like.
  • Follow several good real estate blogs on a daily basis to monitor the available properties and the asking/selling prices of properties in your target area.
  • There generally are three types of markets: a highly competitive seller’s market, buyer’s market, or a balanced market in which supply and demand are fairly equal. Know your market! It will affect your negotiating strategy.

Line up your financing before house hunting. Getting pre-qualified/pre-approved for a loan is important (especially in a seller’s market), and it can take months to accomplish. An offer from a pre-qualified buyer carries more influence than one without pre-approval; some agents won’t even show homes to prospective buyers until they have completed the pre-approval process.

Ask questions, reveal little. Try to find out why the seller is moving. Does the seller need a quick turnaround sale? The seller may be motivated to accept a reasonable offer. Does the seller prefer a longer closing period and possibly a rent-back option? This information may give the buyer leverage during negotiations. But be mindful that the seller may choose to divulge very little about the reason(s) for the sale.

It also is prudent to reveal as little about yourself as possible. The seller’s agent could use that knowledge about you as leverage.

Have options. It helps to have other home buying options when you are negotiating on a property. Let the seller’s agent know that you have other homes you are seriously considering and avoid giving the impression of being desperate to by this house. Real estate insiders advise buyers to be dispassionate about a home – or at least appear to be dispassionate.

Be prepared to walk away. When you’ve presented a strong offer but the seller won’t negotiate or compromise, walk away. One of your other house options may be your dream home, after all.

Be prepared to act fast and make a realistic offer. Unless you are in a buyer’s market, be prepared to decide on a house, act quickly, and make a realistic offer. Your offer must be a fair one, based on the value of the property and not the list price. Don’t insult the owner by low balling your offer. You may never have a chance to make a second offer. Note that an initial offer with a price range instead of a fixed number may give you more flexibility, too.

Finally…

It can be easy to get stuck in the negotiating “game” and sometimes lose the property if neither side will give in. If you can’t get the seller to come down in price on all your requests, but the reduced price is favorable to you, you like the house, and you have negotiated well – stop while you’re ahead! Agree to the final terms or walk away.

Choose a skilled agent who will represent your best interests. Expect that the home-buying process will include compromises and being creative with your offer may help move you through the negotiations to a favorable conclusion for both parties. May you be successful in your search, the negotiations, and moving into your dream home.

3 Building Blocks of Strong Visual Presentation to Investors

Investor presentation is an important event for every startup. It’s a possibility to show a product to public and build relationships with investors. The way it is prepared and conducted will be followed by investor’s decision to put money into the project or step aside. That is why the main goal of presentation to investors is to convince them that a product or service meets users’ needs. To achieve it, a presentation should be designed in a way to answer two main questions:

1. What is a product or service?
2. Why will users want it?

And remember that “no presentation is better than a weak one”. Keeping that in mind you should spend significant amount of time not only to develop a product, but also to build the right approach to present it.

One of the common ways to do a presentation is to make it visible using computer and special software like Microsoft Power Point (or any other). Actually, the way the presentation looks is the major thing, not the software used to create it.

The three building blocks of strong visual presentation to investors are Plan, Time and Visual Tools:

1. Make a PLAN for the presentation and put slides in order with it. A plan could be like this:
a) Introduction – who you and your company are.
b) Product description – what does it do, what problem it solves.
c) Description of usage – who and how will use it, why customers will want it.
d) Competitive advantages and success stories (if any).
e) Finance – sales and profit projections.
f) Call for investments.

2. TIME: don’t make long presentations if the opposite is not required. Your presentation should take about 10 minutes. So the number of slides that are sufficient is from 12 to 15. More slides will take the most of your time to read the text, not to explain information to investors. People won’t listen to you too long and lose interest to your presentation. And avoid presenting and driving presentation simultaneously. It’s better to ask someone of your team to turn slides during your talk.

3. VISUAL TOOLS:
a) Use at least 16 font size. No one is going to read the text with a telescope.
b) Don’t put much text on slides. Be short and precise. Use bullets to divide text into simple statements and use 2-4 statements per slide.
c) The text on slides must not have errors and typos. After completing the presentation, read it again carefully and correct all errors. Also you can give it to someone for proofreading.
d) Use schemes to show logical structures. A scheme can explain the cause-effect relation even better than bulleted text.
e) Use colors to make slides catchy. You may use corporate or any other colors, but keep in mind that they should be contrast. Green text on yellow background will look fuzzy and hard to read. Dark text on light background will look good. Light text on dark background is good for darken rooms and require powerful projector. Also try not to use more than three colors in presentation.
f) Be careful using background. Fancy textures can make the text hard-to-read. Also, if you are not going to show slides on your laptop, your texture might be absent on another computer.
g) Use pictures and photos to make greater impression of your words.
h) Use charts and diagrams to present figures. Put data labels and use readable font size. Try to avoid using 3D diagrams as they might be hard to understand.
i) Don’t use spreadsheets on slides. It’s better to pick up 3-5 the most important for you numbers and show them in text or on separate slide.
j) If you are presenting something web-based, make an off-line copy and use it. Internet connection can be unstable and die right when you need it.

Following those tips will help startups to provide visual support for their presentation and get investors’ attention and funding as well.