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Archive for August, 2006

What Goes Up Must Come Down!

I just now came accross the most interesting graph I’ve ever seen about the current housing boom! It’s amazing. It’s a graph showing the index of the average home price in the United-States adjusted for inflation.

Looking at it quickly, ignoring the recent run-up, it’s already very interesting. Prices declined during World War 1, the Great Depression, and againg during World War 2. It also clearly shows the 1970’s and 1980’s real estate boom and bust cycles.

However what’s really interesting is the incredibly major spike for the 2000’s!!! All I can say is WOW!!! Assuming those numbers are correct, that’s incredible! It really shows the effects of having 30-50% price increases year over year. It just didn’t make sense. It reminds me a lot of the tulip bulb boom, the first real market boom in recorded history.

All I can say is that’s quite an adjustment we can look forward to. For those who have cash, the real estate market will afford many amazing deals in the near future as the prices correct themselves!






Weekly 7

Actual lessons from Kiko
5 great tips on how to build up a company.

A Spec-tacular Failure
Interesting in the sense that this shows how important it is to have proper software specifications

Is it smart to be buying or trading up when you are in a down market?
Very interesting graph that illustrates his argument.

Mr Angry’s rules for recruitment agencies dealing with contractors
Having been a contractor in the past, I can tell you these are some very good rules on how to recruite quality contractors.

The Return Policy – Friend of Foe?
The ups and downs of offering a no hassle money back guarantee.

Top 5 business maxims that need to go
Quick little read that has some good take-aways.

How To Run A Beta Test… Or Not?
The experience of someone who ran a beta test for his own company, the good and the bad.






Customer Service How Not To

Before I begin, let me just say that this example is taken from GoDaddy.com. I’ve used them in the past, I will use them again in the future, but this particular incident did put some heavy doubts into my mind as to what type of company they are.

At least a year or two ago, maybe more, I tried the GoDaddy’s domain name backordering service. It’s a pretty simple service, it allows you to try to pick up domains that are about to expire (that is domains that were once registered and that are now about to come back on the free market). At the time, I knew that the big services for picking up expired/deleted domains were Pool.com, NameWinner.com, and another one that I can’t offhand recall. In any case, GoDaddy’s domain backordering service uses one registrar to try to pick up expiring domains whereas these other services use many different registrars combined together to keep pounding away hoping to get the domain at just the second it expires (it’s first come first serve). As you can imagine, the success rate of highly sought after expired domains is much more likely with services like Pool or NameWinner than with GoDaddy.

So why did I decide to use GoDaddy? Because the other services start auctions if more than one person tries to get the name, with the domain eventually going to the highest bidder. As you can imagine, some highly sought after domains can quickly go for large sums of money. What GoDaddy offers is you get it or you don’t (no auctions), but for one low price, under $20. So the odds are very low, but the so is the price. Almost like buying a lotery ticket. So I figured why not try it out.

As well, they advertise on their website:

“If you don’t get the name, you don’t lose – just re-assign to another name.”

Not a bad deal. So if they can’t get it, you just keep trying with other domains. Well after several unsuccessful expired domain attempts, this got rather tedious and annoying. It could very well be that I was trying to constantly pick up popular expiring domain names. But either way this got annoying after a while. So what do you think your next reaction is going to be? Let’s get a refund since they can’t deliver the service they promised. Rather than keep trying for other domains that they don’t seem to be able to get, let’s just get our cash and move on. After all, they seem to offer a very nice guarantee: “If you don’t get the name, you don’t lose – just re-assign to another name.” suggesting that they would offer a refund.

But wait, there’s no mention of a refund… Actually if you look on their website, there’s no mention of any type of refund anywhere. It turns out this is a non-refundable service! But here’s the kicker, no where is it mentioned that this is a non-refundable purchase. On the contrary it seems to suggest that they have the best intentions for you by their guarantee, but the reality is that it’s a non-refundable purchase with no notification. I even took the time recently to try to dig up this non-refundable condition. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I looked in the FAQ, the Help sections, everywhere. Nothing. No mention of it anywhere. I’m sure it’s there somewhere, but it’s obviously not easy to find by any means! If any of you find it, please let me know in the comments, I’d be very appreciative.

Moving on, why is this bad customer service? Because they intentionally give their customer the perception that they’re out looking for their best interest by offering a great guarantee, but with the exception that if they can’t deliver their service it’s non-refundable. So now what am I to do with this money I spent? I know it’s not a lot of money, but it can quickly add up. Now the only way I can use this money is to buy an already expired domain (one that no one is interested in) for $20 where it should have only cost me $9, almost double the price of purchasing a regular domain because they couldn’t deliver what they promised!

This really annoys me. This is not a way to treat your customers. If it wasn’t for the fact that they are one of the largest registrars, if not the largest, and that I have many domains already setup there, I would have seriously considered moving. Actually I seriously did! It’s amazing how simple small interactions with your customers can have such large ripple affects. For a measly $20 they almost lost thousands of dollars of business! I can’t ever imagining taking this type of gamble with my LandlordMax customers. It just doesn’t make business sense to me…

And yes I’ve registered that many domains over the last few years as I tried and learned many things.






Adsense, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Website Promotions

The seminar where I was a keynote speaker over the last two weekends turned out to be a great success! Not only was it sold out, but everyone seemed to really benefit from it! All in all a phenomonal success!

Because of the enthusiasm and success of the first seminar, we’ve (me and Glenn Scott) decided to offer another repeat of it, just a little more condensed. The next seminar will only be lecture based rather than a combination of lecture and workshop, and it will be over 1 weekend instead of two. The new seminar will be very similar in terms of content; Adsense, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and website promotion methods. We’re just going to eliminate the Dreamweaver MX section and the computer workshop time.

We’re very excited about it, especially considering the amazing feedback we received! You can yourself view some of the amazing video testimonials we received from the seminar by going directly to the the new website we’ve setup for the next course: LearningCentre.com. You can also view comments that were left from some of the attendees on my blog related entry here. As you can easily see, it was a great success!

This next seminar will be held on the weekend of September 23-24, 2006 here in Ottawa. If you’re interested, please visit LearningCentre.com for more details.

In addition, based on the feedback from the people in the seminar, we’re going to offer in the very near future (within days) a new membership based group to LearningCentre.com for as little as $25/month, which is extremely affordable! It’s less than either cable tv or your cell phone, it’s the price of only one supper outing. The idea is that it will give you the opportunity to keep up to date with the latest industry information through both its online blog/newsletter and forums where both me and Glenn Scott will be very active members. In addition to that as part of the same membership package, we’re going to offer something similar to what REIN offers for real estate investors, we’re also going to host a monthly evening event where we’ll have either one of us, or a guest speaker, talk about the latest information, offer tips, show things we’ve learning that month, and so on. These monthly evening events will of course be optional, but I wouldn’t want to miss them!

I’m personally very excited about this new package because it gives the people who take the seminar a nice way of following up after the seminar is done, it helps to keep them updated. Therefore as part of the seminar package, we’re giving everyone who takes the seminar one free month’s access to this extra package, giving you a month’s worth of free access to the member’s only section of LearningCentre.com and one free monthly evening event eadmission!

Very Exciting! Had you asked me two weeks ago about these new offerings, chances are I wouldn’t have been able to predict them. But after having gone through the seminar once and seeing the interest, I can’t help but be thrilled!

Lastly, as many of you who took the course have already seen, we’ve been working very hard this week to get the website LearningCentre.com up and running (it was unplanned), and if everything goes well we should be fully operational by the end of the weekend. As we mentioned in the seminar, neither of us had any plans of offering this seminar again, or even expanding on it, but the interest and enthusiasm were so high that I was able to convince Glenn Scott to join me for a few more offerings. Therefore I can’t guarantee how many more seminars we’ll offer here in Ottawa, so if you’re interested I would suggest taking the next one right away in case it’s the last one…






LandlordMax Great Customer Feedback

As many of you probably noticed, we launched an updated version of LandlordMax Property Management Software, version 2.12d, this week. I apologize for not having written about it in more detail yet, this week is incredibly busy for me not just because of this release, but also because I’ll be a keynote speaker at an instructional seminar covering website promotion and traffic generation this weekend.

In any case, this update was the result of some issues one of our customers faced that was our fault. The quick version, until I have time to write a more detailed explanation, was that since version 2.12 the software missed a validation check in the Tenant’s Workarea (in all other Workareas this validation check remained intact) that should have prevented you from assigning two tenants to the same unit/building. It turns out that the software was no longer doing this validation check, which caused other issues in the software. This has been resolved in version 2.12d.

We worked very closely with Sharif Booz on this issue to fix it for him as fast as possible (within 2 business days I believe), and to prevent it from happening to any of our other customers. I just received the following email from him today which he has graciously allowed me to publish here and on the LandlordMax success stories / testimonial page (which will be updated within a few days):

“Thank you very much for first class service”

Yours sincerely,
Sharif Booz

Thank you Sharif for the great comment!






Weekly 7

How To Be An Effective Entrepreneur
One of the better pieces I’ve read on this topic, especially the “Focus on Contribution” and “First Things First” sections.

Are housing prices headed for a big fall?
Once-hottest markets at biggest risk for price declines, say analysts

Small-Business Myths Busted
The truth as you know it about starting a business may really be a lie. Let us help you sort the myths from the realities.

State of the Blogosphere, August 2006
Very interesting graphs on what’s happening in the blogging world according to Technorati

Proper Pricing of your home is very important for your sale
The Majority of prospect activity on a new listing occurs in the early period of marketing which is why the initial presentation and selling of your real estate property is important.

Who’s Counting: It’s Mean to Ignore the Median
The same set of numbers can have a mean and a median, which differ significantly.

Rapid Responses Save The Customer Service Experience
How fast do you and your employees react when a customer has a complaint?






SEO Resources

Just a quick post as this week is incredibly busy for me, several people at the seminar of which I’m one of three keynote speakers asked me where to get additional SEO and Adsense related resources. I’m going to recommend here one ebook that I really enjoyed and got a lot of value from, probably the best resource, and several links/blogs for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). As for Adsense, unfortunately all I can reference is additional websites and blogs, I don’t know of any one book or ebook that does a good job of explaining it that worth its price.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

eBooks

SEO Book: By far the best book I’ve read on the topic. This book is written by Aaron Wall, who’s one of the first 100 “Google qualified professionals” in the world. Even though I’ve been very active in the SEO world for quite some time, this book still contained many great pieces of information for me when I read it. In terms of an introduction and encapsulating a lot of the knowledge, this is probably the one best resource to get. You can find the SEO Book here.

SEO links

Beginner’s Guide to SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The best and most comprehensive free introduction and how-to to Search Engine Optimzation (SEO) I’ve seen online!
Matt Cutts: This is the blog you want to follow if you want to keep up with SEO.
SEO Chat: Lots of articles being continually updated on SEO
SEO Black Hat: Lots of interesting leading edge information on SEO

Adsense

Adsense Links

Problogger.net: He’s mainly about making money through blogging. The good news is that he covers many related topics, from Adsense to other monetization methods. He even talks about other related topics such as SEO, how to generate traffic, etc. Very excellent overall resource.
Performancing.com: Again, very related to monetizing blogs, but very applicable to monetizing any website.

I mentioned it in the course but not here yet, getting information about SEO and website monetization, such as using Adsense, is generally not easily available in one “put together nicely” package. This is why the seminar was created. These are just some of the more common resources I personally use, there are many more. These should at least give you a big head start!






Weekly 7

My house hunt: a look at social computing’s impact on real estate
A first-hand experience with some of the online real estate tools in the marketplace

Mortgage delinquencies seen rising in 2006
High-cost loan owners will struggle with interest rates and debt.

‘Take this house and shove it’
More and more Americans are moving to get away from overheated housing markets.

Support Does Not Scale. Customer Service Does.
Highlights the differences and importances between support and customer service.

Don’t believe BusinessWeek’s bubble-math
I’m a subscriber to BusinessWeek and find many of their articles interesting, but this author does bring an important point about how certain articles can be written with a lot of hype.

Death and Taxes
A visual look at where your tax dollars go.

My Favorite Real Estate Story
The story of why we now have “the Hannah clause” in all Buyer Agency contracts stating that the buyer is aware that the company may have other buyers under contract competing for the same house.






Update: LandlordMax Traffic Doubles As a Result of the Free Real Estate Analyzer

A few weeks ago we released a free online real estate analyzer on my company’s website (LandlordMax) in the hopes that it would increase the traffic to our website, and hence create more interest in our main product. The idea is that if you offer something of value for free, you will generate significant traffic from it.

We initially doubled the traffic to our website, which was great! Since then, as I promised to update you all, we’ve continued to get at least double our previous traffic each day from before we released it, sometimes much more! This increase in traffic has been maintained, and is actually still growing as its gaining more exposure. At this point, we’re barely promoting it anymore if at all, we’re letting the viral aspect take over, which is great. This might turn out to be our best marketing investment yet!

If you have a website and you want to increase your traffic significantly, offer something of high value for free and people will come.






Top 10 Stock Investing Books Of All-Time

1. The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book On Value Investing, Revised Edition: Hands down the first book you should ever read if you’re planning to invest in stocks!
2. Security Analysis: The Classic 1940 Edition: The most detailed book that I’ve ever read that explains how to invest in stocks. It goes over the financials, how to read SEC filings, how to analyze a company. Everything is in detail, therefore this is not a light reading, but what you get out of it is worth it’s weight (it’s a heavy book).
3. The Essays of Warren Buffett : Lessons for Corporate America: There’s nothing like reading directly from the richest person ever who made his fortune by investing in stocks! This is a collection of many of his best pieces, grouped together into topics.
4. The Warren Buffett Way, Second Edition: A very good introduction on what to look for in stocks. Almost like a follow-up to The Intelligent Investor mentioned above as the #1 stock investing book.
5. How to Lie With Statistics: If you’re going to invest in stocks, you need to be able to read graphs, there’s no doubt about it. The key however is that you need to understand how to properly read graphs because it’s very easy to manipulate their meaning by simple modifications (with the exact same data)!
6. A Random Walk Down Wall Street: Anyone who’s educated themselves in stocks knows there are many investing philosphies and styles. This book goes through many of the more common ones and tries to determine which is better. In case you’re curious, the author believes that throwing a dart to pick your stocks gives you just as good of odds over the long term as any investment strategy. I don’t believe this, but he makes a very compelling case.
7. Take On the Street: What Wall Street and Corporate America Don’t Want You to Know: I recommend this book not for its overall content, but for the great take aways on how the mutual fund market works. I was never fond of the mutual fund market, and now I know for sure that I’ll never invest in mutual funds.
8. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator: This is the disguised story of the stock speculator Jesse Livermore from long ago who used shady practices to make and lose a lot of money. What’s good about this book is that it’s got an interesting perspective on when to buy, sell, or hold a position in any investment vehicle.
9. Buffett : The Making of an American Capitalist: The best way to be successful at anything it to learn from the best, and Warren Buffett has consistently shown himself to be the most profitable stock investor in the world. Therefore no list would be complete without his biography, and this is the best one I’ve read about him.
10. When Genius Failed : The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management: This is the real story of a group of individuals that over leveraged themselves on their investments and almost collapsed the market. I recommend this book not because of it’s entirety, but because there are some great nuggets of wisdom spread throughout.





 
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