Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pricing - From Used Kites to Homes

I sold one of my used kites yesterday. I did it fast: posted it on the kite forums at 8am and took it to FedEx by noon. I probably sold it too cheap. Pricing can be such a challenge! But, at least for a used kite, I prefer to sell it cheap and fast than to spend weeks (or months) trying to sell it (for an extra $100). Sometimes, you can start with a high ask price then negotiate with lower offers (or proactively lower the price) but the risk is nobody will bother to make an offer - or pay attention when you lower the price. Sometimes you can start with a low price and let potential buyers bid the price up. That is the ideal outcome when selling a house: the low price attracts lots of interest but the scarcity generates bids that maximize the sale price. The risk there, of course, is that all you get are offers at the low price you asked for - but in that case that is probably the fair market value.

A completely different approach to pricing is utilized by airlines: they constantly change their ticket prices based on time, capacity, trends, etc. We've gotten used to the same product being sold to different people for radically different prices. This is something we normally don't accept. Imagine if Apple asked you $1,000 for an iPad because it knew you could afford it?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Be Kind

Today Paco spoke to us about the importance of being kind to people - at least a small gesture each day. He mentioned that one of his teachers had been sick and that when she came back he asked her how she was feeling and that she greatly appreciated his concern. Why is this important? Well, what goes around comes around. Be nice to others and others will be nice to you. I also told the boys about research that shows that being kind to others makes us happy. So it is not simply about altruism or about a quid-pro-quo, but also about doing something that on its own merits gives us fulfillment.

Ale mention that we shouldn't be kind to others hoping to get something back. I agreed and added that those who don't focus on what's in it for them normally end up getting more back. Like entrepreneurs who start companies to build something great rather than to make money often make more money than those whose focus is the money itself.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Breaks to Routines

I just came back from spending a week in Brazil. Half of the time I was running from business meeting to business meeting, but for four days I was in the small town of Buzios at the South American Kite Racing Championship. I had plenty of "down-time" on my own walking on the beach... It was a real break from most of my routines: away from Cindy, away from the boys, away from friends and colleagues, from my town, home and bed... So what? While I must confess that I was lonely, it also felt good to break from my routines. You get to appreciate the things you take for granted. You get to assess how important they are for you. Which routines your truly miss and which ones you might want to change when you get back home.

Management teams have off-sites or board meetings every so often to focus on the forest rather than the trees. Individuals should do the same. At least once per year, take a break from the inertia of your routines and the typical daily distractions and think about what is important for you, with whom and doing what you want to spend your time.

The morning after having this conversation I noticed that Paco was having breakfast before his routine morning piano practice session (he normally practices the piano first, then has breakfast). He told me he was changing his routine ;-).

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Ale is wondering why humas are obsessed with the number 10... Could there be 11 digits (or 9) between 1 and 10? Would it make a difference or is 10 arbitrary? Nico has been studying the Babylonians. They had a base 60 numeric system!

I mentioned that binary base only has two values and exponentials of 2, which is why our phones and tablets have 16 gigs or 32 gigs or 64 gigs...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

the cat is out of the bag

I suggested that Facebook should have a feature allowing users to delete all the comments and posts they ever made. Yet after further thought I realized this wouldn't work. Once you make a public post on Facebook there is no turning back. The post is indexed by search engines such as Google and it can't be completely deleted. Like the expression says: once the cat is out of the bag, you are out of luck.

slow motion wrecks

We spoke about the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy. We have a saying in Venezuela "Guerra avisada no mata soldado, y si lo mata es por descuidado" (War foretold doesn't kill soldier, and if it does, is for carelessness). But is that really true? We would like to think that timely warnings allow us to avoid disasters. Yet they often don't. Take Sandy, for days it was advertised as the biggest storm to hit the East Coast in decades. And it played out like a slow motion train wreck: massive flooding,  power outages, deaths. Some catastrophes are simply unavoidable. The power generators in low lands were going to get flooded no matter what- and a few days of warning didn't make a difference. I do wonder about the thousands of people whose belongings got ruined in their basements and ground floors. Seems like they should have had time to move stuff, at least the computers!, to their attics.

I wonder how much effort will go into minimizing damage when the next monster storm comes. Whether that happens in a year or 20, it will happen, and no amount of wishful thinking will prevent that...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the safe side

Paco spoke to us about the "Safe Side". In situations in which you can get things just right, there is often a "safe side". For example, you probably won't be able to arrive to all meetings at their exact start time. The safe side is arriving early - by giving yourself extra time. In soccer, a topic close to Paco's heart, it is better for the goalie to be a bit too far back than a bit too far forward. In sailing, a topic close to my heart, it is better for the sail to be a bit too loose than a bit too tight, and in sailing races, it is better to overstand the laylines to the marks than to come short of them.

Yes sometimes there is no safe side - you'll fall just the same on either side of a tightrope! And sometimes you have to get things just right if you want to "win". Take the olympics, for example, most gold medalist don't win by playing it safe but by nailing things just right. I guess the circumstances often dicate what's necessary: if you have enough of an advantage you can usually play it safe and still win, but if your are behind or tied, you might need to go for it and risk ending on the "wrong side".