What You See is What You Get…

…Not so fast!

What You See is What You Get……not so fast! After living in the USA for more than 16 years, you sometimes forget the somewhat minor differences between the Netherlands (or other countries for that matter) and the US of A. So, walking the streets of San Francisco from time to time, I scribble down all topics of interest that surprises folks when visiting the Golden State.

Sales tax: coming from Europe you are so used to the fact that the price on the tag is also the price you pay (VAT included). Nope, that isn’t the case over here. Sales tax will be added, and it varies from city to city. Count on an average of 10% on top, and you’ll be safe. And it really adds up when you buy a car! When staying at a hotel, the percentage could be as much as 20% because most cities charge a Hotel Room Tax, to be collected by the hotel.

Taxes are set up differently than Europe, be aware!

Taxes are set up differently than Europe, be aware!

Now let’s deal with ‘What You Hear is…’ most likely what you want to hear. Countless times I’ve heard a young energetic and excited entrepreneur say that after his demonstration his audience said it was interesting. Interesting according to the dictionary: adj. exciting or holding one’s attention. In polite California it means ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’.

Hard Work

Hard work will pay off

And realize, this is a big country, some of these values are totally different when visiting the East Coast or the Midwest parts of the US. Just like it is also difficult to comprehend that laws do vary from state to state. Beware! Since I am at it, I’d like to stress once more the fact that it is wise to confirm an appointment the morning of the very day you have it. Be nice though, say in a friendly manner that you are looking forward to having such and such meeting (or lunch) at the given time. You’d be surprised about the many times you will be disappointed if you don’t. Then, make sure you take enough time to get there. In the Bay Area with its many bridges and toll booths, a few miles could easily take half an hour or so. If possible, take public transportation. Don’t waste time of your counterpart during a meeting. First ask how much time you have, because within that time frame you’ll have to get to the point. Hence, don’t burn time with small talk! If it clicks, you’ll have eventually enough time to chat about other things than business. And, if they are throw you a curve ball, you will realize you weren’t as prepared as you might have.

Curveball: an unexpected question or moment

Curveball: an unexpected question or moment


Making a Winning Presentation

It’s presentation time!

A very important moment in the life of an entrepreneur or businessman.
First of all, make sure you don’t have more than 10 – 12 slides in your presentation.

Because in the end of the day it is about you, the presenter. When there are too many slides, your audience will be busier reading slide content than paying attention to you; there is something wrong in that picture!
Worse yet, you are reading out loud what’s on the presentation screen! This signifies a lack of preparation!
For your audience, you are the most important subject when it comes to trustworthiness, integrity, passion, and a gazillion other aspects they will pay attention to.
The presentation, whether Powerpoint or Prezi, must be transparent regarding your product/service.
You must be able to explain in a clear manner the uniqueness and advantage of what you have to offer.

This is a good example of what not to do!

Again, make sure it is in American English and avoid European values like “Euros”, “kilometers”, “liters”, “Celsius” and……well, you’ll get the picture.
Using numbers, and we’ll keep repeating this, the “decimal point is comma” rule comes in full swing.
Take note, in American values:

  • This is one hundred-thousand: 100,000
  • This is one hundred: 100.000

Why, because after the decimal point you get insignificant zeros! Sure, people can interpret correctly but the machines will not! More importantly, it looks sloppy and gives the impression you aren’t prepared.

Never say you don’t have competition, even though you feel there isn’t, they will not believe you. Make one up, there must be a company that comes somewhat close, as long as you are able to clearly state what your advantage is.
Make sure when there is a technical problem you are able to make a presentation without overhead projector help, etc.

Keep your presentation in front of you if you really need guidance for the flow of your presentation.
Finally, be prepared for the Q&A session, don’t let them throw you a curve ball.

Various tips:

  • Dress for the occasion; when you are invited for a banker’s presentation, go business casual.
  • When in Silicon Valley, don’t dress like Steve Jobs (‘cause you are not him) but dress casual.
  • Golden rule: don’t overdress, don’t underdress.
  • When you feel a joke is appropriate, it’d better be good!
  • Make sure there is a good punch line and it is in line with what you are presenting.

If, in the meantime, you have questions regarding this blog, shoot me an e-mail at Peter@Laanen-theBrand.com

You must prepare when coming to SV

Don’t think coming to the USA is similar to revisiting a movie you just watched.
The reason we are so pushy about our tips and ‘do’s and don’ts’ has to do that even people who have visited the USA more than once surprise us with responses to these tips. Sometimes I try them out on these ‘veterans’ and when they answer “what about it?” I get suspicious. Tipping? “Well, you know, 5 – 10% if I’m happy”. My first reaction is always one of total amazement. These waiters and waitresses live on their tip of 15 – 20% (the norm) and always do their utmost to please you. Of course, they can also be pretty ticked off when getting such a pittance for their hard work. It is the reason why many restaurants and bars in a tourist magnet like San Francisco print the various tipping fees (15, 18 and 20%) on their receipts.

Peter Laanen in presentation for Holland in the Valley Startup Bootcamp

Peter presents for startups coming to SV their first time

Again, it has to do with the way one has to prepare before visiting the USA. I’ve heard people say “no way I can do an elevator pitch within sixty seconds” too many times to count. Well, you’d better have one prepared when you are in a networking situation. And, networking is something one can do under all circumstances, even at the ballpark, a social event, a bar, etc. If you really want to come here to Silicon Valley to do business, you must be able to show off all your company has to offer, and how unique it is, in a matter of a minute or minutes. When you are starring in a breakfast event where you are invited to present your company, make sure your body language is one that impresses the audience. Go rehearse in front of a mirror; this is your opportunity to make an impression on a crowd willing to make a deal with the candidate who oozes knowledge and self-confidence.

At a reception where you know literally nobody, make sure you use the ‘ice breaker’. What?! Yes, either wear something fancy or put a pin on your lapel showing off your company, your country or your favorite sport club. Nine times out of ten people will ask you what it means, or give you a compliment about your fancy shirt or tie. Now you have the start of a conversation in your pocket! If you’d like to speak with a certain person but there is no one to introduce you; watch him or her and prepare an opening sentence. That could be about shoes or anything about the apparel, but also a general remark that you, like so many others apparently, have a common interest with that person. That common interest could be the industry you are in, a hobby you share or even the beverage he/she is enjoying that very moment. Be creative! And, always, prepare as much as you can before you take that flight to the USA!

Future blogs will explain more about all these topics. If, in the meantime, you have questions regarding the ‘tips and do’s and don’ts’ on our site, shoot me an e-mail at Peter@Laanen-theBrand.com