How to Stretch Your Travel Budget With a Discount Car Rental

A self-drive holiday may sound hopelessly exorbitant if you’re on a tight budget. People tend to be discouraged by the idea of renting a car for a long period of time, imagining that it will eat up their entire travel fund. However, it’s actually easier to obtain a discount car rental than some people would imagine, especially in these financially-conservative times.

Car rentals are a business, after all, so making a smaller profit by renting out unpopular cars is better than making no profit at all. Most of the time, discounts can be found online. As such, the internet is a good place to start when looking for affordable rentals and a car rental discount code or two, but print media shouldn’t be discounted either. Prices may vary between different agencies, so it’s prudent to compare the finer details of each deal before settling on a particular one.

Timing can be everything when it comes to obtaining a discount car rental. As with some airlines in Asia, car rental agencies offer early-bird discounts if you book a car much earlier in advance of the actual date of your pick-up. Additionally, cancellation of the booking if you find an even better deal elsewhere will not incur extra costs either as long as it’s done early enough. Conversely, the shoulder period of a travel season, that is, just before or after peak travelling time, often sees car rental companies competing to outdo each other in their attempts to rent out any remaining cars. It’s possible to obtain a good rental deal at this time, but the choice and quality might be limited.

While car rental discount codes are extremely useful is helping you obtain a more affordable rental, although this might be subject to questionable quality. You might also want to consider the size of the car you want, especially if your group is a small one. Smaller cars tend to cost less to rent, and you’ll probably pay less for fuel too. As an added bonus, you’ll definitely have no trouble parking a small car.

Are There Alternatives to Pay Day or Cash Advance Loans?

Negative government reports, consumer advocate studies, and investigative journalists for newspapers and television, have all taken pay day and cash advance lenders to task for their so-called loan shark activities. These protectors of the common good do have their points, but they offer few alternatives. When folks are in desperate need of cash, when they need the money quickly, there are no viable alternatives. Credit card companies, banks, and other traditional financial institutions are not too interested in loaning $500 to $1,000 to folks in dire need and often with less than stellar credit ratings.

Banning Pay Day or Cash Advance Loans

A market exists for lending money to people who need cash fast, and a legal market is the best answer. What would happen if pay day or cash advance lenders were banned? Law enforcement authorities would soon discover that back alley lenders, organized crime lenders, and other loan sharks will have stepped in to fill the void, exposing otherwise law-abiding citizens to the world of crime. And the enforcement wings of these loan sharks do not just break legs when a borrower cannot repay them on time. Whole families could be practically held hostage for a $500 loan.

Loans Are Interest Rate Heavy

Indeed, pay day and cash advance loans to carry substantial interest rates, far higher than those from traditional lenders with credit scores and collateral to underwrite the loans. But many of these folks do not have valuable property or acceptable credit histories. The fact is, the alternative to not being able to come up with cast in an expedient manner, could cause the borrower a lot more than just footing a high interest loan for a short period of time.

Interest Rates Vs. Financial Relief and Peace of Mind

Lack of cash can mean utility services being interrupted, going without medications or medical treatments, inability to purchase equipment for a business, job, or home necessity,and late payments along with further blemishes on credit reports. The interest rates, while high, are probably a small price to pay for financial relief and peace of mind. Because of the great risks a lender assumes offering these loans, the interest rates may be somewhat justified.

Improvements Needed

Perhaps the biggest problem, next to the high interest rates, is the short term requirements regarding repayment. Often, the very next pay check the borrower receives is eaten up by the repayment. One pay period is often not enough for a borrower to regain their financial bearings. They may have to keep extending the loan and that is where the real interest rates start to go into the loan shark realm. Often, a borrower can get so overwhelmed that they soon are making payments only on the interest.

Last Word on Pay Day or Cash Advance Loans

Many companies, in the onslaught of borrowers needing pay day or cash advance loans, are starting to change the terms of their loans so that they allow up to three months for repayment. They are responsibly addressing the needs of folks in these recessionary times. Three months is often long enough for people to get back on track financially. Unless someone can come up with a better legal alternative, a market exists for pay day and cash advance loans. That market, of course, should be carefully monitored.

Fitness for Fun: Alternative Fitness Activities That Work

Are you one of those people who think that losing weight and keeping fit needs to be done at a rigorous pace and with a totally competitive mindset? Are you struggling with your weight loss program because of this kind of thinking? Are you almost drained of your last ounces of hope that you will ever get fit?

If you’re just beginning to start your fitness journey, or even if you’re already going but feeling a bit burnt out, then you might be approaching fitness all wrong. Getting fit shouldn’t make you feel like you’re in a boot camp. It should be enjoyable, and that’s where fitness for fun comes into the picture.

A lot of people who are overweight, or have health and fitness issues, may not be suitable for those in-gym workouts that are very rigorous and require a lot of correct technique. In fact the gym is just not an enjoyable experience for some people. Lifestyle, like working in an office setting where you don’t have the opportunity for a lot of physical activity, may have also taken over and quite frankly the hours that are being worked aren’t compatible with long sessions in the gym. The good news is that, there are alternative fitness options readily available.

First off, fitness for fun is an easy way to start getting back in to shape. Just because it’s fun it doesn’t mean that it isn’t working. Alternative fitness activities are far from the dumb bell curls that you normally do at the gym, think pillow fights, sports, rock climbing, hiking and the list goes on and on. I hear you say that doesn’t fitness have to be structured? In my opinion alternative fitness doesn’t have to be structured at all, the further from structured the better, as then it won’t feel like work at all!

How do you get back to that fitness for fun mentality? The best place to start is to just remember your younger days. Was there a sport that you enjoyed playing? Did you love to dance back then? Where you a cheerleader once in your life? Why not go back to those activities. Playing a sport that you once loved can be the furthest thing on your mind if your current fitness status is on the downside. However if you just get started you’ll be amazed at the support you will get and that in itself will help you go in the right direction and on the road again to regaining your fitness and health. You’ll also have that super benefit of burning those calories while you play. Remember just to be patient with yourself as you might struggle at first, but you’ll eventually start to feel that you’re getting better at it and before you know it you’ll be back to your old form and shape. It is never too late to take that first step. You could invite your old buddies to play with you as extra incentive and then it’s even more fun as it’s an excuse for a catch up as well, or you can join a local club if none of your buddies are still playing. There are many age clubs around that welcome players with our without experience. I know that for a fact as I’m now at 40 starting to seriously to consider taking up soccer in the local women’s team for the first time in my life to add some more fun into my fitness program.

It’s the same with dancing. When did you last dance? Most women nowadays prefer to join fitness clubs that offer dance classes as part of their fitness for fun programs. There’s a wide variety of dances that you can choose from like belly dancing, pole dancing, and Latin dancing just to name a few. Jazz and Ballroom dancing are also popular choices. This is a great way to learn a new skill and burn those calories at the same time.

Other alternative fitness activities would include playing Frisbee at the park, or learning how to swim, cycling, and even hauling logs with your bare hands. Why not? It’s a great way to keep you fit.

Anything can be fitness when we just stop thinking of fitness in the traditional sense of the word and open our eyes to all the possibilities around us. The best place to start? Just look through the eyes of a child, don’t take yourself seriously, laugh put a skip in your step and go from there.

Online Shopping For Italian Designer Bags And More

One article of clothing that is almost always in style is a good handbag. Big names like Gucci and Chanel as well as all the other Italian designers have produced very beautiful handbags that are practical and functional for storing their valuables. For those who don’t want to spend as much for handbags, the internet offers less expensive ones that are equally fashionable. The internet makes it convenient for shoppers; by just clicking on an item and paying for it online, the item can be sent almost at an instant to anywhere in the world.

For the best fashion handbags, one can look at Wholesale Central first. This website lists various links that lead to other sites that sell the perfect fashion accessories for the shopper. Handbags are included, of course, and the wide selection of gorgeous handbags can definitely entice a woman.

Purse boutique is also a great website when you’re looking for regular or designer purses. Prices can range from twenty dollars for regular purses, up to hundreds of dollars for designer ones. You can find a clutch bag perfect for your tastes and everyday activities, or the most beautiful Italian handbag made with black leather for more formal functions.

While the internet is a good resource for finding great handbags, it can also be tricky. Due to the vast quantity of merchandise available for your perusal, it can be quite confusing to choose one that is just right for you, and you may end up spending more because you are unable to decide the best one for you. Various websites can also offer secondhand bags for a more affordable price. Be careful in choosing these, though, you would like to have quality handbags even if they have already been used.

Earning a Nursing Degree Online – Advantages & Considerations

Nowadays, going to classes at college is not the only way to earn your nursing degree. Online education is an alternative where you can earn a nursing credential from anywhere you like and at the time when it’s most convenient to you. Earning a nursing degree online has many advantages over the traditional learning setting, but there are a few considerations that you must look into before sign-up an online nursing degree program.

Advantages of Pursuing Nursing Degree Online

1. Choose Your Major Regardless of Location Concern

Nursing degrees come with various specializations, but your preference major may not being offered at the nursing college near to your place. You found the nursing degree program with the specialization that you like to major with, is offered by a college at another state or at the college located far way from your convenient travel distance. But, lucky the college does offer it nursing degree online. You can become their online student to sign the nursing degree with your preference major.

2. Flexible Study Time from Anywhere

You can plan your study schedule and log-on to the classes from anywhere as long as you are at a location that has internet connection. Flexible study time from anywhere is the key advantage that will benefit those working individuals who want to earn a nursing degree without giving up their paycheck. Many people have a desire to enter the nursing field, which is a very rewarding and challenging career field, but they are unable to give up their current job to go back to school due to family & other obligations. Online education with it advantages in term of flexibility learning option will enable them to continue their current life while realizing their nursing career goal. This advantage will also benefit those working individuals who need to travel a lot due to their job assignment; they can log-on to the classes from where they are.

Considerations When Taking Nursing Degree Online

Although you can earn a nursing degree online, there are a few considerations you must take into account before you sign up your degree of choice:

1. The Nursing Program Meets Your State Requirement

Each state has it own requirement for nurses, you must make sure that the online nursing degree program that you are going to enroll is a nursing program that is recognized by your state. This is particularly important for preparing for the NCLEX examination, which is required for state certification before you can start your nursing career after graduation.

2. Clinical / Lab Work Facilities

Most nursing degree programs will require you to complete a certain lab or clinical assignments before you can earn the degree. Some nursing schools will require you to complete the clinical experience at the school while other may have co-operation with other health care facilities which may locate near you place to ease you in completing your clinical experience. If traveling to the school is not convenient to you, then you must consider those schools that offer online nursing degree program which can allow you to complete the clinical experience locally.

3. Be Prepare To Be An Online Student

Online learning is different from classroom-based learning style. Most materials are in text format and you must have good reading and writing comprehension. Self-motivation is another key factor that will determine the success or the failure of an online student. If you choose to earn your nursing degree online, you must prepare yourself to face the challenges in your online study and be a successful online student.

Summary

Earn a nursing degree online has many advantages that can benefit you, but at the same time, you must consider a few important factors to ensure you can successful earn a degree that can help in your nursing career.

Santorini Car Hire

Renting a car in Santorini can give you that extra security and freedom that will make your holiday to Santorini from being good, to becoming exciting.

Before you start your visit to Santorini, it is always important to decide on the places you long to see. If you are sure about which places you would like to see, it would be sensible to reserve your holiday previously, this also goes for hiring a car in Santorini. Many car hire agencies in Santorini offer cheaper bookings for travelers that book weeks in advance; you can even claim back up to 30% or even up to 50% if you are reserving during the weekend. Taking a trip during the off peak season means that you will be able to get a discount on your overall holiday, this also means that car rental during this period is at its cheapest.

If you are renting a car from Isl-Santorini Airport, there are many things you will need to think about if you want your rental to run relaxingly. One of the most important to remember to bring both your driving license (and of course your passport!) with you, you need to own a valid license and an International Driving permit (IDP). It is necessary that you keep your passport to hand and also your IDP with you at all times when you are on the road.

With a car rental in Santorini, you will be able to travel around the whole of this mini island, from its picturesque beaches, to the diverse settings especially the views of its volcano. Although the two popular beach towns of Kamari and Perissa are very close, the mountains between them means that you will need to drive around the mountain as there is no road connecting the two small beach towns. The small towns of Oia and Fira are unusually built into the side of a cliff! This, as well as the Minoan ruins in Akrotiri are all easy to drive to in your hired car.

If you are looking to hire a car in Santorini, there are many rental agencies spread along the islands, providing visitors many choices, from luxury range of cars to the more cost-effective cars. If you settle on hiring a car, you will have the freedom to create your own travel plans that suits you and your family. Even though a small Island, to enjoy you stay in Santorini, book with a car rental agency to make your vacation a more memorable experience.

Quiet Air Purifiers

If you reside in an area where there is a great deal of air pollution, you will want to consider shopping for quiet air purifiers. These devices not only provide you with clean air in your home, but can do so without making too much noise. It is not a good idea to live in a busy city where you are inhaling smog and other harmful substances everywhere you go. At least you can control the quality of the air in your home.

Air purifiers are necessary for your health if you live where the air is not the cleanest around. Respiratory problems can come about if you allow your lungs to take in this dirty air every day. You will save a lot of time and money in the long run if you invest in a purifier for your home today. Medical bills that could be incurred from taking in unclean air could be cost you a great deal more than even the most expensive air purifier.

If nothing else, these tools can help to cut down on allergies from pollen and other substances.

Quiet air purifiers not only help you live in a healthy manner, but they can also provide you with a more comfortable home. Many purifiers filter out odors, so you will have clean and fresh air that you breathe in. This is very effective for a home that is smoked in. Even if someone smokes just outside the door, the cigarette smell can travel into the home. The purifier will help to remove this scent from the air so no one will have to deal with it. Getting a silent purifier will give you fresh air without all the noise of other purifiers. This really comes in handy when you are trying to sleep or concentrate on working or reading.

Look for air purifiers that offer a HEPA filter.

These filters have passed specific standards set by the Department of Energy. With such a filter, you can remove 99.9% of all allergens and other substances from the air in your home. This will allow you to decrease the amount of dirt, toxins, and other particles that you breathe in on a daily basis.

As you can see, quiet air purifiers are a great investment, especially if you live in a busy, smog-filled city. Even if you live away from pollution, you may benefit from these devices if you are prone to allergies. It can help to filter out pollen, cigarette smoke, and other elements that could irritate your lungs and airways. Be sure to get one with a HEPA filter so you can be sure that you are making a wise investment into a device that will work effectively to remove harmful particles in the air.

Internet Marketing and Advertisement

Internet marketing and advertisement, it will be well worth your while to look closely at this article and to get informed up-to-the minute industry internet marketing standards, tools and techniques for advertisement, those tools and techniques that are aimed at producing marketers who will be empowered with the skills and knowledge required in today’s competitive global market place.

Internet Marketing is combination of both paid and un-paid marketing, which is also called organic (un-paid) and in-organic (paid) methods of marketing. The technique which is used to market the website or product without paying i.e. the un-paid technique of marketing is Search Engine Optimization. However Search Engine optimization will not be discussed here. The other technique of marketing is paid advertisement and paid internet marketing that will be my core topic here.

The world’s top three search engines Google, Yahoo, MSN (Bing) provide the powerful tools and techniques for the paid advertisement and internet marketing on the search engines. The reason of why these search engines provide the tools is, according to the facts and figures of 2008-09 the 70-80% of the traffic comes through search engines and Google has the largest share in this percentage. That’s why Google AdWords is one of the mostly used and powerful tools in paid internet marketing and advertisement.

Before telling you in detail about Google AdWords, let me tell you the basic difference between the paid and un-paid internet marketing. If the website is at the top of the Google 1st page at the left side followed by other web sites, then it is through the un-paid techniques of internet marketing and is called the organic results. Now if you see at the right side of the Google page, there would be some ads with the heading on the top called sponsored ads, this is paid internet marketing. It would take time to get on the top of organic results in the Google through Search Engine Optimization, but you can be in the top of sponsored results in Google within ten minutes right after creating and managing you account in Google AdWords.

Here I am going to describe you the details and ways of internet marketing through Google AdWords.

Adwords, as I have told you, is Google’s advertising product, which displays your advertisement in the form of ads to people looking for your products or services on Google, in other words pay-per-click advertising model of Google. It allows you to display ads which directly link to your website or product when searches are made for your chosen keywords. These ads are located to the right of the results which Google gives you for a search and they’re also displayed on Google’s many partner sites which include AOL, HowStuffWorks and blogger.

After creating your AdWords ad, you choose keywords for which your ad will appear on Google and specify the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for each click. Remember Google’s AdWords program uses a PPC model it means you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad and hence visits your website.

There are varieties of ad formats in AdWords, You can choose from those ad formats, including text, image, and easily track your ad performance using the reports available in your account. AdWords accounts also include graphs and performance data so you can track what’s working and edit your ads accordingly.
Life Cycle of Paid Advertising or PPC. Let’s take a quick look at how this works and analyze what is going on in PPC Advertising.

Your potential web visitor/client goes to Google, Yahoo, MSN or an affiliate site and types in a keyword phrase, for example “Swim Shoes”. Your ad appears alongside the results. Web visitor/client read your ad and click. Web visitor/client visit your site. Web visitor/client finds what they want and pick up the phone, fax, and order something online or through email.

The goal of all PPC advertising is obviously to drive more and more customers to a website, so you should try to think from customer’s perspective. Ask yourself what words a potential customer would type into the search engines. For example, let’s say company A is shoe maker and sell swim shoes. If I were a customer, what words would I type into Google, Yahoo or MSN to find this company?
Similarly, there are many other questions that must be in your mind along with the answers in order to run a successful advertising and marketing, like:

-What are the core products and services that you sell or offer?
-How do you distinguish your products and services from your competitors?
-What marketing material do you have addressing your products and services?
-How do customers usually find out about your business and Keywords that a customer would use to come to your website?

Remember! Spend significant amount of time on these questions to get answers. Now! Come to the task or activities after the advertising. With Google AdWords, it’s all about results. It’s important to analyze what you want to gain from your advertising and marketing and then plan how you’re going to measure that success. There are several key factors you’ll want to monitor to evaluate how well your advertisement is performing. Like:

-Are your ads running properly on the internet?
-Are you making a profit from your advertisement?
-Are you meeting your goals that you have defined before starting the advertisement?

First Date Clothing Suggestions For Men

Dressing smartly and suitably for a date is an area which some men unfortunately overlook and feel they don’t need to make an effort dressing for a date. This is the first mistake a man can make when going on a date. Having said that, not all men overlook this area; there are some men who spend hours getting ready for a date but wouldn’t admit it. Wherever you decide to go on a date, regardless of the class, it is vital that you appear to have made an effort and turn up looking your best wearing a freshly washed and ironed outfit.

First impressions can make or break a date, so the importance of looking smart cannot be underestimated. Along with being washed and ironed, clothes must fit properly, be stain free, be hole free, not too tight, not too baggy, not garish and not old and faded. It is also important that the outfit you choose to wear on a date is suitable for the date location plus matches your age. Dressing older or younger than your actual age will only make you stand out. By dressing too young you may appear like you are trying to recapture your youth resulting in your date believing you have other personal issues going on. Alternatively dressing too old could be off putting for your date. You want your date to look at you and feel happy to be on a date with you, not to wonder what they have got themselves into.

The easiest date to dress for is a casual date. This may include going for a drink in a bar, going out for fast food or a visit to the cinema. For any casual date, it is perfectly acceptable to wear jeans. It does not mean that you can dress down or wear jeans that have seen better days. Jeans should be in good condition and have a perfect fit, especially around the bottom area, which is where most women tend to have a good look at. You can choose between a variety of tops to accompany jeans, such as a t-shirt, a poloshirt, a casual shirt or a sweater. Poloshirts are ideal if you have a good physique and you wish to show it off. If the weather is cold, then a casual jacket is suitable. If you decide to wear a t-shirt, it is best to avoid garish colours and stay away from novelty t-shirts, at least for the first date anyway. If you decide to tuck your top into your trousers, remember to wear a belt to add a finishing touch to your look.

You can get away with wearing jeans on a casual date, but if you are going on a classy date, then they are not appropriate. A more formal look is required for a classy date, such as a visit to the theatre or a meal at a fancy restaurant. It’s a good idea to own a suit, ideally in a dark colour such as charcoal grey or navy, as you can create a number of different looks using just one suit. You can wear a variety of different shirts and ties with a suit or you can change your look entirely by wearing the suit trousers with a casual shirt, or even wear the suit jacket over a casual outfit to create another great look. If you choose to wear casual attire on a classy date then all you will achieve is showing your date that you couldn’t be bothered to make an effort, plus you will stand out especially if your date is wearing a stylish dress. Once you have chosen your outfit, don’t ruin the look by wearing inappropriate shoes. Formal footwear should be worn when going on a formal date. Trainers, sandals, pumps and boots are not appropriate. Formal shoes must be clean, match the outfit and comfortable to wear. If you are wearing a belt with your trousers, then ideally your shoes should be the same colour as the belt. Footwear is an area that women tend to notice, so great footwear can leave a great lasting impression on your date.

An active date, such as playing a game of tennis, or going walking together, requires a different look. It is necessary to wear sports gear and not forgetting supportive footwear. Clean modern jogging bottoms or shorts are appropriate, just as long as shorts aren’t too small and tight and jogging bottoms aren’t baggy at the knees. A t-shirt, long or short sleeved is suitable and if the weather is cold, then a sports jacket or a sweatshirt can be worn. Dressing for a sporty date is not a time to put fashion before comfort. You need to dress in clothes that won’t restrict your movement plus feel comfortable to wear; remembering to check that they are clean before you put them on, including your footwear.

If your date has arranged the date and you don’t know where you are going, then you need to wear an outfit that is suitable for a range of date locations. A good suggestion is a pair of smart trousers accompanied with a fashionable shirt and a stylish jacket. A stylish jacket, such as a suit jacket will be appropriate if your date has booked a table at a fancy restaurant, and a fashionable shirt is sufficient for any casual date and even a slightly classier date. There is no need to wear a tie, but if you prefer, you could always conceal a tie in your jacket pocket in case you find yourself going to an upmarket venue. If you feel overdressed, you can remove the suit jacket to reveal your casual shirt. It is always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed, which will show that you have made an effort.

Along with clean, ironed, fresh smelling and well fitted clothes, it is a good idea to turn up for a date clean shaven, showered and smelling great. Smelling good is very attractive to women, just don’t overdo the aftershave or body spray. Don’t leave your decision making to the last minute. Think in advance about what you wish to wear and take your time getting ready. The last thing you want is to turn up for a date feeling flustered and worried because you forgot to shave or put on deodorant. Planning your outfit in advance and looking like you have made an effort are the two main keys to dressing well for a first date.

The Life Cycle of Acquisition-Based Companies

A few years ago, I was discussing this phenomenon with the CEO of one of our clients. His company had grown almost entirely through acquisition, and for several years the company had experienced revenue growth rates exceeding 20%. However, the company had plateaued with respect to earnings, and looking at their overall performance it became clear to him (and to the Wall Street analysts that watched his company) that a great deal of money had been left on the table. Working with that CEO, I developed a model called the ACL Life Cycle. Understanding and using the ACL Life Cycle has proven enormously beneficial to clients depending on an M&A strategy for continued growth.

The ACL Life Cycle

The ACL Life Cycle describes the maturation process of companies who grow substantially through acquisitions and mergers. Using the ACL model, we can clearly identify the company’s current position. Knowing that position, and then looking forward at the company’s financial objectives through the lens of their business strategies, the specific actions that are needed become clear. Those actions can then be formed into an executable plan with associated performance measures, and managed through completion to bring the overall enterprise to heightened levels of financial performance. It is important for acquisition-oriented executives to understand the major phases and characteristics of the ACL Life Cycle.

Businesses who have survived one or more acquisitions and/or mergers are usually left with some degree of disintegration among their processes and systems. A company’s success in reaching the financial objectives of the merger or acquisition is directly correlated with the degree to which that disintegration has been replaced by a set of business processes and information systems that are common enough to generate enterprise-wide leverage. Implicit in that commonality is enterprise-level direction and guidance, manifested in company-wide business strategies and performance measures that align all of the combined business units. These businesses move, in this post-acquisition or post-merger environment, from an acquisition-based operating model to one characterized by shared services and a general commonization, to a stage where the enterprise “whole” really is able to become something greater than the sum of its business unit “parts”. It is more than the typical cost-reduction synergy anticipated in most of these transactions; it is a new platform for innovation, and an even higher level of innovation-based leverage.

Companies who experience substantive growth as a result of business acquisitions typically follow the ACL life cycle. ACL in this context stands for: Acquisition, Commonization, and Leverage. Many companies never leave the first stage of this maturity scale, and still more remain at the second stage. The most successful companies are usually those who recognize the importance of moving through all three stages, and consistently implement a structured process for doing so.
All companies experience pressures that push them toward decentralized operations, including idiosyncrasies of specific market niches served, the uniquenesses of isolated business processes, unusual needs of specific customer populations, and Uncategorized organizational entropy. At the same time, most of the companies that are successful in achieving the financial performance objectives established for the newly merged enterprise manage to overcome those challenges, electing to pursue the advantages of leverage, including:

  • broad synergistic brand recognition, enabling cross-selling, bundling of products and services, and improving revenue
  • interchangeability of business process resources, enabling the company to reduce its asset base
  • commonality and scalability in equipment / skills / facilities, facilitating innovation and growth into additional markets
  • higher utilization of business assets, reducing unit cost
  • lower levels of redundancy, resulting in reduced operating costs

These companies also typically find that maintaining compliance with financial reporting standards such as Sarbanes-Oxley requirements are enhanced as a result of strengthened internal controls.
Some companies make a deliberate decision to remain “holding companies”, which simply buy and sell diverse businesses that have only marginal relationships with one another. These conglomerates prefer to manage the portfolio through buying and selling components, and allowing the leadership teams at the individual companies to manage ongoing operations from strategy through execution. A few of them have been quite successful, and this article is sometimes not as directly applicable to those at a corporate level. It works very well, however, for their major divisions. Companies that benefit most from understanding the three stages of the ACL Life Cycle are those companies who have decided to focus on a single core industry – Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Chemicals and Polymers, Textiles, Electronics, Telecommunications, Consumer Products, Medical Equipment producers, Healthcare providers, and Financial Services providers are all good candidates. 

The Acquisition Stage of the ACL Life Cycle

Companies in the Acquisition Stageof their life cycles are usually focused on revenue growth, and capturing market share. They are characterized by high levels of autonomy in management, in the reporting of site-level data to the corporate parent, and in the design of their business processes and systems. Companies who remain in this stage for long periods of time following acquisitions usually act as holding companies, with the corporation allowing individual divisions or sites to operate almost as independent companies with their own P&L, strategic plans, and market-facing branding. Often, companies in the Acquisition stage lack a common vision of the future of the overall business, and tend to operate at cross-purposes among the operating units. They sometimes even compete against one another for the same customers. They share little operating information, making it nearly impossible to coordinate and deploy “best practices”, effectively distribute work load, utilize general market intelligence, and grasp other elements that could provide corporate-wide leverage of the businesses’ assets and resources. A few industry-specific examples here should help to illustrate the situation:

Manufacturing companies in the acquisition stage are usually characterized by redundancies in raw materials, equipment, staffing, and other business resources. Because manufacturing companies are relatively material-intense, a great deal of cost can be tied up in raw materials, work-in-process, and finished goods. Since acquisition stage companies have so little visibility between business units, there is little opportunity for them to reallocate these assets in order to use them effectively. As a result, the most costly resources remain the most underutilized. In addition, acquisition-stage companies have not centralized the management of even commodity-level business processes, such as finance, human resources, and information technology. This lack of centralization leaves additional inefficiencies in place around accounting staff, employee benefits provider subscriptions, business software applications, data centers, and computing equipment. 

Telecommunications companies in the acquisition stage also have unrealized opportunities for greater leverage from their business assets, but these more often take the form of redundancies in network equipment, network coverage, retail outlets, partner agreements related to the sale of their products, and interconnection agreements with other carriers. In addition, acquisition stage telecom companies often have a substantial amount of unrealized leverage in the lack of integration among the data bases and information of their various divisions that could enable shared service operations for commodity-type processes such as billing and cross-selling of products and services. Like manufacturing companies, telecom companies in the acquisition stage also typically have unexploited opportunities around the consolidation of data centers and related equipment and staffing.

Healthcare providers in the acquisition stage usually find opportunities in different areas of their businesses, because of the differing cost structure of their operations. The bulk of their costs and their opportunities while in the acquisition stage of maturity in the ACL Life Cycle are related to employee salaries & benefits, and to medical supplies and drugs. It is less common for these businesses to be able to effectively share inventories and equipment, since the nature of their business is rooted in community health care that requires local service provision. The opportunities that do exist, which are typically not exploited well in acquisition stage health care companies, are related to centralizing commodity type business processes such as finance, human resources, and information systems, and leveraging required service and supply procurement across the enterprise. 

Financial Services providers, such as banks, brokerages, credit unions, financial planning companies and tax & audit services exhibit yet another cost profile, with the largest elements typically including personnel and occupancy costs. In these businesses, like health care provision, being where the customers are is critical. The companies’ ability to understand the changing demographics and match up their branches as well as their skills to the targeted customer base is often a differentiator between the companies that succeed and those that fail. Financial services providers who are still in the acquisition stage of maturity in the ACL Life Cycle often do not have the commonality in fundamental business processes and systems to readily reconfigure their operations to meet the changing needs of their marketplace. Their acquisitions or mergers have enabled them to grow horizontally, typically into adjacent markets. However, lacking an adequate foundation of commonality in processes and systems, there is substantial money left on the proverbial table as a result of ineffective resource deployment, and delays in the reporting of operational performance data that would enable the company to be more responsive. These companies also fail, in their acquisition stage, to take advantage of their larger purchasing power to gain leverage around purchased services spanning items as diverse as employee health care and branch-level office supplies.   

The Commonization Stage of the ACL Life Cycle

Companies in the Commonization Stage of their life cycles have usually awakened to the value of focusing on Return on Net Assets (RONA) and Return on Invested Capital (ROIC). In order to begin to capture improvements in these areas, companies in the Commonization Stage often turn to shared service models of operations for selected business processes and systems. Strategies and performance measures begin to crystallize around common themes that span multiple operating units or divisions. Among the areas of focus for a shared service model in this stage are Finance (A/R, A/P, General Ledger, and Financial Reporting), Human Resources (Payroll, Benefits, and Employment Records), and Information Technology (Computer Hardware, Network Administration, and selected Software Applications Management). Some companies in the Commonization Stage also move Procurement and other aspects of Materials Management to a shared service model, enabling the corporation to more effectively leverage its broadest possible purchasing power.

Manufacturing companies in the commonization stage of maturity typically have shared services in place for commodity types of business processes such as finance, human resources, and information systems management. As they advance through the commonization phase, some of them also begin to pull together a common platform for procurement, encompassing at least their most costly and common raw materials. A few in this stage reach a point where their data center
operations are completely centralized, and may even be outsourced to a third party like CSC. Toward the end of the commonization phase, centralization of work deployment and capacity utilization as well as process quality emerge as companies begin to deploy common processes and systems in customer requirements management, enterprise requirements planning, manufacturing execution systems, and distribution management systems. 

Telecommunications companies in the commonization stage of maturity also typically have shared services in place for commodity types of business processes such as finance, human resources, and information systems management. As they advance in maturity through this stage, telecoms also become aware of the available leverage in centralizing the management of some of their most valuable assets. However, unlike the manufacturer’s raw material focus, for telecommunications operations those elements are things like spectrum licenses, network equipment, connection agreements, partner agreements, distribution centers, and retail outlets. Centralizing the management of those assets to identify overlaps and redundancies enables telecoms to emerge from the commonization stage with much more effectively leveraged business assets, providing broader market coverage with a lower total asset base and generating much higher earnings on that consolidated foundation.

Healthcare companies in the commonization phase of maturity find substantial benefit in the commonization and centralization of their commodity type processes and systems.  This is primarily because of the impact on cash flow and earnings when the employee base is reduced through shared services, and employee benefits and supplies are both leveraged in terms of the broader purchasing power of the company following a business acquisition of significant size. However, there is also an especially rich opportunity available to healthcare companies in the commonization stage that stems form the leverage available related to insurance coverage – not for the employees directly, but covering the potential liability of the company itself. This category of cost is typically about the third largest slice of the pie, and significant reductions there can translate quickly to a meaningful earnings impact. 

 Financial services providers in the commonization stage of the ACL Life Cycle, like healthcare providers, often find substantial benefit in the commonization and centralization of their commodity type processes and systems. With roughly half of their cost of operations wrapped up in employee salaries and benefits, there is an opportunity for meaningful impact on cash flow and earnings when the employee base is reduced through shared services, and employee benefits and supplies are both leveraged in terms of the broader purchasing power of the company following a business acquisition or merger. The next significant area for financial service providers in the commonization stage is the capability for rapid reconfiguration of the business based on enterprise-wide visibility of operational data and market intelligence.

The Leverage Stage of the ACL Life Cycle

Companies in the Leverage Stage of their life cycles are usually embarked on a fierce drive toward adding real value. They are relentless in their efforts to fully utilize the assets of the entire corporation, driving out redundancy and its associated costs. They are then able to pivot on the fulcrum of those more agile processes and systems to implement innovations that foster organic growth resulting in greater market share, greater revenue, and improved earnings for their shareholders. Leverage Stage companies also establish a structured and repetitive process of assimilating new businesses, gathering and incorporating market intelligence into company-wide strategies, and innovating on the basis of these new combinations to capture additional market segments. These companies are characterized by coordination and centralization of major business functions such as the planning and allocation of R&D, production work, inventories, raw material purchases, personnel, and factories & equipment. They centrally manage a broad spectrum of common business processes and systems, including customer requirements management, product data management, enterprise requirements planning, manufacturing execution systems, and logistics management. They are constantly changing, evaluating and configuring business assets to meet future market needs, acquiring and developing new businesses, and shedding assets that no longer fit their evolving model.

Manufacturing companies in the leverage stage of maturity typically have shared services in place for most of the critical business processes of their company, having reached beyond the commodity level processes and into those which deliver the most value to their customers. Examples include sales & marketing, order entry & customer service, capacity planning and management, production scheduling and shop floor control, and distribution requirements planning. As they move through the leverage stage of the ACL Life Cycle, some of these companies leverage the commonality of their processes and systems to produce innovative new products and services, identify additional market opportunities, and develop industry-changing relationships that reach through their supply chains. 

Telecommunications companies in the leverage stage of maturity also have shared services in place for most of the critical business processes of their company, including the seamless provisioning (often called “flow-through provisioning” by industry insiders) of all telephonic services to customers stemming from a single telephone conversation responding to an individual inquiry about a service. This type of capability is only enabled when all of the information from what have historically been disparate data bases is available in an intelligent form through excellent systems integration, based on exceptional levels of commonality and strength in enterprise-wide business processes.

Healthcare companies in the leverage stage of maturity have typically discovered and implemented leverage-based improvements in their major cost structure elements as a result of enterprise-wide information visibility flowing from systems integration and centralized management of critical business processes. Health care companies generally also have uniquely challenging business conditions related to three other areas where leverage level operations can be a powerful tool. 

The first of these areas is employee safety. Most health care organizations are spending a substantial amount of money in this regard, with training and documentation of company polices and safety-related practices requiring an increasing amount of company attention. The integration of systems and commonization of processes in a leverage stage health care company offers opportunities to more quickly incorporate internal best practices, externally imposed business requirements, and feedback about lessons learned across the entire health care organization regardless of geographic dispersion. Commonization and centralized management here can result in substantially lower cost, and more importantly, substantially higher and more uniform levels of employee safety. 

The second area is bad debt. The integration of customer data, and effectively interfacing a common set of enterprise-wide processes and systems with outside service providers such health maintenance organizations and insurance carriers, substantially reduces the amount of bad debt in leverage level health care companies. 

The third area, and perhaps the area of richest opportunity, is the area of patient medical information. This area is tricky because of legislation related to patient privacy and guidelines recently established for the maintenance and communication of patient medic
al information. However, one of the fundamental challenges faced by health care providers is the absence of available medical history, particularly when a patient is admitted to an emergency room or urgent care facility. Particularly when a patient is unable to respond to questions directly due to an incapacitation illness or injury, time can literally mean life or death. Making all necessary information available to the physicians and other health care professionals involved as quickly as possible is extremely important. When critical business processes and information systems for the management of this information are brought to an effective level of commonality, the rapid dissemination of the needed information can be greatly improved, while patients’ expectations around the privacy of their information are still met. 

Financial services companies in the leverage stage of maturity, like health care companies in some ways, must balance the needs of differing local customer geographies against the advantages of centralized management in critical business processes and systems. There is real value in allowing some latitude to local branch officers and customer-facing staff such as loan officers to accommodate the unique circumstances involved in specific cases. However, these companies often find that a significant advantage of the leverage provided by enterprise-wide commonization of processes and systems is the ability to see the nuances of differing markets at a corporate level, and recognize broader trends among those different markets more quickly and clearly than they could before. This improved visibility, in turn, enables management to reconfigure their service offerings, redeploy resources such as sales dollars, and organize sales campaigns for those specific markets more quickly than they could previously.  

The best of these companies, regardless of what industry they occupy, utilize their common platform of processes, systems, and information to understand the needs of their customers in unique ways, and fluidly translate those needs into the features of their products and services. A few, at the very top of the game, come to understand the customers’ needs even before the customer recognizes them, and when necessary they reconfigure their entire business to meet those needs, gaining unassailable competitive advantage. The enterprise-wide leverage they achieved as a result of carefully and skillfully handling the post-merger or post-acquisition integration of processes, systems, and data provided the platform from which innovation launched them to new levels of performance. Examples could as easily be provided for companies in pharmaceuticals, retail operations, or the food & beverage industry. The lessons learned and the techniques vary a little, but the principles are the same.