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objectives of the merger or acquisition is directly correlated with the degree to which that disintegration has been replaced by a set of business processes and information systems that are common enough to generate enterprise-wide leverage.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.

Commercial Real Estate Marketing Plan – Key Points to Win the Client

In giving a client a marketing proposal and strategy to sell or lease a commercial property, a number of things need to be well detailed in the proposal itself. Here are some of the main ones that should never be overlooked in your property proposal.

  • Why Should I Use Your Agency? It is an important question and hopefully you have a very clear idea of the advantages you bring to the sale or leasing process. Generic statements like ‘we know the market’, ‘we are the best agent in town’, ‘we have been here for 50 years’, and ‘we will serve you well’, just do not cut it in competitive markets. Consider why your real estate agency can stand clear and separate to other competitive agencies in promoting the property. Make sure that the client knows without any doubt why they should choose you as the agent of choice. Do not base your marketing point of difference on low commissions or agency paid advertising; that just does not work in this market and will put you out of business fast. Your agency must have something that is special and not copied from other agencies; it should also be so unique that you are the first choice as the real estate agent to take on the listing. If you do not have this clear mindset, then welcome to the world of the ordinary real estate agent that has to fight for every listing. Be separate than everyone else, create your point of difference and then market it well.
  • Happy Existing Clients & Recent Sales: Evidence of market activity and positive results will always come in handy as you attempt to advise the client on the right strategy to adopt for their property. In this property market with an abundance of available property stock, you should never take on overpriced listings. On average it is better to walk away from them and work with listings that are closer to the market price or rent. Your time is a valuable resource and must be protected from unrealistic vendors. A realistic property owner that works within the property market is far better than a property owner that is trying to set their own property market.
  • Prospective Buyer Activity on a Property: Telling the seller or landlord of your current and prospective sources of enquiry is a worthwhile part of your marketing plan. This lets the owner of the property know that you are really on the right ‘wavelength’ when it comes to locating tenants and or buyers. Some agents also adopt the strategy of getting a series of inspections done quickly with potential buyers from their database even at the early listing stage. It is surprising how many listings are sold or rented even before they reach the market officially.
  • What is Value? What is a Property really worth? Whilst exact prices and rents are hard to pinpoint, you should have a reasonable idea to within 5% as to what price or rent you could achieve with any given property. If you have no idea of the rent or the price then it is better to put the property to the market on the basis of ‘expressions of interest’. In that way the market will tell you what they think. With some very unique properties this is necessary given the limited pool of buyers that can participate in the purchase.
  • Methods of Sale and Timing: The main possibilities when selling a property are usually sale by auction, sale by tender, sale at a price, sale by negotiation, expressions of interest, trade or exchange. Knowing the best one to choose is the key to success. Putting the property on the market at a price is the less successful way of property marketing. The reason for this is the market will judge the property and try to reduce the price; if the property is too highly priced it will ‘kill’ any genuine enquiry before you even hear about it. One other fact needs to be remembered and respected here; a property will become ‘stale’ on the market after about 90 days. If it does not sell by then, it is better to remove it from the listing books for some reasonable time, to freshen the property for the next stage of marketing that you need to go to.
  • GANTT Model: For those of you that may not be aware, this is a way of graphically displaying activity. It is a common graphing process. It just so happens that it is a very powerful tool when you put it in a commercial property proposal for sale or lease. The display shows the client exactly what you are going to do for them and when.
  • Question and Answer: As part of your property marketing proposal, it is wise to have one or two pages that handle the concerns and questions of the client. From the preliminary meeting with the client you will have ascertained what matters concern them; you can merge these concerns and your answers into a Q&A format within your proposal.
  • Executive Summary: Always use an Executive Summary at the front of your document. It should be no longer than 2 pages, and bring all the main points to the front of the proposal. Adults generally do not want to read a lengthy document, so all your great work may largely go unread unless you can get the key points to a place that interests the client to read further.
  • An Exclusive Selling Agency Agreement: Why should you do one? The obvious answer is that you can best serve the listing and the client; you can also control the competition agents that may be chasing the same property. Open listings are not desirable and are essentially a waste of time unless you specifically have a purchaser that is a strong contender to take the property immediately. Occasionally I come across an agency that has a business approach of listing everything they can regardless of agency type; whilst this method can work, it does require you to have a very large number of listings and plenty of signs on properties. In only that way will you get the enquiry and conversion numbers that you need for KPI’s on commissions.
  • What are the advantages to a Vendor in having only one Agent when selling a Property? Tell the client why one agent is the best way to go. Multiple agencies working on the one property do not allow focused communication of offers and marketing coordination. Tell the client how you will connect with them on marketing, negotiation, due diligence, and property settlement.
  • Advertising: Yes advertising is expensive and it is still necessary, although you can be selective. You need to get the property message out to the market in the most efficient and direct way. How you do that is really property specific, although the conventional processes of newspaper marketing (expensive) are becoming less necessary. The internet is taking over as the main advertising channel in commercial real estate sales and leasing, and offers your client far better and cheaper ways of putting the property to the market. A key strategy for property marketing is to create 3 different levels of marketing for the client to consider (gold, silver, and bronze), as it gives them the feeling of control when it comes to spending on vendor paid advertising.

So these key points should be well handled in your property proposal. When you get the points clearly set out, the client knows what you can do and why they should choose you as the property agent of choice.

Three Tips to Run a Car Wash Business

The car wash business is considered as a safe business, as it provides regular profits. It is not a sector that millionaires would like to dabble in. However, it does offer people, who look for reliable investment options and are willing to work hard, an opportunity to do something worthwhile.

As with any other business, the car wash business too has its own tricks of the trade. It is definitely a sure-fire profit making sector. However, that does not mean that you just have to start a company and profits will follow automatically. No business ever guarantees that.

The following are some tips on how to run a car wash business professionally and profitably:

Tip 1: Invest wisely in cleaning machines

Cleaning machines have to be the first priority of the investor. There is no use or purpose of spending extravagantly to buy the so-called best machines. On the other hand, it would be disastrous to buy the cheapest machines. You need to do a bit of home work before making the purchasing decision.

The problem with auto detailing is that it requires the use of multiple cleaning machines. An automobile consists of different types of surfaces, with each having varying levels of hardness. The exterior body and engine parts are hard and sturdy, windshield glasses are obviously, and fabric seat upholstery and carpets are soft.

A single machine cannot be used to clean all these types of surfaces. As a result, a car wash business essentially requires different types of machines that are pressure washers for cleaning the hard surfaces and carpet cleaners to clean the soft surfaces. Steam cleaners, too, do a good job of cleaning the hard surfaces.

Tip 2: Focus on quick delivery

One of the secrets of success of an auto detailing business is the quick delivery of the vehicles. In this busy world, owners want the vehicles as quickly as possible. The average delivery time in this business now can be within several hours. So, how can you ensure that the cleaning is done quickly?

Employing the right mobile car wash machines would help. You should use carpet cleaners equipped with low flow technology and pressure washers having a low flow rate. Using steam cleaners with dry vapor output is another good option.

In short, make sure that all the car detailing machines transfer less quantity of water on to the vehicle surfaces. While doing this, you have to ensure that there is no compromise on speed or efficiency of the mobile car wash machine.

Tip 3: Use green chemicals

A good cleaning agent improves the cleaning power and speed of most car detailing machines. However, synthetic detergents do more harm than good. These products improve the efficiency of car wash equipment, but leave more toxic residues on the vehicle surfaces than the dirt they help to remove.

This is the reason why most reputable suppliers recommend using green chemicals along with their car wash equipment. These products are derived from plants and vegetables, and do not contain a single toxic substance.

Car Colors And Personal Choices

If you look at the stories on car colors and the popular shades available in the color spectrum, you’ll see that white, followed by silver and black, has been a persistent choice for new car buyers. Of all cars sold in America, almost a quarter are white. In Asia, it seems that silver is more predominant while in Europe, somber black is more popular. This trend, specially the preference for white, has been popular only since the 90s. Before that, there was a more colorful array of cars, with red, green and orange vehicles common on U.S. roads.

It would take a sociologist or some other specialist to accurately speculate about color trends. Evidently though, external factors make people prefer some colors to others. For example, some colors, like gray, have become known to be less visible during dusk. This is a time when drivers have not yet turned on their headlights and daylight has become twilight. Maroon also seems to disappear as night falls, and anecdotal reports of dark or dull cars being more accident-prone may have become a reason why colors like these aren’t so popular in cars nowadays.

You’ll find some sites with table correlating some value or characteristic to particular colors. For example, red is supposed to be for dynamic, high-energy people, while yellow is for intelligent and comfort loving folk. Black would be for empowered, elegant business types while silver are for future-looking dudes. We can’t say that there isn’t any grain of truth to these classifications, but with white being a perennial favorite for several years, should we say that a majority of motoring enthusiasts are fastidious people? Because that’s what a lot of racing cars are painted with. White. There is a more practical reason to that though. White makes a terrific background for all those sponsorship decals and inspection of car parts for leaks or damage is easier if a car’s engine compartment or underchassis is white.

Dupont and PPG, both major paint suppliers to automotive manufacturers, have been keeping meticulous records on what colors sold most in years and decades past. Their data shows that people buyers are quite exacting in their color choices, although some consumer surveys indicate that a wider range of colors would be welcome too. Maybe the somber mood borne by not-so-optimistic economic news is affecting color choices too, which is why neutral tones are prevalent. But then, with more car owners opting to keep their cars longer, safe color choices will not look dated after just a few years.

Thrifty Car Rentals – Tripling Your Savings

Thrifty car rentals are becoming popular as an option for people who hardly drive their car except on extended trips. Then there are those people who would prefer not to use their own car on trips over uncertain roads for fear of the wear and tear in will cause. People also rent cars to upgrade or downgrade on the size of the car that they own. For instance, an architect might own a large SUV which he uses for bringing his materials to his projects. For non-business trips, the car has much more room that he requires and more engine power than he ever needs to avail of. So he visits a thrifty car rental to get a smaller car for his daily use. Again people might want to rent a car because they are interested in buying that exact same model but just want to try it out first for a week before actually making that purchase.

If you are thinking of a renting a car, you should know that they usually cost less than the up-front price. This is because thrifty car rental companies offer discount bonuses on most cars and at most times of the year. Discount bonuses can shave of from 10% to 50% of the amount you need to pay after renting it. Price shave-offs can be availed of if you rent on weekends or during off-peak season. You can also have price reduction on the average cost if you rent for a week or a month. The specifics for extended rental discounts may vary from company to company, but they are always there.

Right now, the going price for high-powered cars, has gone down with the recession. Due to the need to save, people are buying cars with less power and smaller build. The result is that cars like the SUV are rented out instead of sold. Now would be the right time to try out renting a SUV from a thrifty car rental. This car is ideal for outdoor adventures on virgin terrain, like camping in the wild or fishing out in a secluded lake. The SUV is also ideal for visiting friends who live in isolated areas.

Before renting for an extended period, you need to consider the amenities or accessories that are included or excluded for monthly or yearly rental plans. Before settling on a monthly rental plan, be sure to calculate whether renting daily for 28 days will cost more than an outright 30-day plan. There are some thrifty car rental companies whose price structure sets a higher basic rate for monthly plans. If such is the case, there may be amenities or add-ons for monthly rentals that you are not aware of. Ask the personnel about it.

Other than the basic discounts on the rental fees of thrifty car rentals, some offer discount coupons for tourist spots, hotels and restaurants. These discount coupons are issued by the establishments to encourage more visitors to their place. Among these establishments, you have Disneyland, Sea World and even Universal Studios. Holiday Inn and Grand Hyatt are two hotels that offer discount coupons for travelers.

Best Over the Counter Age Spot Remover

Over the counter age spot remover is one of the hottest selling products in the anti aging skin care market, because nobody wants to walk around with highly visible indicators of age upon their skin. These marks do not really have anything to do with your physical age however, as they are simply products of extended exposure to the sun. It has been pounded into the psyche they are signs of a person advancing into the latter stages of their life due to the timing of their appearance.

Nobody wants to feel as though they are slipping into decline, and though it embarrasses sufferers to have other see them this way it does more damage so as the way that the person sees themselves. Companies have taken advantage of the psychological implications of the development of this harmless hyperpigmentation by flooding the marked with skin whitening products.

What most over the counter age spot remover contains in order to help you reduce the random overproduction of melanin are compounds that I would not advise you to let anywhere near your skin. While effective in slowly removing the discoloration marking your skin, these compounds are not healthy at all. They could in fact take a serious toll on your health, and lightening your skin is simply not worth that.

One ingredient popular for lightening the skin is hydroquinone, which is banned in Europe and may soon be elsewhere as well. Hydroquinone is suspected to potentially cause an increased rate of tumors, mononuclear cell leukemia, and heptocellular and renal tube cell adenomas. It can also cause a disfiguring disease in which blue-black pigments are deposited in your skin.

Other over the counter age spot remover features mercury (II) chloride and ammoniated mercury as the primary melanin reducers. All forms of mercury are highly toxic to humans, and the accumulation of these compounds in your system due to repeated application of the formula can make you incredibly ill. Let me tell you about the only safe option you have for reducing the melanin content of your skin.

The safest and most effective over the counter age spot remover features Extrapone nutgrass root extract, which is proven to reduce melanin by as much as 40%. This eliminates the spots that you have, prevents new ones from forming, and the all Uncategorized ingredients heal your skin and make you look younger. This is the only skin whitening formula that I would consider using.

A Resource Buying Guide For Internet Marketers

The “make money online” crowd is probably the most actively targeted niche market on the internet. Which is quite ironic when you think about it; “The hunters become the hunted.” And it’s not surprising we are so serviced with offers continually, the truth is we are, on the whole, information junkies. We are suckers for a good ebook, report, or video.

The problem is that an over supply of internet marketing tools (even good ones) can leave you feeling overwhelmed, unproductive (too busy reading about internet marketing to actually DO any), and flat broke!

So how do we filter the offers we are bombarded with, so that we invest sanely in our education and resources?  Let me offer this simple “buying guide” to help.

When you boil it all down there are basically 4 different kinds of products on the market, and you have to be able to recognize them so you don’t waste your time and money:

1) Basic training guides & tools. Everyone needs some of these, but you don’t need to be buying 10 versions of the exact same information.

2) Advanced techniques. These are the “Shazaam!” products.  The ones with truly unique and creative ideas. If I can identify which ones these are, I’ll buy them all day long. If I can get ONE really good, repeatable idea, it is money in the bank.  The caveat, though, is you’ve got to actually implement them – otherwise you’re just wasting your money, and spinning your wheels.

3) Tools that make life easier.  These are OK if you’ve got disposable money to spend on them, but if you’ve got a limited budget (like most marketers that are still getting going) you’re probably better off spending it where it can be best leveraged for the most effectiveness.

Case in point: At the time that I’m writing this article I’ve been getting emails all week — I’ve had at least 15 just today – promoting a particular hot product.  The free teaser report is great — it includes a couple of really exciting ideas (see point 2).  However, when I looked at what is actually being offered in the main package – 8 software programs that collate information in various forms from around the internet — they’re all really cool tools, but they are nothing that you can’t already do yourself for free. Cool, but not necessary. Convenient, but not essential.

4) Snake oil. These are the products that are thrown together to make sales to newbies, but they do not work. They are bad advice. You’ll discover that usually the author hasn’t had any success with the method he’s teaching at all, but he can make a few bucks wasting other people’s time with it.

So, when you’re considering buying resources to help you build your online business, read the sales copy discerningly.  Honestly evaluate the product and classify it in one of the above 4 categories.  Then it’s a simple decision to make the appropriate response:

Category 1:  Buy it if you don’t already have a product covering the same topic, or if you are reasonably convinced that your understanding is going to be increased sufficiently to justify the investment.

Category 2:  Buy it, and DO something with it! Don’t procrastinate — take action.  Winners are taking imperfection actions while others are still formulating their “perfect” plans.

Category 3:  Buy it only if you have surplus cash, and don’t mind blowing some on a luxury — because that’s what it is.  Ask yourself, “Could I leverage the money I’m about to spend on this to better effect in my business?”

Category 4:  Click that little “x” button at the top of the browser window, and be proud of yourself that you’ve developed the wisdom and experience to stop wasting time with that kind of rubbish.  If you already bought it before you figured out that its “snake oil”, ask for a refund and chalk it up to experience.

Buying is far more an emotional decision for us than we “savvy entrepreneurs” would care to admit. Anything we can do to take pause and inject some thought into the process will save us time and money. This buying guide offers a place to start.

Cookie Decorating and Cocktails: Themed Parties For the Holiday Season

The holidays are upon us, and one of the most timeless, beloved traditions is cookie decorating before Christmas time. Instead of setting aside an afternoon to bake batch after batch of Christmas cookies, why not plan a full-blown cookie decorating party to include friends and family?

How a Cookie Decorating Party Works

A cookie decorating party can work in one of two ways. You can ask all guests to bring their own favorite cookies, undecorated, to the party for a group decorating project. Or, you can ask guests to pitch in and make batches of cookies in your kitchen that you can all decorate together once they cool, fresh out of the oven.

For a smaller gathering with a few friends, baking cookies and decorating together will work well. For a larger party of five or more, it’s a better idea to ask guests to bring their own undecorated cookies so you don’t have to worry about squeezing a large group into a crowded, hot kitchen to bake cookies together.

To plan ahead, make sure that you have all of the necessary decorating supplies set up in advance in different stations throughout the room, including:

• Aprons or smocks
• Paper towels
• Tubes of icing in different colors
• Sprinkles and other assorted decorations
• Food coloring
• Small paintbrushes

From there, it’s time to get cracking! Guests can decorate plain cookies of their choice with different icings and assorted decorations, like sprinkles, chocolate chips, M&Ms, crushed peppermint, and more. You may also choose to splurge on fancy holiday cookie decorations like colored sugar, silver ball candies, and cinnamon hearts.

All of the decorations can be set up in individual bowls for use at each decorating station. Guests can also create their own colored icing with food coloring to paint different designs on each cookie using a small paintbrush.

Adult Beverages for Cookie Decorating

If this is an adults-only party, you have the perfect opportunity to pair holiday cookies with delicious seasonal cocktails to enjoy throughout the decorating process. Depending upon the type of cookies that you decorate, whether they’re plain sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, or even peanut butter cookies, you can pair your holiday drinks accordingly.

Decorated holiday sugar cookies will go well with a warm beverage like Irish Coffee or spiked cider. You can also make a large batch of alcoholic holiday punch with flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, served chilled and topped with a splash of cranberry juice and sparkling wine.

For more flavorful cookies, like peanut butter or snickerdoodle, serve a refreshing holiday favorite like mulled wine, peppermint martinis, or rich yet satisfying alcoholic eggnog.

For an adult-themed cookie decorating holiday bash, make sure to provide guests with the convenience of arranging transportation to and from the venue with a limo rental or luxury town car. This will allow guests to ride safely to and from the party destination so that they can enjoy a few holiday cocktails without having to worry about driving home at the end of the evening. ‘Tis the season!

India Imports and Exports – Part II

India-America Trade relations

For the starters, United States is India’s largest trading partner.

India’s major exports to US – include Information Technology Services, textiles, machinery, ITeS, gems and diamonds, chemicals, iron and steel products, coffee, tea, and other edible food products.

India’s major imports from US – aircraft, fertilizers, computer hardware, scrap metal and medical equipments.

Additionally, America is also India’s largest investment partner. Americans have made significant investments in India’s power generation, telecommunications, ports, roads, petroleum exploration/processing, and mining industries.

India and US have signed a new Trade Policy Forum. The sub-divisions include: Agricultural Trade Group and Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers group.

Agricultural Trade Group- The group specially focuses on three objectives: approving on terms that will facilitate India to export mangoes to the United States, thereby sanctioning Agricultural and Process Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to vouch Indian products to the standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and implementing procedures for approving edible wax on fruit.

Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers group – Insecticides manufactured by United States could be sold across the length and breadth of the country. Also, India has also agreed to cut regulations on buy/sell of carbonated drinks. Many medicinal drugs and lowering regulations on products those are not agricultural produce.

Both countries expressed interest in promoting small business initiatives in both countries by enabling trade between them..

The percentage of traded items from India to US

1. Diamonds & precious stones (25%)

2. Textiles (29.01%)

3. Iron & Steel (5.81%)

4. Organic chemicals (4.3%)

5. Machinery (4.6%)

6. Electrical Machinery (4.28%)

The percentage of traded items from US to India

1. Engineering goods & machinery (including electrical) (31.2%)

2. Precious stones & metals (8.01%)

3. Organic chemicals (4.98%)

4. Optical instruments & equipment (7.33%)

5. Aviation & aircraft ( 16.8%)

Export of Indian Agro Exports to US

The export of Indian Agro products to US forms a significant component of Indian exports to US. The Indian government apparently plays an important role in the expansion and diversification of the agricultural products and food processing industrial sector of the country. It is reportedly one of the largest in terms of production, consumption, export and growth.

The main items of Indian Agro Exports to US are:

o Rice and rice products

o Fresh vegetables

o Fresh fruits like mangoes, mango pulp, and grapes

The Kinds Of Car Keys To Choose From

The automotive industry has come a long way and today car keys are no longer the old style mechanical cut versions. Of course there are several brands that still use this form of keys, but there are numerous other versions out there as well. In mechanical keys, they are machine cut as the name suggests and are more popular with brands such as Ford, GM or even Chevrolet. There are quite a few truck models too that works with these forms of keys. Despite the numerous models of cars on the road, the machine cut continues to be a favourite.

The next version you have is the laser cut automotive keys. These are the advanced versions of the machine cut keys and are also called the sidewinder or the internal cut keys. They have a square edge which have matching cuts on either side. These can fit into a car’s ignition any way you like. Their advantages are that they are not easy to pick and will need specialized help. There is a unique software used in its production and those manning the machines will need specialized training as well. These are found in luxury brand cars like that of Mercedes as well as Audi.

There are several other popular styles of car keys available. You have the transponder keys that have a minute computer chip inserted in the key handle. This is for additional ignition security and to prevent the key from being forged. There is the remote or the switchblade form of transponder keys.

Then you have the smart keys which have a laser cut key that is built in. These kinds of keys gives the driver the flexibility of entering the car and starting it without actually taking the key out of his pocket. Then you have what is known as the VATS keys. This has a unique chip on the blade which though not electronic in nature, has got the name.

And then you have what are known as valet keys. These are given along with a regular transponder key. There is however a slight modification to it, where you can open doors and ignition, but not a locked boot or trunk. These can be made out of plastic or metal.

There are several varieties of keys and the kind you get will depend on the kind of vehicle you pick up. This is essential to the safety of your car and you.