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!

Where Payday Loans Spending Are No Way, Jose

You will not be questioned as to purpose and plan when you avail of payday loans. You can use it for whatever you want, however way you want, whoever you want, and whenever you want. You only need to pay your debt on time.

However, there are certain things that you will be well advised not to spend payday loans on. You will get into trouble with your self, your family, your society and with your government if you do decide to splurge on these activities.

Illegal Drugs

Fast fact: In Canada, the annual economic costs of the trade in illegal drugs exceed $5 billion that includes health care for drug addicts, lost work productivity, criminal offenses and law enforcement.

When you spend your payday loans on illegal drugs, you are contributing to this humungous amount that could be better used for other government projects like education. Closer to your pockets, you will be spending more than $40,000 annually to support your drug habit, which should be enough to finance your education for the same year!

More than the financial costs to society and to your wallet, you are subjecting yourself and your family to emotional and physical costs that cannot be quantified as easily as economic costs to society.

Consider these: broken relationships, domestic abuse, arrests and jail time for crimes committed to feed your habit, lost job opportunities, infectious diseases including sexually transmitted ones, and other physical ailments.

Gambling

Fast fact: Spouses and children of compulsive gamblers suffer abuses at the hands of their husbands/wives and fathers/mothers. Also, research studies always point to children of compulsive gamblers showing higher rates for pathological gambling, tobacco, alcohol and drug use and overeating.

When you decide to gamble your payday loans in casinos, sweepstakes, lotteries, and online betting, you likewise decide to expose your spouse and children to abuse, neglect, addictions of every kind, and even prostitution. What might be a harmless one-time bet today can turn into a harmful full-time occupation tomorrow.

Soliciting for Sex

Fast fact: In Canada, prostitution per se is not prohibited by law as a crime. However, you will run into many criminal laws that make activities related to prostitution, including solicitations for sex, criminal and therefore punishable.

Let us count some of the ways you can be punished for soliciting sex with your payday loans:

– Mere communication about purchasing and actually buying the sexual services of an individual under the age of 18 – six months jail time
– Attempting to and/or conducting the purchase of sex in a public place even if the individual in question is over 18 years of age
– Performing sexual acts in public places even if it is inside your parked car
– Allowing to operate, actually operating and working in a bawdy-house and even offering someone for a visit to a bawdy house are punishable by law

And need you be reminded of the dangers of prostitution to your physical and mental health? Consider these: sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and AIDS, sex addictions and broken marriages.

Indeed, you availed of payday loans to cover emergencies – births and deaths, dates and weddings, health and hearth, medical and bills exigencies, to name a few. You definitely want to solve your financial problems with cash advances, not to aggravate your financial condition!

Tips on Finding and Booking Car Rental Specials on the Internet

Car rental specials are a great way to get a cheaper car rental. They allow car rental companies to get their vehicles booked in advance and allow you to save money!

You can access car rental specials through each individual company’s website or through booking sites such as Expedia, Hotwire, Priceline, etc. In doing some research, I found that the majority of the rates found on the booking sites were the same as the non-discounted rate through the company directly.

I would definitely check both to get the best rate possible. I did find cheaper rates with prepaid booking sites (where you pay for the rental up-front) but these usually allow no modifications or cancellations of the reservation. If you are booking through a prepaid booking site, make sure to read the terms and
conditions very carefully and keep these factors in mind when you are checking prices.

When you are checking a company specific website, check the rate first with no discount, then with a discount code (if you have one), and with the special offered by the company. This way you are sure to get the cheapest rate offered.

You should always check the terms and conditions for any specials to make sure that your particular rental qualifies.

Common terms and conditions are listed further down.

On the car rental company websites there are basic types of specials that most offer.

% Off Car Rental Specials

These types of specials can range from 10% to 50% off rates; usually weekly or weekend rates. Sometimes you will see seasonal specials or midweek specials or one-way specials.

Prepaid Car Rental Specials

Many rental companies will offer car rental specials if you prepay the reservation on their website. This will involve providing your credit card at the time of booking and the amount of the rental will be billed right away.

$ Off /Free Day Car Rental Specials

Many rental company websites offer $ off and or Free Day car rental specials. This would be considered an internet coupon offer. This can range from $5 – $50 off depending on the company and the length of the rental or the price per day if it is a Free Day offer.

Location Specific Car Rental Specials

Many companies will offer specials at either airport locations, neighbourhood locations or both. They may also offer car rental specials in specific cities at certain times.

The terms and conditions for most specials are:

Most specials are limited to specific car types and sizes, unless the special is for “all car sizes”.

Most specials have a minimum and a maximum rental period. Make sure that your rental conforms to these guidelines.

Most offers are not valid in conjunction with any other rate programs or special offers, and cannot be used with a coupon or on a one-way rental.

Any % off/ money off or free day specials will be on the base rate of the vehicle only, and will not apply to the taxes and surcharges at the location or any optional equipment or waivers that you may purchase.

Check for date restrictions. Most offers will require an advance reservation and are only available for a specified length of time. Look for terms such as

“Available through” a certain date (must be booked and rented before such date). This will sometimes be worded as “Offer expires by…” or “Rental must begin by…”

Look for the term “blackout dates” Most companies restrict their offer at peak times and holidays. Keep in mind that peak times can vary by location. If there is an annual large convention in a certain city and the rental locations are extremely busy they will generally blackout specials for that time. This
applies to large events as well (example: Nascar Events, PGA tour events, Mardi Gras, etc.) If the blackout dates are not listed, you should be able to call or contact the rental company to find out the specifics.

Most offers are available at “participating locations” and usually restricted to certain countries. Check to see if the offer is available at airport locations, urban locations, suburban locations or a combination of these.

Many companies do not offer specials in the New York are, Alaska or Hawaii. Check your terms and conditions for these restrictions.

For a prepaid booking special you will need to present the same major credit card you used to book the rental at the rental counter. The name on credit card and the name on the driver’s license must match. You cannot use someone else’s credit card to prepay your reservation.

For most prepaid car rental specials and advanced reservation is required. You usually have to book and prepay the rental at least 24 hours before you go to pick it up.

Debit cards are generally not accepted for prepaid reservations.

Even if you book a prepaid reservation online, you cannot cancel them online. You must call the company directly to cancel or modify. Keep in mind that if modifying, you are basically cancelling the reservation and rebooking; this will often affect your rate. Check to see if and what the cancellation and no-show policy is for prepaid car rental specials.

Many companies offer specials only available to subscribers – sign up for email notifications for any car rental companies you prefer.

For more tips on car rental specials,discount codes,coupons,policies and more, please visit my website below.

Discount Car Rental Deals – Tips For Finding The Best Rates Online

The start of the season has already been an excellent start for any search regarding discount car rental deals. As it would be simple to end up being stressed by the whole set of offer within the web-based business, follow this advice intended for simpler look up amongst providers.

For starters, you have to be aware of that you can find a couple of types of providers which are supplying discount car hire deals. In order to save you valuable time, it’s not a secret to expert renters the fact that major worldwide businesses cost more whereas broker agents that team up with them are certainly more low-priced and simpler to acquire large bargains from suppliers.

Therefore the broker agents have the ability to offer the equivalent vehicle class at a lower price. Focus on broker agents in search for the purpose of best offers. Next, there are particular nations which are normally less costly than others. Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, Malta, Spain, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland as well as Turkey are among the most cost-effective rental car marketplaces throughout Europe.

At the same time Scandinavian regions tend to be famous for much higher starting fees in European union in default in comparison with previously discussed nations Renting a car in Norway, Sweden, Finland or Iceland will never be as cheep as renting a vehicle in Greece. Arranging beforehand is by no means too early.The second the holiday, business travel schedules are identified to you, reserve a vehicle straight away.

Using this method you will enjoy a couple of critical goals: find discount car rental deals effortlessly as last-minute booking and even you will have much more choices to select from in terms of vehicle class diversity.

Finest discount car rental deals in this year are incredibly excellent valued furthermore in Middle East locations together with several European popular area favored by British and Russian as well as German travelers. In order to find out more which places tend to be this year car rental deals supreme destinations check out car rental deals web page and check the rates.

In addition, iPhone and android phone owners can download an application developed to help you find the best car rental deals online. By having an application on your phone you have ability to check out the prices just when you need to without using computer and having an internet connection.

E-Cigarette – A Safer Substitute to Smoking?

I am not a smoker, so I sat comfortably on a chair resting my arms on the arm rest and try to analyze how chain smokers can ever get out from the dilemma of smoking cigarette. I take a mild drag as I watch people exhale white wafts round their face, wondering how many nicotine they save from years of smoking.

I wonder how celebrities made through like Audrey Hepburn when she smoke, yet she isn’t. Many times I have been wondering what an e-cigarette is and wonder if it really a solution to safer smoking. E-cigarette is not a smoke at all, but they resemble like smoke. This is a perfect solution if you want to quit smoking but cannot.

E-cigarette is battery powered device or I would say an electronic device to help you get free from nicotine yet doesn’t have the stamina to quit smoking. Its physical appearance looks like a real cigarette. The tip of e-cigarette glows red just like when you lit one real cigarette. It even emits smoke or produces puffs but it is not burning and so you can use it anywhere you are even in those places where smoking cigarette is banned.

Smokers definitely enjoy smoking but the nicotine it gives is another story. E-cigarette allows anyone to enjoy the pleasure of smoking less the guilt of bad effect it does to our body. The actual effect of smoking simply puts it to physical act, like when you want to have a cigarette in your hand always.

Regardless of the pleasure it gives, smoking is still and will always be harmful to health, but e-cigarette is free from this side effect and definitely harmless. The world is full of bad elements, for this reason the public in general has covered a propaganda regarding the effect of smoking cigarette to the body, particularly our lungs.

Because of these information, a lot of smokers wanted to quit their bad habit but the question is, how will they do that when addiction have almost gotten into their nerves. E-cigarette is a break through to this kind of problem most cigarette smokers are facing and this breakthrough has begun to increase popularity on e-cigarette.

What makes it appealing to smokers is the fact that it does not contain harmful ingredients than an ordinary cigarette. It does not produce nicotine and most importantly it is free from carcinogens. It is also free from second hand smoke, which means you can use it even in front of your co-workers or even in front of a baby.

In addition, because it does not produce ash, e-cigarette is considered to be environmental friendly. What e-cigarette does is it provides smokers with a taste that is similar to real cigarette and so cigarette smokers still feel the act of smoking real cigarette when in fact they are not smoking cigarette at all. For this reason you can use it anywhere, even in private places like air conditioned room and states were cigarette is prohibited.

Internet Marketing and SEO Information

8 Seconds Rule for Business Website

Your website has approximately eight seconds to capture the attention of a prospective customer, before they head off to another website. If a connection is not made between your prospective customers and your Singapore SEO website in a very short time frame, you will lose them.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is critical to the SEO process. The purpose of keyword research is to find out as many keywords that are relevant to your website. So, when customers search on Google and other search engines they can easily find your website.

Professional Quality Link Building

Link building must be done slowly. You must build links with a mix of good high PR and low PR links from different websites, mostly relevant to your site. If you build links too quickly, your website can be penalized by Google.

The higher your link building speed is, the more serious penalty (pagerank drop) your website may get. When Google see a large amount of links come in one month and nothing the next this can look suspicious, and you will not rank on Google, yahoo and MSN’s Bing.com

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is a key factor of any successful website. The internet has become the primary resource for gaining advanced information, services and products. All internet users search the product information from Google. SEO and optimized social media content makes it easier for customers to find product/service information online when they’re doing the research that will help them.

Almost 85% of visitors come from Search engine result pages. Some people search for your company name and your services & products. Hire a SEO Consultant is your best option for your company if you want to increase your sales.

SEO Tips

1. First, one of the most important tips for search engine optimization is to get inbound links. It is for this reason that the more inbound links will have another popular site for your Web site, the more it becomes for you to get better ranking in search engines. For this reason, you should try to get as many of these as possible. Lends credibility to your site and help you improve your ranking in search engines.

2. Social bookmarking is another very important aspect of SEO. It is easier for visitors to bookmark your pages. Not only that, but it also allows you to submit your site to social bookmarking sites and, in turn, gives an additional benefit.

3. In addition, article directory submissions should be used for effective SEO. It also helps to build back links and is considered one of the best Internet marketing tools. By submitting articles to these directories, you can reach the wider audience that can be directed to your site after reading your article.

4. In addition to these, the presentations of the website are also very useful for link building. Since there are countless web directories, so your presence ensures your online presence the best possible way. You only need to pay a small sum although there are many free websites.

5. Site maps are also an important part of SEO. In a nutshell, is basically, you can inform search engines of different pages on your website. Consequently, it helps search engines to rank your page better and more effective.

Boost Your Cold Calling Results in Commercial Real Estate

To make your prospecting system work for you in commercial real estate, you really do need to systemise it and set some priorities. Systems help build the future; random undirected action does little for you as a commercial real estate agent.

When you set the priorities you will not be wasting your time on things that don’t matter or perhaps have little results and conversions for you. It’s tough enough finding the time to prospect every day, let alone spending time on things that are not good converters of business opportunity for you.

So what can you do here? You can set a plan up that keeps you focused on the highly converting prospecting processes. You need new business to make your career work for you and prospecting is the key to pulling it all together.

Here is a priority model used by salespeople that I have helped in shaping their market share.

  1. Practice your call pitch for 30 minutes at 8:00am every day. This single one fact will help you convert more people faster to opportunities.
  2. Start the day with cold calls to new people. This should happen for a period of 2 hours. Start your calls at 8:30am.
  3. It will take you 30 minutes to build momentum as part of the call contact process. After 30 minutes you will be comfortable with what you are doing and the conversations will flow. The calls will get easier.
  4. Remove any meetings from the start of a business day. That includes team meetings. Focus on prospecting before anything else. Don’t let other people waste your prospecting time.
  5. Any follow up calls to established contacts should happen later in the day outside of your prospecting time. Create a habit of prospecting for new business. Don’t let existing customers or contacts derail your prospecting system.
  6. Towards the end of the day you should enter the results of the calls into your database. Perhaps you can do that as you are making the calls; the data does however have to be entered and you must take responsibility for that.
  7. End the day with research related to new prospects that you are to call tomorrow. Who are they and why are you calling them. You will need to know those facts as part of the process.

So these are some very rigid rules. When you stick to them you will find that opportunities develop. In any market and at any time the business is out there; it is just a matter of opening up the relationships with the right people.

Top 10 Internet Marketing Trends for 2011

The dawn of 2011 gives us the perfect opportunity to predict the top 10 internet marketing trends for the upcoming year. The 90’s was the decade of the internet, and since then we have seen new layers, tools, and worlds built on top of the world wide web.

Social networks dominated the past decade, apps came on top of that, and 2011 will bring even more areas of digital interaction and communication.

And just to have some fun for the holidays, I decided to turn them into some of the cheesiest puns and rhymes ever assembled in a blog post. If you can’t stand the rhymes, I’ve put a real title right next to them.

So here’s my take on the top 10 trends (in order) for internet marketing in 2011.

(1) No more game layer naysayers (The sculpting of the “game layer”)

Seth Priebatsch, the founder of SCVNGR, plans to build a “game layer” on top of the world. Things like rewards programs, board games, social games and check-ins have all come to make up the idea behind a game layer.

This game layer is a way to influence consumer behavior, by turning everything into a game. Wherever you go, whatever you buy will be built into a sort-of game dynamic that will reward you in multiple ways.

This game layer will be the most important trend to watch in internet marketing in 2011, as companies like SCVNGR and Four Square become a bigger part of the consumer process.

(2) Even more apps perhaps (Mobile apps continue to “suburbanize” the internet)

The internet has been compared to the wild wild west with its initial lawlessness and quick expansion. With the introduction of apps, the internet is being tamed into smaller communities – suburbanizing the internet in a way.

Jeff Cormier (Examiner.com) wrote an article today about how mobile apps are projected to experience 60% growth by 2014. In addition, revenue from mobile apps will increase from $4.9 billion this year, to $35 billion by 2014, according to an IDC report.

So we will see even more apps in 2011. Apps mark the beginning of the taming of the internet into organized mobile programs, and 2011 will continue this trend.

(3) All bets off, all Groupon (Downward pricing pressures on SMBs from Groupon-like sites)

As Groupon continues to roll out sites for more and more cities across the country, the “group coupon” phenomenon continues to sweep the web.

Thousands of other coupon sites have also popped up. I Am Hungry, for example, offers restaurant deals around your area. With apps for Facebook and mobile devices, these types of sites are spreading like wildfire.

We are almost at the point with all of these sites that you could always get a meal at half price. For 2011, look for the Groupon and I Am Hungry-type sites to put downward pricing pressure on small service businesses (especially restaurants).

(4) Online privacy issues and miscues (Online privacy becomes a huge issue/opportunity)

Access to data is an essential part of the idea behind Web 2.0. Having up-to-date information on people is the key to targeting search results, advertising, and offers. However, when will this go too far? 2011.

The Federal Trade Commission just released a report this month about protecting consumer privacy. This movement covers an idea to implement a “Do Not Track” program for consumers. This would be a technology that would allow consumers to tell websites to not track their activities and information.

As this movement plays out, look for online privacy to be a huge part of the web in 2011.

(5) Boob Tube out, YouTube in (Increase in online video marketing)

Faster internet connections, easy share capabilities, better video search, link integration, and YouTube channels – these all point to an even bigger emphasis on video marketing. A video going viral is the dream of every marketer, and it’s easier to make those videos and easier to have them spread.

Pew Internet Research says that 7 in 10 adult internet users have used the internet to watch or download a video. In addition, videos can help increase search rankings and have a major impact on SEO.

With all of these factors coming together, online video marketing will become mainstream in 2011.

(6) Local becomes focal for search engines (More emphasis on local search)

Over the last few months of 2010, we’ve seen local results take a bigger role in Google SERPs (search engine results pages). Tools like Google Places and Yahoo! Local make it easier for businesses to gain exposure for their certain keywords and now have placed more importance on those listings.

By incorporating Google Tags into Google Places and offering statistical insights for your place listing, Google is telling small businesses that local search will become even more important in 2011. This makes sense considering that the goal of a search engine is to deliver the best results for each search. What good would a plumber in Seattle do for a homeowner in Boston?

(7) 2011 Twitter: More litter, less glitter (Major change in the Twitter model)

A San Francisco Chronicle article came out today revealing statistics about Twitter. As the article states, Only 8% of American adults use Twitter and less than 1/4 of those users are “heavy” Twitter users.

Twitter’s goal to become the world’s largest media company, therefore, is too far out of reach.

It seems that Twitter has been most successful in the celebrity-realm, as people can get an insight into the lives of their favorites stars. The celebrity element, however, is not mainstream enough for Twitter to survive solely on that niche and its goal to become THE media outlet seems out of reach. So where does Twitter go from here?

Well, we’ve seen the introduction of “promoted tweets” and the new Twitter profile in 2010.

What does 2011 hold for Twitter? I am predicting declining participation rates on Twitter, more dead profiles, and potentially a serious change to make money and increase participation.

(8) HTML5 goes live (The release of HTML5 and its impact)

HTML5 is currently under development by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group. The latest HTML revision will make it easier to incorporate multimedia into websites.

The impact on SEO will be interesting to follow in 2011. The new <> tag, for example, will make it easier to segment new posts for online periodicals like blogs and online magazines. Search engines will most likely place either more or different emphasis on these sorts of tags.

(9) Online communities = new opportunities (Market Research continues to change)

Typical market research reports are generated over a long period of time and result in 1000 pages of somewhat outdated data. Online communities are a newer way to conduct real-time market research from a group of about 200-500 consumers that represent the target market for that specific brand. These people will answer key questions and discuss certain topics associated with a product before it launches, for example.

Companies like Communispace and MindGauge allow brands to gather consumer insight quickly. MindGauge’s website describes the difference between traditional market research and online communities by saying, “Rather than an independent source gathering information, respective managers will begin to integrate the community into all components of their projects.”

Although this powerful insight tool has been around for awhile, we are predicting that more dollars will be devoted towards this kind of tool in 2011.

(10) The cloud starts to reign (Cloud Computing continues to spread)

Although “the cloud” does not really fall under internet marketing, its impact on agility for sales forces and IT departments is undeniable, so it found its way into the top ten. The days of building custom-made business apps and soft
ware are gone with companies like salesforce.com. Cloud computing allows businesses of all sizes to get better systems up and running, faster and cheaper than custom-built software.

For 2011, even more clunky and expensive IT systems will be scrapped for the cloud and collaboration will be brought everywhere through mobile devices.

2011 should be the fastest year in internet marketing. Many more trends will occur that could change the landscape of internet marketing for businesses of all sizes.

What do you see as the biggest trend for 2011?

A Career As a Travel Nurse

Travel nurses are healthcare professionals such as registered nurses or therapists who travel to various locations to work for certain portions of the year. They usually work up to four travel jobs per year. A travel nurse can work in any region in the United States and many International regions. Most nurses secure a career through a reputable travel staffing agency.

A career as a travel nurse can be personally and financially rewarding. Most people who have this experienced in life say it is an exciting profession and a great way to earn a living. This professional will enjoy living in new and exciting locations, reside in wonderful accommodations, and work in excellent hospitals. Other benefits include:

Travel Assistance: Most reputable agencies will arrange such travel details as directions and maps. They should also have a 24-hour emergency hotline.

Great Pay: While on assignment, these nurses are offered comprehensive packages consisting of excellent pay with many benefits and bonuses. Annual earnings for an RN travel nursing jobs can be as high as $110,000.

Your Facility Choice: Most agencies have available jobs in all 50 states and at the highest ranking hospitals.

Free Private Housing: Housing accommodations are selected by agencies for their excellent services and amenities that may include spas, swimming pools, and fitness centers.

Flexible Work Schedule: Many nurses choose this career because the stress of a traditional hospital can be the result of long hours and increased physical demands. They have more flexible work schedules. It is often much easier to plan for special engagements and vacations

Free Health and Dental Insurance: Travel nursing agencies offer many free comprehensive health plans to meet all their client’s needs. Dependents can also be covered at a nominal cost. They can also receive supplemental insurance that provides income if they are unable to work as a result of a non-work-related illness. As well, professional liability insurance should be offered at no extra cost.

Work Protection Plan: A work protection program should be offered by a reputable agency because it ensures that if a shift is cancelled, you will still be paid.

Travel Expenses Reimbursement: Most agencies will provide travel allowance to nurses. Travel allowance may be given before you depart or as a reimbursement after you arrive.

Tax Advantage Plans: Tax laws allow full-time travel nurses to receive non-taxable credit for meals.

Licensure Reimbursement: Agencies will reimburse nurses for their State Nursing Licensure fees for every travel assignment. They will also help them acquire a State Nursing License.

Auto Club Membership: Agencies offer a discount or free membership to an auto club. They will have access to roadside assistance, hotel discounts, rental cars, free trip routing with detailed directions and maps, emergency check cashing, and no fee travelers checks.

401(k) Plan: Enrollment in a retirement 401(k) plan where a portion of their earnings will go into a retirement savings plan.

Free Course Upgrades: Many agencies will provide free education courses so nurses can keep up with new technology and education.

Referral Bonuses:Agencies will give bonuses to travel nurses who recruit other health professionals into their program.

While the pay and bonuses of a career in travel nursing are very rewarding, these positions are highly sought after. It is important that you keep up with modern education and experience. There are hundreds of agencies that specialize in placing travel nurses. Registering with several agencies will increase your assignment choices. With the right planning and knowledge, you will discover great joy with a career.

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.