Get Ready Now: Tips For A Stress Free Holiday Season!

Planning

1.) Write — Sit down at the table with a blank notebook and do what I call a Time Out where you write down everything associated with your holiday traditions. Write all of the tasks, to-do’s and commitments you can think of and include things you are responsible for as well as what you take part in. Do you always travel? Are you hosting meals and house-guests? Do you set up or participate in a gift exchange? Annual parties and events? People you always buy gifts for?

2.) Sort & Prioritize– Take your Time Out and sort it into a task list, an events list and a gift list. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is an event, meal planning, grocery shopping and delegating who brings what, are tasks. Shopping for gifts goes on the task list, what you buy for whom goes on the gift list. You may choose to create more lists to further breakdown tasks or events that you are in charge of. In addition to the gifts your family exchanges, the gift list should include: hostess gifts, teacher gifts, holiday tipping, office gifts, Secret Santa and the like. Having these lists will help you prioritize and you should make a note of the must-do, non-negotiables (visiting grandma) and the things you might be able to skip to save your sanity (decorating 12 dozen cookies by hand).

3.) Schedule — Assign the events and tasks to your calendar. Notate all the travel, arrivals and departures of guests, the annual food drive and neighborhood caroling. If you are unsure of dates, put a question mark next to them and add a note to your task list to call people to clarify. This part helps other people make decisions and put plans in motion. Mark time and dates ahead of events for tasks, chores and errands so nothing sneaks up on you. Feeling frantic feels terrible; being prepared feels great! Decide when you have time to bake, write cards and shop online and schedule those tasks too.

Act Now! Looking at your lists and calendar, what can you do now to save time, energy and stress later on? Here are some ideas:

1.) Cooking — Plan your meals, choose your recipes and make your lists.

• Do you make the same Thanksgiving dinner every year? Make your grocery list and start stocking up on the non-perishables. Place orders for the turkey, pies and linen rental. Mark your calendar with dates to call and confirm as well as the pick up or delivery dates. Delegate side dishes to your guests now and don’t be afraid to be specific!
• Plan your recipes for holiday cookies and appetizers for parties and make your grocery lists. Can you make dough or sauces ahead and freeze? Double a recipe and bring the same item to multiple parties. This saves time and money by streamlining effort and ingredients. People will only remember your contribution and the fabulous flavor!

2.) Traveling — Plan your trip.

• Book your airline tickets, car rental and hotel reservations now! Prices are only going to go up as the holidays near.
• Set up your transportation to and from the airport. Arrange home and pet care while you’re gone. Again, set up dates to confirm in your calendar.
• Make lists for what to pack and get all the cold weather gear out of storage, cleaned and ready to go.

3.) Guests coming to you — Get ready for your guests and help them get ready for their travel.

• Make sure their travel is booked. Do you need to arrange lodging or are they staying with you?
• Make sure your home is house-guest ready and check your linens, towels and spare toiletries. What items do you need to buy to make their stay more comfortable?
• Plan events, activities and transportation now, purchasing tickets and making reservations when necessary.

4.) Minimize future errands — Stock up now on items you always need. Remember, being prepared feels great!

• Make shopping lists from your tasks list for the holidays and the normal things you shop for. This step will save you trips to places like the drugstore.
• These items might include your everyday toiletries, paper goods, wrapping paper, cases of wine, water and other beverages.
• Create a space in the closet, garage or even under the bed for all these extras so your home doesn’t get overwhelmed.
• Make a note of what you bought and where you put it!

5.) Holiday cards, newsletters and photos — Start now! Having these time-consuming tasks out of the way will allow you to breathe easier.

• Make your list, purchase your supplies, including postage and put a bag or box together with everything you need including pens and your address book (if you still use one) so you can have it at the ready, but put it away when you’re done.

• Do a few at a time so the task isn’t overwhelming and they’re ready to send on the date you’ve chosen.

• If you order pre-printed cards, do that now too.

• Newsletters are fun to send and keep people updated on your goings on so make an outline of what you’d like to include and start writing!

• If your card includes or consists of a photo, choose one now or set up your photo session ASAP.

6.) Gifts — As an organizer, I love to give people consumables: food, beverages, gift cards and charitable donations. You can buy many of these now and they will save you so much time and energy. Feel free to personalize, but it’s a real time saver to streamline and give everyone, or group of people, the same thing.

• Give all the teachers gift certificates where they can treat themselves to an indulgence, like a pedicure, shopping or restaurants.
• Make charitable donations for hostess gifts — a few favorites are the Heifer Foundation and Charity Checks which allows people to choose where their donation goes.
• The office or neighborhood can pool together and instead of individual gift giving, Adopt A Family, volunteer at or make donations to a local charity or animal shelter.
• If you give monetary gifts to people such as your hairstylist or garbage collector, visit the bank as you can afford to, write the accompanying notes and store the envelopes in a safe place.

7.) Dressing Up — Plan your party outfits now so you’re not scrambling through the mall on the day of the event.

• Comb your (hopefully organized!) closet and find what fits, is occasion appropriate and what you can reinvent?
• If you need to shop, consider basics and/or separates that you can change up with accessories and can be worn year-round. Or maybe you only need a few sparkly accessories to spruce up your favorite frock.
• If you have children, make sure their clothes fit too and that everything is clean and ready to go.
• Taking family photos? Do you need or coordinate what you’re wearing? Plan and shop now.

8.) Decorating — Where are the ornaments? Do I still like everything I have? How is it stored?

• When you take out your decorations, use only what you love or what has meaning and part with the rest. Sometimes we continue to use the decorations we have, even if we no longer like them, out of habit or because you only look at it for 30 days or so.

• Before you put anything away, make sure you have proper storage to protect your treasured ornaments, wreaths and lights. Plastic bins keep the critters and dust out and everything organized inside. Check out The Container Store for their fabulous and helpful products. Don’t forget to label everything!

I hope these tips help you to plan and get ahead for the holidays so you can enjoy this wonderful time with your family and friends!

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.

What are E-Cigarette Cartridges?

Electronic cigarettes are available in many different styles such as mini, pen style, cigar style, traditional cigarette and much more. Those using ecigs report that they find the device to be much better in helping them quit smoking than other quit smoking devices. They give the same kind of sensation as that of smoking a traditional cigarette, but without the side effects.

How do electronic cigarettes work? They have a battery which is used to work an atomizer. The atomizer heats up the nicotine cartridge that vaporizes when the device is switched on giving off vapor-like smoke that dissolved in the air quickly, but which gives a same feeling as taking a drag on a traditional cigarette.

E-Cigarette cartridges contain the nicotine solution that vaporizes when the device is activated. The vapor when inhaled gives the same sense of satisfaction as that of smoking a traditional cigarette, but without the side effects. Those using ecigs report that the device mimics a real cigarette to the T’ and that they did not feel like smoking so often or getting back to using their usual pack again.

E-Cigarette cartridges are available in different flavors. You can find the traditional cigarette flavors such as Marlboro or Camel and there are also a range of non-nicotine flavors such as menthol, melon, strawberry, pepsi, champagne, orange, lilac, whiskey and vanilla. Nicotine solutions are available in different nicotine dosages such as 68 mg/ml, 1014 mg/ml, 1618 mg/ml, and 2054 mg/ml.

When starting out on ecigs, user begin with a nicotine solution that has a higher level of nicotine level because they feel more like the traditional cigarette brand that they have been using so far and then reduce the nicotine level. There are electronic cigarette cartridges available with zero nicotine levels.

Instead of opting for refill nicotine cartridges, you can refill existing cartridges by yourself. Open the cartridge device and use a paperclip to remove the liquid container from it. Add juice to the container using a dropper and do not overfill. Make sure that the cartridge is filled correctly. Push the container back into the cartridge device, which is to be placed into the atomizer.

ECigsUnlimited provides a range of e-cigarettes and electronic cigarette cartridges at the most reduced rates. You can find them in different styles along with a range of accessories that can be used to enhance device usage.

The Strategic Use of Information Technology

TEACHER: Hello, Student. What do you know about Information Technology (IT)?

STUDENT: Well, I know that most software is full of “bugs”! By the way, why are these errors in programs called “bugs”?

TEACHER: Computer “bugs” have been around since malfunctions in a 1945 Mark II were blamed (facetiously) on a moth trapped in a relay. Nowadays the term refers to programming flaws -commands that don’t accomplish the desired result. But I am sure you must know more about IT than the fact that programs have bugs!

STUDENT: Recently I read an interesting article written by John Diebold years ago. Allow me to quote from it:

“Information technology . . . is becoming increasingly the key to national economic well being, affecting virtually every industry and service. One would be hard-pressed to name a business that does not depend on the effective use of information: to design products and services, to track and respond to market demands, or to make well-informed decisions. Information technology will change the world more permanently and more profoundly than any technology so far seen in the history and will bring about a transformation of civilization to match.”

TEACHER: Interesting. There is no doubt that information technology is currently a major force with the potential to affect a range of organizations in fundamental ways.

The impact of information technology on business operations has been enormous and will increase substantially.

There is no doubt that a shift from an industrial economy to an information oriented service economy is under way; and no one knows when the process will slow down.

In essence, scale and the conventional dimensions of time, space, and mass will no longer be constraints on the products of the information age. Unlike the standardized product created for the mass market of the industrial age, the electronic delivery of banking services, for example, is scale-independent and intangible, provides instantaneous service, and is not bound by the physical location of the bank.

STUDENT: AmbaiU’s online courses are a good example! Students from all over the world can instantly access the courseware. The dramatic growth of the Internet’s WWW service has Uncategorizedly been an important factor in the growth of IT in general.

TEACHER: True indeed. Environmental trends like globalization and heightened international competition are speeding the movement toward increased IT use by corporations. The exigencies of worldwide coordination of operations and the need to react rapidly to global competitive threats have emphasized the importance of IT in the current business context. Dramatic technological developments in hardware, software, databases, and telecommunications have simultaneously pushed the utilization of IT further along.

STUDENT: So, is the sky the limit for IT?

TEACHER: Not exactly. At the same time, several factors are militating against the rapid deployment of IT. Among these are the still-slow development of appropriate software, long-standing difficulties in quantifying IT benefits (for justifying IT investment), issues of database integration, and the lack of standards (for the purposes of inter-organizational connectivity).

STUDENT: I also think that there was “over-investment” in IT in the last decade of the 20th. century and even at the beginning of the 21st. And what about IT and Strategic Management?

TEACHER. True, we are primarily concerned with the likely impact of information technologies on the practice of strategic management. The reason for adopting such a perspective reflects a fundamental belief that information technologies can potentially influence the core of a firms activities: Choices pertaining to products, markets, and technologies (the corporate strategy level), as well as competitive methods within each of the product-market segments (the business strategy level).

STUDENT: I assume this is why the role of information technology is becoming broader than that of the traditional Information Systems (IS) function, and is becoming a general management concern and challenge.

TEACHER: Good observation. We will consider three linkages that interconnect three important concepts -strategic management (SM), information technology (IT), and the management information systems (IS) function.

* Link 1: Management Information Systems with Information Technology

According to the traditional view, IS is a service function (just as accounting, human resources, or industrial relations) which is charged with the task of efficient data processing and administration of the management reporting and control systems. According to such views, systems are designed to cater to the informational requirements of different managerial roles and are identified using standard informational requirements assessment methodologies. In consequence, systems are evaluated using criteria such as timeliness, format quality, and reliability, reflecting the technical capability of the system. The implication is that the role of IT was conceived largely as the technical core of the MIS function.

Consequently, the important characteristics of this linkage were hardware and software support for the information architecture, and flexibility of design to support minor modifications in the information requirements or to respond to the fast-changing technical core of the system’s hardware.

The strategic planning level, by virtue of its unstructured nature of decision making, received minimal support from the traditional conceptualizations and role definitions of IS.

Link 2: Strategic Management with Information Systems

The description of Link 1 reflects a view that the charter of the IS function was derived directly from the informational resource assessment and had no explicit linkages with strategic choices at the corporate and business levels. This view was representative of the actual situation until the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the need to tailor the design of MIS to the requirements of the organizational strategic context gained currency. In 1968, McKinsey & Co. published a report titled Unlocking the Computer’s Profit Potential that called for a formal link between the design and implementation of MIS and the firms strategies and objectives. This publication urged managers to visualize the role of computers in business organizations as something beyond a data processing resource at the operational level of the organization and more as a mechanism that supports their strategy.

STUDENT: Even before that McKinsey report, William King proposed that the “IS-strategy set (composed of IS objectives, IS constraints, and IS design strategies) should be derived from the “organization’s strategy set” (composed of organizational mission, objectives, and strategies).

TEACHER: You are a well read student, indeed!

STUDENT: You might remember that I come from an “IT family.” And I keep hearing a complaint from my IT relatives: while there is concern within the MIS discipline to ensure that MIS is designed in accordance with the strategic contexts of the firm, the link in the other direction, from the corporate strategic context to MIS, is still largely ignored.

TEACHER: True, but this is changing rapidly. Also, several authors have called attention to the possibility of exploiting information and information systems for strategic advantages. As William King noted in an editorial comment in the Management Information Systems Quarterly,— Information (and IS) has the potential to be a primary source of (competitive) advantage in the marketplace rather than merely as a resource to be efficiently managed or a service that is periodically turned on and off as needed.

STUDENT: Can we then assume that many see the link between strategic management and IS today as a bi-directional, mutually interconnected link, implying a strategic role for the IS function?

TEACHER: Certainly, and it was about time. In a transition towar
d a strategic role, the goals and tasks of the management information systems function undergo an important transformation. The systems are no longer viewed in terms of informational support for operational decisions, but rather in terms of the realization of the organization’s strategic objectives, especially the achievement of competitive superiority in the marketplace.

Information systems with a charter to achieve competitive superiority are called “strategic information systems” and differentiated from the more operationally focused MIS. Indeed, MIS has been traditionally concerned with the operational control systems for relatively structured decisions based on readily available, internal data. In contrast, strategic information systems are designed to support relatively unstructured decisions, especially those that are intricately tied to the activities of the market-place.

STUDENT: I hear that usually such decisions require a combination of internal and external data that: are neither well structured nor completely specified.

TEACHER: Exactly. Although a perfect demarcation between management information systems and strategic information systems cannot always be made, the conceptual distinction is important enough to be recognized just as the conceptual distinction between strategic and operational decisions.

Let me mention some examples of strategic information systems operating at real companies:

American Airlines : SABRE reservation System -installed in most travel agents for booking airline, hotel, and rental car reservations.

American Hospital Supply Co.: ASAP-order entry system-installed in over 4500 medical establishments to order supplies on-line. The system is internally interconnected to several supporting systems

Citicorp Extensive use of automated teller machines and global transaction network. Several systems that support their strategies for electronic banking services.

McKesson Corp. Economost -order entry system that supports customers with inventory control and analysis of sales.

United Airlines APOLLO-Travel agency reservation system with several augmented services installed in about 7700 agencies.

Student, can you think of specific strategic objectives any of these companies have achieved through IS?

STUDENT: Well, I am sure that SABRE provides American Airlines with critical operating data that can be used for strategic decisions; travel agents hooked on to SABRE are likely to book on American more than other airlines.

TEACHER: Yes, some much so that the US government has stepped in and put some limit’s on SABRE’s propensity to favor AA!

Strategic information systems achieve their objectives through several mechanisms, but two deserve special attention. These are: (1) the reconfiguration of the information flows within an organization to provide competitive advantages relative to competition, and/or (2) development of inter-organizational systems that extend beyond the traditional boundaries of a single focal organization.

STUDENT: Are these modes are mutually exclusive?

TEACHER: No, but we will discuss them independently.

Reconfiguration of Information Flows

Let us consider the case of an airline that uses timely data to increase its load factor -perhaps the single most critical factor for achieving success in the airline industry. By developing a strategic information system designed not only to continually collect data on flight bookings, but also to compare current sales against historical patterns, the airline can instruct its own ticketing agents (as well as travel agents) to modify the number of discount seats available on a particular flight depending on the current level of advance bookings.

STUDENT: By the same token, I guess that similar benefits can accrue to a hotel, where a key determinant of competitive performance is the occupancy ratio.

TEACHER: Correct. And the basic notion of timeliness of information can be extended from the context of the service sector to the manufacturing sector. Consider the case of an oil company which is able to communicate with its dealers directly and instantaneously as oil prices change to ensure minimum delay between the setting of prices in the headquarters and its realization at retail outlets.

STUDENT: But in these illustrations IT does not influence the fundamental strategic business choices.

TEACHER. Correct. However, the implementation of such decisions through organizational hierarchy and channels is facilitated through the use of IT, leading to improved strategic results.

Inter-organizational Systems Inter-organizational IT applications highlight the potential to achieve competitive success that extends beyond intra-organizational informational flows to the deploying and exploiting of information-based links with diverse actors in the marketplace.

STUDENT: Your are using rather complicated phrases today! In simple terms, what you mean is that an inter-organizational strategic information system is a system that extends beyond the boundaries of a single focal organization to link multiple organizations.

TEACHER: Glad to see that you understood! The potential todevelop such links (and the consequent benefits to achieve competitive advantage) is perhaps the single most important reason for the, increased attention to informational systems from a strategic management point of view.

The railroad industry, which has one of the highest levels of “penetration” of electronic data interchange (EDI) among all industries, displays several levels of inter-organizational systems use. And relatively new industries such as couriers (FedEx, UPS, etc.) are good examples too.

Let me also mention the McKesson Drug Company. The case of McKesson is frequently quoted as one of the most successful examples of business transformation using information technology capabilities. McKesson is a US national pharmaceutical distributor that receives close to 100 percent of its orders electronically from drugstores through its Economost systems. A customer orders by making a single pass through the store with a hand-held order entry device, keying in a product identifier or using a bar code scanner. Reorder quantities are indicated on shelf tags. When the complete order has been entered, it is transmitted to the data processing service.

McKesson clearly achieved operational efficiency benefits to improve its profitability. Although the company apparently did not gain share relative to its major distributor competition, it achieved significant strategic benefits in sales and market share gains relative to its larger competition. The system also achieved “increased tying of the customer to McKesson” which is a substantial strategic advantage. Moreover, McKesson offers a number of other services based on the data it obtains from the order entry system.

The company also provides other firms in the health care business with specialized strategic systems. The following announcement is a good example:

In May 2003, McKesson Corporation announced that LibertyHealth in Jersey City, N.J., signed an eight-year, $47 million agreement for products and services designed to transform the use of clinical information to support patient care in its three-hospital system. LibertyHealth contracted for McKesson’s Horizon Clinicals(TM) suite (of programs) to enhance patient safety, reduce medication errors and increase patient referrals by providing physicians and other caregivers with better access to information.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent the use of IT to support patient care and enhance quality as we open our new hospital,” said Dr. Jonathan Metsch, LibertyHealth’s president and chief executive officer. “To create the best environment of care, it’s a given that we must provide the latest medical equipment. But, just as importantly, we must provide the most advanced clinical IT solutions to support our 900 doctors and nurses as they provide healthcare for this community of 600,000 people. That’s why we’ve
partnered with McKesson — we get superb, advanced clinical applications.”

Link 3: Strategic Management with Information Technology

Over the last years, several new and powerful forces in the technological and market environment compel one to recognize the link between strategic management and information technology in terms of the fundamental role played by IT in influencing the formulation of a firm’s strategy rather than merely supporting its implementation.

The potential for innovative modes of competing as well as new products and services made possible through IT provides managers with an entirely different spectrum of opportunities and threats. Given the general explosion of computing power and communications capabilities (integrated voice and data, the Internet), several new business applications can be (and have been) developed in those areas that directly enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the market-place.

Example: Merrill Lynch Merrill Lynch’s strategy demonstrates the potential offered by information technologies to develop superior substitute products (or services) as well as altering the definition and domain of business operations. The introduction of Cash Management Account (CMA) by Merrill Lynch represented a revolution in terms of redefining the concept of financial services in a marketplace that was dominated by the traditional banking institutions. The new business concept was built around integrating diverse financial instruments under one common umbrella such that the individual investor is able to enjoy the convenience of moving money across them as well as benefit from the “float” that the banks traditionally enjoyed. This account permitted the integration of four basic services to investors: (1) automatic investment of cash and dividends in a money market account, (2) credit through a standard margin account, (3) cash withdrawal by check or debit card, and (4) investment advice in managing and diversifying the account.

The strategy could not be implemented without the use of information technology, for it requires daily swaps across different accounts to post the credit card charges, checks, securities, and deposits, as well as to develop a daily updated credit limit for each account holder. This complex data processing operation is not incidental to the business concept but is fundamental to its conceptualization and operation. The importance of IT in this strategy is perhaps best emphasized by the fact that Merrill Lynch obtained a patent for the cash management account system. The annual fees generated by this product for Merrill Lynch were quite substantial.

Although several variations (circurnventing the patent protection) of this basic concept have appeared in recent years, none has so far matched the success of Merrill Lynch’s product.

Other firms which have utilized IT to break down traditional industry borders in the services sector include Sears, now an integrated financial services provider; Citicorp, now an investment and realty firm as well as a bank; and American Express, always strong in the travel business, now making a play in international banking, insurance, and securities, in addition, to becoming a financial and information supermarket. Indeed, the entire industry is being transformed due to parallel but related forces: deregulation and technology.

Bathroom Remodeling Idea Makes Bathroom Repairs Easier

Bathroom repair is easier with access panels

Soon after I had remodeled my small bathroom it developed a water leak. The first thing I knew about it was a puddle on the floor of the room below. A water pipe was leaking and it was buried in one of the bathroom walls which not only made it difficult to find out where the leak was but a lot of ceramic tiles had to be destroyed to get at it.

When I asked my bathroom contractors why they didn’t make it easier to get at the new pipe work they said that it would have made my quotation too expensive so they just buried the pipes and hoped that they don’t give any trouble. It was just my luck then that my bathroom was the one where they made lousy joints. The bathroom repair turned out to be far more costly than it would have been to make all the pipes accessible in the first place and I wish now that I’d had the foresight to put that in the specifications.

Where to put access panels

The obvious solution to the bathroom repair problem is to provide access panels for all of the pipe work joints and as much of the pipe length as possible. When you specify what you want in your bathroom remodel make sure that you will be able to get at every joint easily.

Where the water pipes are installed in a separating wall it’s often convenient to provide access on the other side of the wall rather than inside the bathroom where the ceramic tiles are. You may even be able to turn the access into a small cupboard, which would give you an added benefit. Opening the cupboard doors would provide simple access to the water pipes.

Pipe work under bathtub and under floor can be made accessible by removable panels. Make sure that the floor covering allows for this and a suitable sealer is used to fill any gaps when the access is closed.

If the access panel has to go on the bathroom side of the wall then special attention to waterproofing will be required.

How to make access panels in ceramic tiles

To accommodate a radiator in my bathroom remodel the contractors built a false wall to hide the pipe work. This wall was then set with ceramic tiles and the radiator mounted in front of the tiles. This pipe work has not leaked but I do wonder what I would do if it ever did.

Tiling a small part of the false wall separately on a removable section could have provided an access panel. This would then be screwed firmly to the main part of the wall and the edges sealed with a silicon-sealing compound. The screws would pass through the tiles so silicon sealer would be used to seal the screw heads and holes in the tiles. When the need arose the sealer could be stripped away and the panel unscrewed. Resealing when the problem was fixed would be just as easy.

For more bathroom remodeling tips take a look at this article on setting bathroom tiles:
Setting Ceramic Tile Made Easy

Home Buyers and Sellers Real Estate Glossary

Every business has it’s jargon and residential real estate is no exception. Mark Nash author of 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home shares commonly used terms with home buyers and sellers.

1031 exchange or Starker exchange: The delayed exchange of properties that qualifies for tax purposes as a tax-deferred exchange.

1099: The statement of income reported to the IRS for an independent contractor.

A/I: A contract that is pending with attorney and inspection contingencies.

Accompanied showings: Those showings where the listing agent must accompany an agent and his or her clients when viewing a listing.

Addendum: An addition to; a document.

Adjustable rate mortgage (ARM): A type of mortgage loan whose interest rate is tied to an economic index, which fluctuates with the market. Typical ARM periods are one, three, five, and seven years.

Agent: The licensed real estate salesperson or broker who represents buyers or sellers.

Annual percentage rate (APR): The total costs (interest rate, closing costs, fees, and so on) that are part of a borrower’s loan, expressed as a percentage rate of interest. The total costs are amortized over the term of the loan.

Application fees: Fees that mortgage companies charge buyers at the time of written application for a loan; for example, fees for running credit reports of borrowers, property appraisal fees, and lender-specific fees.

Appointments: Those times or time periods an agent shows properties to clients.

Appraisal: A document of opinion of property value at a specific point in time.

Appraised price (AP): The price the third-party relocation company offers (under most contracts) the seller for his or her property. Generally, the average of two or more independent appraisals.

“As-is”: A contract or offer clause stating that the seller will not repair or correct any problems with the property. Also used in listings and marketing materials.

Assumable mortgage: One in which the buyer agrees to fulfill the obligations of the existing loan agreement that the seller made with the lender. When assuming a mortgage, a buyer becomes personally liable for the payment of principal and interest. The original mortgagor should receive a written release from the liability when the buyer assumes the original mortgage.

Back on market (BOM): When a property or listing is placed back on the market after being removed from the market recently.

Back-up agent: A licensed agent who works with clients when their agent is unavailable.

Balloon mortgage: A type of mortgage that is generally paid over a short period of time, but is amortized over a longer period of time. The borrower typically pays a combination of principal and interest. At the end of the loan term, the entire unpaid balance must be repaid.

Back-up offer: When an offer is accepted contingent on the fall through or voiding of an accepted first offer on a property.

Bill of sale: Transfers title to personal property in a transaction.

Board of REALTORS® (local): An association of REALTORS® in a specific geographic area.

Broker: A state licensed individual who acts as the agent for the seller or buyer.

Broker of record: The person registered with his or her state licensing authority as the managing broker of a specific real estate sales office.

Broker’s market analysis (BMA): The real estate broker’s opinion of the expected final net sale price, determined after acquisition of the property by the third-party company.

Broker’s tour: A preset time and day when real estate sales agents can view listings by multiple brokerages in the market.

Buyer: The purchaser of a property.

Buyer agency: A real estate broker retained by the buyer who has a fiduciary duty to the buyer.

Buyer agent: The agent who shows the buyer’s property, negotiates the contract or offer for the buyer, and works with the buyer to close the transaction.

Carrying costs: Cost incurred to maintain a property (taxes, interest, insurance, utilities, and so on).

Closing: The end of a transaction process where the deed is delivered, documents are signed, and funds are dispersed.

CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange): The insurance industry’s national database that assigns individuals a risk score. CLUE also has an electronic file of a properties insurance history. These files are accessible by insurance companies nationally. These files could impact the ability to sell property as they might contain information that a prospective buyer might find objectionable, and in some cases not even insurable.

Commission: The compensation paid to the listing brokerage by the seller for selling the property. A buyer may also be required to pay a commission to his or her agent.

Commission split: The percentage split of commission compen-sation between the real estate sales brokerage and the real estate sales agent or broker.

Competitive Market Analysis (CMA): The analysis used to provide market information to the seller and assist the real estate broker in securing the listing.

Condominium association: An association of all owners in a condominium.

Condominium budget: A financial forecast and report of a condominium association’s expenses and savings.

Condominium by-laws: Rules passed by the condominium association used in administration of the condominium property.

Condominium declarations: A document that legally establishes a condominium.

Condominium right of first refusal: A person or an association that has the first opportunity to purchase condominium real estate when it becomes available or the right to meet any other offer.

Condominium rules and regulation: Rules of a condominium association by which owners agree to abide.

Contingency: A provision in a contract requiring certain acts to be completed before the contract is binding.

Continue to show: When a property is under contract with contingencies, but the seller requests that the property continue to be shown to prospective buyers until contingencies are released.

Contract for deed: A sales contract in which the buyer takes possession of the property but the seller holds title until the loan is paid. Also known as an installment sale contract.

Conventional mortgage: A type of mortgage that has certain limitations placed on it to meet secondary market guidelines. Mortgage companies, banks, and savings and loans underwrite conventional mortgages.

Cooperating commission: A commission offered to the buyer’s agent brokerage for bringing a buyer to the selling brokerage’s listing.

Cooperative (Co-op): Where the shareholders of the corporation are the inhabitants of the building. Each shareholder has the right to lease a specific unit. The difference between a co-op and a condo is in a co-op, one owns shares in a corporation; in a condo one owns the unit fee simple.

Counteroffer: The response to an offer or a bid by the seller or buyer after the original offer or bid.

Credit report: Includes all of the history for a borrower’s credit accounts, outstanding debts, and payment timelines on past or current debts.

Credit score: A score assigned to a borrower’s credit report based on information contained therein.

Curb appeal: The visual impact a property projects from the street.

Days on market: The number of days a property has been on the market.

Decree: A judgment of the court that sets out the agreements and rights of the parties.

Disclosures: Federal, state, county, and local requirements of disclosure that the seller provides and the buyer acknowledges.

Divorce: The legal separation of a husband and wife effected by a court decree that totally dissolves the marriage relationship.

DOM: Days on market.

Down payment: The amount of cash put toward a purchase by the borrower.

Drive-by: When a buyer or seller agent or broker drives by a property listing or potential li
sting.

Dual agent: A state-licensed individual who represents the seller and the buyer in a single transaction.

Earnest money deposit: The money given to the seller at the time the offer is made as a sign of the buyer’s good faith.

Escrow account for real estate taxes and insurance: An account into which borrowers pay monthly prorations for real estate taxes and property insurance.

Exclusions: Fixtures or personal property that are excluded from the contract or offer to purchase.

Expired (listing): A property listing that has expired per the terms of the listing agreement.

Fax rider: A document that treats facsimile transmission as the same legal effect as the original document.

Feedback: The real estate sales agent and/or his or her client’s reaction to a listing or property. Requested by the listing agent.

Fee simple: A form of property ownership where the owner has the right to use and dispose of property at will.

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) Loan Guarantee: A guarantee by the FHA that a percentage of a loan will be underwritten by a mortgage company or banker.

Fixture: Personal property that has become part of the property through permanent attachment.

Flat fee: A predetermined amount of compensation received or paid for a specific service in a real estate transaction.

For sale by owner (FSBO): A property that is for sale by the owner of the property.

Gift letter: A letter to a lender stating that a gift of cash has been made to the buyer(s) and that the person gifting the cash to the buyer is not expecting the gift to be repaid. The exact wording of the gift letter should be requested of the lender.

Good faith estimate: Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, within three days of an application submission, lenders are required to provide in writing to potential borrowers a good faith estimate of closing costs.

Gross sale price: The sale price before any concessions.

Hazard insurance: Insurance that covers losses to real estate from damages that might affect its value.

Homeowner’s insurance: Coverage that includes personal liability and theft insurance in addition to hazard insurance.

HUD/RESPA (Housing and Urban Development/Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act): A document and statement that details all of the monies paid out and received at a real estate property closing.

Hybrid adjustable rate: Offers a fixed rate the first 5 years and then adjusts annually for the next 25 years.

IDX (Internet Data Exchange): Allows real estate brokers to advertise each other’s listings posted to listing databases such as the multiple listing service.

Inclusions: Fixtures or personal property that are included in a contract or offer to purchase.

Independent contractor: A real estate sales agent who conducts real estate business through a broker. This agent does not receive salary or benefits from the broker.

Inspection rider: Rider to purchase agreement between third party relocation company and buyer of transferee’s property stating that property is being sold “as is.” All inspection reports conducted by the third party company are disclosed to the buyer and it is the buyer’s duty to do his/her own inspections and tests.

Installment land contract: A contract in which the buyer takes possession of the property while the seller retains the title to the property until the loan is paid.

Interest rate float: The borrower decides to delay locking their interest rate on their loan. They can float their rate in expectation of the rate moving down. At the end of the float period they must lock a rate.

Interest rate lock: When the borrower and lender agree to lock a rate on loan. Can have terms and conditions attached to the lock.

List date: Actual date the property was listed with the current broker.

List price: The price of a property through a listing agreement.

Listing: Brokers written agreement to represent a seller and their property. Agents refer to their inventory of agreements with sellers as listings.

Listing agent: The real estate sales agent that is representing the sellers and their property, through a listing agreement.

Listing agreement: A document that establishes the real estate agent’s agreement with the sellers to represent their property in the market.

Listing appointment: The time when a real estate sales agent meets with potential clients selling a property to secure a listing agreement.

Listing exclusion: A clause included in the listing agreement when the seller (transferee) lists his or her property with a broker.

Loan: An amount of money that is lent to a borrower who agrees to repay the amount plus interest.

Loan application: A document that buyers who are requesting a loan fill out and submit to their lender.

Loan closing costs: The costs a lender charges to close a borrower’s loan. These costs vary from lender to lender and from market to market.

Loan commitment: A written document telling the borrowers that the mortgage company has agreed to lend them a specific amount of money at a specific interest rate for a specific period of time. The loan commitment may also contain conditions upon which the loan commitment is based.

Loan package: The group of mortgage documents that the borrower’s lender sends to the closing or escrow.

Loan processor: An administrative individual who is assigned to check, verify, and assemble all of the documents and the buyer’s funds and the borrower’s loan for closing.

Loan underwriter: One who underwrites a loan for another. Some lenders have investors underwrite a buyer’s loan.

Lockbox: A tool that allows secure storage of property keys on the premises for agent use. A combo uses a rotating dial to gain access with a combination; a Supra® (electronic lockbox or ELB) features a keypad.

Managing broker: A person licensed by the state as a broker who is also the broker of record for a real estate sales office. This person manages the daily operations of a real estate sales office.

Marketing period: The period of time in which the transferee may market his or her property (typically 45, 60, or 90 days), as directed by the third-party company’s contract with the employer.

Mortgage banker: One who lends the bank’s funds to borrowers and brings lenders and borrowers together.

Mortgage broker: A business that or an individual who unites lenders and borrowers and processes mortgage applications.

Mortgage loan servicing company: A company that collects monthly mortgage payments from borrowers.

Multiple listing service (MLS): A service that compiles available properties for sale by member brokers.

Multiple offers: More than one buyers broker present an offer on one property where the offers are negotiated at the same time.

National Association of REALTORS® (NAR): A national association comprised of real estate sales agents.

Net sales price: Gross sales price less concessions to the buyers.

Off market: A property listing that has been removed from the sale inventory in a market. A property can be temporarily or permanently off market.

Offer to purchase: When a buyer proposes certain terms and presents these terms to the seller.

Office tour/caravan: A walking or driving tour by a real estate sales office of listings represented by agents in the office. Usually held on a set day and time.

Parcel identification number (PIN): A taxing authority’s tracking number for a property.

Pending: A real estate contract that has been accepted on a property but the transaction has not closed.

Personal assistant: A real estate sales agent administrative assistant.

Planned unit development (PUD): Mixed-use development that sets aside areas for residential use, commercial use, and public areas such as schools, parks, and so on.

Preapproval: A higher level of buyer/borrower prequalification required by a mortgage lender. Some preapprovals have conditions the borrowe
r must meet.

Prepaid interest: Funds paid by the borrower at closing based on the number of days left in the month of closing.

Prepayment penalty: A fine imposed on the borrower by the lender when the loan is paid off before it comes due.

Prequalification: The mortgage company tells a buyer in advance of the formal mortgage application, how much money the borrower can afford to borrow. Some prequalifications have conditions that the borrower must meet.

Preview appointment: When a buyer’s agent views a property alone to see if it meets his or her buyer’s needs.

Pricing: When the potential seller’s agent goes to the potential listing property to view it for marketing and pricing purposes.

Principal: The amount of money a buyer borrows.

Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI): The four parts that make up a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment. Private mortgage insurance (PMI): A special insurance paid by a borrower in monthly installments, typically of loans of more than 80 percent of the value of the property.

Professional designation: Additional nonlicensed real estate education completed by a real estate professional.

Professional regulation: A state licensing authority that oversees and disciplines licensees.

Promissory note: A promise-to-pay document used with a contract or an offer to purchase.

R & I: Estimated and actual repair and improvement costs.

Real estate agent: An individual who is licensed by the state and who acts on behalf of his or her client, the buyer or seller. The real estate agent who does not have a broker’s license must work for a licensed broker.

Real estate contract: A binding agreement between buyer and seller. It consists of an offer and an acceptance as well as consideration (i.e., money).

REALTOR®: A registered trademark of the National Association of REALTORS® that can be used only by its members.

Release deed: A written document stating that a seller or buyer has satisfied his or her obligation on a debt. This document is usually recorded.

Relist: Property that was listed with another broker but relisted with a current broker.

Rider: A separate document that is attached to a document in some way. This is done so that an entire document does not need to be rewritten.

Salaried agent: A real estate sales agent or broker who receives all or part of his or her compensation in real estate sales in the form of a salary.

Sale price: The price paid for a listing or property.

Seller (owner): The owner of a property who has signed a listing agreement or a potential listing agreement.

Showing: When a listing is shown to prospective buyers or the buyer’s agent (preview).

Special assessment: A special and additional charge to a unit in a condominium or cooperative. Also a special real estate tax for improvements that benefit a property.

State Association of REALTORS®: An association of REALTORS® in a specific state.

Supra®: An electronic lockbox (ELB) that holds keys to a property. The user must have a Supra keypad to use the lockbox.

Temporarily off market (TOM): A listed property that is taken off the market due to illness, travel, needed repairs, and so on.

Temporary housing: Housing a transferee occupies until permanent housing is selected or becomes available.

Transaction: The real estate process from offer to closing or escrow.

Transaction management fee (TMF): A fee charged by listing brokers to the seller as part of the listing agreement.

Transaction sides: The two sides of a transaction, sellers and buyers. The term used to record the number of transactions in which a real estate sales agent or broker was involved during a specific period.

24-hour notice: Allowed by law, tenants must be informed of showing 24 hours before you arrive.

Under contract: A property that has an accepted real estate contract between seller and buyer.

VA (Veterans Administration) Loan Guarantee: A guarantee on a mortgage amount backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Virtual tour: An Internet web/cd-rom-based video presentation of a property.

VOW’s (Virtual Office web sites): An Internet based real estate brokerage business model that works with real estate consumers in same way as a brick and mortar real estate brokerage.

W-2: The Internal Revenue form issued by employer to employee to reflect compensation and deductions to compensation.

W-9: The Internal Revenue form requesting taxpayer identification number and certification.

Walk-through: A showing before closing or escrow that permits the buyers one final tour of the property they are purchasing.

Will: A document by which a person disposes of his or her property after death.

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 – Sales Success on Step at a Time

In commercial real estate agency, we tend to look at the end result of the sale or the lease with perhaps too much focus. There is a lot of work to be done as real estate agents before we get to the end result. The more effective we are with the stages leading through the sale, the easier the end result is to achieve.

To create more opportunity for yourself as a real estate agent, it is best to consider and refine at your actions one step at a time. Thinking and planning each step is a good way to go.

The real estate business is really quite simple. It does however require total dedication to the separate stages of the process in order to become the market leader. Consider these stages:

  1. A prospecting model that you use every day to generate new business opportunity with qualified prospects.
  2. Meeting lots of local people who could potentially have an interest in commercial real estate in selling, renting, occupying or owning.
  3. A presentation process that hits the mark every time with the people that you have qualified in and around the local area. Include facts about the local market and its prices, results, competition, time on market, and property solutions available.
  4. A listing model that identifies the right target market that the marketing campaign can be built around with great effect. If you do not know your target market you cannot sell or lease the property in a timely way.
  5. A marketing model that is reliable and direct to attract enquiry for the property quickly and effectively. Every property is unique so the marketing should also be specially designed for the property.
  6. An inspection process that is designed to the property and picks up the key features of the property for the buyers or tenants as the case may be. To do this you have to know the property well.
  7. A negotiation system that gets qualified prospects onto paper so you have something to negotiate with. Verbal offers are difficult to negotiate because you really have nothing to work with. Get the offer on paper before you do anything with it.
  8. Enforceable legal documentation for the deal should be accurately and quickly drawn up for the parties concerned. Slow documentation creation or completion will kill a deal faster than anything else.
  9. When the deal is signed up, it is never really finished; on that basis is pays to stay with the deal to the very end. Hurdles and obstacles will develop as you move through the time between documentation and settlement.

When you work in commercial real estate it is the levels and stages above that will bring the results for the salesperson. Refine and specialize your actions and processes in each of the stages. On that basis you will get more of the right results coming through.

Choosing the Perfect Pair of Ladies Art Shoes to Wear For Evening Party

The collection of Ladies art shoes has been designed with innovation at heart. This unique collection of shoes combines both comfort and design. Whether it is peep toe shoes or boot sandals, all women love to wear something exclusive and striking as their evening wear.

You should choose to wear shoes, which should complement your dress. You should be able to carry yourself well in those shoes. Sometimes it can be exhausting for you to select a pair of matching shoes when you are going out in the evening. However, if you have a collection of Ladies art shoes in your closet then you have nothing to worry. These shoes come in a variety of colours and designs.

When you are out for shopping your perfect pair of evening shoes, you will have to see that it is stylish as well as comfortable. The shoes come in various designs and at extremely inexpensive rates. Sometimes you may even get a good price for these shoes if you get them on sale. Before making, any purchases check for the originality of the product because you surely do not want to be tricked.

Some of the products in this collection are highly in fashion and purchased by many women. Black is the chosen colour for most women for party wear. It is elegant and sophisticated and goes well with most dresses. In this shoe collection, you will find clogged heels in black that are super classy. If you want to go for something different then you can opt for the black suede wedge boot. They are ankle boot with peep toes and are ideal for summer or spring. In the Ladies art shoes collection you may also find buckle wedges with multi straps to go with your short dress. These are peep toe shoes with high-wedged heels and ooze absolute style and class.

With a short dress, you can try out the platform boots. These boots have synthetic lining and sole, which add a touch of glamour to your closet. If you are attending a corporate party then the timeless court shoes from Ladies art shoes will be absolutely befitting. These are sophisticated shoes and are ideal for any formal occasions. With a button and a round toe, these shoes are regarded as classic footwear for women of all ages.

Last but not the least is the gorgeous high heels from this collection that can be an appropriate choice for your evening party wear. No wardrobe would be complete without these killer heels. These high-heeled shoes are glamorous, have excellent cuts, and are an absolute must -buy for all women.

These shoes are chic and trendy and offer different categories from which you can choose your perfect pair for your evening party. Measure your foot size before you actually venture out to buy any product. Whether it is high-heeled boots or clogged heels or even brogues shoes every women will find something suitable on offer.

Make your wardrobe complete by adding a pair of ladies art shoes today.

Business Planning a Commercial Real Estate Agency

Every commercial property office has its unique commission challenges and listing opportunities; and that is in any property market and economic circumstances. To help with this a wise property sales agent will set some best practice guidelines and rules to keep the agency office and its staff on track to clearly established targets. A business plan for the commercial property office is essential to the process.

Whilst the buyers and sellers of property will undergo change and pressure, they still need to do property sales and rentals. It is the agency momentum and activity to capture that activity that is critical in the performance of a commercial real estate office.

The agencies that must close their doors when the market is poor predictably have no significant marketing and prospecting models. They simply take listing opportunity when it walks in the door. When the market slows and changes, that walk in business does not occur. This property office has no mechanism to grow market share when times are tough.

Many agencies operate with a code of practice or best practice business model to enable them to serve both the clients and the customers professionally. Some real estate franchising groups and marketing groups also offer this level of practice professionalism in their business model to which the agency can operate within.

You can structure your own code of practice and set some rules that will help your business down the path to success. Your business plan should involve and include the following criteria:

  • business planning for the next 5 years with a great focus on the next 12 months
  • income, and expense targets based on a staged growth model
  • listing targets for each month of the year
  • marketing strategies for the office and for the listings you generate
  • internet and website initiatives plus a website that is optimized for your market and location
  • database tools and strategies to grow your market intelligence and future opportunities
  • a clearly defined target market from which you will attract listings for the office
  • staff growth plans to implement as changes in the market occur
  • performance guidelines and job specifications to ensure quality work targets
  • ethical standards for sales, and property management staff
  • documentation systems and rules to implement and track contracts and associated forms or processes in sales, rentals, or property management
  • staff goals, objectives, targets, and processes that can be measured by KPI
  • privacy and confidential business processes that apply with members of the public and clients
  • quality assurance procedures that keep the office functioning within guidelines
  • strategic plans that give stability and growth a priority in your business plan
  • occupational health and safety rules that protect your staff and clients in situations of property activity
  • financial targets and commission structures that reward good people and performing sales staff

These elements can and should be implemented in your real estate business plan. Once the plan is set it becomes your roadmap to a better and more stable office in any real estate market. This means better commissions and listings in any property market. Survive and thrive is a fundamental rule in real estate best practice, and this is in any market and at any time.