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objectives of the merger or acquisition is directly correlated with the degree to which that disintegration has been replaced by a set of business processes and information systems that are common enough to generate enterprise-wide leverage.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

Are There Alternatives to Pay Day or Cash Advance Loans?

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

Banning Pay Day or Cash Advance Loans

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

Loans Are Interest Rate Heavy

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

Interest Rates Vs. Financial Relief and Peace of Mind

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

Improvements Needed

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

Last Word on Pay Day or Cash Advance Loans

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

The Kinds Of Car Keys To Choose From

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cookie Decorating and Cocktails: Themed Parties For the Holiday Season

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

How a Cookie Decorating Party Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adult Beverages for Cookie Decorating

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

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

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

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

India Imports and Exports – Part II

India-America Trade relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The percentage of traded items from India to US

1. Diamonds & precious stones (25%)

2. Textiles (29.01%)

3. Iron & Steel (5.81%)

4. Organic chemicals (4.3%)

5. Machinery (4.6%)

6. Electrical Machinery (4.28%)

The percentage of traded items from US to India

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

2. Precious stones & metals (8.01%)

3. Organic chemicals (4.98%)

4. Optical instruments & equipment (7.33%)

5. Aviation & aircraft ( 16.8%)

Export of Indian Agro Exports to US

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

The main items of Indian Agro Exports to US are:

o Rice and rice products

o Fresh vegetables

o Fresh fruits like mangoes, mango pulp, and grapes

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.

Car Rentals is a Must For Every Traveler

The Gold Coast is an ideal holiday destination for you and your family. It has everything that can make your holiday down under a memorable one. The Gold coast is arguably the best tourist destination in Australia with almost 10 million tourists enjoying its fabulous surf beaches, unparalleled theme parks and dense rainforests every year.

The most visited tourist spot in the Gold Coast is Surfers Paradise. The place offers you with many entertainment options to explore. You can indulge in various exciting activities like surfing, jet skiing, fishing and parasailing during your trip to Surfers Paradise. Apart from these, Surfers paradise is also well known for its active nightlife and unmatched facilities for beach volleyball, golf and bungee jumping.

Along with the surfers paradise, you will find many other tourist attractions. The American Style Theme Parks are few of them. These parks have in stored some of the most exciting options for you and your family. Dreamworld, Movieworld and Wet n’ Wild are the three most famous theme parks in Gold Coast. While planning a trip to these parks, make sure that you have ample time in your hand because these parks are too big and too wonderful to be done with in a single day.

Gold coast is also the home of some of the most incredible architectural masterpieces. The Q1 Building (world’s tallest residential building), Gold Coast Arts Centre, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum are the finest examples. You can’t even afford to miss out the attractions like Tropical Fruit Farm, Sea World and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, during your trip to Gold Coast.

Car rentals gold coast is one of the ways to witness and admire the real beauty of all the tourist attractions. By renting a car, you can visit all these places at your own will. There are many car rentals options that are available for you in Gold Coast. You can go for one way car rental plan, which includes picking the car up from one place and dropping it to the other location. Generally, this plan is preferred by people, who hire cars between airport locations. Another one can be two way rental, which is normally taken up by tourists.

During peak seasons, you might also get some bonus or special offers on your car rental plan. In spite of the plan you choose, make sure that you negotiate with the car rental company.

After all, at the end of the day, it is your money!

A Close Look at Top Reasons to Buy E-Cigarettes

The latest buzz on quit smoking products are electronic cigarettes or ecigs, as they are popularly called. An electronic cigarette is made up of two or three parts, consisting of a cartridge unit, an atomizer and a rechargeable battery. When the device is activated with the button, the nicotine cartridge is heated up by the heating unit to give off vapor that is inhaled. In automatic ecigs, you just have to inhale to activate the device.

Though there are many quit smoking products available, the most effective are e-cigarettes. They look like traditional cigarettes, feel like them, but they are better and cost less.

Here are lots of advantages in buying e-cigarettes. They are environment-friendly because they do not have any of the carcinogenic elements that are present on traditional cigarette smoke. The smoke from an ecig is vapor that quickly dissolves in the air, without toxins. You can beat the smoking ban with e-cigarettes because they can be used in public places where smoking is not allowed.

Ecigs do not contain tar or let out carbon monoxide and this removes the danger of second-hand smoke. As you drag on an e-cigarette, you get that real sense of satisfaction as that of smoking a traditional cigarette, but without letting toxins into your system.

E-cigarettes cost lesser than traditional cigarette and one cartridge is worth a couple of packs. An average smoker would be spending about $2000 or even more on cigarettes but you can save on all of this through e-cigs and this is one of the biggest advantages in buying e-cigarettes. Buying e-cigarettes saves you from problems like stained teeth, hands, finger, and breath, and smelly clothes. You don’t need an ashtray or a lighter to use them. E-cigarettes are easy to use because, you just have to press a button to activate them. The automatic ones can be started with mere inhalation.

If you find using an ecig starter pack to be expensive, check out a disposable electronic cigarette. Disposable e-cigarette types come with an atomizer, battery and a nicotine cartridge that usually lasts for about 12-20 traditional cigarettes. After the nicotine cartridge is completely used up, the cigarette has to be disposed and the device’s battery cannot be used again.

Online Directory Tips

A directory is a list of all the possible services and businesses in an area. Before, the go-to book of every individual was the yellow pages directory. But now that the advent of technology has taken over, we move forward to a dynamic type of directory on the internet.

The dynamic directory listing scheme is a directory where every list has a special treatment, or so to say. Unlike the traditional yellow pages where the contact number and address are the only information available, the dynamic directory allows the viewer to feel the place within a click. There is the availability of the pictures, a virtual tour and videos. This feature would enable one to really have a glimpse of the place without actually having to go there.

It does not matter whether or not your directory is geared towards the local business community or the international arena, it will always be best to have a directory that is content specific. This will create a community within the website. Below are ways to have a better directory.

Create a forum – A forum is a webpage where users from different places could comment and stimulate discussions regarding a certain topic. When you create forum that details all the topics within your directory, people can discuss issues, tips and bugs. This way, people can talk to each other and you can monitor their problems regarding your website at the same time.

Have a news section – People love it when you have updated information on your website. When a person goes to your website and sees no changes, chances are they would look for another website that is worth your time. It is sort of hitting two birds with one stone. One, you attract people to your site and two, you give them useful information.

Announce events – Aside from creating a directory list, it would be best if you would allow your users to announce events to fellow users as well. This would increase their audience and at the same time find sponsors for their event. Think of it as doing your users a favor for the patronage that they have given to you.

One site off the net is one offered by Elumba Technlogies. They have been in the business for song long already. They have dynamic directory listing and has been on the internet for how many years already. You may also resort to other sites which offer the same features.

Life After Death

Following my accident when I was severely burnt, my last memory was being injected morphine at Staincliffe Hospital, Dewsbury, the place I was born and nearly died; following this I was rushed to Pinderfields Hospital at Wakefield where I was to spend the most painful 13 weeks of my life.

My next memory was awakening and finding me stood in a darkened room and in the far corner was a bed, to which all sorts of electronic equipment were attached beeping away and in the bed seemed to be a person but I just wanted to get away from the place.

Strangely all the pain I had previously suffered was gone like one big nightmare, I remember in my disorientated state somehow leaving the room, into a long deserted corridor, illuminated sparsely with a few night lights.

As I approached the end of the corridor a nurse came out of a nearby staff room, laughing merrily at some joke her and the rest of the staff must have been sharing, as she turned and walked towards me I just froze, however, her eyes showed no acknowledgement of my physical presence as she passed by me.

I called out to her when she was about 15 feet past me but she showed no signs of either seeing me or hearing me, I thought this was a little weird by now, but my instincts told me to find an outside door and get away from this strange place.

After a while travelling through the maze of corridors I found a locked exit, upon trying the door to my amazement I found my hand just passed right through it and to my utter bewilderment I found I could walk right through it, I could feel no warmth or cold, I seemed to myself what I can only describe as a physical point in space that could see and hear but could not interact.

With further astonishment I now found myself perhaps 150 foot up in the air and heading through the night, below I could see the tops of the street lamps and a few cars wondering around, I distinctly remember flying over a railway viaduct and towards the city of Wakefield.

The neon sign over the nightclub called Rooftop Gardens drew me like a magnet being familiar with the place during my many nights out with my friends The Gangster and The Savage One, I must of thought in retrospect that a familiar place would relieve me of all this craziness but I was flying for Gods sake.

I came down to land near the entrance to the club in front of two of the bouncers I remembered from yesteryear I had on many occasions in the past greeted these two individuals however on this occasion they just continued their small talk oblivious to my sudden appearance from the night sky.

I paused to think and reached out with my hand to touch a nearby wall that was adjacent to the clubs entrance but my hand appeared to have no physical substance and just passed into the fabric of the wall.

It was now that the awful truth finally dawned on me… The people unable to see or hear me, The wall, The doors to the hospital, just suppose they were perfectly normal? Just suppose that it was me who had changed? What if for example I had somehow lost my ‘hardness’, my ability to grasp things, even, to make contact with the world – even to be seen?

I mean what is the point in going anywhere if as the final shreds of my rational mind pointed out if you cannot be seen, and what was that mound in that bed in the little hospital room I had left could that have been my physical body?

I didn’t like this line of thought a human being is not separated from his body unless he is dead, then what state was I in now.

It can go through doors without opening them, it can fly like a bird, it does not feel cold or warmth and remarkable these qualities are, they are no good if one cannot be seen. I decided at this point to go back to Pinderfields and see if I could reacquaint myself with my body, surely pain is better than this.

No sooner had this thought occurred to me I found myself moving at incredible speed through the night back to the doors of Pinderfields, it seems in this strange state you travel by thought alone, handy this may be but the novelty soon wears off rapidly.

Now Pinderfields is a big hospital and in my rush to get out of there I had forgotten just where I had left my body (or indeed what was left of it by now)

I just didn’t have a clue which room it was in. I rationalised that it must be somewhere in the burns unit but it was no use asking the doctors or nurses because they couldn’t see me or hear me.

After an extensive search I managed to find the burns unit and by wondering from room to room I finally found the room I had left earlier and there I was lying unconscious, wired up to an whole variety of strange gadgets.

At this point out of pure desperation for something to do, I decided to recite the lord’s prayer something I had learnt many years ago at school.

The very next moment the absolute impossible happened; a tiny pinprick of light at the side of the bed began to grow brighter and brighter, at first not noticing the pin prick of light I thought it was a tiny night light that was the rooms only illumination that was getting brighter.

But then I saw it was coming from beside the white bedside table at the head of the bed, it continued to brighten as I watched, it brightened to such an extent that had it been any ordinary light I would most certainly of been blinded.

The next moment there flooded directly into my mind the words “Stand Up… you are now in the presence of the Son of God”, whereupon out of the light stepped what I could only describe as the most magnificent being I have ever known.

Thankful at last for a little company in this strange situation I joked “That’s it! Just like that… I am with the Son of God… Isn’t there a reception area or something before we meet?”

I felt a presence of Power and pure love that was older than time but yet more modern than anyone I have ever met.

In the first stage of my experience, what I can only refer to as the earthbound state I had lost three of my senses; smell, taste and touch, however in this further stage in the light, time disappeared completely, a bit like in a dream and I was aware of all my thoughts and actions in my life up to the present day as on big whole.

Every moment in my life was recurring before me at one and the same instant as part of some enormous four dimensional sight and sound mural.

I guessed this was my life review.

But emanating from the being projected pure love, up to that point in my life I had come across much laid back always blaming anyone and everyone for the results of my actions

I also saw from a further dimension an observation of my interactions with others from the other persons point.. I also saw parts of the future which was hazy however I distinctly remember being told that a girl I had met but would never marry had an important role in the creation of my son who was very special. I saw all of my educational achievements so far were purely superfluous but it was the way I treated others that was important and I could see the consequence of my lack of interactions with my fellow students at York University (which I had luckily just graduated a month before).

I could see how the other students saw me as weird and very anti social and they tried to avoid me where possible so that they could avoid the negative effect I had on them hence leading to a deeper feeling of depression thus increasing my isolation.

An endless viscous circle that had dominated my life.

I even could see the hurt on my best friend – The Gangsters emotions when he pulled a bird called Cherelle at Rooftop Gardens, but, I had done my best to split them up by pouring a pint of lager on her head and being very rude.

The tapestry of life was in front of me and I could see how my decisions now would effect the future all of my ambitions of being wealthy and having many material possessions was regarded by the being of light with has much distaste as was my lack of enthusiasm for interacting with
my fellow men.

I could see how my life would change and where I had once sought money and possessions I now treasured simply making other peoples lives more pleasurable at the expense of my own wellbeing.

The being of light then turned to me and said via thought dynamics “Michael, What have you done with your life so far?” I replied using my mind “Why didn’t someone tell me this was what life is about?” the being replied “Somebody did nearly 2000 years ago in your linear time – me!”

I suddenly found myself on the move again, this time we didn’t bother about doors it was straight up through the hospital roof, then we flew at incredible speeds across the surface of the earth however there was no wind to slow us and just a few moments later I found myself approaching a city beside a huge expanse of water.

In the city all the streets and offices were unbelievably crowded, and I could see people passing through other people like they wasn’t there.

We walked into a factory and I saw assembly line workers who were putting together lawnmowers enjoying a coffee break while behind them a woman was pleading for a drag of their cigarette as through she wanted it more than anything in the world.

When one of the workers clearly blind and deaf to the women behind him actually took a cigarette out of his packet and began to smoke it, the woman repeatedly snatched at it but, it was as if she was clawing at thin air.

I came to the conclusion that those people must be ghosts, even though they were dead, they remained chained to the material world by the very things they had deemed most important during their lifetimes their jobs, their cigarette smoking their material possessions.

Myself and the being of light moved from city to city visiting endless places he had to show to me, in one house I remember a younger man followed an older man from room to room “I am sorry dad!” he kept saying repeatedly “I did not know it would do this to my mum – I just didn’t understand!”

The older man was carrying a tray filled with tea and toast into a room where a clearly unwell elderly lady was sat up in bed “I AM SORRY” the younger man cried in frustration over and over again but, clearly his agony fell on deaf ears.

“Why is he so sorry?” I enquired to the being of light, referring to the younger mans pleas “He committed the ultimate selfish act” said the being touching his long beard “suicide” he continued with tears welling in the corner of his eyes “and chained to every consequence of their act of cowardice they are well and truly earthbound” he finished but I knew the answer before I asked.

My next visit was back to the night club in Wakefield called Rooftop Gardens where I had visited earlier in my disorientated state, but, without the concept of time earlier and later were meaningless it is a bit like telling someone bind from birth what is like to see.

Inside the nightclub was an impossibly crowded place where I watched ghost alcoholics mingling with living drunks and whenever a drunk lapsed into a drunken stupor a desperately thirsty ghost sprang inside his body so that the two became one.

The living could be distinguished from the ghosts by a faint cocoon of light around him, however when any living being became inebriated their light cocoon faded, enabling one of the many hovering ghosts to take over their body and literally possess the person.

S horrific was the scene that the only words in my mind that could describe this was “hell”

The mingling ghosts with their eyes so set on alcohol desperately clutching at real life beer glasses had blinded themselves to the magnificent being that accompanied me – Indeed the being told me to keep my eyes firmly on him – probably he was aware of my past record.

In this world of thought far beyond space and time (Thought is a more fundamental principle than the illusion of space or time which pale into mere shadows) it can seemingly be either heaven or hell of your own making.

Earthbound ghosts destroyed by hatred, lust and destructive thought patterns find that whatever they think however fleetingly or unwittingly became instantly apparent to all those who was around him and more completely than words could of expressed it and much faster than sound waves could of carried it.

The thought most commonly communicated amongst earthbound spirits was usually selfish thoughts and this by its very act kept the being earthbound, the being it seemed felt only compassion for these unfortunate souls but he knew it was their will not his that kept them there.

I felt like scrooge in The Christmas Carol having this wise being accompany me back to the hospital for the final time, I wanted to start my life again a fresh when I would care far more about other people and not myself.

No longer would money and possessions be my supreme objective but I would live my life with a desire to make other people happy – the old Mad Mick was truly dead and the new one ready for a reincarnation.

We entered the hospital room for the final time and the image of the being and the bed before me faded – the walls that surrounded my little room at Pinderfields became solid again it was early morning and I was informed by a nurse who had come into open the curtains that it was two days since my accident.

The pain was still there but somewhat dulled by the drugs I had been given, It was to be another thirteen weeks before I was released and I had many more strange experiences in there but nothing that could be compared to the one I have shared with you all.

After subsequent research into my favourite subject Physics I have found that with the merging of two theories of the universe Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity it appears that the 3 dimensions of space and one dimension of time is in fact an illusion created by the world of thought.

Spirits who remain earthbound do eventually find that the hatred and envy are the very emotions that keep them there but wouldn’t it be easier to help our fellow human beings while we are alive.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth” Jesus…