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objectives of the merger or acquisition is directly correlated with the degree to which that disintegration has been replaced by a set of business processes and information systems that are common enough to generate enterprise-wide leverage.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

Vacation Rentals and Holiday Home Rentals – "Tips For Renting"

So you’re planning the holidays, you fancy something in the sun, but where to go? Who is coming? How many?
Will we rent a luxury condo or house instead of staying in a hotel? Well you can make big savings by taking a Villa. Plus, you’ll have more space and privacy to relax and enjoy your home away from home. Renting a vacation home is an especially smart choice if you’re traveling with a group of friend or with kids.

Here are some tips to help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

1. Once you choose a destination.
If you’re looking for sensational savings your best bet is to choose a destination where there are a lot of holiday rentals on the market, keeping prices competitive. You can find some of the best bargains on vacation home rentals online if you know what to ask about and how to protect yourself as a renter. Don’t be shy contact the owner and ask for a deal.

2. Comparison sites- way to go!
Now it’s easier than ever to comparison shop when you’re looking to save on a vacation home rental. You can find some of the best rental home listings the net has to offer on sites like holiday121 and other consolidator sites like these. These are referral sites not booking site and you can check out many homes at the same time to get the best prices and most suitable dates and keep a record of sites visited.

3. Don’t send money.
When renting a vacation home, never send anyone money it’s a bad idea. Pay by credit card or PayPal where you have some come back.
Ask for references, and check out their Web site and their track record. Read their reviews! Read the fine print. Is there a cancellation policy? What if you have to leave early? Does it stipulate when you will get your breakage deposit back? Spend the time up front checking things out so you won’t have any hassles later.

4. Know exactly what’s included.
When you book a rental home for your holidays it’s a short term rental and everything should be included, if there are extras like pool heat, these will be stipulated on the invoice.
Most rental homes will say “everything’s included,” but you want to double-check to be sure that there are no hidden surcharges there should not be any.
If utilities, Internet and cable are included, does this mean the property has Wi-Fi and high-speed Internet? Is it basic cable or premium? If electricity is paid is there a cap? Many properties will say they include utilities, electricity and gas and then the fine print says it’s included, up to the first $200.
Recommendation; don’t touch a short term rental that is not all inclusive.

5. Who is the local management company?
Ask who has the local management of the property these are a very important part of the service and backup. Your rental contract should include who to call if your dishwasher breaks or there’s some other problem with the property. It should also state a time frame for fixing any major problems. You don’t want to rent a home and have the hot water heater conk out and end up with cold showers for two week. The information should also be posted in a contact book inside the property. Make sure you have a phone number and email address of the contact and if possible get a second person as a backup.

6. Is the home family friendly?
If you’re traveling with kids, make sure the property you rental is family friendly. Check the bed configurations. If you have three kids and the guest room only has a king-sized bed you could be in trouble. Does the pool have an alarm? (Toddler safety)
Also make sure you see lots pictures of the home. Do you really want to rent a place with a white couch and fancy décor if your 3-year-old still thinks it is fun to color on everything in sight? Make sure the home you’re renting fits your family’s needs so you’re all comfortable. What about the location? Where is the house what are the local amenities? Is it close to the attractions?

7. Can you bring a pet?
Some vacation rentals accept pets, but they may have a size limit. Some folks would not like to rent a property for their family that had the possibility of a pet staying in with previous guests in the home, unhygienic, so if that may be a problem eliminate pet friendly from your search.

8. Is a refund available if you leave early?
If you think you may want or need to leave early, check your contract to see if you’re eligible for a partial refund. Most vacation rentals are for a specific time period and don’t offer refunds because that leaves the homeowner in a lurch with no time to rent to someone else. Know going in what the rules are so there are no unpleasant surprises.

9. Pick a house that most suits your needs.
Keep in mind when you’re renting a vacation home you’re renting a property that’s individually owned. This isn’t a hotel where if you don’t like what you have you can get something else. Once you book and pay your deposit for a specific property, that’s the property you’re getting, so make sure it’s exactly what you want. Ask if reviews from other renters are available; also remember you get what you pay for so contact the owner. While scoring a good deal is the goal, if it’s too cheap there’s probably a reason check it out. Sometimes the cheapest price is not the best value.

10. Book early.
Avoid disappointment; there are certain times of the year when the villa rentals are on fire, so book early. Also you might look at the availability on the owners web site and pick a slightly out of season time, which brings me back to point one, don’t be shy contact the owner and ask for a deal. A last point to help is a lot of vacation rental owners have links to car rental and cheap flights sites or attraction ticket sites. Try and do a package deal for all three or four services. Good luck!!

Things I Have Learnt About Prospecting and Cold Calling in Commercial Real Estate

In any real estate market and economy, the prospecting process remains fundamentally important to the success of the real estate agent and individual salesperson. Prospecting on a daily basis is the key to progress and success with both territory control and domination.

Here are some key facts that I have learned from prospecting and cold calling over the years:

  1. Most people working in the industry rank very poorly when it comes to prospecting on a regular basis. This is a significant opportunity for those that get their prospecting model under control.
  2. Face to face contact remains the ultimate conversion factor when it comes to prospecting. Everything you do should point towards a successful introductory meeting with the qualified parties.
  3. The telephone is a very powerful tool for creating meetings and contact with the right people. The cold calling process you use must be consistent and professional. Gone are the days of sleazy sales pitches.
  4. One of the more successful traditional methods of marketing that has been around for years is the signboard. The more signboards you get into your territory, the more momentum and ease you will have with building listing and sales opportunity. The signboard infers that you have market presence and domination. That is what the local community and property investors think, providing you have a good number of signboards placed on quality property throughout the area.
  5. E-mail marketing and database use is now critical to both the individual salesperson and the real estate agency office. It remains a tool of constant contact of relevant property information to qualified prospects. These are people that already know you and expect information and property updates from time to time. Growing and shaping the database each day from personal contact across the sales team is fundamental to progress and market share.
  6. Some less experienced salespeople tend to rely on E mail as the first and final point of contact. The process of Email is convenient and easy to use, however it has little benefit in prospecting and will not replace the benefit of one to one contact. If the prospect does not respond to the Email, a typical salesperson will usually discard and forget the prospect. The reality of the prospecting emails that you send is that most of them are deleted and discarded.

Prospecting for commercial real estate listing opportunity should be based around unique and personal contact. The more that local people know you personally as a professional and knowledgeable real estate expert, the more listings you will achieve. This image and mantle takes time to develop but it will occur through diligent personal contact.

How To Get Traffic As An Internet Marketer

Becoming a successful internet market is no joke. To really make more money than the guy that work his heart out from 9am-5pm takes knowing how to do the right thing. Some people say you need to work hard to make it in internet marketing. But, I would say that you not only work hard but work smart.

Every info-preneur or internet marketer undoubtedly needs to get traffic to make it in the internet business. The internet business is very competitive and if you do not know how to gain traffic to win the heart of people surfing the net, you may eventually become a failure. I have seen and heard many information marketer with right passion and excitement, become frustrated and fail in this business. You could avoid being frustrated and having the believe that internet marketing does not work or it is a big scam. You only need to become smarter to make 4 or 5 digit cash with an effective traffic strategy.

There are 3 skills that you will need to cultivate if only you want to make big money selling information over the internet.

*Perfect the bait
*Target the right people
*Delivering the right solution quickly

When you think of getting or gaining traffic for your internet marketing business, you must keep three things in mind:

1. Who is my target audience

2. What do they want?

3. How can i motivate this target audience to act now?

Let look at these closely;

Who is my target audience:If you want to market products/services or information you must first find a group of people who are hungry for such information. I call this ‘finding hungry fish’. I prefer a school of fish in ‘feeding frenzy’. If you drop your bait, that is traffic into such a school of hungry fish, they will attack your bait.
The most important part of marketing is not the traffic you could drive to the product. It is targeting your traffic to the right audience.

2. Where do you find your right audience:You have 2 choices;you can either devise traffic from someone else medium or create your own traffic strategy and get your own customers. In other words, you could pay for it as in using pay per click(PPC) or buying classified ads slot/space. But, for starters it could be expensive.

A free and no-cost method of getting traffic is to build a list. You can write a 8-15 pages report or create an e- book and give it out for free in giveaway events or forums sites. People who opt-in for your report, leave their name and email address. With this, they become willing subscribers you manage for your marketing activities.

3. How do I motivate the target audience to buy Now:As a student of marketing, i have discovered some principle that work. There are 6 of them:

a. Consensus:Give people what they want. The ‘hottest’ thing that is in demand by a large number of people. It will induce a potential buyer to say yes easily to your product.

b. Reciprocity:You should give them bonus for buying your products. Give them a free ‘gift’. It creates a subtle obligation to them to buy your product.

c. Scarcity:Attach a time limited and quantity limit to the amount you have to sell. This create urgency in the potential buyers.

d. Authority:Talk like an expert. If you are a newbie, you can have a joint venture with experts. you should note that people like to deal with experts.
e. Commitment:Whatever you promise you will do, stick to your words. Give yourself to doing what you say.

f. Liking:Make them like you and your products. appeal to their sense of liking to you and your product.

Traffic is the hub of your marketing campaign in internet marketing. Do every thing you can to get traffic. Always remember, without it you are less likely to succeed online. I wish you success and see you at the top.

10 Benefits of Travel RN Nursing Jobs

People choose travel RN nursing jobs for a variety of reasons. Some like building a career as a travel nurse, as it lets them build unique and valuable skills. Others like the often lucrative pay opportunities. And of course there’s the wealth of destinations that those with travel RN nursing jobs can choose from. Travel RN nursing jobs are the launching pad to new adventures and new challenges. Here are the top 10 reasons that thousands of others have pursued travel RN jobs.

1. The chance to travel across the country – Want to see the United States? Whether you’ve dreamed of spending autumn in New England or winter in Southern California, travel RN jobs can help make it happen. Love the outdoors? Then you can take assignments near Colorado’s Rocky Mountains or by Washington’s scenic Puget Sound. Have you ever dreamed of hiking across the mesas of New Mexico? Want to relax along the shores of the Gulf Coast? You can do it all with a travel nursing career.

2. Great payment opportunities – Travel RN jobs are in demand. And that demand is only expected to grow. That means that travel nurses are often handsomely compensated. Typical pay rates range from $22 to $40 an hour, while experienced nurses can sometimes get specialized travel positions that pay even more.

3. Build your resume – Travel health jobs often place nurses alongside a range of experts in some of the world’s leading health care facilities, which gives traveling nurses the opportunity to learn new techniques and develop unique skills.

4. Choose your workplace – Some people prefer travel RN jobs and assignments at large, fast-paced health facilities. Some would rather prefer to work in a smaller community hospital. The great news is that travel nurses can experience them all while on assignment. There are always many choices available, and you can choose the RN nursing assignments that are right for you.

5. Greater control over your career – Ever feel like taking a month off? Everyone does from time to time. And for travel nurses, it’s much easier to take time off. Want a couple of weeks or a month off? You can do it between travel jobs. That also provides great opportunities for continuing education. With RN nursing assignments, it’s easy to schedule time off to take a class, or get an assignment near the country’s best nursing colleges.

6. Get bonuses – It’s not uncommon for travel RN nursing jobs to come with generous sign-on bonuses. Travel nurses can earn anywhere from $500 to $6,000 for simply signing on for a temporary assignment. And that’s in addition to pay rates that are often higher than the hourly rate for permanent nurse positions.

7. The opportunity to travel with family or friends – It’s often easy to find great travel nurse assignments that you can sign on to with a friend. Traveling with friends makes exploring the United States even more exciting. And if you’d like to share accommodations with a friend, that’s often possible.

8. Get great housing at no cost – Most travel nursing jobs come with high quality and free housing that’s near your workplace. Some bonuses can include gyms, swimming pools and spas. Getting adequate furniture and other utilities will also be arranged by the travel nursing staffing agency. In other words, everything will be ready for you when you arrive to your assignment.

9. Meet new people and make new friends – Travel RN nursing jobs are the perfect opportunities to meet new people. It’s common for travel nurses to establish great relationships with people across the country. Thanks to online social networks and professional networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s now easier than ever to connect with new people in new cities.

10. Have the ability to try out new locations before you move there – Thinking about relocating but not yet 100 percent sure it’s a good idea? Taking travel RN nursing jobs in a city you’re thinking of moving to is an ideal way to test out the area and decide if it’s right for you.

In other words, travel RN nursing jobs offer nurses freedom. You can choose where you want to work, when you want to work and what you’d like to do. With travel RN nursing jobs, you can take jobs that offer you the pay that you’re worth. It’s all in your hands. Maximize your earning potential. Gain valuable experience. And most importantly, have fun.

In many travel RN nursing job positions, you will have the opportunity to re-sign on to the job if you enjoyed the experience and want to stay. But the best thing about travel RN nursing jobs is that you’ll also get to say goodbye to the office politics and other hassles associated with permanent nursing positions.

Perfect Beaches for Holiday Rentals in Murcia

Murcia, located along Spain’s Costa Calida, is known for its year-round warm, sunny climate which attracts holidaymakers to the region. With an abundance of villas for rent on resorts such as Polaris World’s Mar Menor Golf Resort, La Torre Golf Resort and El Valle Golf Resort tourists can rent luxury Murcia villas with private pools or affordable apartments and take full advantage of resort facilities such as communal pools, playgrounds, tennis courts and nearby restaurants.

If you’re planning on looking for holiday rentals in Murcia this summer make sure you explore the local area and visit the many beautiful beaches on offer. Murcia, also known as the Costa Calida in Spain offers over a hundred beaches for everyone to enjoy, whether you want to travel by boat to a picturesque deserted cove, or relax on a stretch of sandy beach to soak up the sun.

Simply travel a short distance from Murcia city to the coast to explore popular areas. Beach towns to visit include Mar Menor, San Javier, Cartagena, Mazarron, Aguilas, San Piedro del Pinatar and Lo Pagan. The Mar Menor in particular ( a large salt water lake effectively) is a really popular area to visit, with its warm Mediterranean waters and vast, golden beaches, shallow waters and small waves; Murciabeaches really cater for everyone.

Mar Menor beaches

Villa Nanitos

Located on the Costa Calida above Lo Pagan, the Villa Nanitos beach offers water skiing, volleyball, windsurfing and sea kayaking. Nearby are the mud baths of San Pedro del Pinatar; well worth a visit.

La Llana

Located on San Pedro de Pinatar, Mar Menor, this is a blue flag beach and can get busy during peak season. It is a long, sandy beach and foot showers are available during the peak season. The waters here are mild and so perfect to take a dip.

El Espejo

Another blue flag beach, El Esperjo can also be found on the Mar Menor coastline. This sandy beach is perfect if you fancy a spot of surfing, volley ball and kayaking. The waters here are calm.

Los Nietos

This is another popular Mar Menor beach. It offers 4km of long grey, sandy beach with shower facilities, as well as lots of restaurants and calm waters.

San Javier beaches


Euromanga beach is located in San Javier, Murcia. It’s typical of the La Manga stretch, which means its golden sands and pleasant waters attract many tourists and locals.


This San Javier sandy beach offers a picnic area, snack bar, accommodation, showers, beach cleaning and houses a Red Cross station. Lifeguards also patrol the area, and it’s also one of the safest beaches as it’s patrolled by local police.

Cartagena beaches

Cala Cortina

Close to Cartagena, this Murcia cove is located just a couple of minutes drive away. The locals will cycle and walk to Cala Cortina to enjoy a day of relaxation; spend a peaceful afternoon here with friends or family.


Calblanqueis a protected nature reserve, home to sandy beaches and coves. This beach is one of the few you are allowed to take dogs down to, so it’s advisable to keep away from the lower end of the beach if you wish to avoid the family pets. As it’s a protected area, there are no facilities like restaurants or bars, but there is a car park.

Cala Medina, Las Melvas and Levante

This group of three beaches are small beaches, with slightly less calm water. They range from sand to gravel to rock. There are restaurant services nearby, and it’s the perfect location if you fancy a spot of snorkelling.

El Portus

This is a very quiet beach in Cartagena. It’s sandy, and does offer showering facilities, but has limited disabled access as it’s difficult to reach.

El Belonte Grande and Salitrona

These two beaches in Cartagena are short and sandy, and are only accessible by boat or on foot, so they’re perfect if you’re looking for a quiet spot. These coves are very beautiful, surrounded by mountains with wild vegetation.

La Calera and San Gins

La Calera and San Gins are gravel and sand beaches, with calm water making them suitable for families. They offer reasonable facilities such as showers, as well as a few restaurants and shops nearby.

Mazarron beaches

Bolnuevo beach

Bolnueva beach is located at Mazarron, Murcia. This lovely golden sandy beach is great for families, and offers a picnic area, snack bar, showers and toilets. It’s also got a Red Cross Station and lifeguards on duty, in addition to offering water sport equipment for rent. It can get very busy during peak seasons, but generally isn’t quite as busy as other blue flag beaches along the Costa Calida.


Also located at Mazarron, Murcia, this golden sandy beach is great for children with its calm waters and shower facilities.

El Castallar

Facilities available: This beach is located near the town and harbour of Mazarron. El Castallar is a sandy beach, with lovely clean, calm waters. Although popular with families, this beach does not get quite as crowded as some other Blue Flag beaches in this region. Facilities include snack bars, restaurant, showers, telephones, beach cleaning, and a Red Cross point.

El Rihuete and Puerto de Mazarrn

These sandy beaches are perfect for families exploring the Mazarron area, with plenty of local shops and restaurants.

Aguilas beaches

Las Delicias

The sand and pebble beach of Las Delicias can be found in Aguilas, Murcia. It offers many facilities such as a snack bar, restaurant, showers and it also has a Red Cross station, is manned by life guards and patrolled by the local police, so it is an extremely safe beach to visit.


This urban-setting beach offers a snack bar, restaurant, toilets, showers and parking. It’s a very popular beach in the summer months.


This beach is also located at Aguilas, Murcia. Its waters tend not to be as calm as other beaches in the region, making it more exciting for water sport enthusiasts. It offers a Red Cross point, parking and beach cleaning, and again, Calabardina can get quite busy.


Sizes at just over 440 metres, Levante beach offers a snack bar, restaurant, showers, a Red Cross station, lifeguards. Ideal for children, this popular beach is sandy, with calm waters.

Abejerro and Las Pulgas

If you’re after quiet sand and gravel beaches, head to Abejerro or Las Pulas in Augilas. These are both quiet, unspoilt beaches, unfortunately there are no facilities at either location.

Punta del Fraile

This beach is only accessible by foot and offers great, clear water for snorkelling.

Lo Pagan beaches


Villanitos can be found in San Piedro del Pinatar, Lo Pagan, Murcia. It has plenty of facilities available for use, such as snack bars and restaurants, toilets, showers, parking and if you want to take part in water sports, there is equipment available for rental. Calm waters and it’s large, mostly sandy beach make it very popular.

La Puntica

This is a sandy beach, with calm waters. Like many beaches in Murcia, La Puntica offers a restaurant, snack bar, showers, toilets, beach cleaning and a Red Cross station, and is patrolled by lifeguards and local police.

Lorca beaches

Bao de las Mujeres and El Ciscar

These beaches are located further south of the coast, at Lorca. They are both short beaches
, offering fantastic fishing opportunities as well as being perfect locations for swimming and snorkeling.

An Outline of Personal and Business Loan Categories and Their Uses

The number of loan products have increased over the past 20 years as economic necessity and a demanding public in need of specialization to solve financial circumstances. From personal loans, educational loans, business loans and even municipal loans to touch on a few required various industries to be creative. The entities that took part in the creation of the various financial products are actuaries, risk management professionals, “information and informatic engineers” and Wall Street amongst others. It was necessary to create, enhance or break down for better or for worse loan services and products to keep money fluid in a diverse marketplace that required funds to address niche demographics.

  • Personal Loans

Signature Loans – A signature loan is just as it sounds. One applies for a loan and gives a signature on a promissory note to repay the loan in a certain amount of time. That amount of time is called a “loan term ” and may be from six months to five years. Signature loans usually require good credit and the criteria for loan approval are mostly based on the borrower’s credit and and to a lesser degree on assets. Not all signature loans have the same parameters for qualifications. Some loans may require the borrower even with good credit to account for assets to show the lending institution for underwriting purposes. The institution may or may not place a lien on the assets but nevertheless wants to have documentation proving that there are indeed financial or physical assets owned by the borrower. Signature loans usually come with lower interest rates than other types of consumer loans like payday loans, credit card advances, title loans and some car loans. More on these topics later. Who are the lenders in signature loans? They range from large subsidiaries of auto manufacturers to banks, savings and loan institutions, finance companies and payday loan companies.

Credit Card Loans – Credit Card loans or cash advances from credit cards are another form of personal loans. These quick loans are more readily available to the general public and does not require a credit check. To obtain the initial card more than likely required a credit check or at least the process of identification for secured credit cards. Credit card loans or advances usually come with higher interest rates and also other fees for having access to the cash. Various entities allow access to the credit card cash advances from bank tellers, check cashing facilities and automated teller machines (ATMs). The fees vary based on source used to access the funds. To lower the fees for cash advances some use check cashing facilities to have the card charged and receive cash back in turn for not having to incur the fees of ATM machines as cards are assessed a fee twice; first by the ATM company and also their bank. The interest rates on credit card loans or advances are usually higher than signature loans. There are some states that have usury laws that have lower interest rates on credit cards. The loan or advance on a credit card is not a “term loan” as with most signature loans. It is more or less a line of credit the borrower has access to when they need it as long as there are funds available on the credit card. Interest on consumer loans are no longer tax deductible as in previous years. They were designed for short term borrowing needs but many have come to use their credit cards as a regular source of funds in tight economic times or between paychecks.

Wedding LoansA relatively new form of loan to carve out a niche for the lending industry and meet the needs of the increasing costs of weddings is the Wedding Loan. Because of the expense of weddings which can range into six figures, it sometimes requires a personal loan or even a business loan of the families involved to provide a proper wedding. Wedding loans can be secured (using assets for collateral) or unsecured (signature loans) to obtain funds for the ever growing need to pay for the escalating wedding costs and all the various services and products that a successful matrimonial ceremony would need. The credit criteria and the term may vary based on the amount needed and financial status of the people involved.

Payday or Cash Advance Loans is a fast growing market because it usually requires the least of credit criteria used for loan approvals. One can have bad credit for a quick and instant loan. Just having proof of income, proof of identity and a checking account is all that is necessary to secure funds. Even today many have checking accounts without checks one can still obtain a cash advance by asking their bank to produce a one time check to give to the payday loan agency. Many payday loan companies and stores can get approval with no faxing of documents as they utilize other means for proof of income. Although payday loans come with very high annualized interest rates they sometimes are the only source of emergency cash loans for those in need.

Automotive, Motorcylce, RV (recreational vehicle) and Boat Loans – These personal consumer loans are usually not signature only loans but asset based loans. In other words a financial lien is placed against the asset to secure a loan to purchase or refinance the car, boat et al. These consumer loans may sometimes require a down payment of five to twenty-five percent to secure enjoyment and use of ownership. Because these are not funds that are already available as with credit cards they come with a “loan term” from one to six years depending on the choices of the consumer, the marketplace and the credit status. The interest rates can range from very low usually offered by manufacturers of cars, motorcycles, RV’s (recreational vehicles) and boats to very high if the borrower uses a credit card, a finance company or a “buy here – pay here” lender – or the car dealer who finances the purchase of the car by giving the borrower a term of months and years to pay the balance of the loan off.

  • Business Loans

SBA (Small Business Administration) Loans are loans that are given to small businesses which are not able to qualify for a loan from a financial institution for various reasons from lack of business history, lack of collateral to “secure” the loan or not having an adequate credit history. The SBA is not a direct lender but acts as an underwriter on behalf of the bank that funds the loan for the business entity. If the borrower defaults on the loan the SBA will pay the bank a percentage of the balance for taking the financial risk to loan the funds to the business. There are various types of SBA loans which will not be covered in this article but a future article will explain in more detail.

Conventional Business Loans are loans that are either unsecured meaning no asset is used to approve the loan or secured and called “asset based loans” where assets from inventory, equipment, accounts receivable or real estate are used for underwriting for loan approval. Conventional business loans are given to business entities that have great banking relationships, established business credit history with trade lines with other businesses they do business with and good standing with various credit reporting entities like Dun & Bradstreet. There are short term loans with interest only payments with the balance due at the end of the loan usually referred to as a “Balloon Loan”. There are also longer term loans that are fully amortized (principal and interest in each payment) paid over one to five years or more.

Equipment Leasing is a financial instrument which technically is not a loan. Meaning based on tax ramifications and who owns the equipment – leasing is just that – leasing an asset owned by another entity. Leases are usually from large corporations or a bank. The lease term can vary from one to
five years or more and there usually are tax benefits to the business entity in leasing new or used equipment.

Equipment Sale Leaseback is a transaction to use equipment that is already owned by the business or municipal entity to secure funds for the present need for operations. The term can vary from one to five years and the amount of funds can vary based on credit history and a percentage of the fair market value of the equipment. The company then in turn leases the equipment back in usually a monthly payment. The company or the lessee normally has different choices on what they want to do with the equipment at the end of the term. They can roll the lease transaction into newer more updated equipment or software. They can buy the equipment for one dollar or ten percent of the fair market value of the equipment.More and more companies are leasing today as opposed to paying cash or using bank lines or loans.

Merchant Cash Advance is used by businesses that need fast cash and can’t qualify or don’t want to go through the process of getting bank approval for needed funds. A Merchant Cash Advance is also not a loan product but it is the selling of assets or credit card receipts at a discount. In other words the Merchant Cash Advance company buys the credit card receipts and then attaches a fee usually every time the business “batches”, settles or closes the day’s or week’s sales until the funds advanced are paid off. There is no term with merchant cash advances as it is not a loan so there is no set payment amount or period. The paying off of the advanced funds vary based on a the credit and debit card transactions of the day or week.

Factoring Accounts Receivable Invoices enables a business entity that normally has to wait 30 days or longer to be paid by other businesses or governmental entities. Again factoring is not technically a loan but a selling of invoices at a discount for cash now. In a typical transaction the company applies with a Factoring Company and the company looks primarily at the credit of the other business or governmental entity that the company is doing business with. Based on that as long as the client of the company is a solvent business or government agency the invoices are bought and funds are dispensed to the business usually within three days of due diligence on the company they are transacting business with. In other words the funds are dispensed after there is a credit check and processing of the other company. The dollar amount that is advanced can vary from fifty percent of the invoice to eighty or ninety percent depending on various factors such as the size of the invoice to the credit criteria of the other company or governmental entity whether it is a city, county, state or federal agency.

Medical Factoring is a financial transaction that benefits medical entities like hospitals, clinics and various health care professionals that have to wait to receive funds for services performed on patients. Like Factoring and Merchant Cash Advances Medical Factoring is the selling of assets in this case invoices for cash now. In many instances the health care industry receives payment from third party entities like insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare and state entities that provide funds for those in need of medical procedures. The medical facility or professional in turns sells the invoice(s) on a on going basis or one time for cash now. Once there is an interest is selling the receivables then a Factor steps into analyze the billing so that funds can be advanced. This process can vary in length but is usually shorter in length than the process of getting bank financing.

Contract and Purchase Order Funding allows companies to bid on large projects for governmental agencies, hospitals, universities, prison systems and municipalities or also to sell to larger corporations even if the business does not have the credit or bank approval or the wherewithal to service or fulfill a large contract order. Similar to Factoring which works hand in hand with Purchase Order Funding it is not a loan but a simultaneous transaction that involves advancing funds based on the credit of the governmental agency or larger company and the size of the contract. The funds that are advanced are for the cost in completing the order of products or performing services. So the profit that will be gained is not advanced but the costs as in raw and finished material, transportation, production, labor, expertise and any other costs involved in completing the contract. Once the contract is completed or once an invoice is ready to be sent to the client a factoring company which is sometimes owned by the same company buys the invoice at a discount and the funds that would normally be advanced to the company are usually used to settle the amount advanced for the material and other services that were needed to complete the order. Contract and Purchase Order Funding usually requires large transaction amounts as opposed to factoring that can be utilized for invoices as small as one hundred dollars. With the use of Contract and Purchase Order Funding companies that were locked out of the process of bidding on large contract s may become players in multi-million dollar deals.

Commercial Real Estate Sale Leasebacks are similar to Equipment Sale Leasebacks featured in this article. Instead of utilizing owned equipment to secure cash when bank borrowing is not wanted or not available the commercial real estate is used to access funds now. This can vary from office buildings, medical buildings, retail franchises, industrial buildings and manufacturing to large utility plants. This frees up cash “locked” away in real estate. Many entities find that at the present time the business they are in whether it is retail, manufacturing or another field that the holding of commercial real estate is not in their best financial interest for now. They prefer to put to use funds for their industry. So a retailer selling retails goods decides to focus on the retail operations and to lease the space because that real estate when factored into a myriad of calculations does not fit their financial goals during the present time. Yes the ownership of commercial real estate is an asset and can be used as a security for a loan but may also be viewed as a fixed non-performing entity that does not meet the needs of the business, organization, group or individual that owns the building. Commercial Real Estate Sale Leasebacks are another form of getting access to funds and has increased over the years.

Fixing Solutions for Automotive Industry

Automotive industry demands high strength fasteners and precision components such as nuts, bolts, studs, screws, rivets, tie rods, shims etc. that are applied to various parts and components to hold and connect two or more surfaces or objects together in a structure.

Automotive industry uses fixing components coming in a huge variety of materials ranging from common steel to aluminum, brass, copper, titanium and plastic to other exotic materials. Choosing the material to manufacture these fixing components is essential due to difference between each material’s strength, corrosion resistance, brittleness, galvanic corrosion properties, and of course cost. Materials are basically selected on considerations of environment, corrosive or thermal extremes, magnetic properties, weight, re usability, stresses, and expected life time.

Depending on these specifications materials are classified into grades & quality standards to produce specific quality alloy mixtures that are then used to produce the fixing components. In addition to this, materials are further processed through a variety of coating, plating and hardening processes to form different specified grades of the alloy mixtures.

The various stages to enhance the metal corrosion resistance and appearance increase the cost of production that leads to expensive parts and fixing components. To keep costs within control, it is always advisable to use standardized materials. As specifying the material with specific chemical analysis adds time & cost to the whole process of manufacturing of fixing components. In a common practice, using standard materials only needs heat treating, cold working and coating to manufacture ready to use fixing components.

Quality is the primary concern for every manufacturing process and hence in order to manufacture high quality fixing tools and apply best industry practices that ensure timely deliverables, companies apply quality control methods such as computerized statistical process control archival documentation and various other approaches.

Inspection process involves utilizing tri-roll gages, hardness testers and optical comparators to ensure optimum performance. Automated sorting technologies are applied for assurance of contaminant free product for use in automated feeding equipment. Other than this, third party inspection, verification and certifications testify quality process on the go.

Used in a variety of application areas, replacing fasteners is quite tedious. It is generally best to match them while replacing. Replacing a bolt or screw with a stronger one is always now a good practice as harder bolts tends to be more brittle and may not work for specific applications. In some environments, applying galvanic corrosion methodology may result better.

Establishing More Key Client Relationships in Commercial Real Estate Sales and Leasing

When it comes to selling and leasing commercial real estate, the quality of the client relationship is really the make or break to the long term results you achieve. The most successful real estate agents in this market are those that have established a solid database of qualified contacts with whom they maintain significant and relevant contact.

In many cases some real estate agents will only have 5 to 10 key clients. In business terms this is relatively low unless you are selling and leasing some of the largest property in the local market; that being very large commercial office buildings, industrial parks, and retail shopping centres.

You should be running and connecting with at least 25 well qualified high end prospects or clients constantly in your pipeline. In addition to that, you should have another 25 prospects that can advance into this elite group.

Creating this essential core of higher end prospects for your business is a constant an ongoing strategy. We have said that there are or should be at least 50 prospects in this upper level of your business pipeline. In addition to that you should have at least another 300 suspects to work with and convert to prospects. All of this takes personal contact strategy and implementation. This is not something that you can pass to your sales manager or office principal. It’s a personal thing requiring commitment and consistency.

To establish a solid client relationships the following business model is useful:

  1. Identify the key properties in your local area and seek out the property ownership detail in each respect. Contact will need to be made with those people.
  2. Review the history of all local and major property transactions over the last five years and create a list of relevant property investors. They will be the sellers or buyers of property in each case. These are people that you will need to personally contact and meet with. It is likely that they will act again one day. It will take you some time to build trust and connection with these people, but do not give up.
  3. Create a list of essential target relationships to be established and nurtured from key people and businesses in the region of your property activity.
  4. Cold call prospecting should feature as part of your business model. Each and every working day at least 50 calls should be made. 50% of those calls should be to new people that you have not spoken to before.
  5. Establishing face to face meetings where ever possible with qualified contacts.
  6. Some clients or prospects will be repeat purchasers. Understanding their needs will be part of the ongoing contact process.
  7. Maintain contact with the local business community constantly an regularly. The larger businesses in your local area may own or rent property. Either way they are sources of market intelligence and listing opportunity for sales or leasing.
  8. Some local businesses will have essential property criteria as part of their business model. Identify these needs and capture them in a database.
  9. Have a number of contact tools and processes which make your repeat approaches to your clients and prospects relevant and informational. You can use newsletters, flyers, brochures, success letters, market trends and information briefings, presentation nights, and having regular ‘one on one’ coffee meetings with your prospects.
  10. Professional people associated with the property industry are also good sources of sales and leasing leads. The people you should maintain contact with here are typically solicitors, property lawyers, engineers, quantity surveyors, property valuer, accountants, and bankers or financiers.

These steps are simple; but powerful are the outcomes if you commit to the process.

Which Is More Cost-Effective, Cabs or Car Rentals?

Rent it or cab it?

People like the freedom of having their own vehicle to drive about in, at home or when they travel, and the tendency is to book a rental car when you are away. But freedom comes with a price and it depends where your travel destination is as to whether you’re best to rent a car or take a taxi.

Cheap ground transportation depends upon location, accessibility and extraneous expense factors, like gasoline costs and parking fees. Add to that the potential complexity of finding your way around a strange city, especially a large one, and you might change your mind about what freedom means.

A trip to, for example, New York City or Montreal, two North American cities with decent public transit systems, plenty of cabs, walkable areas in their cores, and very high parking fees, and you’ll realize that a taxi will almost inevitably surface as the cheapest mode of getting around.

But what if you want a day trip to the Laurentian Mountains or the antiques stores of Hudson? That’s the day to rent a car, or to find out if there is a luxury coach service to those destinations that returns the same day.

Car rentals are convenient, to be sure, but the costs add up quickly (don’t forget insurance and occasional peak-season added fees), unless your airline points cover all or most of the cost; even then, in large cities gasoline and parking is very costly, and that is not usually included in credit card or airline rewards perquisites.

When does a rental car make sense? If you live in North America (and can’t drive across the Atlantic Ocean!) and are vacationing in Italy, for example, landing in Rome and taking a motorcar tour of Tuscany and other regions from there, your only other viable option is the train. Like anywhere else, gasoline in Europe is expensive, but you can’t take a full driving holiday in a taxi. But don’t forget, there are guided tours and some taxi drivers will gladly spend a day with you, exploring San Gimignano; they are often the best tour guides, full of information about their homeland. And driving in other countries can be a harrowing experience, especially if it involves driving on the opposite side of the road than you are accustomed to!

Plan your itinerary, do an accurate cost comparison and decide whether a taxi or car rental, or combination of the two, is the cheapest way to get around when you reach your destination. And don’t forget to ensure that your driver’s license is current, and if you need to, get an international license before you set off for your trip. Happy motoring!