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Mergers & Acquisitions Can Result from Strategic Alliances

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Alliances frequently result in mergers and/or acquisitions. Partnering relationships, such as joint ventures or strategic alliances, can sometimes lead to a merger or acquisition situation. After companies work together for a period of time and get to know one another’s strengths, weaknesses, and synergistic possibilities, new relationship opportunities become apparent. One could argue that a joint venture or strategic alliance is simply the getting to know each other part of a courtship between companies and that the real marriage does not occur until the relationship has been consummated by a merger or acquisition.

To make the point, Dan McQueen, president, at Fluid Components International (FCI) built a Partnering relationship with Vortab, a small technology company. Vortab produced static mixers, a technology suitable for flow conditioning that complemented FCI’s product offering. While Vortab also had three other distribution partners in addition to FCI, FCI’s volume with Vortab continued to grow to the point that Vortab’s technology became an important part of FCI’s total sales volume. After about three years into the relationship, FCI acquired Vortab.

Because of the close relationship between Vortab and FCI, when the Vortab was put up for sale McQueen knew its true value. Resulting from his knowledge, FCI was able to purchase Vortab at a much more realistic price than Vortab’s asking price. The Vortab technology integrated well with FCI’s core competency technology and today FCI also distributes Vortab through some of its non-direct competitors.

The following list demonstrates some of the specific values created or developed from the various organizational blending methods:

· Operational resource sharing

· Functional skill transfer

· Management skill transfer

· Leverage (economies of scale)

· Capability increases

Mergers

Mergers occur when two or more organizations come together to blend or link their strengths. Also in the deal is a blending of their weaknesses. The hopeful result is a new more powerful organization that can better produce goods and services, access markets, and deliver the highest quality customer service. Mergers offer promise for synergistic possibilities. This is achieved by the blending of cultures and retaining the core strengths of each. In this scenario, a new and different organization generally emerges. The goal is a sharing of power, but usually the strongest rise to the top leadership.

Exxon – Mobil

The Federal Trade Commission gave Exxon and Mobil the green light On November 30, 1999 for their $80 billion merger. The next day the transaction was completed. The merged organization officially became Exxon Mobil Corp. The merger actually brings “the companies back to their roots when they were part of John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire. That company was the largest oil firm in the world before it was busted up by the government in 1911.”

At the 1998 announcement of their intention to merge, Mobil chairman, Lucio Noto made a comment about the need to merge. He said, “Today’s announcement combination does not mean rhat we could not survive on our own. This is not a combination based on desperation, it’s one based on opportunity. But we need to face some facts. The world has changed. The easy things are behind us. The easy oil, the easy cost savings, they’re done. Both organizations have pursued internal efficiencies to the extent that they could.”

While part of the deal was the selling of a Northern California refinery and almost 2,500 gas station locations, the divestiture represents only a fraction of their combined $138 billion in assets. Lee Raymond, Exxon chairman, now chairman and chief executive of the merged company said, “The merger will allow Exxon Mobil to compete more effectively with recently combined multinational oil companies and the large state-owned oil companies that are rapidly expanding outside their home areas.”

Exxon Mobil is now like a small oil-rich nation. They have almost 21 billion barrels of oil and gas reserves on hand, enough to satisfy the world’s entire energy needs for more than a year. Yet, there is still the opportunity to cut costs. The companies expect their merger’s economies of scale to cut about $2.8 billion in costs in the near term. They also plan to cut about 9,000 jobs out of the 123,000 worldwide.

AOL – Time Warner

On January 10, 2000, Steve Case, chairman and chief executive of America Online (AOL), sent an e-letter to his 20 million members. He said, “Less than two weeks ago, people all over the world came together in a global celebration of the new century, and the new millennium. As I said in my first Community Update of the 21st Century, all of us at AOL are extremely excited by the challenges and prospects of this new era, a time we think of as the Internet Century.

I believe we have only just begun to see clearly how the interactive medium will transform our economy, our society, and our lives. And we are determined to lead the way at AOL, as we have for 15 years–by bringing more people into the world of interactive services, and making the online experience an even more valuable part of our members’ lives.

That is why I am so pleased to tell you about an exciting major development at AOL. Today, America Online and Time Warner agreed to join forces, creating the world’s first media and communications company for the Internet Century. The new company, to be created by the end of this year, will be called AOL Time Warner, and we believe that it will quite literally change the landscape of media and communications in the new millennium.”

The next day newspaper headlines read, “America Online, Time Warner Propose $163-Billion Merger.” The Los Angeles Times said, “In an audacious deal bringing together traditional entertainment and the new world of the Internet, America Online and Time Warner Inc. on Monday announced they will merge in the largest business transaction in history.”

The story later revealed the value comparisons of the companies. While AOL earns less than Time Warner, the stock market thinks AOL’s shares are worth more. “America Online is valued by the stock market at nearly twice Time Warner–$173 billion, compared with $101 billion as of Friday’s [1/7/00] market close–even though it has one-third Time Warner’s annual revenues.” The article also stated “AOL earned $762 million on $4.8 billion in sales in the year ended Sept. 30 [1999].”
AOL chairman, Case wants to move fast. The Times article stated, “Case said the two chairman began discussing a combination this fall [1999], he has tried to impress upon Levin [Gerald Levin, chairman at Time Warner] the need to operate the new company at Internet speeds.” (We all know the rest of the story…nothing is forever.)

The prophets of gloom are always ready to point out the down side to deals. In UPSIDE magazine, Loren Fox reported some of the challenges to the marriage. They are:

· “The holy grail of strategic synergy has been elusive in the media world.”

· “In the offline world, it’s notable that Time and Warner Brothers have continued to run fairly independently despite a decade as Time Warner.”

· “‘From any standpoint, this has not been a success to date,’ says Yahoo President and COO Jeff Mallett.”

· “When you buy the company, you get things you don’t need.”

· “Warner might make these deals easier, but it might also bring new risks–even for AOL, a veteran of 25 acquisitions over the last six years. Employees might flee to pure dot-com companies, ego clashes could stymie plans or financial gains may never cover the large premium paid for Time Warner.”

· “You don’t need to own everything to do what AOL and Time Warner are doing.”

Warner-Lambert

Merger mania can make strange bedfellows, let alone promises unfulfilled. Alliances can lead to mergers. Warner-Lambert is an example of all the above. This is corporate soap opera at its best.

· June 16, 1999, Warner-Lambert Company announced that it has signed a letter of intent with Pfizer Inc. to continue and expand its highly successful co-promotion of the cholesterol-lowering agent Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium). The companies, which began co-promoting Lipitor in 1997, will continue their collaboration for a total of ten years. Further, with a goal of expanding their product collaborations, the companies plan to explore potential Lipitor line extensions and product combinations and other areas of mutual interest.

· November 4, 1999, newspapers across America report on “one of the biggest mergers of any kind, ever.” The Wall Street Journal said, “Now, American Home is set to merge with Warner-Lambert Co. in a stock deal that is valued at about $72 billion. It stands as the biggest deal in drug-industry history and one of on the biggest mergers of any kind, ever.” Also reported, “Warner-Lambert held talks with Pfizer Inc. at the same time it was negotiating with American Home.”

· November 4, 1999, The New York Times runs a story titled, “Can a Strong-Willed Chief Share Power in a Merger?” The article lead with, “The planned merger between American Home Products and Warner-Lambert once again raises the question of whether John R. Stafford, American Home’s famously strong-willed chairman and chief executive, is capable of sharing and, perhaps more important, letting go of power.”

· January 13, 2000, Warner-Lambert Company indicated that, as a result of changing events, it is exploring strategic alternatives, including meeting with Pfizer, following Pfizer’s recent approach. In that regard, Warner-Lambert said that its Board of Directors has authorized management to enter into discussions with Pfizer to explore a potential business combination. The Company stated that, in light of changing circumstances, its Board had concluded that there is a reasonable likelihood that Pfizer’s previously announced conditional proposal could lead to a transaction, reasonably capable of being completed, that is better financially for Warner-Lambert shareholders than the proposed merger with American Home Products.

Lodewijk J.R. de Vink, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Warner-Lambert, stated, “It has always been the Board’s objective to secure the best possible transaction for Warner-Lambert shareholders and we will now pursue discussions with Pfizer to determine if a combination with them to achieve that goal is possible.” The Company emphasized that there can be no assurance that any agreement on a transaction with Pfizer, or that any other transaction, will eventuate.

· January 24, 2000, in response to inquiries, Warner-Lambert Company said that it would continue to explore strategic alternatives, including discussions with Pfizer. The Company’s unwavering goal is to provide the greatest value to Warner-Lambert shareholders. Warner-Lambert officials emphasized that there can be no assurance that any transaction will be completed and offered no further comment.

Was American Home Products the bride left at the altar? The Wall Street Journal didn’t think so, in fact they called American Home the Runaway Bride in their November article. Additionally they listed several companies that American Home has them selves left at the altar.

· Early November 1997, American Home Products and SmithKline Beecham begin merger talks.

· January 30, 1999, Talks break off.

· June 1, 1998, American Home and Monsanto announce agreement to merge.

· October 13, 1998, American Home and Monsanto cancel plans to merge.

· November 3, 1999, American Home and Warner-Lambert Co. in talks to merge.

Acquisitions

An acquisition is basically the function of one company consuming and digesting another. The result is that the acquiring company shores up core weaknesses or adds a new capability without giving up control, as might occur in a merger. Added capabilities, rather than synergy is usually the reasoning behind acquisitions. In this situation, the acquiring company’s culture prevails. Frequently one company will acquire another for their intellectual property, their employees or to increase market share. There are numerous strategies and reasons why one company acquires another, as you will soon discover.

Guardian Protection Services has been acquiring alarm companies within its northeast region of operation to supplement its internal growth. Russ Cersosimo, president says, “This is just another way for us to satisfy our appetite for growth. Our desire is to expand our opportunities in the other offices. That is another reason why it is attractive for us to look to acquire companies, to get their commercial base and commercial sales force that is in place in those offices. We wanted to make sure that we can digest the new accounts without putting strain on our paper flow and the systems we have in place.”

Who does R&D acquisitions well? Electronics Business recently answered, “Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, the networking equipment company, which boasts many success stories among its 40 acquisitions of the past six years.” None of their acquisitions were in mature markets, rather all were leading edge, allowing Cisco to broaden its product offering. Cisco hedges its acquisition bets through volume. Ammar Hanafi, director of the business development group at Cisco says it counts on two out of three acquisitions succeeding and the remaining third doing just okay. Acquiring people, intellectual properties and specialized skills is important to companies like Cisco. They think that even if the acquired technology does not pan out, they have the engineers. Generally, any fast growing company like Cisco cannot hire people fast enough and the acquired personnel are a boon to the company’s progress. Retention of acquired employees is at the heart of their acquisition strategy. “If we’re going to lose the people who are important to the success of the target company, we’re probably not going to have an interest,” says Cisco controller Dennis Powell.

“Cisco doesn’t do big acquisitions, the cultural issues are too huge,” Hanafi says. Cisco buys early stage companies with little or no revenues. While they often have paid extremely high prices for the acquisition, they seem to do better than most with their selection. Between 1993 and 1996, Cisco bought cutting edge LAN switching technologies for a total of $666 million in stock. More than half was spent on Grand Junction Networks Inc., which developed fast Ethernet switchers. At the time of purchase, it is estimated that Grand Junction’s annual revenues were $30 million. “Today, the four LAN switching acquisitions account for $5 billion of Cisco’s $12 billion in annual revenues.” “We acquire companies because we believe they will be successful. If we didn’t believe in their success, we would not acquire them,” says Powell.

Little known West Coast Texas Pacific Group (TPG) has been acquiring at a feverish pace. Their semiconductor and telecom buying spree includes, GT Com in 1995, AT&T Paradyne (from Lucent Technologies Inc.) in 1996, Zilog Inc. in 1997, Landis & Gyr Communications SA in 1998, ON Semiconductor (from Motorola Inc.), Zhone Technologies Inc., MVX.COM and Advanced TelCom Group Inc. in 1999.

TPG banks heavily on intellectual capital. Many believe that by being part of TPG, their single biggest advantage is access to broad pool of talented and well-connected people. CEOs can take advantage of TPG’s contacts in other industries around the world. “TPG has this ability to build a virtual advisory board…that they don’t even have to pay for,” says Armando Geday, president and CEO of GlobeSpan Inc.

Lucent Technologies, Inc. has also been rampaging through the same market as Cisco. Lucent’s 1999 (January to August) acquisitions as listed in CFO magazine include:

· Kenan Systems for $1 billion

· Ascend Communications for $24 billion

· Sybarus for $37 million

· Enable Semiconductor for $50 million

· Mosaix for $145 million

· Zetax Tecnologia, $ N/A

· Batik Equipamentos, $ N/A

· Nexabit Networks for $900 million

· CCOM, Edisin, $ N/A

· SpecTran for $99 million

· International Network Services for $3.7 billion.

An advantage that Lucent has over its competitors is access to its 25,000-employee Bell Labs idea factory. As such, they are more likely to purchase technology rather than R&D. Still, Lucent continually reviews the comparative advantages of technology and R&D in relationship to its own projects in reviewing acquisition possibilities. Lucent executive vice president and CFO Donald Peterson says, “In every space in which we have acquired, we have had simultaneous research projects inside. It makes us knowledgeable, and lets us have a build-versus-buy option.”

Lucent wants their units as a hole to do well and if acquisition helps that cause, they acquire. Peterson also says, “We view acquisition as a tool among many that our business units can use to advance their business plans. We evaluate acquisitions one by one, in the context of the business strategy of the unit.”

Tyco International Ltd. is a diversified global manufacturer and supplier of industrial products and systems with leadership positions in each of its four business segments: Disposable and Specialty Products, Fire and Security Services, Flow Control, and Electrical and Electronic Components. Through its corporate strategies of high-value production, decentralized operations, growth through synergistic and strategic acquisitions, and expansion through product/market globalization, Tyco has evolved. From Tyco’s beginnings in 1960 as a privately held research laboratory, it has transformed into today’s multinational industrial corporation that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The Company operates in more than 80 countries around the world and had fiscal 1999 revenues in excess of $22 billion.

In the mid-1980s, Tyco returned its focus to sharply accelerating growth. During this period, it reorganized its subsidiaries into the current business segments listed above. The Company’s name was changed from Tyco Laboratories, Inc. to Tyco International Ltd. in 1993, to reflect Tyco’s global operations more accurately. Furthermore, it became, and remains, Tyco’s policy to focus on adding high-quality, cost-competitive, low-tech industrial/commercial products to its product lines that can be marketed globally.

In addition, the Company adopted synergistic and strategic acquisition guidelines that established three base-line standards for potential acquisitions, including:

1. A company to be acquired must be in a business related to one of Tyco’s four business segments.

2. A company to be acquired must be able to expand the product line and/or improve product distribution in at least one of Tyco’s business segments.

3. A company to be acquired that will introduce a new product or product line must be using a manufacturing and/or processing technology already familiar to one of Tyco’s business segments.

Tyco also developed a highly disciplined approach to acquisitions based on three key criteria that the Company continues to use today to gauge potential acquisitions:

1. Post-acquisition results will have an immediate positive impact on earnings;

2. Opportunities to enhance operating profits must be substantial;

3. All acquisitions must be non-dilutive to shareholders.

FASB Accounting Rule Change

The rules of the game are changing. Some of the accounting benefits of acquisition will soon disappear. Spending some extra time with your accounting and legal departments could prove beneficial in the long-term.

George Donnelly, in his article in CFO magazine writes, “The current state of accounting rules is clearly a factor in the frenetic acquisition activity at Cisco Systems and Lucent Technologies Inc. Like many high-tech companies, the two giants can acquire with little drag on their finances, because pooling-of-interest accounting enables them to avoid onerous goodwill charges that otherwise would ravage earnings.

But because of the death sentence the Financial Accounting Standards Board has levied on pooling, companies must use straight-purchase accounting after January 1, 2001. Then buyers will have to amortize goodwill for no more than 20 years.”

Consolidations and Rollups

Bill Wade in Industrial Distribution said: “The basic premise couldn’t be any simpler. Take a highly fragmented industry–like distribution–facing technological change, customer upheaval or chronic financing difficulties. Add in a few well-healed foreign firms or, worse, a couple of previously unknown competitors from outside the business. Since the industry leaders are probably family-run businesses with limited succession strategies, the next step to protect profit and continue growth is clear: consolidate.”

A consolidation or rollup, as it’s frequently called, generally occurs when an organization or individual with deep pockets sets out to buy several small companies in a fragmented industry and rein them in under a new or collective pennant. In 1997 the National Association of Wholesale-Distributors reported that 42 of the 54 industries they studied had been significantly affected by consolidation. Frequently a professional management and buying strength create economies of scale that allows the consolidator to pluck the low hanging fruit in the industry. They will invest significantly in systems to eliminate the duplication of effort and inefficiencies that exist within the industry being consolidated.

While some call it smoke and mirrors, many consolidators are yielding outstanding results. In 1997, at 39 years old, financial whiz Jonathan Ledecky pulled off a bold deal. As reported in CFO magazine, He went to the public equity markets and raised half a billion dollars for his company, Consolidation Capital Corp., in a brazen initial public offering. Without revenues, assets, operating history or identity (name or industry), he raised the capital in a blind pool on the strength of his reputation alone.

U.S. Office Products (USOP) is the result of 220 acquisitions. Sharp Pencil was one of six privately owned office-supply companies that Ledecky put together. But he didn’t stop, after two years, and 220 acquisitions later, USOP was a member of the Fortune 500, with $3.8 in revenues. “It was crazy,” says Donald Platt, senior vice president and CFO at USOP. Platt did rely highly on outside resources, including a team of lawyers and accountants to get the job done (the 220 acquisitions). “We restricted then to well-managed, profitable companies. At worst, we would still be making money,” says Platt.

H. Wayne Huizenga is the owner of the Florida Marlins baseball team. He is also the king of consolidators. He pioneered his technique by rolling-up trash-truck businesses to create Waste Management Inc., the nation’s largest waste company. He went on to create the largest video chain, Blockbuster Video. With AutoNation, Huizenga, now struggling, is attacking the retail automobile industry. In mid-December 1999 AutoNation had 409 retail franchises but announced the closing of 23 of their used-car superstores.

Michael Riley learned about consolidations while serving as personal attorney for Huizenga. In July 1999, Riley’s company, Atlas Recreational Holdings Inc., paid $14 million to purchase controlling interest in the only publicly traded RV dealership chain in the United States, Holiday RV Superstores Inc., in Orlando, Florida. Riley’s avowed intention is to grow the company from $74 in annual sales in 1998 to $1 billion by 2003 by acquiring other dealerships.

Riley says, “Consolidations really will help. We can bring advantages to sales and service. We can make a difference in warranty. There is a real value added when you put these companies together.”

Same Industry, Different Strategies

In mid-1997, roll-ups, United Rentals and NationsRent were formed. They are in a race, but are using different strategies to achieve their results. After two years of ravenously gobbling up companies, United had 482 locations while NationsRent had accumulated only 138 stores. NationsRent has been developing a nationwide identity with stores that look-alike and have the same signage and layout. United Rentals presence is virtually unknown since the stores retain their previous appearance.

Motivations for Consolidators

There are several good reasons why consolidators attack a particular industry. The following list provides some of the rational that assist them in their decision making process. As you look to profit from the trend, keep these elements in mind as you make your selection on whom to acquire.

· Confidence by the players that they can capture significant and highly profitable additional market share by implementing the cutting edge management, procurement, distribution and service practices that will give them a competitive edge over smaller players.

· Gain national customers through increased capabilities in delivering the highest levels of standardized service and national geographical coverage.

· Larger customers of independent distribution channels are seeking broader geographic coverage and networks of locations that allow for greater service capabilities, and the smaller customers want a high level of customer service and response.

· Customers’ desire for more product sophistication.

· Insurance and financing synergies.

Fragmented Industries Are Ripe for Consolidations and Rollups

Some industries that are ready for consolidations or rollup examples include heavy-duty truck repair, office products, recreational vehicle dealerships, rental stores (equipment, tools and party) and distribution. Consolidation does not just happen. It is triggered by shifts in supplier and customer expectations. Consolidation in a supplier base or customer pool often alters the economic rational for the structure of an industry. Functional shifts are accompanied by serious margin shifts among channel participants.

Take notice of the speed in which an industry can experience consolidation. If you are a consolidator, pick the low hanging fruit before another beats you to it. If you are fighting consolidation, take notice of the state of your industry and make adjustments (like strategic alliances) to your business plan if your industry is highly fragmented.

· TruckPro, the $150 million sales creation of Haywood and Stephens Investments, was sold in May 1998 to AutoZone, the $3 billion distribution king of do-it-yourself auto parts.

· In June 1998, nine heavy-duty distribution companies with volumes of $6 to $37 million, simultaneously merged and raised $46 million from the public for their brand new $200 million company, TransCom USA.

· Brentwood Associates, a venture capital company, during Spring and Summer1998, created HAD Parts System, Inc. a $145 million operation, by acquiring three companies in the Southeast.

· In July 1998, Aurora Capital’s QDSP acquired majority interest in nine heavy-duty companies from FleetPride, a $200 million parts and service operation.

Stated in Truck Parts & Service, “Here the independent suffers a staggering disadvantage to roll-ups. Consolidators have access to large amounts of capital. The independent businessperson, however, must primarily finance his growth by earnings retains from current operations. New high efficiency service bays, significant and growing training expenses, data processing and communications technology all clamor for increased working capital. The large players’ acquisition cost advantage eventually will win him all the mega-fleet business and the vast majority of business from mid-sized fleets.

Supplementing his parts acquisition cost advantage, the consolidator will be able to lower many overhead costs through centralized management and volume discounts…Combined savings in parts acquisition cost and overhead reduction should easily exceed 4% of sales.”

Some of the indicators that an industry (any industry) is poised for consolidation are listed below. If you notice your industry has similar issues, it is just a matter of time. Plan now for what is coming. Where do you want to be when the train arrives?

· A high degree of fragmentation with numerous smaller companies and few, if any, dominating players.

· A large industry that is stable and growing.

· Multiple benefits for economies of scale.

· Synergies that can be achieved by consolidating companies.

· Infrequent use of advanced management information systems.

· Limited access to public capital markets and somewhat inefficient capital structures among companies.

· Lack of opportunities, historically, for owners to liquidate their businesses if they wish to leave the industry.

Reasons for Business Owners Selling to Consolidators

The reasons for a business owner to sell his or her business are as varied as there are people. Usually it is not one reason but several combined reasons that influence a seller’s decision. The following list provides you with the general areas that might drive a selling decision:

· First generation owner, without heirs, nearing retirement.

· Lack of capital to make necessary technological and capital improvements to compete, within an industry, and with new competitors.

· Flat growth rate in industry.

· Better profitability as part of a larger organization.

· Centralized buying.

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Factors to Consider When Choosing Business Card Printing Services

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In any business setting, business cards are important and this is because they make it possible for customers to learn more about the company. In addition to this, when used appropriately, they also come in handy for the purposes of branding. In order to enjoy the benefits that come with this, it is therefore advisable to hire business card printing services. There are hundreds of service providers to choose from and while this is supposed to make things easier, it can only complicate them. For this reason, there are a couple of things you need to consider in order to make an informed choice.

Excellence

Regardless of what you buy or sell, quality is the first thing you look at and it also plays a major role when choosing a service provider. Quality shows that you care about you’re the image you project to your customers and as such, this draws them closer. Unless the service provider can assure you of meeting this end, you are better of not hiring the services at all.

Price

Price plays a crucial role when choose business card printing services. In this case, you don’t want to settle for extremely cheap prices that comprise on the quality and at the same time, you should not settle for high prices that do not measure up to the desired expectations. It is therefore advisable to weigh your options carefully and carry out thorough research and comparisons in order to make the most informed and appropriate decision. Set a budget and work within its confined to see whether you can afford the services.

References and Reputation

These aspects work hand in hand and as such, they cannot be overlooked when making your pick. Talk to people who have used the services offered by the company before you and make enquiries about the quality of service offered. This will also go a long way to determine the type of reputation they have built. Make sure that the business card printing service provider is well known for following the agreed timeline and meeting the customer’s needs. This is the only way to increase the probability of getting the most out of the services.

While at it, it is also advisable to research and have a clear picture of what your competitors are doing and the type of services they are using. There is no doubt that competition has become rife in the industry and for this reason, it is important to find out the type of printing they are using. This will is important as it gives you an idea of what you ought to settle down for and as such, increases the possibility of getting the most out of the cards.

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Steps to Starting An Internet Business

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1. Decide on your niche. What methods will you use to generate income? Basically, what do you want to sell? Here are few ideas of what you can do to generate income with a home based internet business.

Information – Create an information product or e-book.

Services – Perform a service for others.

Products – Sell products wholesale or using dropshipping.

AdSense Websites – Create a content website and earn income with Google Adsense.

Affiliate Programs – Promote other people’s products for a commission.

Find other websites that are already doing what you want to do. Make notes regarding what they do that you like and what they do that you don’t like. Strive to address what you don’t like about your competitor’s website in your own website. This will help you set yourself apart from everyone else.

2. Choose your domain name. Make is short and easy to remember. You want people to be able to easily type your domain name into their web browsers without misspelling it. You should also make your domain name descriptive of your business in some way, but this is not an absolute requirement. Many companies have successfully chosen a domain name that has no reference to the business at all. Take Google and eBay for example.

3. Choose a reliable and high performance host for your website. Your website should be available at all times and should be able to handle any load of traffic demand on the servers that you need. Imagine how mad you would be if you were spending money on advertising only to find out that your website is intermittently unavailable because your hosting company is frequently down. Choose a reputable hosting company that provides a responsive and helpful 24-hour customer support. The website host should offer all the functionality that you need so that you don’t have to waste time looking around for additional services that you have to figure out how to install yourself.

4. Build your website. Create an attractive and professional website that is easy for your visitors to navigate. Don’t go overboard with flashy animation or colors because this can cause your web pages to load slowly and can distract your visitors away from your content. Focus on adding high quality content to draw visitors in. Product reviews work well with if you are selling products. Choose the methods in which you will accept payment. You can incorporate shopping cart functionality into your website and accept credit cards through your own merchant account or you can use a third party to process your payments such as PayPal. If you are promoting affiliate products payment processing is handled for you.

5. Get the word out about what you have to offer. You will spend the rest of your time promoting your website with internet marketing techniques. You can choose from pay per click, article marketing, e-mail marketing, and search engine submission and optimization techniques as a start. And there are plenty of other things that you can do. You must plan on how you will attract traffic because without traffic your business will inevitably fail.

6. And finally, never stop improving. Use ad-tracking software to manage your advertising effectiveness. Take the time to periodically review your website to see where improvements can be made.

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How To Choose The Right Website Designing Company

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Websites play a very important role in the success of every business. They are the ones representing your business in the ever growing online world. A well designed and visually appealing website not only helps in attracting customers, but also builds good brand value for your business.

Every business understands the importance of a good website to deliver the company’s message to potential and existing customers. It is the basis to succeed in a competitive market. You can hire a professional website designing company for your website design project. There are thousands of designing and development companies, ranging from large corporate companies to small companies with very few professionals. Choosing the right website designing company can be difficult if you don’t know what you should look for. Here are a few steps that can help you choose the right company for your business needs.

  • Find Companies – The easiest way to look for website designing companies is to search online. You can also find companies listed in the yellow pages or phone directories. Shortlist a few companies to have a personal discussion with them.
  • Check portfolio – You can get an idea about the skill and expertise of a company by having a look at their portfolio. It is always good to hire a company with an impressive portfolio and a good track record. A company’s portfolio should speak for itself. A good company should offer quality of design, ease of navigation and consistent look throughout each site.
  • Experience and Skills – Hiring an experienced company will be less troublesome. The company should have skilled, qualified and experienced professionals who know their job well. You should also ask a few questions to check their technical expertise.
  • Testimonials and Reviews – To check the reliability and trustworthiness of a company, read online reviews on various forums. Also ask the company for the references of past clients. Don’t feel hesitant to contact them and ask about the type of services provided by the company. This will help you in making a right and informed decision.
  • Get Quotes – You should contact a few website designing companies and ask them for free quotes. Compare the prices and services offered by different companies and choose the best one which suits your requirements.

The website designing company you hire should pay attention to details as sometimes even the smallest things can make all the difference. It is important to choose a professional company that not only understands your business goals, but also offers you the best services within your budget.

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Does Your Social Network Really Determine Your Financial Net Worth?

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In the affairs of men, nothing matters more in building wealth, influence and leverage than the friends you keep. In short, your network! As Brian Tracy once quipped, “you can’t fly with the eagles if you keep scratching with the turkeys.” Chinua Achebe captured it succinctly in Things Fall Apart, where he popularized the African proverb, “if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.” An English cliché says, “birds of the same feather flock together”, and another says, “tell me your friend and I’ll tell you who you are.” Though the last saying is commonly associated with character issues, it can equally be applied to the subject of our discussion, networking as it relates to net worth.

Dennis P. Kimbro, the co-author of Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, once asked Don King, the boxing promoter and showman, “what are your goals?”, and he fired back, “to become America’s first black billionaire.” When Kimbro queried, “how are you going to do that?” he retorted, “I just told you, by hanging around billionaires, learning all they know.” T. Harv Eker, the author of Think Rich to Get Rich: Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, describes a simple test he says he administers to attendees of his Million Mind Intensive seminar. He says he asks them to write down the names of the top seven friends they spend most of their time with (excluding spouses and their kids), and says the average income of every attendee always reflect the average income of their top seven friends. Are you surprised? We conducted a similar exercise in our Dig Your Well Before You Are Thirsty (title borrowed from Harvey Mackay) seminar and attendees were dumbfounded by the result and all vowed to rethink the friends and network they keep. Still doubting?

Whenever you attend a social function, whether it’s a society wedding, a big red-carpet reception, or a presidential ball, just watch closely who hangs around with whom. You’ll soon discover that after the initial greetings and exchange of pleasantries, the people will imperceptibly drift into the groups they belong: the poor will gather together to moan the bad economy, the middle class will be back slapping their group members and boasting about the next big toy they are planning to acquire, while the rich will be talking in hush tones in their own circle where the next big investment is likely to come from. Generally, you won’t see the super rich in these social events. They meet on secretive islands to plot the next mega deals.

Networking right is so crucial for success in life and in business that you ignore or neglect this discipline at your own peril. If you observe, the poorest people have the shallowest networks or no network at all to talk about. When the poor is in a bind, he has no friend to turn to. The opposite is true of the rich and super rich. They all have well oiled networks that enable them have advance information about new government policies before they become public knowledge; they are always the first to hear about new high yielding private placements, and they use their networks to literally safe their life. When a close mentor suffered a life threatening brain clot that made him pass out suddenly, it was the network he had built over the years that saved the situation. One, two, three telephone calls, and he was flown to London and within hours a simple but delicate procedure that drained fluid from his skull was carried out and he came back to life.

In her 2008 presentation at the then ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) International Conference, entitled Mastering Professional Networking: Turning Relationships into Lifelong Assets, Neusa Hirota, an American of Japanese descent, who was brought up in Brazil, and speaking little English, told the awesome story how she used the power of networks to change jobs four times within six years, and secure jobs in some of the most powerful establishments on earth, including the World Bank. It was from her presentation that I first heard about the theory of “Six Degrees of Separation.” Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. The theory was first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called “Chains.” We will not join the debate whether this theory has been proven or remains unproven, all you need to know is that you can become insanely successful if you use the power of networks to your advantage.

Like every other game, networking has its own rules. Don’t go about thumping your complimentary card into the hand of every person you meet because I can assure you your card will end up in a dustbin. If you want to join a network, have something to offer, be selfless, and join gracefully, preferably from the bottom. If you do a good home work, you will be able to join the strongest battalions. The best place to start is through seminars, workshops, and conferences. Join clubs and associations like Lions, Toastmasters, Rotary, Optimists, ATD, and SHRM, to mention but a few. Don’t forget your old school alumni association, and PTA (parents and teachers association). Remember, the devil you know is better than the one you do not know. Seek out people with similar passion or interest as you do. Share your thoughts, ideas, and the portfolio of what you’re currently working on. Indeed, take advantage of every networking opportunity that suits your passion and temperament. Building a network is a marathon and not a hundred meters dash, so be prepared to toil for years.

Like any other discipline in life, learn to understand the concept of networking. What I mean is, education is important. Be a guru in your little field. Who would like to do business with you if you have nothing to offer? Read the best books on networking. Keith Ferazzi, the author of two best-selling books on networking, Who’s Got Your Back, and Never Eat Alone, has taken the discipline of networking to a whole new level. From your network, you may find people who could turn out to be your mentor or mentors. Never underrate what the right mentor can do for you. Remember, Isaac Newton once said, “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”, and Napoleon Bonaparte said, “God is always on the side of the strongest battalions.” Your mentor, you and your network can form the strongest battalion and you can see far into the horizon when you take networking seriously. Rich Schefren had Jay Abraham as his mentor, Bob Dylan was mentored by Woody Guthrie, Richard Branson had Freddie Laker, Jeff Bezos had David Shaw, and Warren Buffett was mentored by the economist Benjamin Graham. So, who is your mentor? In summary, does network really determine net worth? Yes indeed, nothing is as invincible as a powerful network. Start building yours today!

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Choosing a Remote Backup Service Provider With 18 Simple Questions

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In Google, the search term “remote backup” yields 649,000 results. This is a crowded marketplace with a great degree of disparity in service levels. 

 

Here are some helpful questions to consider when selecting a remote backup provider:

 

1.     Can I maintain a local copy of my data using your solution?

A local copy of your data allows you to restore data at the fastest possible speed. Without a local copy, your provider is transmitting over the Internet or shipping your data to you overnight. A typical small business with a T1 connection (1.5 Mbps) will take over 14 hours to transmit 10-gigabytes worth of data. 

 

2.     Is my data encrypted in transit AND while it is in your data center?

They must use an encryption key you create, choose and control not an automated encryption key. The data must be encrypted in transmission and while it is stored at the data center. Some providers only encrypt the data during transmission.

 

3.     Describe your data center and the level of security you employ.

Remote backup providers should have their security policies ready for review. You should look for redundant Internet, power and generator run time in case of power loss. Other items include firewalls, authentication, background clearances and physical security.

 

4.     Do you offer continuous data protection (CDP)?

Some businesses operate a paperless office, such as a doctor’s office that treats hundreds of patients. If they use a wireless tablet, there is no paper trail to recreate patient records if there is a data loss. These companies must have CDP that backs up data in real time as it changes. 

 

5.     Do you offer a flexible data retention policy and long-term archiving? 

Many providers force you into a retention policy like a 30-day plan or some other rigid policy. A one-size fits all approach to retention data doesn’t work. In the real world, some data is retained for years while other data can be deleted after months. Some data is essential for your business while other data is operationally important. The right remote backup service provider will help you identify your specific needs and customize the retention program to meet those needs.

 

6.     Do you protect multiple operating systems like Windows, Linux, Mac, AS400 and VMWare?

Ideally, you want to have one solution provider that covers your whole computing environment. Understanding virtual system data protection is increasingly important.

 

7.     Can you do a bare metal restore to my server?

This feature streamlines the server recovery process, making it unnecessary to update the operating system and manually install all the program files and user accounts prior to restoring your data. Some provider’s software has a dissimilar hardware restore feature that allows you to do bare metal restores to dissimilar hardware platforms or to virtual machines.

 

8.     What databases do you online or hot backup support?

Businesses should make sure the remote backup provider includes support for all the database platforms it uses such as Oracle and MS-SQL. Some allow you to issue “pre” and “post” commands to databases for increased flexibility and support. The technology should also support multi-threaded backup scheduling.

 

9.     Do you support “brick-level” restores and CDP for emails?

Terian Solutions, a remote backup service provider using Asigra, reports that 87% of its restores are Exchange “brick-level” restores. Today, employees spend the majority of their time communicating via e-mail. “Brick-level” allows you to restore one message or mailbox rather than the whole Exchange data store.

 

10. Do you use deduplication technology AND will it save me money?

Some remote backup services employ deduplication at the “block” level. This eliminates common “blocks” or parts within a file. It can also eliminate whole files like common operating systems and software application files that are already stored in its data vaults. This means you store less data, which saves you money. If the provider charges based on natural data (more in #16) then you will not save any money. It will reduce the providers cost, but that saving is not passed on to you.

 

11. How much experience do your support technicians have?

You should schedule a technical interview or direct call to the customer support line to experience their service. A main difference between a “low cost” providers and a more expensive alternative is the quality of its support staff. As with any service business, employees are a large operating cost. Backups happen automatically. Restores are another story. Many times after you lose a server, the difference between the longest day of your life and an inconvenience is the quality of the team supporting you.

 

12. How long have you been providing data protection services?

Check how long they have been in business and understand the financial commitment that has been made to protect your data. 

 

13. Describe your data vault environment and redundancy?

Although it takes several hundred thousand dollars to properly protect a company’s data, there are service providers that start and operate on a shoestring budget. With today’s technology, a company can play the part of a reliable remote backup service provider with a single server, couple of large hard drives and a website all hosted in their garage. 

 

14. Walk me through a disaster scenario; I call you, what’s next?

Your provider should have a structured recovery plan that ensures constant communication until your complete recovery. This is when a high touch approach is necessary.

 

15. Do you have references from companies that are my size?

The remote data backup service provider’s client list and history of service is very important to consider. Contact references that have experience working with the company during a restore procedure. You’re buying a professional hand during the data recovery process. 

 

16. What will be the total price of your solutions?

Narrow your choices down to only those qualified to protect your data to the level you require. With the survival of your company at stake, this is not an area to compromise quality for price. Remember, per GB prices can be deceiving. They can be based on “natural” (as it sits on your computer), “stored” (amount stored in the vault) or “protected” (the total restorable data). Some providers use deduplication (covered in #10). Deduplication can save you up to 35% depending on your situation and service provider. If you focus on the total cost of the solutions, you are heading in the right direction.

 

17. Do you offer a money back guarantee? 

It is impossible to know exactly how your implementation will work until after it is in place for a few weeks. You should only consider a remote backup service provider that stands behind their service with an unconditional satisfaction guarantee.

 

18. What size is your largest account?

Will the remote backup service provider be able to expand as you do? Data grows at an incredible rate. You need to make sure the service provider has scalable technology and will respond to the ever increasing demands of large data sets. Some service providers use technology that works for 20-30 gigabytes of data, but isn’t scalable into hundreds of terabytes. Again, use references and ask specific questions about the amount of data and performance.

 

I hope these questions help you navigate the vast choices in the remote backup provide arena.

 

Using a remote backup service provider is an ideal solution for any company that relies on its computers everyday to manage important data. It is important to select a high quality long-term partner. 

 

In order to find the right managed remote backup service provider for your business, it is important to engage in an extensive interview process with the provider that results in cost efficiency, convenience and assures more security than traditional data protection systems. Remember, choosing the right provider for your business means getting the most effective data protection at the best price.

                                                            

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Self Esteem and Weight Loss

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Did you know your own self-esteem may be a contributing factor to some of your problems?

Let’s look at weight loss for example.

We all know that the weight loss industry is a multi billion dollar per annum business and who do the advertisers target?

Women!

In order to encourage women to join their weight loss plan they highlight their insecurities in their advertising copy.

“What insecurities are these,” you may be asking.

You may have heard of the term “fat shaming.”

Women are shamed into feeling guilty even if they are just a few kilos heavier than last year.

Is it any wonder that so many of them suffer from insecurities.

My advice to women is this:

1 Stop comparing yourself with others

It is silly to try to be somebody you are not. Instead of trying to be someone other than yourself you must ask the question, “What makes me tick,?” and set your goals accordingly.

2 Do it for you and not for others.

If you are taking on a new diet do it for yourself and not for others. Don’t be a people pleaser and try to impress others for the sake of it.

3 Your value is not measured by your dress size.

What makes you unique is what values you. It is what you do with what talents you have been gifted that gives you value. It is important to use your talents for the benefit of others. That is real value!

4 Ditch the “If only,” mindset.

Many women and men for that matter think, “If I lost xx amount of weight, got, a new car, a better house, had a new husband/wife, or whatever then I will be happy.”

Life does not work that way. Joy comes from within and has nothing to do with outward appearances or the opinion of others. Many people after they have acquired what they thought would make them happy are still not content with their life. The novelty soon wears off then they have their eye on something else.

5 Work on your self-esteem.

It is important to work on your self-esteem otherwise people are going to push you around.

The key is to be assertive and not allow unkind comments to affect. Assertiveness is not just sticking up for yourself. It is recognising the television advertising for what they are; to make you want to buy their products.

I am not saying you should not go on one of these diets but to do it for the right reasons.

The bottom line is that a low self-esteem will undermine your dieting plan.

How?

Have you heard of the expression “Comfort eating?”

Enough said.

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