Since 1997, I've focused on assisting professional practices (doctors, dentists, veterinarians, chiropractors, et al.) financially organize their practices to make better business decisions and protect their revenue as a Certified Fraud Examiner.

I’ve written 36 books (Getting The Most Out of QuickBooks In Your Practice series), spoken nationally, consulted & investigated privately. From the beginning, I recognized the value in communicating with the masses.

Now, I have a new book, Matters Of The Heart: A Journey In Caring For Aging Loved Ones. It's based on my 16 year caregiving journey with my parents and step-grandmom.

This blog will be a culmination of other writings - some related to professional practice business, some related to caregiving and some just related to life. Check back often so you don’t miss what may be relevant to your own life!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Storms

What Scares You More:
    Spring Storms or Spring Cleaning? 

The ceiling where I had been lying just moments before the tornado hit.
It's that time of year again.  Spring, aka Storm Season.

Regardless of what part of the country you live in, you only need to listen to the Weather Channel to hear the anticipated potential of our spring storms this year.  It has been nine years this month since the Atlanta tornado that affected the2008 Hinman Dental Meeting.  That tornado went through me and my hotel room, causing havoc on both.  The result is I am more prepared when traveling and at home. 

Storms come in all sizes and intensity.  In Texas, we sometimes have several days notice of possible severe storms.  In other words, "pay attention because it could be bad." 

Then, sometimes, there is no warning, like the Atlanta tornado.

Regardless of the intensity of the storm, we need to be prepared.  Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!  I've heard this phrase a hundred times.   

We must think through the worst case scenarios - it's what gives us the things to do, the checklists.   Think ahead.  Things do happen when we least expect them. 

Here are a few areas to consider:

Emergency plan.  Where do you go?  This is the most important question in a crisis.  Personal safety.  Where is the safest part of any building you regularly frequent?  If there is a pending storm, how is the building laid out?   Where are the exits?  This is similar to knowing the exit row when flying.  You never expect anything to happen but just in case... 

Find an interior reinforced room with no windows to be your designated shelter area.  Basement?   In the little space under the stairs?  An interior bathroom?   In the bathtub?   It needs to be the structural strong part of the facility.

Stock this room with bottled water, batteries, flashlights, blankets/towels, first aid kit, extra cell phone chargers, etc.?  I even keep an extra pair of tennis shoes tucked away in my shelter.  Also have towels or blankets in the shelter to cover you.  Flying debris causes most tornado injuries and deaths.

This may be nothing more than a backpack with a few necessary survival items.  When a crisis hits is not the time to gather what you might need.  Keep them in the designated shelter room.  Because, when the storm hits, safety is first.

Where are all your legal papers?  Where is your will?  I don't mean to be so direct, but if you died in the storm, you would be unable to tell anyone where all these things are located!  I suggest a bank safe deposit box.  It would have to be the worst storm in history to tear up one of those vaults.  Put all your legal papers in the box, not in your home.  Important documents could blow several miles away, never to be recovered.

Part of the ceiling was flung across the room and the windows exploded.
Do you have adequate insurance for the worst case scenario?   If you are not sure, ask your agent.  That's what they are there for and they have an idea on replacement costs.   I recently changed insurance providers and the agent spent almost two hours with me, reviewing my prior insurance company policy and upgrading to current coverage and replacement costs. 

Do you have an inventory of your possessions - for both the house and the practice?  This is most often used in valuing how much insurance you need and can be helpful in case of damage.

If it has been five years since you have evaluated your insurance, the replacement costs have increased during that time.  So it's logical the value of coverage also needs to increase.  AFTER the storm is not the time to determine you did not have enough coverage.  A review with your agent now may save you thousands of dollars in crisis later.

Computer Backups.  If you've ever read an article, read a book, or heard me speak, you know that I believe in off-site backups.  I use online backup services, Mozy.com and Carbonite.com.  I have them set to back up 6 times a day, whether I am using the programs or not.  Peace of mind.  

My computers and house can blow up, but my data is secured off-site, far away, accessible to be downloaded. 

Make sure that all your data files are being backed up.  Actual software programs can be replaced or reinstalled.  But the data cannot be unless you have it backed up.  If you download your email to the computer, for instance to Outlook, be sure to include your email folders in the backup as well. 
Never assume all your files are being backed up.   Always verify. 

Many have IT support that cares for the practice’s  or business’ computers.  Do NOT assume that all you “believe” is being backed up actually is being backed up.  Always verify.

 Know your financial situation.  How much money do you have on hand?  Do you have some cash hidden away somewhere?  What is your bank balance?  Where are your credit cards?  Where is your checkbook?  Does your spouse know all these answers? 

Do you have a list of your credit card numbers?  Put this with your legal papers in the vault.  Do you have a list of passwords?  This too should go in the vault.

When I lived in Southern CA, it was during a period of time that we had numerous earthquakes.  Ok, CA typically has numerous earthquakes but during that time, even the TV stations talked about earthquake preparedness kits - water, tennis shoes, cash, etc.  During power outages, grocery stores take cash only.

As well, have an accessible emergency cash fund.  Determine an amount that would suffice in case of an emergency - six months salary, for instance.  Set it aside in an online savings account.  If need be, have funds automatically withdrawn from your bank account monthly to the emergency fund until it reaches your determined amount.  Then, let it stay there - for emergency only. 

Unplug.   Electrical surges during and after a storm are common and frequent.
If you have a heads up there is a storm coming, unplug all your electrical equipment.  If you have a TV you are using in your storm shelter/emergency area, make sure you have the TV plugged into a surge protection strip that provides protection of at least up to 900 joules.  The higher the joules, the greater the protection.

After a storm, if you have power, wait a while before turning on any equipment.  Electrical surges and fluctuations occur after the storm for a while as the power stabilizes in the area.  Your greatest equipment protection is to unplug!

Create your checklist - both for the practice & personal.  Include contact phone numbers (home, work & cell), power company, phone company, other utilities.  Then PRINT the list and place it inside a protective plastic sheet cover.  Put one copy taped to the inside of a closet door or your emergency shelter.  Make sure everyone knows where the lists are located for easy access.

What if a storm/tornado is imminent, fast approaching?   For a business, if you have time, secure the checks and cash in a locked drawer, safe or closet.  Unplug all electrical, except refrigerators and freezers.  Turn them up to the coldest setting then leave the doors shut.  

If you are a professional healthcare practice, turn off any gases or oxygen and secure any hazardous material. The business owner is the last one to take shelter in the safe place.  Go now means go now.   Someone will always think of something they should do.  If it was not discussed prior as part of the emergency plan, then during the emergency is not the time to do it.   Check the parking lot and do a head count for both patients/customers and employees. 

The room to the left of the shredded curtains was mine.
Then shut and lock the door.  Remain calm and wait for the storm to pass.

Storms themselves are out of our control.  How we are prepared for what comes our way is within our control.   We never expect storms to really hit our area but it has been too close to me too many times.   And, everyone who knows me, knows that remaining calm is difficult at best.  Something about being at the top of a hotel as a tornado barrels through you and that room at 139mph. 

But being prepared does ease my nerves... a little.

Next week, Spring Cleaning..... also not a favorite topic.....

Friday, February 10, 2017

The times, they are a changing

The mall of my teenage years is being torn down.  They can tear down the mall but they can't tear down my memories!

I worked in four stores at various times when Six Flags Mall opened in 1970. Connie Betzel Breen's mom took us to the Grand Opening Day. First, I worked at Sears in the tools and sporting goods department for Christmas. I always thought Connie got the better deal by working in the candy department. Next Christmas, Oshmans Sporting Goods, wrapping gifts for under the tree. The highlight gift wrapping job was a bag of golf clubs. Next Christmas, Old World Gifts (I think?).  After various colleges, I returned, this time to work 2.5 years at JC Penny's in store security.

Penny's was where I learned the extent of how my analytical mind works. I developed systems and procedures for catching return item artists and professional shoplifters. I became interested in how a criminal thinks and behaves. I caught them by being observant.   I learned I had a facial recognition gift that allowed me to recognize repeat shoppers vs. repeat shoplifters.  I developed a communication network with the other anchor stores and the mall security office, as well as gathering with other area JC Penny store security employees to compare notes.   I also learned the heartache of detaining/arresting those that I cared about because they stole from the store.

I had my thumb dislocated, was assaulted, had switchblades drawn on me, was cussed at, while another Penny's was hit by the Wichita Falls tornado and a colleague was drug by a thief in their car. I also had my life threatened many times and had many repeat offenders come back to the store looking for me. I spent hours on top of the roof with binoculars, gazing into the gas pump island cash register, catching workers pocket cash from customers.  I spent hours in a cramped wall crawl space, looking through a two way mirror at employees steal merchandise and cash.  Exciting times!
I had an amazing store manager, John Summers, who believed in me and supported me.  He was a good man of integrity.  I can't say that of all of his associate managers or department heads.  I learned the value and importance of being a good leader, and standing firm in integrity.  

I was heavily discouraged from pursuing working for law enforcement, something I have always regretted.  I asked Mom one time why she seriously did everything she could to dissuade me.  "Girls just didn't do that back then."  And, she didn't regret the dissuasion.  When I found myself having to take a different route home because of angry, hostile shoplifters on more than one occasion, it was time to walk away. 

I bounced between a degree in criminology and psychology, finally landing in psychology.  After learning my methodology of counseling differed from most, I decided not to pursue psychology further but business instead.  And now I am back to both with full strength analytical skills in use as a Certified Fraud Examiner.

Little did I know those years would teach me many lessons I still use today.
It was a little like being in a cemetery at sunset and I felt I was grieving the loss of a friend.
The wires were hanging from the remaining ceiling, blowing from the wind.  A steel beam was creaking as it moved ever so slightly.  I could see the light coming in the back door that I chased many shoplifters through to the parking lot.  Most of the building has quickly been torn down, with a pipe here and there sticking up through the dirt.

They can tear down the mall, but I will forever appreciate all that I learned there, the years it provided me a job and the memories I have stored in my heart.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Make This Your Best Year Ever - It's Your Choice

Did you write down any goals for 2016?

How did you do?
   If you reached your goals, why and how did you do it?
   If you didn’t reach your goals, why not?

Do you feel your 2016 was successful?

What would have made you more successful?

If you were given a performance review by the following groups of people, what would they say your strengths and weaknesses be?

In your work environment, how are you a solution to what keeps someone up at night?

What sets you apart from everyone else that offers the same solution?

What educational opportunities did you participate in to increase your business savvy in 2016?
            What did you learn by participating in those opportunities?

One of the books I read this past year was Take The Stairs:  7 Steps to Achieving True Success by Rory Vaden.  He spoke at my NTX NSA Chapter Meeting and I was intrigued enough by his words that I wanted to read his book.

From the book, I printed a quote to hang on my wall.  “Success is never owned, it is only rented and the rent is due every day.”  The premise of the book is that success is not easy.  There are no escalators or elevators to success.  Success is a daily jump in the trenches kind of battle.  It is a constant choice.  It is pushing past weariness, past the “I don’t feel like it” day.  It requires discipline.  Daily.  Earned.  Daily.

Do you feel stuck?  It’s a new year that is full of potential.  This truly could be your best year yet.  But not if you stay stuck. 
Remember last week’s blog  – Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?   Choices made in the past will contribute to being stuck.  “Discipline is about focusing on what’s most important, learning to let go of minutiae, and being okay with delaying the less important tasks to an appropriate time.”  

"Success comes down to choosing the hard right over the easy wrong."

"Success is the aggregate sum total of small, seemingly insignificant choices that when compounded over time, create the trajectory of our lives." I've said for years that all the jobs I have had, have made me successful today. What I learned at each one, propelled me to here. As well, I can see where my choices today, will point the direction for the next 5 years.

Maybe you need to read a great book to begin your year.  There is a reason Rory's book made the New York Times Bestseller list.  Rory's words are good, kick in the butt kind of words to spur you on to your best year ever!

Rory Vaden

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

You're full. Now what?

Every spatula save one, every measuring spoon save the ¼ tsp, every measuring cup save the ¼ cup has now been put back into its proper place from the dishwasher.  Apparently all recipe measurements called for over ¼ of everything.  Leftover meals from various dining extravaganzas are stuffed into two refrigerators.  Sheets and towels have been washed and put away, with the bed sporting clean sheets for the next overnight guest.  The tall stack of mail is being ignored for one more day.  

It was a gluten free adventure for me this holiday season, cooking and baking and experimenting with new recipes.  Cookies, pies, streusel (aka failed cinnamon rolls), dressing, gravy, etc – some completely devoured.  Some lingering awaiting consumption from the kitchen counter.  Some awaiting consumption from the overstuffed fridges.  I learned some lessons in what works and doesn’t work, which flours have which grainy textures, fell in and out of love with Pinterest many times, and leaned on Google as my backup.

We are all full.  Now what?

Since this weekend begins January 1st, your New Year goals have been somewhat thought through but, typically, with the phones quiet the week between Christmas and New Year, it is a great time for reflection.

What worked and what didn’t work this past year?  Personally?  Exercising 3x-5x weekly worked.  Eating a more healthy diet worked.... well, let’s don’t count the past two weeks.  That didn’t work.  With the loss of several dear friends this past year, I made a point to set aside time to visit with friends more often – mutually beneficial.

Business wise?  Utilizing Insightly Contact Management program with Google email and calendar syncs worked.  Ruby Receptionist has been amazing communicating with my clients this year.  Truly, they treat my clients as their own clients.
All things worked together to produce the Matters Of The Heart book: editing, design and layout, website and advertising.  The books are making their own impact in other’s lives.

4th quarter 2016, I began blogging consistently, not really knowing who is reading.    Last night, longtime girlfriends gathered together from out of town at my house for dinner.  When one of them asked where the basket was to deposit their cell phone, the other three chimed in, agreeing.  “See, we read your blog!”    My blog posts have been decided  Stay tuned.
through the first quarter.

Your first quarter marketing plan should be already nailed down, with everything in place to make it happen.  Make sure the return (business) is greater than the time and money spent.  Being consistent and relevant is key.  Social media is paramount now – invest wisely.  There is a learning curve.  Get an expert in your field to assist you.

Is your accounting in order for the 2016 taxes to be completed?  If you are a professional practice (dental, veterinarian, medical, chiropractic), there will be two one hour webinars,.  Before Handing Your QuickBooks Off To Your CPA, that will explore key areas to ensure your financial information is complete!

I invested time and money honing my skills for my audiences and clients by being an active participant in three professional organizations.  I learned in a much greater perspective this year that my heart’s desire is to make an impact through whatever is needed by my clients.  I offer many services but the making a difference in lives is the one golden thread woven throughout all the offerings.  Continuing to learn how to do just that is paramount.

Reviewing the 2016 goals, a majority of the goals were met.  A few failed miserably for part of the year but are coming up to speed now.   A few failed completely and will be evaluated and reviewed.  Did I cause those failures?  Honestly?  Yes, partly because my focus was diverted elsewhere.  Partly because it was outside what demanded my attention.  It will be handled differently for 2017.   There is a written 2017 plan.

We all know the meaning of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.   
Are you just going to glide into the New Year without reviewing what worked and didn’t work this year?   
Do you expect to maintain the same level of insanity as last year or do you want a different outcome for 2017?

I am truly full from the holiday but also from a full 2016.  What is your 2017 bringing to the table?