Welcome!

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!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Emergency Preparedness



Moore, Oklahoma was devastated by an EF5 (210mph) tornado in May 2013.   Twenty-four lost their lives, including fourteen children, with 377 others injured.   This loud and dangerous tornado stayed on the ground for at least 39 minutes over 17 miles.   Its path was heavily populated with established neighborhoods and schools, just like many of yours.  Witnesses described it as a black storm wall, which at one point, was 1.3 miles wide!

There were only a handful of sticks (trees) and houses left standing.  One afternoon the following summer, I stood at the Plaza Towers Elementary School site.  Where children should have been playing, laughing and scurrying about, it was deafeningly silent, the neighborhood void of anything except concrete pads.  There was a sole house across the street still partially standing, defying gravity.  There was no neighborhood garage sale, no kids playing in yards, no trees.  It was breathtaking to see with my own eyes.  Imagine your own neighborhood leveled in just a few minutes.  

An estimated 1150 homes were destroyed.  Hundreds more were destroyed to the point of requiring demolition.  Two schools were rebuilt.  Countless businesses destroyed or damaged, including dental colleagues and practices.

I had the privilege of volunteering a few days the summer of 2013 with my 16 year old goddaughter at ServeMoore,  a para-church organization that mobilized the night of the tornado by a simple text.  They had never operated a crisis center, and yet, FEMA was amazed at their organization in such a short period of time.  They processed donations, monetary plus thousands of major & minor tools.  Their focus was cleanup and repair, even three months after the tornadoes, until all the needs were met.   It was started by people who believed they needed to help, with volunteers from every continent and every state.  They had over 3000 volunteers the first week.

We spoke with so many affected by the tornadoes, both physically and emotionally.  Their stories were filled with courage, determination, strength and heartache.  Two of the women we met were recent widows, trying to figure out how to fix their houses alone.  One fell off the roof and broke her kneecap.  Both were taken care of by ServeMoore volunteers.

At another home, we finished demolishing a backyard deck, initially destroyed by the tornado.  The family was unable to live in their own home but they were so overwhelmingly grateful for the cleanup help.  They were still in a sense of shock, having lost many friends and neighbors.  

Never once did I hear whining, or complaining.  I’m sure there was some but I was amazed at the fortitude of those who survived.   “Oklahoma Strong” is their mantra for a reason!

In my research after coming home, I read articles about how FEMA uses the “Waffle House” index as a means to measure how the community is bouncing back.  Waffle House, Home Depot and Walmart all have strong risk management plans in place, FEMA explains in their 2011 FEMA blog.  

“The success of the private sector in preparing for and weathering disasters is essential to a community’s ability to recover in the long run,” states Dan Stoneking, Director of FEMA’s Private Sector.  Why is a business’ risk management plan so important?  Dan answers, “Up to 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or man-made disaster never reopen, according to the Insurance Information Institute.”

Located a half mile from the tornado’s path, the Moore, OK, the Waffle House was closed only until management could get the generators going that next afternoon.  They also provided emergency supplies to the victims.

The time to prepare is not during a natural disaster, but long before.  So how can you create your risk management plan?  FEMA has a website full of information about developing a preparedness program, with step by step instructions.  A few notable areas needing your attention:

Insurance.  Do you have enough insurance coverage for all potential natural disasters to rebuild and equip your business and home?  If you have recently remodeled or bought new equipment, it is possible your coverage is not adequate.   Call your insurance company to review your coverage.

Documents.  Buildings "explode" during a tornado, scattering documents for miles.  Are all your important business and personal documents safe?   A bank lock box is secure and will typically withstand natural disasters. 

Contact information.  If a tornado of Moore’s magnitude wiped out both home and office, would you know how to contact your employees to ensure their well-being?  

Technology backups.   Do you know what is being backed up and when?  All computer data should be backed up off site.  I use Mozy.com and Carbonite.com and the peace of mind during a crisis is overwhelmingly reassuring.   They backup data however often you designate.  Mine is backed up hourly.

Financial buffer.    An open line of credit or a business savings account is necessary for any crisis.  You will need immediate available cash.

How will your business survive during a natural disaster?   It is springtime, when many of our communities are affected by devastating storms.  Prepare now.  And pray you never have to know if you would survive.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Storm's Aftermath

There was a loud interrupting noise that didn’t quite fit the theme of my good dream. Rustling myself awake, I heard the tornado sirens blaring. Blaring is what you want in tornado sirens, by the way, since a tornado itself is louder than you can imagine.

Cell phone – check. Compliant cat – check. Following close dog – check. Escape artist cat last – check. Into the prepared shelter we go to wait out the storm. The night before an anticipated storm, I lay out what I need to wear in case the storm is severe, in the shelter. Time to get dressed.

Having experienced storms, some resulting in extended power outages and having volunteered at Serve Moore cleanup hearing their stories, here are a few tips if a storm causes damage at your home or business:

1. Assess your damage vs. your deductible. If it appears that your loss is less than the home owners deductible, do not call the insurance company. If you may have had roof damage, not obvious damage, call a trusted roofer first to determine if there is damage. If you call the insurance company and there is or is not a claim, your rates can/will be raised. I was abrasively confronted with this fact last year.

From one of the many North Texas storms
2. If you have damage, let your friends and family know. When we lost trees, I posted on Facebook. The next thing I knew, John & Asher were there with chain saws to help me clean up. We rally. There is no suffering in silence necessary after a storm. We can share resources: tree guys, roofers, contractors, etc. And actually hands and feet to help clean up.

3. Beware of roofer trolls targeting your neighborhood. They crawl out of the woodwork to take advantage of those in need. I am sure some are honest and qualified but do your research before signing up. Get their information and check the Better Business Bureau. Google™ for reviews. Ask for references. Never ever sign an agreement before doing your research. If you decide to go with them, do not give money up front.  If it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. After a storm, you will be inundated with phone calls and door knockers. Be firm.

4. Alert the power company of your outage, even if you know your neighbors have called. It is how they schedule. You only need to call once. Do not clog the lines by calling them more than once. Restoring power can take days. The longest we were out of power was a week, when I still had both my parents here to care for. Dad was on portable oxygen tanks, for which we went through fairly quickly but was grateful the company delivered to replenish.

5. Unplug all your electronics. Power surges when it is restored. If you do not have adequate joules on your power strips, then you could damage your electronics. Computers, televisions, everything. Turn off your lights too but leave one lamp on so you will know when the power comes back on.

6. If your car is in the garage and the power is out, you need to know how to do the manual release of your garage door opener. By the way, if you need gas, realize your local on the corner gas stations are operated electronically and probably do not have power either. This is also true if you need gas for your chain saw. And do not turn the car on with the door closed to charge your cell phone. If you get carbon monoxide poisoning, you won’t need your cell phone.

7. Refrigerator. If you lost electricity, keep the doors shut. If you have kids, this doesn’t work. Your alternative? Put everything spoil-able from the refrigerator part to the freezer. Get a small thermometer and place it in the freezer. If it is colder than 40°, then it is good to refreeze. If not, you must throw it away. It is not worth the risk of getting sick. If a large population area is out of power, you may be out of power for a while. My biggest cost of one storm was losing freezer food – almost $1000. There is no need to lose freezer food. If you have friends in the area with power, see if they have space available in their freezer. If they do not, they will know someone who does. Cook the food and share. Of course, that only works if you have a gas stove top. One neighborhood cooked all their food on a grill and invited the neighborhood to come eat. It made me sick to throw away all the food.

8. Prepare for the worst and be happy when it comes back on. Waiting to get batteries for the evening lamps until they are sold out at the store is not a good idea. I prefer to use flashlights or battery operated camping lamps vs. candles. I have animals and candles are not a good idea. Candles are fire and can cause much bigger fires.

9. If the storm is bad, texting most always works when phone calls may not get through. Make sure your family and friends know you are safe, and where you are sheltered.

10. If it is a hot day, stay at a friend’s house that night. The hotels will most likely be full. If you have friends in the area, let them know you are open for options.

11. Now is a good time to read a book or go to a movie. In the midst of storm stress, take a break. It can be overwhelming and likely something you may never forget.

Just as in most crisis’, planning ahead can help in the midst. It is spring. Severe spring storms in North Central Texas, and many other parts of the country, have become the new norm. It is only March, with plenty more storms ahead. I still think it is ironic that the tornado that went through me and my hotel room was in downtown Atlanta, GA, not Texas. Plan ahead and if you need resources, reach out.

Most of all, stay safe!

 [Since it’s only March, and the Dallas Fort Worth area has been hit hard twice now this week with storms, I preempted the previously scheduled blog posting to provide needed information.]

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.
 
 
Summary.
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.  

Here is a NBC5 news report from nine years ago.

 

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?
            Family
            Friends
           Colleagues
           Clients

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