Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Why Scams Live and 10 Ways to Protect Yourself

It does not matter if you are participating in the Do Not Call Registry, receiving multiple scam and telemarketing calls is a daily annoyance. In fact, my phone roared to life with a telemarketing call even as I wrote this post. 

So, why do scams live?

A scam, by definition, is a “confidence game, or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; to cheat or defraud; swindle.” Typically, scams are perpetrated by a group of people with a common cause: to gain information that will lead to a financial reward. There is a certain mob-mentality to dishonesty. The more people involved, the less likely a participant's conscience against doing harm will kick in. In fact, it is sociopathic behavior among a group of participants in that there is no conscience involved.

Scams take shape via all forms of media – mail, email, telephone,
internet and in person. 

A scammer will reach you by any means available to them In its truest sense, a scam is deceiving an unsuspecting person out of something of value. General scams throw a wide net over the populace, such as the Nigerian Prince, the friend in the Philippines that needs money, the court that has a warrant out for your arrest, or Microsoft calling about a virus on your computer. As a whole, most scams are of the general type and receive a lot of media attention informing the public not to succumb to the scam; and yet, the scammers are still "fed" by innocent victims.

The more dangerous scams, such as IRS scams, not only do the most damage, they come armed with the most personal information.

Identity theft is on the rise with more than 1,579 breaches this past year and exposing almost 179 million personal information records. The Equifax breach was not the only significant breach in 2017. Javelin Strategy & Research states that in 2017, 16.7 million individuals were affected by identity theft, resulting in $16.8 billion dollars stolen.

It takes time, energy and patience to sort out identity theft, but to not do so bears a greater impact. Last year alone, three of my credit cards were charged fraudulently.

Scams are a societal issue.

While readying this blog to post, CBS This Morning did an informative fact-filled segment on Sweepstakes Scams. It is as if they read this blog before it ever posted. The segment really hit home just how deep scams run and how they are a financial and emotional pain point in our modern society.

Who are the victims? Anyone.

There is little to no effort involved in becoming a victim. In the case of identity theft, a breach in a financial institution leaves us all vulnerable. I have written extensively about information and scams in the past, as well as the Equifax breach, but let's take this one step further.

Scams live because they are being fed.

Scammers are not honest people. They are unethical people who do not care about the damage they leave behind. They do not care if they rob an elderly citizen out of their savings. They do not care about you, period. What they do care about is being successful in their end game. And, to some, that's exactly what it is to them – a game.

When a scammer views the scam as a game, the objective is to be as convincing as possible, using all means of deception to cause the unsuspecting victim to part with the valuables. Their goal is to create an emotional response that will compel you to take action. It is emotional manipulation for financial gain. They display no ethics, nor compassion, and when they are successful, once you are a victim, you become a future target.

How do you defeat their plan?

  1. Never give any personal information to anyone, be it over the phone, email, or Facebook. Take extra care not to share credit card information, social security number, and/or birthdate.
  2. Never send any money for anything to anyone. That "amazing offer" to pay only for the fees/taxes/shipping costs of an item does not exist. If it sounds too good to be true, it is NOT true. We want to believe that this major influx of financial opportunity is great karma. It sounds compelling, after all. Don't be fooled; it is a scam. You should not have to pay money to work at home. You have not “won” a prize if you have to send money or provide credit card information. If you inherit money, they do not need your bank account information. Do not let financial relief or greed ever be a guide for your decisions. Life simply does not work that way.
  3. Secure your personal information. Lock down your credit with the credit bureaus. I talked about this in the Equifax post. Make it happen sooner, rather than later. Do not wait until a crisis to remedy what made you vulnerable in the first place. The cost of time, energy and money take a greater toll once the damage is done. 
  4. Review your credit card transactions. Do not ignore that one line item you do not remember purchasing for $9.49. Call the credit card company to check the sale. Review your calendar – did you make the purchase? If not, it could be a scam test transaction, waiting for bigger opportunities to strike. Review your transactions at least every two weeks.
  5. Ensure your credit card has chip technology. I received a call earlier this year regarding one of my chip cards. I was in possession of my card, but the card number was being swiped at various retail locations, not read with the chip card reader. That alerted the credit card company to issue a fraud alert. The magnetic strip of a credit card can be reproduced for fraudulent cards, but the chip is almost impossible to recreate.
  6. Be mindful of how you answer the phone. If I do not recognize the phone number, or there is no caller ID, I typically will not even answer the call. If I do, I do not say hello. I wait to hear if it is a robocall or a call room with lots of background noise. If that is the case, I hang up without saying anything.
  7. Register all phone numbers with the Do Not Call Registry. The registry allows the opportunity to report scam call phone numbers. I have even registered my 800 number, as I receive consistent solicitation phone calls. Once registered, the phone number stays until the registration is canceled. That being said, the Federal Trade Commission is not releasing cell phone numbers, as a recent Facebook scam post would have you believe.
  8. Bring up the conversation with your aging loved ones. The reason general scams still exist is because of our vulnerable population – the aging and the innocent minded. Dementia alters the ability to reason. Please protect them by all means possible. Share this blog post with them to start your conversation. 
  9. Verify and validate all information. I do not ever contribute to any organization that calls. Ever. Be that a police association, cancer research, or blood donation, the risk is greater than the reward. I ask to have information sent via snail mail so that I may validate the organization before offering any of my data. If you honestly believe a loved one is in stuck in the Philippines, call and check on them PRIOR to giving any personal information. The caller will be persuasive and urgent, making desperate, urgent pleas. Ignore the emotion and panic - call to verify.
  10. Beware of social media. If you think you are already friends with someone on Facebook, do not accept a second friend request. Be mindful of the personal information you are posting, and if you are suspicious of someone having been spoofed or hacked, message them and let them know so they can take care of it. 

Remember, we are human. We want to trust others, but we can be deceived. It is a strange hunting ground on which we are all prey. Be diligent to take care of the details you have control over and be mindful of everything else.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Dad's Legacy Shared in 10 Life Lessons

Last Tuesday, May 22nd, my dad would have been 106. The date had become a reflection on my dad's perseverance through a difficult life. From watching how my dad, and my granddad before him, chose to live life to their lives to the fullest and take every opportunity presented to them, I learned the basis from which I make my own decisions. In the wake of my dad's birthday anniversary, I have been pondering on the words of wisdom I have gained from Dad and the life lessons I have learned along the way.

1. There will always be options. Look for open doors that lead to improved well-being. Find a silver lining or the humor in all things stressful.

When September 11th happened, I had been in business for myself just shy of 3 years. In the months that followed the twin towers falling, American business was at a stalemate. The stock market was in ruins, and people moved around like zombies, only going through the motions of the day.

I remember the day the stock market crashed. I stood in my parent's living room, tears streaming down my face and panic gripping my chest as I told my dad I was witnessing the end of my business. At this point, I was continually reinvesting to build my business; so with no liquid assets, I was left with no money to pay the bills. Always the pragmatist, my dad calmly responded, "Honey, I have lived long enough to know that when the door closes, another one will open."

"But Dad," I interjected.

"And if a door does not open," he laughed as he continued, "there are always the windows."

He believed in what I was doing and, as a daddy's girl, never wanted to see me hurt. His best medicine was always laughter. In thinking back about that conversation, he was right; life is a series of open doors. My dad came from humble beginnings, and yet, he chose to see the positives.

2. A financial situation can always be worse. Work hard and keep working: it will pay off.

My dad grew up poor and picking cotton from the time that he could stand. His dad was an itinerant farmer, which is a fancy word for working on other people's land as needed for low wages. Granddaddy bought land around town when he could, but then the Great Depression hit, and he lost it all. Dad's mom sold cosmetics farm to farm but died from the flu when my dad was just 12 years old. With the exception of a few aunts that lived in town, Dad and Granddad were mainly on their own.

With all the hardships of his past, I never heard Dad complain about growing up poor; then again he might not have known the difference. Radio was the primary form of communication in his youth. Otherwise, some magazines displayed glamorous photos, but I'm not sure how many of those he actually saw during those years. The lack of national and international media meant fewer opportunities to compare and contrast his life to others. That is the debilitating dilemma of our society's fascination with social media today.

Dad's academic career consisted of one college semester. That was before the Great Depression hit, and he dropped out to get a job. He talked about quite a few career changes during those years. Amongst them was washing dishes at Red Bryan's BBQ in Dallas and selling tires farm to farm with Firestone, doing whatever he needed to do to earn a living.

3. No one single job prepares you for another, but instead, it is the series of tasks and the culmination of experiences. 
There is something to be learned from every client, every deadline, and every speaking engagement.

Dad's life took another turn with the start of World War 2. His best friend, Uncle Bud, was recruited for the Army's Special Forces, The Devil's Brigade. Before his deployment, he took a trip back to their hometown where he encouraged Dad to join the Navy rather than wait to be drafted.

Dad followed Uncle Bud’s advice, and after enlisting in the Navy, he was sent to the Alaskan Aleutian Islands after they were bombed by the Japanese. His time in Alaska formed the man I later came to know as my Dad. Through his role as the purveyor of supplies, he gained organizational skills. From being entrusted with Officer-level duties, he exhibited leadership skills. And by climbing cliffs at the sound of air raid sirens warning the troops of the imminent danger they were in, he learned critical survival skills. 

Dad loved to recount meeting the Admiral over the South Pacific fleet and tell stories of how the brutally cold weather engulfed the troops or of men who took their own lives after getting Dear John letters from their wives back home. Overall, he spoke fondly of his time there, even with all the stories of hardship. After all, they were the moments that shaped him.

4. Providing nourishing meals may require hard work, but the memories built in your kids' hearts will be well worth it.

Fast forward to after the war, Dad met and married my mom, who had two children from a prior marriage. A short time later, my brother and I were added to the family. He started a building business in Arlington with his dad and went on to build many of the homes still standing in Arlington, Texas, including the homestead where I live now.

My dad made a business decision to stop building homes and start remodeling existing homes to sell. This, however, was during a time before flipping houses was a million dollar business. I remember winters and many rainy days where he was restless to be on the job, most likely due to the weight & responsibility of providing for his family. There was no paid time off; if he didn't work, he didn't get paid.

Growing up, I held the firm belief that cornbread and navy beans with a glass of buttermilk were Dad's favorite meal. It was not my favorite meal, but it seemed to give dad great pleasure, and he made the most of it. It wasn't until my 40's that I realized cornbread and beans were not my dad's favorite dish, but the result of having a family to feed and little money to do so.

My parents learned to garden to help provide food for the table. I learned to pull weeds, pick beans, squash, & zucchini, and protect tomato plants from Springtime hail. Occasionally, when Dad didn't curse it out of existence, Mom & I would enjoy fried okra, often counting the pieces to be fair.

They began canning the vegetables so they could be enjoyed throughout the year. I still find myself nostalgic for my Mom's chow-chow sauce; there is simply nothing like it on the grocery store shelf, and I cherish those meals of beans, cornbread, and chow-chow sauce.

5. Do not get stuck in how it has been done in the past but be willing to change for a more profitable future.

Wisely, one of the things Dad did when building or remodeling a home, was trade the buyer’s existing home plus cash for the new(er) home. These homes often became his rental houses, which provided consistent income to supplement the days he was unable to work and to save for retirement. 

It was a smart business move. We sold the last rent house just before Dad turned 90 years old. The rent houses truly did pay dad and mom's way through life. Daddy used to say he didn't budget to live into his nineties, but having the rent houses allowed my parents to grow old and financially stable. While they were not wealthy, their needs were provided for, and in the end, that is what matters.

6. Life's open doors all come down to choice.

In the midst of bidding and working jobs, Dad became involved in his community by serving on the Arlington Independent School District Board for over 21 years. He was also involved in our church, the Masons and any other committee where he was needed. I'm not sure he ever said no. His heart was full, and he had much to give. And give he did.

Over the years, you will discover your passion in spite of all the obstacles that appear to block your way. There are no true obstacles that could keep you from doing what you want to do; there are only the ones that reside in your head. Keep at it and be determined. Do not let anyone or anything dissuade you from your goal.

7. What others view as a weakness is actually your strength.

My stubbornness has given me the ability to persevere. My independence has given me the ability to take risks. My talkative nature has given me the ability to speak in front of thousands. My dad pointing it out on so many occasions taught me to shut up and listen. Do not let your fear of failure keep you from your potential success.

Think outside the box and never be stagnant. Determine to have a life of motion and keep moving forward to open other doors, even if it is only one toe at a time.

8. Decide to be the very best at whatever you are doing. 

That might require classes, it might require time or more than a few sacrifices, but hang in there and see it through. Never settle for mediocrity.

9. Invest.

Sometimes investing is not just financial but also investing in time spent on others. Life is not just about you. I'm sure you have been told this throughout your life, as have I. Over the past fifty years, this has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. Life does not revolve around what I want to do or what I selfishly would like to happen. No, not at all.

Every day I have to embrace this mindset and when I do, I have been able to let go of complaining about life and start maximizing my encounters with people. I choose to speak kindness, to cloak myself in understanding, to make a difference, to listen, to not complain about everything I cannot change and be a catalyst for that which I can change.

10. Be an agent of change.

We all have the ability and the means to improve the society we live in. Make a positive impact on those around you, and you will not be disappointed. Regardless of your past, regardless of how you feel you have been treated, invest in others' hearts in some form. Find a cause you are passionate about and dedicate yourself to it, whether in the form of resources or time, any way you can help makes a difference. 

The open doors of your future are determined by your choices and not just the big decisions, but the small ones too. Not every decision you make will be right and not every decision will be life-changing. Though, some are, so choose wisely. But remember, your timeline is unique to you. Don't compare your series Open Doors to that of others. While you may have some of the same doors at the same time as your peers, ultimately yours are different because they are on your timeline. 

If you had told me when I was younger that all the doors that have opened would be more than I could have ever imagined, I wouldn't have believed you. I stand amazed at my life; there honestly has never been a dull moment. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I could make a difference in so many lives and businesses.

If you had told Dad when he was younger he would have a junior high named after him in Arlington, he would have never believed you. I met a gal this past week whose parents home was remodeled by my dad and who ended up working at Gunn Jr. High. She knew him on both levels and couldn't say enough good things about the man my father was. I often tell young dads that there is no greater privilege than for a daughter to be a daddy's girl. I love my dad and miss him every day, but he left me with a legacy of life lessons.

I truly believe there has never been another time in history where such a vast array of opportunities exists. Life will have inevitable hardships, but it is how we choose to navigate ourselves through the ups and downs that shapes who we are.

It is your timeline, your open doors, and your choice.

The future is yours for the making.

Monday, May 21, 2018

How to Keep Your Business Standing When Disaster Strikes

Moore, Oklahoma was devastated 
by an EF5 (210mph) tornado in May 2013. 24 lost their lives, including 14 children and 377 others injured. The powerful and dangerous tornado stayed on the ground for at least 39 minutes over 17 miles. Its path was densely populated with established neighborhoods and schools, just like many of yours.

Witnesses described it as a black storm wall, spanning 1.3 miles at its greatest width. This was not a storm to be trifled with. In my research, 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 robust 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."

There were only a handful of broken down trees and houses left standing. The following summer, I returned to the Plaza Towers Elementary School site where children should have been playing, laughing and scurrying about. Instead, it was deafeningly silent; the neighborhood was void of anything except concrete pads.

Against all odds, there was still one house left standing across the street; albeit only partially so. There were no neighborhood garage sales, no kids playing in yards, and no trees populating the earth. It was breathtaking to see with my own eyes. Imagine your own neighborhood leveled in a matter of just a few minutes.

An estimated 1,150 homes were destroyed. Hundreds more were damaged to the point of requiring demolition. Two schools were rebuilt, while countless businesses remain lost, including dental colleagues and practices.

I had the privilege of volunteering at ServeMoore with my 16-year-old goddaughter for a few days in the summer of 2013. ServeMoore is a parachurch organization that mobilized efforts on the night of the tornado through a simple text. They had never operated a crisis center, and yet, FEMA was amazed at the organization's ability to construct a support system in such a short period of time. They processed monetary donations, along with thousands of major & minor tools. What started with a few people believing they needed to help, has grown into an operation with volunteers from every continent and state. In the first week alone they had over 3,000 volunteers. ServeMoore began with a focus on cleanup and repairs, and now three months later, they are still working to meet all the community's needs.

We spoke with so many affected both physically and emotionally by the tornados. Their stories were filled with courage, determination, strength, and heartache. Two of the women we met were recent widows, trying to navigate 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. The effects of losing friends and neighbors held them in a state of shock, but not once did I hear a complaint or pessimistic thought leave their mouths. I was amazed at the endurance and courage of those who survived. "Oklahoma Strong" is their mantra for a reason!

While many businesses were left unprepared for a natural disaster, The Waffle House, located a half-mile from the Tornado's path, was able to reopen the next afternoon with the help of backup generators. Their preparedness not only allowed them to provide emergency supplies to the victims but to also keep their business afloat. The time to prepare is not during a natural disaster.

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 are:

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

Documents. Are all of your critical business and personal documents safe? A bank lockbox 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 staff to ensure their well-being? 

Technology backups. Do you know what is being backed up and when? The practice, image, and accounting software data should all be backed up off-site. I use Mozy.com and Carbonite.com, both give me the reassuring 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 practice savings account is necessary for any crisis. You will need immediately available cash. 

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Importance of Team Dynamics

If there is one thing I am passionate about, it is the Texas Ranger's baseball team. In 1972, the new Arlington Stadium became the home of the Rangers and where I worked through high school. Now, I am a proud season ticket holder. The games are a mini-vacation from life, in short, they're my vice. From my seats, I can see everything on the field and dugout, including the players themselves, which are more interesting to watch than you would think. #humanbehaviorstalker

We won very few games those first few years but finally made it to a World Series in 2010 and 2011, only to fail in the end. BUT, my Rangers finally made it to the World Series, and that is what counts! I had been waiting for 38 very long years, and it was a fantastic experience!

The euphoria, however, was short-lived. In June 2012, my team fell apart. It was downhill for the rest of the season, losing the division title on the last day. The discouragement was evident in the players who no longer congratulated or motivated one another. I watched a frustrated coach not respond or react. The players sat on the bench with their heads down, no longer interested in hanging on the rail to watch the game play out.

It was heart-wrenching to watch a talented team fail. It was like bearing witness to a fatal injury but being helpless to stop it. The only thing left to do was to support the life-saving efforts with a heavy heart. It's been seven years of unending torture.

This year is different. We have new players in our dugouts. We are still the bottom feeders of the American League West, but the players are finally having fun again. From shouts of encouragement to laughter in the sidelines, their genuine enjoyment of the game is breathing life back into the team and the fans.

What’s my point?

A single person in the dugout can poison the entire team and sometimes talent is not worth the negativity. Your patients "see" the attitudes of your employees, but it is the coach (leader) that sets the tone.

Negative Players
Part of the problem beginning in 2012 was a poisonous player. His name, along with his personal issues, were all over the media. It affected the team and infected other players. If it was evident from my seat overlooking the dugout, then it was apparent to the other side who could and did take advantage.

All it takes is one person to ruin a day. Acts of negativity pollute other employees' attitudes and make staff members wish they worked elsewhere. We are human, and as such cannot be cheery all the time, but disposition makes or breaks the tone in the dugout.

It was baseball legend, Tommy Lasorda, who said, “There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens.”

He is right both on and off the field! It is difficult to be a negative player and still have determination, drive, and hunger for the win. If you watch the dugout, no one hangs around the negative player. They are poison to the team.
Talented but Negative
You're probably familiar with the saying one bad apple can spoil the bunch, but did you know it is a scientific fact? A gaseous hormone called ethylene causes the apples in the bunch to speed up their ripening process.

A recent embezzlement investigation featured a practice manager pointing the finger at a front desk employee, continuously restating to the owners what the employee had allegedly told her. It was accusatory, and I found nothing to back up it up. I meticulously combed through the practice software and bank records and found nothing. The practice manager was tenacious with the doctors, though; and at her insistence, they were ready to fire the employee until I convinced them to wait and watch.

To be still and observe behavior is often quickly dismissed in the interest of expediency.

Sure enough, the practice manager was calling in prescriptions for herself using the doctor's DEA number. They had a much more significant problem on their hands than most realize. Due to the soaring opioid epidemic, each state now has a prescription drug monitoring program which makes it easy to validate prescriptions by DEA number.

Patients See
Do you wonder what your patients say about your practice after they leave? I read a Facebook blast from a friend about a local dental practice. "They have such bad attitudes there. The gal sitting at the desk was texting on her phone and didn't even look up at me when I was standing there. There was no ‘friendly' interaction with anyone. They don't seem to like working there very much. Well, guess what – I don't like going there either, and I've decided it will be my last visit."

I was mortified for the practice, but the reality is the problem is greater than this single patient and more expansive than this particular practice.

What Are Your Patients Seeing? 
Do they see your team standing at the rail, cheering for their team's successes and supporting each other during the busy times? Does your staff enthusiastically greet, or simply process your patients as part of their day? Do they have a fire in their belly to tackle the hardest schedule? Are they compassionate to listen to their patient's hearts?

A great employee will know their products and procedures, they will go above and beyond to get to know their customers, and they will be in tune to what they are truly looking for, not just what they came in to buy.

One great employee equals three good employees. Ask yourself, are your employees great or are they just filling a spot on the roster?

I hated it when my mom used to say, "I don't like your tone, young lady," but the fact is, tone does speak volumes. Does your team support and encourage each other? Listen to how they interact with one another. What is the tone? What is your tone as their leader?

Building a Team
It takes time to build a team. As a Ranger's fan, we have had many fun years and many more disappointing "rebuilding" years. Through the frustration, I have remained a fan. I keep going back for a disappointing loss, mostly because I love baseball and hope is eternal. I have met quite a few players through the years and in some strange way, I have built a "relationship" with my team.

During the hard building years of your practice, do your patients keep coming? Are you building individual relationships? In the growing social media presence, do not forget, a patient who feels valued will return. What, if anything, are you doing to address their concerns?

A Leader Sets the Tone
1940’s MLB catcher Al Lopez said, “Do what you love to do and give it your very best. Whether it’s business or baseball, or the theater, or any field. If you don’t love what you’re doing and can’t give it your best, get out of it. Life is too short.”

Owning a business is larger than your clinical skills. It is being determined to be the very best in every aspect of your practice. If you do not know, learn. Set the tone of your practice, cultivate positivity. Develop a sense of curiosity – who is where, who does what, and what are the goals this month? Be intentionally involved in every aspect of the practice.

Texas Rangers’ CEO and former major league pitcher Nolan Ryan said, “One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while, you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something.”

Digging deep to become and do what needs to be done can be one of the most rewarding achievements in life. Never be satisfied with status quo. Asking “how can we make this team better” produces winning teams.

Are you a fan of your own practice? Are you your team's biggest supporter? If not, how can you learn, adapt and grow into the role?

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a game on tonight, and I need to get ready. Play ball!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Just Say NO to QuickBooks Online

Intuit is doing everything they can in their marketing endeavors to push all accounting software users to QuickBooks Online. While installing QuickBooks Desktop 2018, I was amazed at the blatant pop up offering three free months if I converted to the online version.

Let me be clear, I get it. After all, QuickBooks Online looks great. Being able to use a mobile app is appealing and having access while 
you are sitting on a beach sounds great. Although, if I am on a beach, working on my accounting would be the last thing on my mind.

The colors and graphs look amazing, but, what are they not telling us What are we sacrificing by going online?

If you hang around me long enough, you’ll learn how I really feel about

QuickBooks Online. While many CPAs and consultants do not share my views, if you look from the viewpoint of what is truly best for our clients, most cases, it is not the online version.

There are many valid reasons to not use QuickBooks Online. As I have converted as many Online users back to QuickBooks desktop version, let me explain the problems.

Change your mind? Too bad. QuickBooks Desktop version converts nicely to QuickBooks Online, however, QuickBooks Online does NOT convert cleanly to QuickBooks Desktop. There is no clean backup. I think it’s interesting that Intuit asks why you are doing a backup: as a backup or are you going back to the desktop version? With the increasing degrees of difficulty and required hoops jumped through when converting, it appears they are sabotaging the entire process. In the least, they are not making it easy.

In the past few months, the steps to download have become more refined and easier to follow. However, the data does not download as it appears online. Profit & Loss Reports, as well as Balance Sheet reports, often do not line up when converting to Desktop. This poses a massive problem.

Backups. A recent transition client’s CPA completely revised their QuickBooks Online Chart of Accounts. Incensed, the doctor decided to get off QuickBooks Online and start using the desktop version. An online client for many years, he was frustrated with the consistent errors in his data and felt he had no control.

If you make changes to your online Chart of Accounts, or balances become off for whatever reason, there is no “reset” option in the Online version. With the desktop version, there is a simple restore of your prior backup, which has been done many times with overzealous accountants who truly did not know QuickBooks as well as they should.

This is truly something for you to consider. Are you willing for your accounting data to only be accessible online? To not have a guaranteed copy downloaded?

Really think about it.

Other Names. One of the major missing components from the Online version included in the Desktop Pro version, is the Other Name payee type. The Online version has only three choices: Customer, Vendor, and Employee.

The reason this is significant does not matter to the accountant, who is simply doing your taxes, but it does matter if there is business management oversight.

Customers are patient refunds and employees are paid through payroll, but not everyone else is a Vendor.

A Vendor is someone you do business with through the course of your practice. It is the supply company, the labs, the landlord, the IRS, the professional associations, the utility companies, the plumber, the IT company, etc.

A Vendor is NOT the restaurant, the convenience store, the hotel, the airlines, the grocery store, where you get gas or the pizza delivery. These are all very common transactions in a practice and should be categorized under Other Names. The reason? A great report to review – Expenses by Vendor Summary.

Business management is most effective with separate payee types. Not separating them out convolutes the ability to fully review the report.

Cost. I recommend the QuickBooks Desktop Pro version be upgraded only every three years. In comparing cost, the QuickBooks Desktop Pro version can most of the time be purchased for $199.00 vs. $1380.00 for the Online version (3 months with a 50% discount, then $40 per month.) For me, that’s a no-brainer.

Accessibility. The reason an accountant tells their client they would prefer the business use QuickBooks Online is always for ease of access. There is simply no other reason. Period.

Let’s break that down. QuickBooks Online costs 3x more than the desktop version, for a third of the features. All so the accountant can have uncontrolled access to your data, and most likely only 1-4 times a year.

There are other ways you can give the accountant access to your QuickBooks Desktop version, in a greater controlled environment. Creating and emailing an Accountant’s Copy every month would be sufficient. They can make their changes and then import them into the Desktop version. This also provides a summary of the changes that will be imported for review PRIOR to accepting the changes.

I marvel at how QuickBooks Online has been sold as the only way to access QuickBooks through the internet. There are other options. You can access your computer remotely through GotoMyPC ($23/month), or use an online service such as iNSYNQ, which hosts the full QuickBooks desktop version in the cloud.

Chart of Accounts. The design of your chart of accounts is a vital aspect of understanding your reports. Currently unavailable online is the ability to inactivate any old accounts, vendors, employees, etc. They can be deleted, which is odd, as this removes them from the list, but still allows them to be restored if needed. This is not a smooth process and, I suspect, the reason why it is nearly impossible to download a clean backup copy.

For example, if you delete a Balance Sheet account and it has a balance, QuickBooks Online creates a journal entry for you. Likewise, with a deleted Vendor with a balance. I searched QuickBooks Online help and the alternate answers made me laugh, but it is certainly nothing I would ever recommend.

The order of organization I recommend for the desktop version is by the “weight” (cost) of the practice area, with Doctor Expenses always being last, generally being mostly subjective. The Chart of Accounts Online offers a single version of organization: alphabetical order, parent, and subaccounts.

My clients will start fresh with QuickBooks Desktop 2018 version as of January 2018, and will no longer have any historical data. To this point, I have spent 8 hours determined to give them historical data. They will, however, have a resemblance of this data with all the report detail downloaded from the online version for backup.

I had a previous client call because her IT guy recommended QuickBooks Online. My response to that? They should stay in their lane. Do not allow anyone to talk you into doing anything without doing your homework first. What sounds like a great idea, may not be so grand in the long run.

Just say no to QuickBooks Online.

Want to take control of your QuickBooks? Get Susan's book here.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Caring For Those You Leave Behind

No one ever envisions a sudden death happening to them. Consequently, drafting up a will tends to be the furthest thing from the mind. However, if you are part of the family left behind, dealing with emotional loss is just the beginning of a long, difficult and challenging road ahead. I know this because I speak from experience.  

A dear relative of mine passed away suddenly. Younger than me, he had never been married, left behind no children, and never created a will. His death created a whirlwind of emotions and responsibilities none of my family was prepared to deal with.    

His small personal belongings were easily given away, but it took almost a year of court visits and attorney interventions before the estate was finally settled. Among his larger assets were a house in foreclosure, a laundry list of medical bills, three trucks, bank & savings accounts, and a retirement fund.  

It did not have to happen this way. Nonetheless, it was a lesson learned for the rest of the family: death can happen at any moment. And the best gift you can leave behind for those you love is a will, with its additional gifts of a HIPAA form, DNR, Medical Power of Attorney, and all the necessary information about your business(es), such as who to contact, logins & passwords. 

While all that information was gathered from my parents when they passed away, the circumstances were different. They were in their old age and we had time to prepare for their deaths. When not expecting death at our door, however, we think we are young, we think we have tomorrow to take care of details, we think it will not happen to us. Not always. 

So, when should you prepare a will? 

When you get married and/or have children?

When you have equity in a business? 

When you buy a house? 

When you have a retirement account? 

When you are aware of your own imminent death? 

When you have specifics about after-life accommodations? 


The answer will never be that you do not need one.  Since laws vary by state, I highly recommend an attorney be the one to finalize your will, along with any necessary documents should you become incapacitated or die. An unofficial may not hold up in court, and can ultimately cause greater distress to your loved ones. Take the time to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  

A will simply designates how your remaining estate is handled in the event of death, but these documents do not go into effect until you die. Should you become incapacitated and unable to be your own advocate, you will need documents that appoint someone you trust to oversee your care and estate, including your business.  

The provided packet from my attorney included the following: 

          1. A Will

          2. Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates

          3. Declaration of Guardian in the Event of Later Incapacity

          4. Medical Power of Attorney

          5. Statutory Durable Power of Attorney

          6. HIPAA Release

Along with these official documents, I have created an Estate Worksheet that lists all my financial accounts, life insurance policies, personal property, etc.   

In my book, Matters Of The Heart, I include a Family Toolbox, which is a list of informational documents that will help your family in the advent of your passing and is available with the book to download online. I have used them for my own estate and hope by doing so, will make my estate closing easier. 

I also address the necessity of family meetings to gather information for an aging loved one, which does happen to include everyone.  Use a family meeting because “one person may remember something for the medical history form that no one else remembers. Everyone hears the same information, which, therefore, helps everyone be on the same page. During the initial family meeting would be a fantastic starting point to get everything, and everyone, organized.” 

I currently have annual meetings with my family to review any changes to what has already been established. While it may sound a little morbid, since I still consider myself young and am not yet elderly, I have seen and experienced the deep heartache that can be caused by not having a will or your wishes communicated to those who love you.   

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “I already have a will,” but is this will up to date?  Have you included the HIPAA Release form? What about a complete list of necessary account logins and passwords? All changes in your business? Is everything organized in one place for easy access? Would any remaining family know where to access this information? 

If you can leave behind one gift, let it be the gift of organization to those you love.