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!

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? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Seasons Greetings

This is the time of year that memories flood our hearts of holidays past, as we are preparing for the holiday ahead.

For many, there are loved ones no longer here to share in their laughter or there are changes in their own lives that affect long held holiday traditions.  But then, for some, there are little new feet that prance through the home, overflowing with bursts of giggles, creating new memories to hold dear.

The holidays mean different things to different households: a joyful reminder of what’s been gained this year or a sorrowful reminder of what (or who) has been lost this year.

It’s the winding down of the year and the anticipation of an even better New Year.  Or a thankful close to a difficult year and the gratefulness for hope of a different new year outcome.  

My parents are a very large part of my fondest Christmas memories.  Daddy was the first one in to decorate for Christmas and the first to open presents under the tree.  Mom spent days baking cookies, pies, and  candy.  The scales were ignored during our holidays and I am convinced Mom’s “love language” was cooking.  

After Dad passed, the holidays contained a little less laughter but, in 2010, my mom hosted a house full of family.   I’m sure you could smell her savory cooking down the block.  Every Christmas morning that I can remember, she served homemade cinnamon rolls – one pan with raisins and one pan without.  You best be quick if you wanted more than one cinnamon roll because they quickly disappeared.

There was lots of laughter and joy that year.  Grandkids and their kids squealed as they ran through the house, in and out the doors.  There was only one volume – really loud, which was just fine with mom because she could then hear them clearly!  

I was knee deep in an embezzlement case and it had consumed me, both my time and my thoughts.  I took all the visiting family being there as an opportunity to be able to work, since I was the primary on-site caregiver.  Oh, I didn’t work on Christmas day but I missed all the other days, like when my mom taught my niece how to make cinnamon rolls.  And, I remember my brother-in-law asking if I was ok because I was so abnormally quiet.  I was consumed with my work.

I don’t remember much about that Christmas except those two things not because of a bad memory but because I wasn’t present.  I didn’t shut “it” off.  When I was asked to do something, I’d laugh and say, “Embezzlers don’t stop for a holiday.”  In fact, that’s one of the embezzler’s most active times.

What I didn’t know was it was my mom’s last Christmas.  

I have absolutely no regrets for all the time that I spent with both my parents through those sixteen years of caregiving but I do regret not taking off during that last Christmas together with Mom.

I was given a gift of one remaining Christmas to store up more memories:  of her at 97 years old playing on the floor with her great grandkids, of her delighting one last time in providing all the delectable tasties to her kids, grandkids and great grandkids.  I blew it and there is no way to recapture it.  

But, I have learned from that important Christmas.  My business is now officially closed while family is in town.  This year, it is closed from December 23 through January2.  I will still check emails and answer urgent phone calls in the mornings, but there are little feet in the house that will demand attention and I plan on giving it by getting my 60 year old body down on the floor to play.  I can’t build memories for them (or me) if I am unavailable. 

This year, I encourage you to first pour your energy in to your family.  Be present with who is there with you.  Create a beautifully bowed basked to store all the silenced cell phones away in another room.  Get the games out.  Spend time laughing with each other and loving on each other.  Being gluten free now makes the baking a challenge but the smells have begun to permeate the neighborhood once again.

By the way, that is me many years ago in the first picture, standing in front of the fireplace in the home that my dad built.  The second picture is the same fireplace in what is now my home.   Both of my parents are represented in the decor.  It's hard not to miss them this time of year.

My hope for you?  To have a very amazing Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah this year.  

Make new spectacular memories and may all your greetings be seasoned with love!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Phishing Email

Ho ho ho.  It is that time of year to be jolly.  And apparently when phishing emails are taken to the next level.  Four phishing emails have made it past my spam filter in the past two days.

I received this email while I was catching up with a dear friend at lunch today.  Panic hits when the amount charged is seen [“OMG.  Seriously?  $8599?”] and the immediate response is to click the button, “No, speak with an agent.”  Quickly.  Immediately without passing GO.

But, wait a minute.  Let’s take a closer look at the email.  
Look at the image and tell me one thing that should tell you it is a fraud.
Have you found it?   

The first thing I did was point my mouse cursor to the buttons to determine where it would direct me to should I click on them.  “rawdietscpa.com/express/validation” for both of them.  Interestingly enough, the customer service link at the bottom redirected to the same website link.

Ok.  This is a phishing email to gain confidential information, more specifically, your credit card information so that the next time you get a message, it really will be from American Express about a fraud on your card.

But what should have caught my immediate attention is the Attempt Date.  I have cards issued in the United States, not Europe, the UK or Canada.  The date is in a European format.

If you get a fraud alert, typically the last four numbers of your Account are showing in the Account Ending field.  The fact that it is grayed out here also alerted me to it being fraudulent.  

When I moved my mouse cursor to the buttons at the top of the email, none of them are active:  View Account, Make a Payment or Manage Preferences.  

I did NOT click on any of the links.  First, I do not want them to know that I received the email and thought it might be valid.  Secondly, I do not know the website and I am unwilling to place my computer at risk.

So what’s the take away?

Take time to evaluate any email from a bank, lending agency, credit card company, financial institution of any sort.  This includes the Internal Revenue Service.  Look at all the details of the email before clicking anything.  Call the entity by phone before clicking to validate the validity should you still have questions.

Reign in your curiosity.  Once you determine it is fraudulent, do not click anything.  Delete it.

Report the email to the entity via phone.  I had not seen this one before and cannot assume the American Express fraud department has seen it.  I forwarded them a copy.  They can only fight against something if they are aware of it.
In fact, that’s why I’m posting my Wednesday Cogitations Blog early on Tuesday.  You can only fight against that which you know you need to be vigilant against.  It’s helpful to make informed decisions.  And it would be bad timing during the holidays.  What an entrapment.

Protect your holiday purchases by watching your credit card.  Review your statements.  If you shop online, beware of unsecured website purchases.  How do you know?  Here are just a few:

  • On the shopping cart page, in the bottom right corner, there will be a closed lock or unbroken key icon.
  • The prices won’t be too good to be true.  It is stated low specifically to entice you.
  • There is a shipping policy, return policy and a privacy statement very clearly stated.
  • No pop-up ads.

If you still have questions about the site, check the Better Business Bureau, or better yet, don’t shop there.  Your gut may be telling you to be cautious for a reason.

In the meantime, shop away but be cautious.  What may be a great deal may be far more costly than you realize.

Well, this was certainly not the cheery blog I had planned on this week but wanted you to be aware.  I might just have to post my cheery note sooner than next week anyway!