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!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why do scams exist?

Why do scams exist?  

Because for some reason, we want to believe we can get something for nothing.  We believe we deserve it, are entitled for it.  The number of existing scams is mind boggling.  Has our society truly dumbed down to the point that scammers are encouraged to ramp up their efforts?

I am so weary of the live phone calls, robocalls, emails, and snail mail trying to part my hard earned money from my possession via their deceptive means.

I received a somewhat official looking document from "The National Travel and Tourism Association."  Being involved in the Arlington Conventions and Visitors Bureau here in Arlington, I at the least opened it up.

I knew it was a scam the second I read the first sentence.  My Dad was the one that taught me there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Why do people believe there is a "free lunch?"
They want it to be true?
It must feed a vulnerable need.

I was curious what others have said about the NTTA scam so I "Googled" it.

I found this article by Neal Rubin of the Detroit News.  He penned it well so there is no need for me to drag it on.  Read his article.

Particularly vulnerable are the aging.  Please please please have conversations with all your aging loved ones about the growing scams and that they are not to give under any circumstances their credit card, bank information or home address to anyone via the telephone or email.

And to not click on any links to verify their passwords.  Walk them through the dangers of doing so that they may understand the necessity and urgency.

And to not believe what they receive in the mail without validating it with others.

In the meantime, remember:

Microsoft will not call you about a computer having a virus.
The IRS will not call you requesting payment for outstanding taxes.
The county will not call you threatening you with an arrest for failure to appear for jury duty.
There is no Nigerian prince or any other country for that matter who died and you can inherit his money.
None of your friends will call you from overseas wanting you to wire them money for their surgery, or bail, or anything.
The NTTA does not want to give you airfare and hotel free without many many strings attached.

The only free lunch you will get is if you are with friends eating out and they pick up the tab.  AND, PLEASE validate and verify everything before sharing or posting anything.

This misled recipients that they were receiving a gift from someone.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A 45 year memory - Horacio Pina

I was a pretty naïve Texas gal the summer after my sophomore year in 1972. All I knew and loved was tennis and softball, neither of which I was encouraged to play being a young lady from the south. I began working that summer at an Arlington, Texas city owned theme park called Seven Seas but soon quit in order to join my church’s youth mission trip to Mexico.

Very long story short, five high school kids and two adults drove through winding roads in a van, with various hysterical experiences and very little known Spanish, to work for five days in Toluca, a town west of Mexico City, nestled against an inactive volcano. We saw more of the interior of Mexico on that trip than I have since.

Toluca was a beautiful village town, with lots of friendly people and we soon became the talk of it. We painted walls of the local church and various other tasks those five days, while living in church owned rooms. The church members cooked food in their homes for us at night and it was a sacrifice for many of them. We would walk to the local bakery or market, often several times a day. Some of the youth from the church painted alongside us.

And I became smitten with one of those young men whose name was Job. We conversed in broken English and Spanish, laughing and connecting as kids do. He was a true gentleman, behaving in a manner that was not bestowed upon the young men in my own town! I truly enjoyed his company and the time with he and his friends was all too soon at an end.

We continued our communication through letters. The only problem was that we didn’t understand each other’s language. He wrote in Spanish and I wrote back in English, not able to respond to anything he said in his letters.

There was this new major league baseball team in town that year and after returning, my new summer job was selling cokes to the fans in the outfield. The first year, there were only two or three fans in the outfield. It was a very different time than now. One of those fans was regular customer of mine, requesting that when I saw him, to bring him a Coke and a bag of peanuts.

We always talked when I saw him. It wasn’t like I had a lot of customers in the outfield, especially in the Texas heat on the hot outfield benches. I told him about my trip and the new “love” of my life back in Mexico. I had just received a letter from Job and had told him about my dilemma, as I was gazing over the pitchers warming up close to us. I showed him the letter in my pocket, at the same time I saw one of the pitchers looked Hispanic.

“Hey,” I yelled. “Do you read and write Spanish?”

Don’t judge me – I was 15 year old damsel in desperate in need of a solution.

He smirked as he replied, “yes?”

“So I got these letters from my boyfriend in Mexico but they are in Spanish. Can you translate them for me?”

He stared at me for at least a minute. I’m sure he was thinking what an idiot I was and he couldn’t believe he was the pitcher of a major league baseball team and here was an outfield Coke pusher asking him to translate her love letters from some guy in Mexico.

I could almost hear the “Seriously?” through the look on his face. But I waited patiently for his answer.

Deep sigh, “okay. Meet me at the player’s guard gate after the game.”

Thus began a long relationship (the rest of the season) with Horacio Pina. He would check the outfield for me and I would wave an envelope or just wave back. The guard would just wave me through when he saw me and I would sit on a nearby wall waiting for Horacio after the game.

Horacio was a good man, with a heart like a big brother. I really enjoyed our talks and I’m sure through the years, my memory has embellished the details of them. But I do hold them close.

Near the end of the season, after one particular letter, Horacio had a serious look on his face. And he was being really quiet. Remember I was naïve. Guardedly, Horacio warned me that it would be dangerous for Job to try to come see me. I did not understand. He then told me about the hardships of Mexico and that many come across the borders illegally to find work. Some make it and some did not.

I sat in stunned silence. I had no idea. Me going to Mexico was not difficult. I thought it would be just as easy for him. Horacio knew first hand of the difficulties – he was from Matamoras, Mexico.

We sat and talked on the wall for a long time that evening as he helped me carefully word my last letter to Job.

Now I was a damsel in depress but I knew I had done the right thing. I did not want Job to get hurt.

The season ended and Horacio was traded to the Oakland A’s before the 1973 season. I lost touch of him as my life moved on as well.

Fast forward to five years ago. I am now a season ticket holder and was attending the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame luncheon. When I saw another 1972 Texas Ranger pitcher, I asked him if he knew how Horacio Pina was doing? I have truly wanted to thank him for all those wall talks.

He had lost touch with Horacio, knew he moved back to Matamoras after playing but he was now concerned about Horacio’s safety. With a curious look on his face, he asked why? When I explained, he exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, you are the girl on the wall! We gave him grief about you!”

Some people have pin-ups. I was a wall girl.

I have never been able to reach Horacio but hope he knows how much I appreciated his heart felt kindness, care and concern that summer. I am truly grateful for his translation services but mostly his brotherly advice to this naïve teenager.

Horacio played ten years as a relief pitcher in major league baseball. Wikipedia summarizes Horacio’s most productive season “came in 1972 with the last-place Rangers, when he posted career-numbers in saves (15), strikeouts (60) and games pitched (60).” So, I guess my bugging him didn’t affect his game too much after all!

And Job? He contacted me on Facebook last year - it was such a joy to hear from him! He is safe and sound in Toluca, with forty-five year old memories of some American teenager.

So what is the point of this blog? I am sure Horacio had no idea the impact he made on me through his willingness to help. Forty-five years later, I still hold him dear.

Whose life are you affecting so, that in forty-five more years, they will still hold you dear?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Han Chen

Music has always been an integral part of our family, woven into our very genes. My granddad and his brothers were known as the Gunn Gospel Quartet. Every one of my siblings and I sang in choirs and still sing. My mom was very proficient at playing the piano. My siblings and I all learned to play the piano, in varying degrees. My oldest brother never learned to read music but could play a piece completely by ear. My sister still actively enjoys playing her piano.

My mom’s 1902 grand piano proudly sits in my living room. I can sit at the piano bench quite well. I can even curve my fingers properly on the keyboard, but play well I cannot. Because I was truly not good, I was not inspired to continue playing.  #saysalladultswhotookpianolessons Now when I stroke the piano keys, the cats run and the dog looks at me like I am sick. Otherwise, the piano lid makes a great place to display family photos.

Spotify and Pandora playlists include classical and modern piano recordings of which I greatly admire. Music Appreciation class was not lost on me. I appreciate how easy they make playing a difficult piece sound. We grew up with family favorites. When Claire de Lune begins, all work ceases as I close my eyes and hear my mom’s favorite piece transpose even the most chaotic day into calm.

Imagine then my thrill at being invited to my neighbor’s home for a private piano concert. The audience was mesmerized as Han Chen, now competing in The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, played with immense emotion and passionate depth.

Moving between Rachmaninoff to Haydn is like moving from Lynyrd Skynyrd to James Taylor but Han made it look effortless and flawless. As he stroked the keys in rapid succession, he drew us in to the notes and phrases of the composition itself. Captivated and hypnotized we listened. Full but wanting more, we were heartbroken when the last note was played.

What an evening!

The Van Cliburn competition brings the world’s best rising stars to Fort Worth. The world. Han is from Taiwan, but others are from Russia, South Korea, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Romania, Austria, Croatia, Poland, Canada, China, and yes, the United States. Though a predominantly male field, there are nine females competing this year. Out of the 290 applications the Van Cliburn received this year, 146 were invited to audition live in seven world locations: London, Hannover, Budapest, Moscow, Seoul, New York, and Fort Worth.

From the audition, 30 were chosen to compete in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition’s Preliminary Round in Fort Worth. In the first round, the pianists chose their compositions to play plus a Van Cliburn Competition commissioned piece they did see nor hear until February. They have up to 45 minutes to perform these pieces.

In the next round, the Quarterfinals, 20 competitors are play pieces, again of their choosing, for up to 45 minutes. The Semifinal Round is 12 competitors that will perform in two phases. The first phase is a recital of compositions chosen by the pianist for up to 60 minutes. The second phase is a Mozart piano concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

The Final Round is 6 competitors in two phases. The first phase is a quintet with the Brentano String Quartet and the pianists chose from a list provided by the Van Cliburn Competition. The second phase is a concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, where the pianists may choose any work scored for piano and symphony, but must be approved by the Van Cliburn Competition.

The competitors choose, learn, and perfect 16 pieces that can be played with passion, sensation and eloquence, like no other competitors. Han keeps a journal of his practice on each piece, and could count the hours he spent learning the commissioned piece in three months.

Beginning piano lessons at age 4 in Taiwan, Han has been in the United States for seven years studying at The Julliard in New York City and now at the New England Conservatory. It is an understatement to say piano is his life.

Like any fine-tuned athlete, Han’s days are filled with perfecting his trade. He is meticulous in the evaluation of his playing. He is precise and exacting in how he approaches learning a composition.

He lives with music playing in his head 24/7 – melody sequencing, passionate phrasing, and rapid scaling. I asked him what he thought about before he went to sleep at night, and he replied, “Whatever I was practicing before I went to bed.” And, he wakes up thinking about the same.

Han’s favorite composition is Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor, composed in 1849 and completed in 1853. It takes 30 minutes to perform and is of extreme difficulty. That is why he loves it – it challenges him and provides a great variety in a single composition. It has four movements with a common melody. He is performing this at 5:15pm today during the Quarterfinal Competitions, which can be viewed online.

One evening, we talked about the comparisons between a pianist and ice skater. It was an intriguing comparison. As the ice skater builds their program to draw the audience in to their skating, so does the pianist. As the ice skater must tackle difficult programs to demonstrate their skill and proficiency, so must the pianist. Both perform in front of audiences with huge potential distractions – a cough, a physical movement, a cell phone, etc. Both must stay in shape, eat right, rest well, and be mentally tough.

Continuing our ice skating comparison, I asked him if certain piano compositions were graded higher due to their complexity, such as Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor, which would give the pianist a higher score. Han explained that the pieces were not judged on their complexity but that the judges want to see the greatest capability of every piece played, to the fullest potential of that particular composition, regardless of the complexity.

What is different between playing in an 8’ ceiling home versus the Bass Hall? It takes longer for sound to reach the ceiling then travel to the back of the room. Where it feels like he is playing slower, he said, he is actually playing faster because it takes longer for the sound to go up and out. He said all pianists learn to adjust how they are playing for this phenomenon.

One of my excuses for not continuing to play the piano was because of my short fingers. I was shamed when comparing the size of our hands, for Han’s fingers were not that much longer but the stretch of his hands was much broader. His love of the piano, plus passion, determination and perseverance has brought him to such a proficiency to be invited to compete. Han Chen is definitely my Audience Choice - he was a good sport to answer all my questions.

Speaking with Han was truly a pleasure. Listening to Han play the piano? My fingers are curved on my computer keyboard waiting for the appropriate heartfelt response to type out. Listening to Han stunned my ears to a higher existence. He is amazingly gifted. And, I am at a loss of words to describe the depth of joy I felt in listening to him.  I do not doubt he is quickly becoming a world renowned pianist.
A great thanks to Cliburn.org who not only hosts this competition annually but also broadcasts the competition live. It has been a pleasure to listen and watch.  And, be sure to vote for Han Chen as the Audience Favorite!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Life Investments

More often, we don’t have such an obvious heads up for when we can make a difference or impact someone else’s life.

A typical warm greeting can turn into a much needed respite to a recipient. A smile and a hug could make another’s day. A truly mindless gesture on a giver could mean a lifesaving gift to the heart of the other.

We so often plow through our day without giving it much thought. I try to be kind to everyone I meet, known and unknown. I love talking with people I don’t know and hearing their story. I have kept a list of the countries my taxi cab drivers were from for years. And, I have heard some very interesting political viewpoints from them, as well as some heart wrenching stories of war-torn countries and loved ones lost or left behind. Each of those encounters has made me grateful for who I am and where I live, and grateful they are in a much better situation, as well.

I had close friends visiting from out of town recently. We were doing a trip over to a Fort Worth restaurant known for their amazing margaritas and decided to call an Uber for the ride. Sandra soon picked us up and we were on our way!

“Well, hi Sandra. How long have you been driving for Uber? Where are you from? How long have you been in town? Where do you live then? Seriously – why did you move to Grand Prairie when you could have lived in Arlington?” [Local friends will laugh] “Why did you move to Texas? What do you want to do?”

As I am typing all the questions we asked, I would now like to apologize to all the prior cab drivers that have picked me up. But I do have an insatiable amount of curiosity and truly do believe everyone has a cool story.

Sandra has a cool story. The ride to Fort Worth was not nearly long enough but long enough to know that Sandra and I would meet again, as I gave her my card and instructed to her to call me soon! And she did.

Sandra received her Masters in Accounting then worked for the Nigerian government doing fraud audits. She is studying to sit for her CPA exam and she got excited when she heard what I did for work. Now, to be honest, not too many people get excited when they find out what I do for work. They are intrigued. They are curious. They may even be a little scared. But few are excited.

I recognized that smile - Sandra is a geek like me.

This was confirmed yesterday over coffee at Starbucks.

Born in Nigeria, but raised in the United States, she is exceptionally bright, has a thirst for learning and is strategizing her future. We covered a variety of topics in the two hours we met.

Right now, she is looking for a full time job in accounting. She had a really great interview with a company she was truly interested in but we brainstormed ideas as a backup in case.

Her husband is a builder in Nigeria who is now working on some major projects. He sounds amazing and I can't wait to meet his someday!  She is an honest, hard-worker, who blessed my day by sharing her life.

The time flew by and when we got up to leave, we felt the Starbuck's portrait on the wall said it all!

And to think I might have missed an opportunity to know Sandra if we had not asked all those thousands of questions while Ubering. Neither Sandra nor myself believes our encounter was by chance.

Because, did I mention, Sandra really does have a cool story AND is a really cool person!

Now that’s my kind of investing!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Stickers in Lush Looking Weeds

“Ow,” I loudly exclaimed, walking across a footpath in my yard, as I had a million times before. “What the heck? Stickers?”

We have never had stickers before. Why now? Good grief.

I am mostly barefoot during the summer months. In fact, if I could figure out how to speak at conventions barefoot, I would! And today was the day I actually wished I had shoes on my bare feet.

The sticker patches that had grown while I was not watching, looked innocent enough. The deep green patch of growth blended in with the St. Augustine grass. These were not the visible, typical grass stickers. These painful stickers were hidden by the deep green growth. One did not know what prize awaited their bare feet until they stepped on the otherwise luscious looking growth.

Deceptive growth, right?

One of the summers between my college years, I pulled weeds at a nursery. That was two very long months of tedious hot and sweaty work but I learned a lot about weeds and the different kinds of weeds. Some weeds are actually quite pretty but still a weed. Some weeds spread their tentacles out and some weeds spread up. Some weeds can cause a skin reaction, while other weeds can make you sneeze. Some weeds grow deep into the earth and some weeds have roots that are barely touching the earth.

But, in the end, they are all weeds and must be removed or the weeds will consume the beauty of a yard or flower bed. Pulling weeds is one of my least favorite jobs, perhaps because of that summer, but a necessary evil if I want to maintain my property.

Upon further inspection and analysis of this particular weed patch, I determine it had to be dug up. The roots went further into the ground and spread out on a broad area. I used the appropriate tool, a trowel that I had to dust off, dug out the menacing weeds and carefully lifted then placed them into a plastic bag for tomorrow’s garbage. I wanted to ensure none of the little weed's seeds fell into the rich dirt, only to sprout again.

The night’s rain softened the ground to make the weed pulling easier. For that, I was very thankful. After working a six foot area, it was time to take a break. Pervasive in my thoughts are how to keep the culprit from growing back.

The very harsh reality is that weed seeds are most often carried by the wind. It has been very windy here the past few weeks. There may be nothing I can do to prevent the weeds but my oversight will keep them from taking deep root. Trust me – after digging out that six foot area with more to come, I will be watching for future weeds.

And I will know if the weeds are there – my feet will let me know quickly. Pain has a way to motivate us all. I could just wear shoes and ignore the weeds but these painful weeds will affect more than just me, but little bare feet as well. That compels me to take care of the problem.

You own your own interpretation, whether work or personal, but it is time to be weed free!
What will your pain points be to notify you to take action?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Spring Cleaning Email Lists

Such a mundane activity but the afternoon has been spent culling out names of past audience participants, who have heard me speak, who no longer read the valuable emails I send. I know that someone else could perhaps do what I am doing, but the decision to remove them from the list is mine to make.

How long has it been since they opened an email from Susan Gunn Solutions? I know the lack of consistency on my part has driven down the actual open rates but I do not want to be a pest with emails. And, if they have what looks like may be an old email, then that might also explain why the email hasn't been open.

Since the cost to send an email is based on the number of those on the list, I've also began unsubscribing to the emails that I receive that are never read. I never read them so by unsubscribing NICELY, I am saving them money. My Inbox is inundated with daily emails of valuable content. I could not possibly read them all. Those I want to read are moved to a folder accessible by my ipad to read later. Most others are deleted.

What started this tedious activity? I finished writing an article to be sent out next week to the email list on Spring Cleaning. The contact list haunted me, with the words of what I had written repeating themselves throughout the morning. It was an in-my-face experience that left me resigned to go through the email list one by one. It will take weeks but there is a plan.

AND, if you receive an email next week about Spring Cleaning, then you have made the cut. If you do not, you need to sign up for newsletters on my website at susangunnsolutions.com.

After all, who wouldn't want to read my valuable content?

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.