How to Increase the Efficiency of Your Infrastructure in 10 Minutes

By: Tom Craig – Advance Systems Solutions

I was at a location recently to connect a device and needed to connect to the Wi-Fi, so I was given a password and logged on successfully to their network. As I was working on the configuration of their new equipment I tried to connect to the Internet to no avail. I could connect to their network, but not out to the Internet. I instantly assumed the problem was with me since the employees were all working away without complaint and went through my usual steps to test. I didn’t find anything that would prevent me from connecting through their network so I sheepishly asked if there was an Internet issue (some computer guy huh?). To my surprise I was told…”to connect to the Internet, you must make the following changes to your computer”… wait, what? There are devices failing to work properly in your environment, but you trust them to support your day-to-day operations?

This is an issue that is not uncommon at all. All too often we visit new client locations to find that there are misconfigurations or failing devices that are hindering efficiency, yet business owners and IT support staff simply accept them. What happens when someone who is not familiar with the bugs in the system tries to support your operations? Most of the time these issues are not documented because “that is just the way it is.”

Back in 1999 my co-worker Louis had little plastic bugs taped all over his monitor. When I asked why he had them all there, he said it was to remind him of all the “bugs” that we know are in a system but choose to ignore because we have a workaround. By keeping that in mind, Louis made sure that these items were either addressed or documented.

If you or one of any member of your staff couldn’t come to work, could another person get around the bugs that you have accepted as a part of the day-to-day procedures? These issues must be addressed and repaired so that they do not become pests to someone who is not familiar with them.

Yes, you can hire my company to perform penetration testing or a security audit, but nobody knows your systems better than you do. There is no one better suited to point out the hindrances than you and your staff face when performing tasks. Take ten minutes to make a list of hindrances that are present in your current network. Perhaps ask your co-workers to do the same for you. Perhaps the issue for you is that when you set up new employees on the VPN, a special setting is required. Perhaps it is that two systems do not connect automatically, and you must perform a few extra steps to make processes function correctly. Identify any issues that hinder a seamless experience in your organization, make a note of them…then plan to address them.

Prioritize the issues, whatever they may be, and don’t let them become the bugs that you ignore. By taking the time to begin this list, you will initiate conversations that highlight other areas of improvement. Addressing these inefficiencies, no matter how small they may seem, will lead to a better experience for your employees and smoother operations for your organization.

The staff at Advanced Systems Solutions have helped thousands of organizations to improve their operations, so contact us if you need any assistance or have any questions. We love to help!

 

Check out more great tips at https://www.advancedsystemssolutions.com/blog-2/

What Parents and Successful Investors Have in Common…

By: Dusty Rollins, Oxford Wealth Strategies

I love using comparisons to simplify and explain difficult life concepts. Hopefully, you readers have come to appreciate them as many of these financial columns use my penchant for comparisons to explain difficult financial concepts. I believe that drawing comparisons to something familiar is an easy way to take a complicated topic and discuss it in a way that people can understand.

So, once again, I am going to draw a comparison in this week’s column. I would like to point out some behaviors and character traits that are common to both successful investors and successful parents (to the extent anyone can measure parenting success).

First, patience. Anyone who has raised kids, or dealt with kids over an extended time frame, knows that patience is critical. Every parent has suffered through that time when your kids are learning to tie their own shoes, taking what seems like an excruciating time to do it themselves. All we want to do is tie the shoes for them so we can get out the door. But by being patient, our children learn how to tie their shoes themselves. They achieve their goal. Well, investors must also learn to be patient. We must learn to give our financial plans and strategies time to work. We do not always see success overnight and so it is important to learn to be patient if we want to achieve long-term financial success.

Perseverance is another common trait. Think about this for a moment. At times, we may see our children’s behavior stall, or even move backwards, but we must stick to our guns, stay with our strategy and not cave to an easy decision. For example, when your kid is in the grocery store lying on the floor of the cereal aisle screaming, it might be easiest to buy them those Cocoa Puffs, but that isn’t going to give you long-term success. This same dedication to perseverance applies to building wealth. This means not rushing into an impulse purchase or scooping up the first house that we see and like. This means holding onto that car for a few years longer instead of dumping it as soon as the upgrade is on the market. This means putting down the wallet, even when it is really hard to do so.

Another trait that I’ve learned from my parenting role that I’ve carried into all facets of my life is forgiveness. And although it is important to be quick to forgive, at the same time, it is important to never forget. As parents, we see our kids make many mistakes—some big and some small. And often, it’s something we think we have warned them about already (which is the most frustrating). As parents, we need to forgive our children but we should not always forget the mistake, that way we can help our children avoid the same mistake in the future. The same goes for our investments.

Most people felt pain in 2002 and 2008. They made mistakes with their investments and lost a lot of money. Many people wrote off the market altogether and wanted to simply bury their money in the back yard. This is not “forgiving.” And what separates the financially successful, from those who flounder, is that successful investors may forgive but refuse to make the same mistake twice. Millions of people had a buy-and-hold strategy in 2002, and again in 2008, and millions of people lost 30, 50, even 60 percent of their savings with that strategy. Yet, millions of people continue with it. The markets evolve. The financial industry evolves. The successful investor must evolve as well. Have you evolved?

As a parent, we also must set goals for our kids. We want to avoid setting unattainable goals but we need to encourage our kids to be the best they can be with the skills they have. Most importantly, we need to encourage them to take the necessary steps to achieve those goals. Financially, we all want to be Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. For most of us, those goals would be considered “unattainable” but it is important that we set goals for ourselves. Ask yourself, what do you want your retirement to look like, and how much do you need to make it so? Committing yourself to these realistic goals, and taking the necessary steps to reach those goals, is critical to financial success.

Neither is easy, parenting or financial planning, but committing yourself to these common underlying traits can be a huge help in both.

Dusty Rollins

www.OxfordWealthStrategies.com

Financial Mistakes All Young Adults Must Avoid

By: Dusty Rollins, Oxford Wealth Strategies

A few weeks ago, I met with a couple of clients of mine that I have worked with for a number of years now. I will call them Bob and June. As we were finishing up the meeting, I asked them if there were any other questions they had for me before they left. Bob’s eyes perked up. He told me that they read our article a few weeks ago, about kids not getting the best financial education and it made them think of their oldest son, Nolan. Nolan has been out of college for about three years. Bob explained that Nolan is making some pretty good money as a project manager for an engineering firm, but he and June are not sure he is making the best financial decisions. They asked if I could talk to him.

I agreed and one week later the 25-year-old was sitting across from me in my office.

We started off with getting to know each other; where he lives, what he does for fun and how he likes his job. Nolan told me that the favorite part of his job, as is the case with most kids right out of college, is the paycheck. And I learned that Nolan has all sorts of ideas about what he should be doing with that paycheck, none of which included saving for retirement.

Nolan has earned about $48,000 per year for the last three years. He has saved $10,000, which equals 6 percent of his total earnings ($154,000), or 2 percent per year.

Hmm. You see, Nolan is more interested in paying for his Sam Adams and paying to look good for the ladies than he is planning for his financial future.

I explained to Nolan that down the road, if he wants to impress one of those “ladies”, he is going to need to save more than 2 percent per year.

I could tell that Nolan wasn’t going to stay with me for a long discussion about investment vehicles, compounding interest, the time value of money, responsible financial practices, budgeting and all of the other factors necessary for a sound financial plan.

Instead, I approached the conversation from a different angle. I gave him three basic mistakes to avoid, starting with one I feared he might have already made, based on the fancy new Audi I saw him driving as he pulled into the parking lot. I advised Nolan not to use a significant portion of his income or assets on an expensive car. You see, vehicles are depreciating assets; they lose value with each passing day. We all are aware of the instant loss in value of a new car as soon as it is driven off the lot, but even used cars become worth less over time. But according to a recent CNN Money article, in 2016, the average monthly payment on a car loan was $503. It was $406 to lease a car. Either way, that’s a lot of money!

I asked Nolan if he ever wants to be a millionaire. Nolan’s head immediately bobbed up and down. I showed him some simple math, and Nolan could see that discipline can make him a millionaire. If he were to invest about 500 bucks a month from now until retirement (rather than spend it on a car), earning 8 percent on that money would yield approximately $1.5 million dollars by age 60. We talked a bit about how to be smart with financial resources and the importance of saving consistently, which might mean driving a five-year-old Chevy rather than buying or leasing that fancy new car. I explained that there are basically two emotions when dealing with money: pain and pleasure. Having a bit of pain now can lead to a life of pleasure. Nolan started to get it.

The next mistake I cautioned Nolan to avoid relates to housing. We talked about how many young folks are “house poor.” Nolan is still living with his parents, “temporarily,” but he wants a place of his own eventually.

I explained how the lending process works. Home buyers are expected to put a 20 percent down payment on the purchase price of a home, otherwise they are forced to pay a monthly mortgage insurance fee in addition to the regular payments that cover principal, interest, taxes and home insurance. I also explained that lending institutions determine their maximum loan amount based on a debt-to-income ratio. While the maximum current ratio is 43 percent of current debt (including any mortgage) to income, I recommended to Nolan that he keep that ratio to 25 to 30 percent. Although, yes, the bank will often approve home buyers for much more, using such a large chunk of income on a mortgage payment often prevents those same home buyers from saving for other needed expenses in the future. And instead of using mortgage instruments with variable rates or ballooning mortgages, both of which make a house seem much more affordable, I suggested Nolan save more for a bigger down payment or even to consider whether it makes sense to buy a two-family to collect rental income to help offset the mortgage payment.

I ended our conversation by cautioning Nolan to use credit wisely. Many young adults make the mistake of opening credit cards and taking out loans with limits and terms that they realistically can’t afford. And unfortunately, a small mistake when you are young can have a debilitating effect on your credit score for the rest of your life. I told Nolan that it is critical that he pay his credit cards on time and, ideally, in full. The same goes for his car lease and his future mortgage payments. If a borrower misses just one month’s payment, it can take years of timely payments to repair the damage to his or her credit score.

Young people have a world of exciting opportunities available when they get that first job. But with all opportunities come less-than-exciting responsibilities.  Let’s prepare for a bright financial future!

Dusty Rollins

www.oxfordwealthstrategies.com

Do the Thing You Fear!

By Sanjay Parekh, Certified Business Coach

Consider these wise old sayings:

 

  • Faint heart ne’er won fair maid, and
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 

Giving in to fear makes you timid, while acting boldly makes you courageous.

Most salespeople are underperforming and earning much less than their potential. For salespeople faced with the need to develop new prospects, fear can – and often does – freeze them in their tracks.

One of the very best ways to develop the ability to take intelligent risks is to consciously and deliberately do the things you fear, one step at a time. Take any fear that you are experiencing and look at it as a challenge or as an opportunity to grow and to increase your efficacy. In other words, consider your fear a causative power and live your life on purpose rather than on regret.

Face your fear by moving toward it, control the fear thoughts, the self-talk that’s going on, master the fear, and continue to move forward regardless of the fear. This is the mark of the superior person.

You will find that many of your fears of taking risk are false: F.E.A.R. = False Expectations Appearing Real!

Sanjay Parekh

sparekh@focalpointcoaching.com

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Dusty Rollins

By Dusty Rollins, Oxford Wealth Strategies

There’s an old adage in the construction world: measure twice, cut once. Otherwise, pipe connections leak, electrical connections fail and houses fall. Now, I don’t consider myself a handy person by any stretch of the imagination but I do know my way around some common power tools. And although it’s probably safest for me to “outsource” home projects, I have completed a few on my own. I can’t even tell you how many times measuring twice has saved me from disaster.

You see, once you make a cut, there’s no going back, and anyone who has finished a construction project can tell you that it’s a heck of a lot easier to think it through and do it right the first time, than it is to try to correct it later.

Hmm. Of course, there is a life lesson there; do it right the first time.

In life, it is not often that we have an option to correct a mistake before we bear the brunt of its results. This is especially true in the financial world, where bearing the brunt of a mistake usually means paying for it, literally. So, it’s important to apply that “measure twice, cut once” philosophy to our financial systems and make sure that we do it right the first time around.

That being said, people do make mistakes. And, just like in life, sometimes there are ways to correct those mistakes.

A great example of this involves a very nice young couple who just left my office, let’s call them Ron and Debbie. Ron and Debbie told me they read this column “religiously” and felt embarrassed that they had “messed up” their financial plan. They had each made an excess contribution to their IRAs last year, and they were not sure how to fix it.

You may remember that recently I wrote an article about how to manage your finances so that you can successfully (and legally) contribute to an IRA. We all know the basic rule that people younger than 50 can only contribute up to $5,500 per year and those older than 50 can contribute up to $6,500 per year, to either a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA. What many people don’t know is that in order to make those contributions, they must have or their spouse must have earned income in that same year. If not, every dollar contributed is in excess and violates the rules.

Things get a bit stickier for high income earners who contribute to a Roth IRA. The issue here is that eligibility to make a Roth contribution gets phased out with Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) (for married couples filing jointly) beginning at $184,000. At the $194,000 mark, Uncle Sam says you cannot contribute to a Roth, at all. Ron and Debbie are ages 45 and 42 respectively, have two kids and live here in town. They file a joint tax return and in years past had combined compensation of about $150,000. Ron is in sales and had, as he described, a “banner” year last year and earned a bonus, pushing their combined income to just over $200,000. But they each contributed their normal $5,500 to their Roth IRAs. So, as a couple filing jointly with MAGI more than $200,000, well over the $194,000 cap, Ron and Debbie have an issue. All of their contributions are deemed by Uncle Sam to be “Excess Contributions.” Excess contributions are subject to a very costly 6 percent penalty on the amount deemed to be in excess, not just the year they are made, but every following year that the excess amount remains in the account.

Luckily for Ron and Debbie, this is one of the few opportunities where Uncle Sam gives us a “get out of jail free card” and allows us to correct the mistake—but the correction must be done quickly.

As I said, any excess contributions made in 2016 will be charged that 6 percent penalty, unless they are removed by October 16, 2017. This is what I explained to Ron and Debbie?

The most simple, and most widely used method, is to withdraw the contribution and any corresponding earnings or losses attributed to that money. Any earnings are taxable. And if you are under age 59 1⁄2, this withdrawal would be considered an early distribution and would be subject to the 10 percent penalty that applies.

Another option could be to recharacterize the contribution. This would involve transferring the excess amount (and, again, any earnings or losses) from a Roth to a Traditional, or a Traditional to a Roth, depending on the original contribution. Doing so could save in terms of the immediate tax hit and any penalties. But, it is important to note that this recharacterization can only be done under certain circumstances. If an excess contribution to a Roth IRA would also be considered an excess contribution in a traditional IRA (due to being over the $5,500 limit, or not having earned income), recharacterizing would not be helpful. On the other hand, if a contribution is made to a Roth IRA when MAGI is too high, that contribution could be recharacterized to a traditional IRA, which has no income limits.

Of course, Rollins’ Family Finance readers, make sure you check with your retirement specialist because it can get a bit tricky.

There are not many second chances in the financial world, so we need to always ensure that we measure twice and cut once. However, if a mistake is made, there may be options to fix it. Everyone makes mistakes. What is important is that we do our best to correct the mistakes we make, before they become too costly.

Dusty Rollins

www.OxfordWealthStrategies.com

What’s in Your House?

 

By Thomas Craig, Advanced Systems Solutions

We all have a pretty good idea of what is in our home at this moment. Perhaps not the turtle that your son may have befriended or a kitten that stole your daughter’s heart, but you know how many beds there are how many sofas you have and how many chairs there are in the kitchen. It’s a good bet you also know how many plates you have.

But none of that information is critical to your business. What IS critical to a smooth-running operation is knowing what you have in the office. But alas, this is not the case.

There are many times we meet a new client because a server, or a function within such as email, has failed unexpectedly. During the initial conversations with these clients, it is often a stressful time and often other vendors have been contacted but refuse to get involved unless there is already a service contract in place. So, at the point when we arrive time is of the essence.

The first thing we must know is where is your software? Where are the associated license keys? What were the settings for the device or software that has failed? For a server, what were the IP addresses assigned? For a firewall, we need to know what rules were in place and what traffic was being allowed. Not trying to get too technical here, but I think you get my point. If you want normal operations resumed quickly, you need to know what you have. Solutions can be obtained without that information, but it makes the process much lengthier and therefore costlier.

These may also seem like some easy questions, but it is rare that businesses have this information readily available, with or without an internal IT Team. Yet knowing what you have can make the difference of a critical failure or a hiccup in operations. Businesses with an internal IT Team just know that so-and-so has all of that taken care of.

It pains me to use this example as it is so close to home, but recently an IT Manager was involved in an accident. We are praying for them and their family for a recovery, but at the current time, they are unable to communicate. Unfortunately for the organization, there were critical passwords that were not documented.

How this potential for disaster can be addressed is by creating a living document that contains the data for your organization. It should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. There should be no single point of failure in maintaining the document. No one person should know what the information is or where it is located. It should not be stored on one computer, nor in one physical location. It should be encrypted and a password assigned as this is sensitive information to the security of your organization.

This is all easy stuff my friends, it just takes a little bit of reoccurring time on your calendar.

As a member of CCF, we are offering to assist you and your organization to perform a review to ensure that the most critical data is in your documentation. It is not a lengthy process, and having a second set of eyes on your plan is never a bad thing. We don’t need to review any sensitive data, just help you to review your memory to make sure you know what is in your office, short of any turtles or kittens your employees brought to work.

For assistance, call Advanced Systems Solutions at 407.414.6626 or send an email to info@advancedsystemssolutions.com

Technology Facilitates Communication

By Alan Sableski, TaylorWorks

Everybody is familiar with the term “social media”. We’ve all heard it, now what the heck is it?
Social media is a communications platform that facilitates communication across social, geographical, age, political, economic, and other boundaries. It’s a means to share ideas quickly and easily and a way to generate a short feedback loop for those ideas. Millennials use social media on a regular basis, and it’s quite common to hear someone describe a conversation they were having and discover that what was described as a conversation was, in reality, a series of texts, tweets, messages, or some other form of electronic message exchanges.

Social media platforms are relatively young; for instance, Facebook, one of the most widely known and used platforms, was founded in 2004. Snapchat was launched in 2011. The platforms are not exclusive to millennials especially when they are so easy to use. My mom, now a great grandma,recently opened a Snapchat account, and it’s fun to watch her post snaps and interact with the kids and grandkids. It’s a great way to maintain a connection across the country, and across the ages.

My kids and my wife were early adopters of that platform, whereas I shied away from it for a while. I decided to give it a try and now that I’ve gotten into it, I realize that it has great potential to reach and relate to all kinds of people. I have used one of their features called a geo-filter for a couple of events that my kids were involved in like Senior Night for a high school football game and a birthday filter for another kids’ surprise party. When you create a filter, after it runs for the stated time, you can log in review the statistics of how many people used the filter and how many others viewed it.

It cost five bucks to create a personal filter that ran for 4 hours. Over 130 people saw the filter and 93 used it and shared it with their network that night. The filter I created was then viewed by 10,597 people. Imagine the possibilities of communicating an idea through the creation of a catchy filter. My Snapchat contact list has 39 people right now and I was able to use tools on the platform to reach over 10,000 people. Social media can have a tremendous impact. Now, I don’t know what a business themed filter costs, and that is something to consider in a marketing plan, but there is a significant reach potential with that platform.

When it comes to businesses using social media platforms to reach and communicate with customers, or potential customers, it’s important to build a relationship with them. Avoid the temptation to market or sell items and services through your posts on the platform. People want to get to know you, and your company, and they want to feel comfortable with you. The goal is to strike up a conversation with your followers so that they’ll share your posts and recommend you to their friends. There are so many social media platforms, using all of them and keeping them current would be overwhelming. In addition, each is unique in the way it connects with users. LinkedIn is very professional; Instagram is primarily pictures; Snapchat is short video or quirky pictures with funky filters; Twitter is short and sweet with links to more content; Facebook can be personal and more intimate; Pinterest is a DIY paradise.

The best way to connect through social media is to choose two platforms that suit the character and nature of your business and the product or service that you provide. Communicating on the platform should be a natural extension of your business. It’ll be difficult at first, and if it doesn’t get easier, try a different media where enjoy interacting. For instance, President Trump enjoys Twitter and that is his go-to social media app. When you do start an account and begin pointing people to it, make sure you are keeping your content fresh. You won’t make connections if your last Facebook post is 3 months ago.

The goal for using the social media is to increase visibility in the market, but you don’t want to appear to be pushy about your products and services. If you have a lot of products in your posts, people will tune you out. They are looking for content that will help them; maybe educational material or market insights. One example would be a supermarket posting delicious recipes on a site. This would have the effect of driving customers to their store to purchase the ingredients for the recipe. My kids play a number of sports and my daughter dances, and what I’ve seen on my social feeds are posts from businesses about a conditioning program, or a stretching routine. Sometimes it’s a funny picture related to the activity or an amazing play. The post gets my attention I notice the business that shared it, which keeps their name in my mind. I’ve then gone to their website to look for items or products that we may need for the upcoming season.

Technology has done wonders for communication. It has shortened our feedback loops and broken many barriers related to time, age, location and status. Organizations can reach more people faster than ever before. When used skillfully, the social media tools are a boon and benefit resulting in more clients and higher sales. Used ineffectively, the tools can be a drain on resources and negatively affect brand reputation. Put a plan together and test out a couple platforms for a few months. If it’s not comfortable or natural, try another platform. There are numerous tools available for you to connect, and while nothing beats the richness of a face to face conversation, social media is a fabulous tool to break the ice and set up those in person encounters.

Alan Sableski – asableski@taylorworks.net

It’s Only Money … Your Money!

By: Chuck McMaster

Part 1

Hospitals and health systems today are strapped for capital dollars. Operational dollars are shrinking as reimbursement shrinks. The need for advancing technologies, however – one of the keys to better diagnosis, research, and outcomes – has not subsided. Capital dollars are scarce and shrinking but the need to spend has not waned.

Organizations must find more efficient processes to combat these ever-shrinking parameters, and one way to do that is to change the way equipment exchanges occur.

Today, equipment exchanges primarily involve trading-in older equipment for new.   A five-year-old machine is exchanged for a newer, shinier, more capable model. Although this tried-and-true method is effective, it is hardly efficient. It is far less efficient than trading in your car.

When entering into a trade, the hospital enters into a transaction where there is one buyer, one seller, and the buyer and the seller are the same entity. There is no economic situation with less competition. Trades are one-sided transactions where one party holds all the leverage. Under these conditions, the price paid to the hospital for old equipment is the lowest possible and the price paid by the hospital for new equipment is the highest possible. OEMs dress it up with “huge discounts” and a break on service contracts or installations to make it look amenable, but it’s really all a shell game. Trade-ins result in the worst possible outcome for the hospital.

One way to defend against scarce and shrinking capital dollars is to foster competition for the hospital’s benefit. A hospital should sell its equipment on the open market and simultaneously force every OEM into a bidding war for the placement of new equipment. Medical facilities can save hundreds of thousands of dollars on every major transaction following these rules. The money collected in the sale of the equipment can be 200-400% more than what is offered in a trade. The money saved in the purchase of the new equipment can be hundreds of thousands of dollars less. The saving delta can be huge.

There are many companies that can help a facility sell its equipment. There are dozens of different models. Some companies collect the equipment and auction it off to the highest bidder. Other companies take some information about the machines and expose it to the marketplace. There is a wide variety in how medical equipment remarketers do business.

It is even possible to sell equipment at a retail level. Information moves very quickly today because of the Internet, so it is possible to create an enormous and complete marketplace with proper strategy. A medical facility can market its equipment on a worldwide basis and reap two, three, four times as much as it would have through a trade. A medical organization can sell its equipment to a smaller hospital in the US, a veterinarian in Canada, a doctor in India, a hospital in Mexico, etc.

Recently, a Philips Allura cath-lab was sold by a major Texas hospital to a smaller hospital. The offered trade-in on the machine was 30k. The final sale was 180k. The original owner of the equipment netted 153k, which is 123k better than the trade-in value.

 It is more common for hospitals to sell at a wholesale level than at a retail level. (There are specific reasons for this. We’d be happy to talk about how to try to get retail values much more often). Even when selling at a wholesale level, prices paid for equipment very often greatly surpasses trade-in value.

As this article is being written, there is a 16-slice GE CT being sold on the East Coast for 95k. The hospital is likely to net about 80k. The trade-in value was 40k. The hospital is likely to net 200% of offered trade-in value. What makes this especially crazy is that hospitals can engage in this behavior with no up-front money and no risk. A hospital does not have to engage in guaranteed contracts or equipment storage. A hospital can do this without incurring any shipping fees or deinstall fees or any fees other than commissions.

Times are tough. Capital dollars are scarce and dwindling in healthcare organizations as reimbursement fades. Every institution could benefit from fostering competition in their favor. Every hospital could use 200% more working cash than an offered trade-in price. Every organization can benefit from forcing OEMs into competition for the sale of new equipment. A hospital organization can save millions over the course of a year, but hey, it’s only money.

 

Part 2

In a previous paper, “After All, It’s Only Money,” we detailed how hospital operational dollars are scarce and withering while reimbursements simultaneously shrink. How can hospitals cope with dwindling gross margins? Below are a few ideas that will absolutely shrink costs and increase return.

1. Use time as an advantage:

Everyone knows how slowly hospitals have a tendency to move. “You can’t get ANYTHING done around here” is a hot topic at every water cooler in every hospital in the country. We are not advocating that hospitals miraculously choose to move faster. We are suggesting using the natural pace at which hospitals move to create and control markets.

Although hospitals have plenty of time, they often choose not to use it to their advantage – most of the time, when Lucid is engaged, it is in a situation where only a very short time remains before the old equipment must be removed prior to the new being installed. The first thing a hospital can do to save money is identifying when equipment will be available for sale because of the purchase of newer technology and use that time as an advantage.

Although the first trackable knowledge of when the equipment is going to be replaced is created at budget time when capital dollars are allotted for new equipment, capital personnel usually know when a machine is going to be replaced at least a year in advance and often more. Use this time to implement a plan to simultaneously maximize value on used equipment and save money on new equipment. We call this creating a “Value Delta,” and it is the practice of essentially creating your own margin within the equipment exchange.

2. Sell to a huge market audience:

Whether the timeframe given is long or short, a seller should cast the biggest net possible. Create a huge market audience. We live in a world today where information travels worldwide at tremendous pace. It is possible to sell a working machine to a doctor in India or a clinic in Indiana. It happens every day. Using this tactic, the worst-case scenario is that equipment is sold to the world wholesale market, a market that is populated with hundreds or thousands of would-be buyers. Do not sell equipment as a captive seller in a trade. Do not sell to a small group of dealers. Expose equipment to as large an audience as possible.

3. Cut costs:

The last step in battling shrinking margins is to cut costs wherever possible. Apart from realizing more money in a sale, the best thing about harnessing competition is that the costs of removal fall to the purchaser of the old equipment. The seller pays no de-installation or transportation costs. All costs are transferred to the buyer.

The first three points delivered in this article will help fight against shrinking margins. None of these thoughts are new or innovative. These are time-tested principals forged in the cauldron of commerce and ubiquitously taught in economics 101. Use competition to maximize value. Foster competition by casting a huge marketing net. Cut costs to zero dollars.

4. Select a completely transparent brokerage company:

The last step is less Economics 101 and more philosophical suggestion. Use a transparent service, like Lucid Equipment, to help with these tasks. We can estimate used equipment value and, if need be, market the equipment for sale. Instead of creating and managing the markets you, hire a company that already manages worldwide markets. Ensure profits are where they should be by selecting a completely transparent company. Hospitals can do this with no risk, commitment, up-front costs, ramp-up, contracts, or software installations. It is literally a “what do you have to lose?” situation.

Every one of these suggestions will help find money. Following these simple basic steps will help hospitals battle back shrinking gross margins. Reimbursements may be falling, but sellers can be much more efficient with equipment exchanges. Operational dollars may be hard to find, but operational dollar needs can be trimmed using competition as a scalpel.

Chuck McMaster, CEO
McMaster & Associates Enterprises, Llc
www.maellc.net
Chuck@maellc.net

Cuhaci & Peterson Speaks at CCF June Luncheon

Reflections from Cuhaci & Peterson, an Architecture, Engineering, and Relationship Firm

Nationally recognized firm Cuhaci & Peterson, architects for such well known brands as Wawa, Winn-Dixie, Best Buy, LL Bean, Target, and more, spoke with the Connected in Central Florida group at the June lunch event.  

Casey Duranczyk, Manager of Business Development, addressed an interesting topic right up front:  “We know that you may not need architectural services, and that you may not be going out and building a new grocery store; but, you may know someone.” For Cuhaci & Peterson, empowering employees to be active and be engaged is a core principle in their firm. Casey says, “We empower our employees to get out and get to know people. We get involved in a variety of industry groups at all kinds of levels. From local groups like Connected in Central Florida to the International Council of Shopping Centers, being involved is key to the C-P team”.

Continuing, she related how “It’s the meaningful connections that will take us through.” The firm’s success in maintaining their network and high levels of client satisfaction are evident as over 85% of their average revenue comes from repeat clients. Generating repeat business at those levels can only happen when companies can deliver tremendous value.

It is easy to see their value, and they clearly state their value proposition. “We believe we can make a difference… For our clients one project at a time, for our employees by fostering their passion and purpose, for our industry and community by giving back every way we can.” Keith Harwell, Principal, summarizes by saying, “The five-cent version is that it’s all about relationships at every level.”

Developing and maintaining a client’s business can be difficult over a span of many years and even decades for some companies – but it’s an established tradition for this firm. Keith told the story of Winn-Dixie, who was the firm’s very first client nearly 40 years ago, and how they are still doing work for them today. In fact, as the years have gone by, some of their facilities, and those of other clients, have gone through multiple remodels just to keep their images fresh, vibrant, and relative to clients. With over 1600 grocery stores designed throughout the US, the odds are good that you have seen their work firsthand by being in their stores.

Of course, it’s not just the networking. Bill TomalaManager of Government Relations / Business Development, explains, “We have had to evolve to meet the ever changing technology needs and wants of our clients. Ultimately, those expectations have evolved on both the deliverables and the receivables. For example, we have to consider not just the design of the building or landscape, but think about:

  • What is this place going to look like at night?
  • What about when there’s lots of traffic?
  • How will this fit in with the rest of the community?
  • How does this project fit with the long term strategic plan of a community such as Downtown Orlando?

Those questions, and others, have become increasingly important for both clients and the government authorities having jurisdiction.”  

For a team of nearly 300 spread across four office locations, success comes from executing on core principles. Their firm’s goal is to create places that people experience and remember crafted by a team who exemplifies passion, purpose and integrity in everything they put their name on. In closing, Bill Tomala gave the line of the day when he stated, “It’s not about what you know or about who you know, it’s about who knows you. Even if you say you know the Pope, it doesn’t matter unless the Pope knows you.”


Want more insights from top industry pros? Check out the “Connected Women” Coffee on June 29th at 10:00am the Panera near Florida Hospital, or stay tuned to the CCF Blog and of course the Connected in Central Florida LinkedIn Page. The CCF luncheons will resume in August.


About the author: Wes Marsh is the Director of Digital Strategy at On Target Web Solutions.  Eager to assist Connected in Central Florida, Wes has volunteered to assist with content creation and collation among group members. You can find him on LinkedIn at Wes Marsh or email him at wes@ontargetwebsolutions.com.

Solving The Money Problems In Your Marriage

By: Dusty Rollins – Oxford Wealth Strategies

One of the toughest parts of my job is to help a family through divorce. With divorce, money is often a big issue. Who gets what, when and for how long. Divorce causes money disagreements; that’s obvious, but what’s less obvious is that disagreements over money can cause divorce.

I came across a recent survey last week of 191 CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) professionals from across North America. It finds that “money issues” are one of the three leading causes of divorce. One of the CDFA professionals in the survey noted, “Many couples lack the communication skills necessary to navigate financial disagreements in their marriage. The emotional connection of money with safety and security in many people makes the financial disagreements more salient than other disagreements.”

They say that money can’t buy happiness, or love, but it seems that money can certainly interfere with both. We see it in client meetings with married couples, with each spouse on very different pages. You see, when we think about common money issues or disagreements, our first thought is that people are upset because they don’t have enough of it, or want more of it, but that’s rarely the case. Oftentimes it’s less about how much the couple has available, and more about how they should use it.

Folks, I have said this over and over again . . . a budget is critical to building a financially successful relationship. I find that everyone has different habits and opinions about money. Some are inherent savers, bargain shopping and stashing away every penny that they can for the future. Others believe that money is meant to be spent, and they tend to be less frugal and “treat themselves” more often. It’s easy to say that there is a happy medium there, but it isn’t always easy for married couples to find that happy medium unless they take the time to discuss it and both agree that the final plan is “happy” for both spouses.

Successful couples will sit down and determine how much money should be stashed away, how much is available to spend and what it should be spent on. I’ve found, and I think many of the CDFA professionals in that survey would agree, that the biggest money issues arise from a lack of communication and a lack of transparency. “You spent how much on your golf membership!?” “Your shopping spree added what amount to our credit card?!” Although in many instances, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission—making a unilateral financial decision within a marriage is usually not one of them.

Part of a couple’s budget should involve some type of slush fund—an agreed-upon amount that each partner is able to spend without consulting the other. That could be $100, $200 or $500. There’s no right or wrong number. It depends on each relationship and financial situation.

It’s also important for each person to put themselves in the other person’s shoes before judging a purchase, even if those “shoes” are $400 boots that were “on sale.” If you are married, or in a serious relationship, you probably know how to do this already. You’ve learned to look at things from your partner’s point of view to understand where they are coming from.

The most important thing is to set goals together. Both spouses need to agree on what they want, and what their end game is. I think that’s where I help folks solve a lot of problems, as I can help be a moderator and say, “Got it, so the goal is to . . . well, in order to do that, you need to cut your spending to . . . Does that sound good? Is the goal worth giving up the shopping sprees and the golf memberships? If not, let’s adjust those goals to something that you both can agree on.”

Now, I’m not a marriage counselor, but having a financial professional who is able to clearly set out steps and guidelines to follow in order to reach agreed-upon financial goals, can lessen the number of arguments that go something like, “We can afford it!” “No, we can’t!”

Dusty Rollins

www.oxfordwealthstrategies.com