I like to talk and I’ve always told my employees that they need to tell people what we do and what we WANT to do to help grow our business. But, there is a big difference between talking and public speaking. I recently met Leisa Reid who is not only a public speaker but also teaches people how to use their speaking gigs to grow their business and is the author of Get Speaking Gigs Now.

you can attract your client from the front of the room and that is a fun and effective way to grow your business

Leisa reid

Leisa stressed right away that the speaking gig should not feel like an infomercial. You need to provide value to the audience and enough value that they want more of what you have to offer. “If you are someone who likes to teach and you have expertise to share, you can attract your client from the front of the room and that is a fun and effective way to grow your business.”

Other tips Leisa shared were:

  • how to get paid for speaking and if you should be paid
  • how to get bookings and who to approach
  • how to to get “your talk ready to rock”
  • how to get rebooked
  • what is a speaker sheet
  • and how to get booked on the first try!

Alternative uses of farmland is key to preserving open space

A cooperative effort between Retreat & Learn and MissionGO helps preserve farmland while demonstrating the potential for faster transport for blood laboratory testing and organ donor matching

Since 2007, Charles County, Maryland, the homeplace of Retreat & Learn, has lost more than 10,000 acres of active farmland and the average farm size has dropped more than 14%.  Besides being a place to learn and promote wellness, another goal of Retreat & Learn is to preserve farmland and for the past year, a cooperative arrangement with MissionGO has worked towards that goal.

The location of Retreat & Learn is Ravens Crest, a 173-acre working farm just south of Washington, DC on a cliff overlooking the Potomac River.   The farm grows hay for cattle and horses, soybeans, and wheat.   While the farmhouse hosts retreats and workshops, the farmland continues to grow many of the same crops it has for decades.

Ravens Crest also serves as a test site for MissionGO — a Baltimore based company developing and testing unmanned aircraft systems (you may know them as drones) for the eventual purpose of transporting organ transplants and blood for laboratory testing.  As you can imagine, it is imperative that before the systems are put into live use, they must be thoroughly tested under nearly every condition and many hours of testing occurs at Ravens Crest.

On August 10, MissionGO along with the The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland (The LLF), who are responsible for organ, eye and tissue donation services in Maryland, conducted a successful flight demonstration at Ravens Crest.  On the day of the demonstration, the crew flew blood delivery shipments on four 5.3-mile circuits representing the direct line flight path for blood delivery. Traveling at approximately 50 miles per hour over a 60-minute period, they clearly demonstrated a better transport method is possible that removes many of the negative variables such as traffic.

Frank Paskiewicz, EVP of UAS Cargo Operations, remarked, “Our team at MissionGO greatly appreciates the ability to conduct these vital test operations at Ravens Crest and we are pleased to be a part of preserving open space in Maryland.”

Retreat & Learn is proud to partner to help those in need of organ transplants.   The use of the farm as a test site is a perfect example of an alternative use of farmland that helps preserve open space and land that grows crops to feed our community.  We are grateful MissionGO chose Ravens Crest as their test location to help us in our goal to preserve farmland.

Photography by Kipke Photography

Government Contracting: difference between Direct Cost and an Indirect Cost?

The FAR clause 31.201-1 reads, “The total cost, including standard costs properly adjusted for applicable variances, of a contract is the sum of the direct and indirect costs allocable to the contract, incurred or to be incurred, plus any allocable cost of money pursuant to 31.205-10, less any allocable credits. In ascertaining what constitutes a cost, any generally accepted method of determining or estimating costs that is equitable and is consistently applied may be used.”

Shoot.. I’ve done this a long time and even I find that a bit confusing.  Let’s break this down into something a bit more simple.

In a compliant DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) accounting system, you need to create multiple “pools” of costs.  Think of the pools as piles of receipts… you could pile them all into one box or you could file and sort them into a filing cabinet.

Now imagine that filing cabinet had three drawers and then various folders within each drawer and the costs were segregated by the type of cost.  That would make it a lot easier to both find particular receipts later and also allow you to make better budget decisions because you would know exactly how much you spent in each category.  So besides being compliant with DCAA, it is also good business sense.

So, a simplified look at our filing cabinet would look a little like this:

  • Drawer 1 – Direct Costs
    •  Folder 1 – Labor
    •  Folder 2 – Travel
  • Drawer 2 – Indirect Costs
    • Folder 1 – Administrative Labor
    • Folder 2 – Overhead Travel
    • Folder 3 – Rent
    • Folder 4 – Utilities
  • Drawer 3 – Unallowable Costs

We will talk a bit more about Unallowable costs in another blog post but what are the differences between Indirect and Direct Costs?

A Direct Cost is something that can be charged “directly” to the contract.  For example, if you are a services company and you have sold the government hours of a Software Engineer’s time, the cost of paying that person’s hourly rate is a direct cost.  If you pay him $50/hour, that amount is a Direct Cost.  Any travel that was authorized by the client to be charged would also be a Direct Cost. So for example, if the client asked him to visit another site that requires a flight to visit, the cost of the flight and hotel and car would likely be a direct cost (if it was approved under the contract).  Commuting costs are not allowed, however, to be charged.

But that is not the only cost of employing that person.   Someone needs to process his timesheet and payroll, you need to pay for office space for him to sit, a computer for him to work, etc.  The costs that are necessary to provide the service or product to the government but are not directly billable are called Indirect Costs.

Both Indirect and Direct Costs are considered Allowable costs and are charged to the government but just in different ways.  Direct Costs are charged at what it cost you and Indirect Costs are charged by applying a % to the Direct Costs.  The % cost is created by combining your Indirect Costs into a “pool” that you then divide by your total labor costs across all your contracts.   You can read more about how to develop your total rate to charge to the government in my blog, Developing Rates for Government Contracts.   In general though, your invoice to the government would look a bit like this (assuming an Indirect Cost of 80% and a Fee of 7%):

Labor CategoryDirect CostIndirect Cost (80%)Fee/Profit (7%)Total Cost Per Hour
Software Engineer$50$40$6.30$96.30

Doing the Same Thing Expecting Different Results

In this two part series of videos my horse and I amble around our farm while I ponder why we keep trying the same approach expecting different results. Years ago I had a bad fall off my horse and I struggled with gaining my confidence. Finally, I realized I needed to try a different approach and learn to be kinder to myself.

I kept trying to get my internet to work on the shoreline… over and over… until I finally tried a different approach and did my morning live video on horseback… that worked!
In this video I share a story about my fall from my horse and the resulting lack of confidence… and how I got it back!


What is a Wrap Rate and How Can It Make Pricing Proposals Easier?

A wrap rate is a simple way to calculate what rate you can charge to the government under a Cost Plus Fixed Fee or Cost Reimbursable contract.

The way you calculate the rate you can charge is typically done this way assuming these are the salaries and indirect rates for your company:

Salary:  $50,000

Direct Labor Rate:   $50,000/2080 = $24.04

Fringe:  $24.04 * 30% = $7.21  (Subtotal $24.04 + $7.21 = $31.25)

Overhead:  $31.25 * 20% =  $6.25 (Subtotal $31.25 + 6.25 = $37.50)

G&A:  $37.50 * 15% = $5.63

Total to be Charged before Fee:  $43.13

That’s a lot of calculation and if you are sitting with a client and they want a quick Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) – or in the midst of writing a proposal, you don’t want to be scribbling on paper that long.

So, a simplified version would be to calculate your wrap rate and use that instead.

Doing the same calculation above, but using $1.00 instead of $24.04 gives you the number 1.794.  That would be your wrap rate.

Now take your Direct Labor and multiply it by the wrap rate:

24.04 * 1.794 = $43.13

Much easier, right?

You can then take each of your employees and make a simple chart that you can use when creating proposals that let’s you know what you “break even” (price before profit) would be on each staff member.


First Tattoo: Choosing an Artist & Design, Safety and What to Expect

I don’t have a tattoo… but I have to admit I’ve thought about it and honestly I’m a little chicken… not so much of the pain but of getting a bad one. So I was happy to be able to interview Shannon Wang to answer my questions about getting a tattoo.   I met Shannon because she is also a talented artist outside of her work at Shop 53 Custom Tattoo and Art Studio.

Shannon recommended you do a consultation with the tattoo artist to make sure your styles mesh. Even before the consultation, you should look at the artist’s portfolio of work to see if they are good fit for you. The artist will draw out the design on paper before applying it to skin and then a stencil is applied to the skin as a template before the tattoo begins.

Anything you can bring to the table to get your idea out is helpful but it is important that your idea matches the style of the artist.

Shannon Wang

But what about that pain factor? Shannon recommended a few things that can help:

  1. Get a good meal beforehand to ensure your blood sugar levels are appropriate (you don’t want to pass out!).
  2. Stay hydrated.
  3. Prep the skin with numbing cream if you are worried but check with your artist first as some can change the texture of the skin.
  4. General care of the skin such as not being sunburned and staying moisturized is a good idea.

We also covered how to ensure you are in a safe and clean shop, aftercare of your tattoo, infection prevention, placement and choice of tattoos, best size and type of your first tattoo and so much more… you need to watch!


It is embarrassing how lazy I am with my skin care. I go to bed with makeup on at least once a week and generally do the minimum I can to get by and look at least ok. So I’m excited to have Kelly Rose as my guest in this interview who shared what we absolutely must do for basic skin care and the few things we can add to our regime. (I can’t stand those tutorials that have so many steps I’d be in the bathroom for hours each day.. who has time for that!?!)

This is such an easy regime, you should be

able to do it, but there are things

you can do to up your game.

Kelly Rose



  1. Cleanse twice a day with a cream-based cleanser. Kelly also covered the different types of cleansers you can use for day or night.
  2. An appropriate moisturizer for your skin type.
  3. Sunblock. Kelly could not stress enough how important this was for anti-aging. She also discussed the difference between chemical based and chemical-free and how to read the label to ensure it has what you need.

Once you have the basics covered there are two other items you can add to your regime – vitamin C and retinol. I was a bit surprised at all the benefits of vitamin C in particular and I may have to reconsider my super basic skin care by adding it. We also discussed what products you can mix and which should not be used together… and what order products should be used.. and also how to choose the best esthetician for you.

This is a must watch video. Its short and sweet and gets to point for those of us that want to care for our skin without spending all day in the bathroom.

Guilt, Grief and Caregiving of an Independent Dying Parent

This blog is not just about my journey.  I want to share other peoples stories.  It is remarkable how many commonalities there are in our experiences.  However,  each person has a different perspective and something they can teach the rest of us.  This story is from an interview I did with Casey (I have changed all names for interviews mainly to protect anyone that were involved in their story).

Do you have any tips for working with medical staff?

I found that if you act intelligent you get better care.   What I mean is that if you show them that you have good records and understand their lingo then they treat you differently and you get more direct answers.   I felt better and more prepared too when I had good records with me.    I’d also recommend that you work with the nurses rather than the doctor when you can.    Oh, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion and go to the best doctor you can.

How about your family? 

I was the rock for my mother but my brother was the rock for me.   Every time I asked for help he stepped up.  We had a constant communication line and talked everyday to compare notes and what needed to be done.

What about your immediate family?

I think I had unreasonable expectations for them.   I got irritated with them at times because the house wasn’t clean or the laundry wasn’t done to my expectations.   But their expectations were different – they didn’t care that the house wasn’t immaculate.  They didn’t expect me to clean it but I felt guilty that it wasn’t done and snapped at them about it.  I appreciate though that they never resented the time I spent with Mom even though it took time away from them.

How did you deal with talking to your Mom about her funeral and plans for burial?

I didn’t really.   I knew it had to be done but my Mom is not a touchy feely kind of person.  But I knew what she would want so I wrote up the will and came to her and told her that I had written it up and that we needed to go have it notarized.   She just said “ok” and we went.

Eventually I asked her about how she wanted to be buried.  I told her, “Mom, you need to tell me what you want done.  I would like to be cremated.  Would you want that?”   In her typical ‘don’t bother me with the details’ fashion, she said just replied, “Whatever you want is fine.”

A couple of days later though she came to me and said, “that seems kind of rough to me… what if I am not totally dead.”  So I knew she had been thinking of our conversation.  We didn’t talk much more about it then but after a few more days she told me that if she was cremated she would want her ashes spread in the river.   So I wasn’t really sure what she wanted when she actually died.  That made it tough.

I remember sitting around with my siblings, husband and kids the day after she died and they were all looking to me to make a decision on how she should be buried.  I wanted to do what SHE wanted but I just wasn’t sure what that was.    Finally I settled on the cremation.   It was what I would want and it was the least expensive option.   But I still wasn’t sure so I said out loud, “Mom, give me a sign that you want the cremation.”  Just then something fell loudly in the kitchen.  I took it as a sign that I had made the right decision.

What triggered the tears after her death?

I was numb for the first three months.  I think I was afraid of feeling the pain and for so long I had been the rock.. not allowing feelings to enter … I had to be strong for my mother.  At the time of her death I didn’t feel as sad as I thought I would because I was happy for her that she was no longer in pain.   It took about three months to believe it was real and then it really hurt.  By then it was too late.  Friends thought I should have been over it by now but I was just starting to really feel the pain.

It started with a phone call.  My cell phone rang one day and I looked down to see my Mom’s face and number on the screen.  Shocked, I didn’t know what to think.  I turns out my brother, who had loaned the phone to my Mom, hadn’t changed the contact numbers after her death.  But that started the tears.

Other things were triggers too.  Buying flowers in the spring was tough.  It was something we had always done together and I wasn’t sure how to do it without her.  I bought all the flowers she would have liked and planted them the way that she wanted.  I’m not sure if that was a tribute to her or just because I could hear her in my head telling me what to do.  Shopping is the same way.  My mother and I always shopped together.  Its been over seven months and I haven’t been shopping for clothes since she died.  I’m saving a lot of money!

If you could go back and change anything about the time when you were caring for her what it would be?

Not much.   I guess the one thing would be to spend more time sitting and talking with my Mom.   Instead of talking to her I spent time cleaning her house and taking care of things.   Part of it was I was afraid of talking about the hard things but also I felt like I was accomplishing something.   If I could give anyone going through this some advice it would be to be tender and caring and loving because you can’t get those moments back.  And forgiving because they can be difficult at the end.

Another would be to “Listen and listen well.”   Listen to the things they really care about and then do them even if it is against what you would want.  When it became difficult for Mom to care for herself, I asked her to come live with me.  She refused and it hurt my feelings.  Why wouldn’t she want to come live with my family?  The people who really cared about her?

Eventually, she wasn’t able to be alone and her neighbor and good friend was coming to check in on her.  Hospice was involved at that point and I called Hospice and told them I was coming to get her.  I was putting my foot down and she was coming to live with me.   I arrived at her house to get her and started to gather the things that she would need.  After a bit, her friend asked to speak to me outside.

I know it was difficult for her but I appreciate what she reminded me of that day.   “Casey, this is not about you.   I know you want her with you but she wants this control and independence.  She wants to be able to change the thermostat to what she wants, walk at night without bothering you, eat what she wants and when she wants.   She loves you dearly and appreciates what you do but she needs this independence.   When she told Hospice that you were coming to get her to take her to your house, she cried.”

It hurt me to do it, but I left her at home that day.  It wasn’t about me.  My Mom may have been ill, but her mind was not and she needed this last bit of control over her life.

I also wish I had asked Mom about her past, her childhood and things I didn’t know.  I assumed I would be able to ask her brother after her death and avoid asking her about her past as she was dying but turns out her brother doesn’t remember.   Now it’s lost heritage that I can’t get back.

Speaking to Medical Staff for Your Loved One

My Mom died of pancreatic cancer. In her last few years, I helped care for her (along with my sisters and my Dad). As she became weaker, it was exhausting for her to communicate with medical staff. Different doctors would ask the same things over and over. Trying to be polite and also attempting to make sure each doctor had the information they needed to effectively treat her, she tried to answer the best she could. But it was difficult and exasperating. Breathing and living were difficult some days. Adding repeating yourself over and over was beyond difficult and it seemed a waste of energy.

Because I spent so much time with her I had a decent idea of what the answers were but I didn’t want to speak for her and get it wrong. Eventually, a system evolved though.

Doctors would ask questions and I would answer for her but let them know if I got it wrong, she would correct me. I paused occasionally and turned to her to ask if she agreed. At that point, all it took was a quick nod to confirm. It was much less taxing of her energy and because I had the energy to expand, the doctors got a much more comprehensive answer.

Other tactics to ensure doctors got the answers they needed were:

  • Carry our own copy of her medical history for reference
  • Have a quick reference sheet to hand to the doctors they could keep that included current drugs, brief history, and latest status
  • Always ask for a copy of the medical records when we left so we could keep a complete history (did you know that you can ask for a cd for yourself each time you get an MRI or CAT scan?)
  • Utilize the help of nursing staff as they sometimes have more time and are more willing to give info than physicians — make friends with them!
  • Be nice. This seems like such a common sense thing but medical staff are frequently verbally abused because they are facing frustrated caregivers and patients. Being nice will get you much further than screaming.

My Mom called me her bulldog and meant it in the most complimentary way. I spoke for her and made sure that she got the care she needed. Its true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and when you are sick its hard to be squeaky.

Executors Guide to a Stress Free Administration

A couple of years ago I got a phone call while I was on vacation from the grandson of a family friend. He had bad news… his grandmother … and my friend… had passed away.  I had never met her grandson and I suddenly realized why he was calling… a promise I had made years before to his grandmother to handle her estate. 

I was suddenly thrown into a role I didn’t understand or have experience – a manager of assets, real estate and financials with the responsibility of dissolving and distributing.  It was a tough job and there wasn’t an easy checklist to follow.  In many cases I was a detective trying to figure out where assets were or if they even existed.

I wish I had this interview with Leah Del Percio from Trustate before that phone call. She answered so many questions about what I should have done from the beginning to make my job much easier.

Don’t make any big decisions on the first few days. In the coming days your job is to discover the assets and liabilities so you can administer the estate but you have some time.


Topics we covered:

  • What is an administrator and/or executor of an estate?
  • First steps (and second steps)
  • Pitfalls to avoid
  • Medical power of attorney
  • What you can do in advance to help your family administer your estate

(There were more but you need to watch the video!)


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