Happy & Healthy WITHOUT Giving up Favorite Food and Drinks

I’ve been struggling with how to make eating well a long-term lifestyle. I feel great when I’m eating more vegetables, less carbs and exercising but it is hard to keep it going week after week so I reached out to Nirit Roddy, certified trainer and nutritionist from Fit With Nirit who gave me some great tips on how to see long-term results — but still enjoy the food I love.

Some of her top tips were:

  1. Change one thing every couple weeks. For example, start by focusing on 8-10 cups a water a day. Then the next week focus on increasing your exercise.
  2. Every person is different. Some need to do everything at once (but not perfectly) and some need to add a little each week so they can get psychological wins.
  3. Get a coach to learn what works for you and have accountability .. and they are a great cheerleader!
  4. Be honest about what you are eating.
  5. Frozen vegetables are an easy way to have vegetables on hand so you eat more of them.
  6. Make one big meal where leftovers can be used for future meals.

Perfection is the killer of progress. It’s not about doing an hour of exercise 7 days a week and eating perfectly every day because that is not a lifestyle. It’s about changing one thing every couple weeks.

NIRIT rODDY

Nirit also had some great tips for how to deal with picky eaters in your family. How many of you are creating a separate meal for your family members when you are trying to eat healthy? For these and so many great tips on getting healthy without stress watch the video!

 

What Do You Say to Someone Grieving?

Whether someone has lost a parent, a child, or a friend, we want to console and bring comfort but its hard to know what to say.  I think every situation is different and what works for one person may not work for another but here are my suggestions based on my experience as someone grieving:

1) Just be there.   Its not necessarily what you say (or don’t say).   A person grieving just wants to know that people care.  Its one of the main reasons we have funerals.   Besides letting family and friends say goodbye and come to terms that the person is in fact dead, its also a time to come together and console one another.  Don’t worry too much about what you are going to say.  Just show up and be there.  The simple phrase, “I care and I am here when you need me” is good enough.  Too often people distance themselves from grieving people because they are afraid they will say the wrong thing.   Don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing – not being there is much worse.

2) Listen.   Being nervous about saying the wrong thing means that sometimes people start running their mouth and don’t let the grieving person get a word in edgewise.    Let us talk about whatever we want.  It might be about how sad we are or the funeral arrangements or even something unrelated like the weather.  We may laugh or we may cry or just sit there quietly but whatever we do, its okay.

3) You don’t need to fix the situation.  In fact you can’t. We have to walk through the fire of grief to get to the other side and if we don’t deal with it today, we will deal with it later.   Don’t try to defuse the grief by changing the subject away from the person who died.  If we start talking about the person who died, that’s okay.  It is also okay if we are crying.  It is not your job, nor can you stop us from crying or feeling sad.   Just be there and listen.

4) Don’t pretend it didn’t happen or the person who died never existed.  Because people are afraid of making us cry, they stop talking about the person who died.   We WANT to talk about our loved one and hear how they made a difference in your life.  We want to hear your memories and we want to talk about our memories.  Yes.. we might cry… but that is okay.

5) It is all normal.   Each person is different and whatever works for them is what is normal.    Some people want to sit at home and cry.  Some people may want to actually go out to a party and try to forget for a bit about their grief.   Whatever the response it is normal and fine.

6) Offer specific help.   Grieving people frequently hear, “Let me know what we can do to help.”   It is good intentioned and I’m sure the person offering really means it.  The problem is that the grieving person doesn’t know what they need or if they do, they don’t want to ask for it.   Instead, offer something specific — “My family would like to come clean your house before the funeral.  Is Monday good?”  Or “I make a great lasagna.  Can I bring some tonight for your family?”  With that said, the word OFFER specific help is important.  Give us the option of saying no as well.  We may be sick of eating our fourth pan of lasagna in as many days or the fear of someone seeing my bathroom that has been sorely neglected while caring for my dying loved one is not worth having it cleaned.

6) There is no timeline.   For me, the first few months weren’t too bad.  I was busy planning a funeral and cleaning up a life that had been neglected in the month’s leading up to my mother’s death.  Plus it just didn’t seem real.  There was no possible way she was REALLY dead.  It felt like she was just at her house waiting for me to show up.  It wasn’t until three months or so after her death that it suddenly felt real and crushing grief set in.  By then, I’m sure my friends thought I was handling it well and had moved on to my new reality.  So don’t be surprised if three months or even three years later something sets us off and the grief suddenly become fresh again.

And truly…. just the fact that you are reading this post wondering what you can do to help your friend means that you will do just fine.   You care.  And that is enough.

Finding the Hero in Dying

There are many moments in my life that defined and changed me. The death and dying process of my Mom ranks high. My Mom died in 2012 after 3 1/2 years of having pancreatic cancer. You notice I didn’t say fighting pancreatic cancer – she had pancreatic cancer. Sometimes she did fight it. And sometimes she did not. But always she was a warrior and my hero.

We congratulate people fighting cancer for being warriors and being strong — we call them heroes for fighting the good fight. Being a warrior and hero is not a bad thing as it gives the cancer patient hope and encouragement.

What happens though when the patient decides they are done fighting and want to discontinue treatment? Are they no longer a hero? If they aren’t a warrior or fighter or hero, what are they?  Are they a loser?  Someone who has given up and lost the fight?

The patient may feel as if they are letting down their family by stopping the fight.   They may feel their family and friends do not want them to quit fighting and they owe them because they has given so much of their time to care for them.   The patient’s family and friends feel as if they need to make excuses to others about why the patient has “given up.”

I think we need to change our feeling towards stopping the fight. We need to find the hero in stopping aggressive treatment and starting palliative or hospice care.  We need to ensure that the person who is living their life, well aware they are dying, know they are just as much a hero as when they were fighting their cancer.

What is courage? It is defined as the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.

“Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.”
– Karl Van Clausewitz

I can’t think of anything that takes more courage than embracing your last days on earth and confronting the fact you are dying and dying soon.   Being able to say “no thank you” to additional invasive treatments and instead focusing on LIVING the last days of your life with your family and friends, doing the things you want, hopefully outside the confines of the hospital.  That is courage and we need to celebrate that courage.

The courage of someone embracing their last days does not negate the courage of someone fighting their disease.  One patient’s path is not right and one is not wrong.  Both patients are heroes and warriors and courageous.

One of the most difficult things I had to do as a caregiver of my mother, and probably will remain one of the most difficult things I will EVER have to do as human, was to say to her that it was okay to stop the treatment… that I had called Hospice to see what her options were and maybe she should talk to them as well.   That maybe it was time to leave the hospital and come home.  I felt as if I was letting her down and giving up on her.   That I WANTED her to die.

Of course, me wanting her to die was the furthest thing from my mind.  I wanted her to stop hurting.  I didn’t want to see her lying in a hospital bed, struggling to breathe.  I didn’t want to see her shrinking away with tubes and beeping monitors surrounding her.  I wanted to see her at home surrounded by her grandchildren, snuggling and reading them stories.

What made it hard was that I knew giving up on the treatments meant we were accepting that she was going to die.    It was what we all knew.. the proverbial “elephant in the room” but no one wanted to recognize the elephant.  Dammit, if we kept at the treatments, surely something would work.  There was always one more study or one more clinical trial.  Or maybe we just hadn’t seen the right doctor.  Surely by calling Hospice I was declaring to the world, and to her, that I wanted my mother to die.

If we kept at the treatments, surely something would work. Surely by calling Hospice I was declaring to the world, and to her, that I wanted my mother to die.

There were not many times I cried when caring for my mother — mostly because I had to be strong in caring for her and there just wasn’t time for a pity party.   This was not one of those times where I was strong.  After the conversation, I cried with wracking, gut wrenching, nearly vomiting sobs.  It was admitting to her and to me and to everyone I knew that she was going to die.    Its been years since she passed, and thinking about that moment in order to get it to paper brings the tears again.

The most amazing thing happened though.   She was happy.   After the conversation, I remember her sitting up straighter and looking determined.  The doctors looked relieved and glad the decision had been made.  Not everyone was on board immediately — it took my mother some time to convince everyone that she was ready to stop the treatments.  But she was sure and I felt good that I had broached the subject.

She came home and grew stronger without the poisoning of the treatments.  Hospice came by regularly and provided counseling and medical advice and treatments designed to make her feel better day to day. Not treatments that would cure her but make it so she could live her life until her death.

She lived for three months after that decision and was able to attend her grandchildren’s soccer games and birthday parties and go out to dinner with her family.  She had streams of visitors and she was able to enjoy their visits in the comfort of a home environment, rather than ill in a hospital bed.   She sat in the sunshine and enjoyed the warmth of upcoming Spring.

She is my hero.  My warrior.  And I know no one more courageous.    She confronted the fear of death head on with a smile and embraced the life she had left.

I wish the same for you and your loved ones.   Stopping treatments and embracing the time you have left makes you no less a hero.   You are a warrior of life and the courage it takes to take that step back from treatments to live that life needs to be celebrated.   Bravo for you!

My Mom and I shortly after my oldest son was born. He was her first grandchild and she was so excited to be a grandma. I’m glad she got to meet all her grandchildren before she passed. (Photo credit: Rebecca Sperry)

Developing Rates for Government Contracts, Part 2

Welcome back for Part II!

Last post we discussed the various type of contracts (Firm Fixed Price, Time & Materials, and Cost Plus Fixed Fee) and started to get into what we call indirect cost “pools” – Fringe, Overhead and General & Administrative. For this post, we will delve a bit further into what makes up the “pools”, how they are approved by the government and how you use the pools to develop the price per hour you can charge to the government.

So what make up these so called “pools”? On this hot summer day as I write this I wish they were cool places to dip your toe. Alas, they are simply categories of expenses….

Imagine that you have three boxes and a huge pile of receipts. Your accountant would prefer you file the expenses into various “types” of expenses or the three boxes rather than the big pile and the government is no different. Each company can decide exactly how to divide their expenses but this is the most common approach:

Direct Labor Rate. This is easy. You take the salary of the person you are proposing and divide by 2,080 (the number of hours in a year). For example, if you pay someone $50,000 per year, their Direct Labor Rate is $24.04.

Indirect Costs. Indirect Costs are anything that you cannot directly charge to the government such as paying for the employee’s health care premiums or items like rent, accountants or paper for the copier. This is the complicated part and I’ll explain a bit more in depth below.

Fee which is your Profit on the task. This is negotiated within your proposal and can be either a fixed number ($1,000) or a percentage of the billed amount (5%).

So… back to the Indirect Costs. Indirect Costs are further broken into sub pools (or categories). The most common approach to this division is:

Fringe Pool – items such as health care, retirement contributions, vacation, sick, and workman’s compensation.

Overhead Pool – items that cannot be billed directly to a contract but can be attributed to the cost of doing business with one or more customers. For example, computers, rent for billable employees, salary paid to an employee between two projects or utility costs for space allocated to billable employees.

Some companies divide their Overhead Pool into two distinct pools: one for Company Site Employees and one Government Site Employees. This is because it obviously costs us more in overhead costs to employee someone who works on our site than on a government site. It doesn’t seem fair to allocate (and thus charge) costs for Company Site employees to clients who are providing those materials such as desks, space to work and computers for us.

General & Administrative — items that attributable to running your business in general. Examples include the salary of the President of your company (unless the President is a billable employee and then you should divide the salary proportionately into the correct pools), rent for the area where administrative personnel work, accountant and lawyer fees.

Once you have divided your costs into their various pools, you can calculate percentage costs for each pool based on the total Direct Labor costs. See the charts below for a very simplified sample budget and the corresponding “Indirect Rates” that were derived.

Now, once you have your budget for the year you can start to calculate what your indirect rates are…

Let’s start with Fringe. Your total cost for Fringe is $97,000 and your total Labor Base is $340,000. To compute your Fringe Rate you divide Fringe by the Labor Base total for a percentage of 28.5%.

The other indirect rates are calculated using the same methodology as you can see below.

Once you have the indirect rates, you can use them to create your Cost Plus Fixed Fee rates that you bill to the government.

Your proposed budget and indirect rates are submitted to the Defense Contracting Auditing Agency (DCAA) at the beginning of the year and are called Provisional Rates. DCAA will either approve or request a change to what you proposed. Once they are approved you can use those indirect rates to bill the government on your CPFF contracts.

Provisional Rate are just that … provisional. They are based off what you propose in your budget. You do your best to stay within the budget but things happen and your actual numbers are sure to not exactly match the budget. At the close out of the contract you will apply your actual indirect rates (based on your actual expenditures) to the direct labor expended and do a reconciliation between what was billed and the actual costs incurred on the contract. At that point, you will either owe the government back some money (if they were lower than budgeted) or you can attempt to collect additional fees from the government (if they were higher than budgeted).

So… that is your quick overview of how to create a government contracting budget and how it is used to create Cost Plus Fixed Fee rates. This is an immensely simplified view to give you a basic understanding. If you have questions or need further explanation please contact us for our business consulting services.

Developing Rates for Government Contracts, Part 1

I have been working in the complicated government contracting world for over two decades as a small business owner. In that time, I have been asked many times by other companies how to develop indirect rates for Cost Plus Fixed Fee (CPFF) contracts. This post will give you some idea of how to start the process. I’ll start with reviewing the different types of contracts in this post and then next time we will address budgets and developing your indirect rates.

There are essentially three different types of funding for contracts.

Firm Fixed Price (FFP) — a set price for doing the work regardless of the actual costs incurred. For example, “We will deliver 10 sandwiches for $100.” If it ends up costing us more than $100 to make the sandwiches we still can only bill for $100. If it costs us less than anticipated, we will make a larger profit.

Firm Fixed Price Contracts should be clearly defined tasks as there is no flexibility in the cost structure.

graph1

Time and Materials (T&M) — a price based on a Fixed Hourly Rate plus the Actual Cost of Materials. For example, “We will deliver 10 sandwiches. We will bill for $80 worth of materials and it will take us 5 hours at $50/hour.” If we get the materials for less money than anticipated then we bill at the lower cost. However, the labor is a set price per hour even if it costs us more than we proposed. The actual number of hours expended can be charged, however.

graph2

Cost Plus Fixed Fee (CPFF) — a price based on the actual cost of doing the project plus a fixed fee. For example, “We will deliver 10 sandwiches and will charge you the cost of materials plus the cost of the labor to make them plus a fixed fee (profit).” If the labor and/or materials are less than we proposed, we charge the government less than proposed. If it is more than we proposed, we technically can charge the government more than we proposed.

Keep in mind that the government will only budget as much as you proposed and thus your chances of being reimbursed for any additional costs are minimal as your customer will not have the funds available.

graph3

You can see that a CPFF is the most complicated type of contract as you have to closely monitor your costs to stay within budget. Many government contractors go for years without ever having a CPFF contract but eventually the time comes and then they are scrambling to bring their accounting practices up to speed.

It doesn’t sound all that complicated – calculate what it cost you to do the contract and then charge that to the government. The complexity comes in calculating what makes up your costs. There are three basic parts to the “cost”. They are Direct Labor (the salary paid to the employee), Indirect Costs (the costs of doing business), and Fee (also known as profit).

Indirect costs are typically the most difficult to quantify. Although every contractor can divide the pools differently, they are typically broken down into three categories:  Fringe (health care, retirement contributions, vacation, sick, etc), Overhead (computers, rent for space used for billable employees, salary paid to an employee between two billable projects, etc) and General & Adminstrative (accountants, lawyers, rent for space used for administrative functions, etc.).

What makes calculating your costs even more complicated is that the resulting rate you charge on direct labor is a percentage of the Indirect Costs divided by the Direct Labor.

So if your Direct Labor is less than you anticipated then the costs in the Indirect Pool have to be correspondingly less to meet your projected % Rate. Or if your Direct Labor is higher than anticipated, your Indirect Pool costs must also be increased or you will be paying funds back to the government at the end of your fiscal year. To prevent that tragedy, you MUST track both your Direct and Indirect Costs unfailingly so you can make adjustments as needed to your spending.

Be sure to check back here for part 2, where we will review the Indirect Cost Pools a bit more, how to create a budget, what provisional rates are and ultimately what you can charge the government for all your hard work!

Ten Things to Banish the Winter Blues

During my Tuesday Sunrise videos (I do these Live every Tuesday on Facebook and YouTube), I shared I was feeling the winter blues. There wasn’t anything really “wrong” but I just felt blah and unmotivated. I asked for ideas to help shake the blues and got some good ones! Share other ideas in the comments to help others.

  1. Take a walk. Fresh air and exercise are by far one of the best things you can do. I took a walk in the cold air yesterday and felt so much more motivated and awake the rest of the day. The dog enjoyed the time too. Yoga, bike riding, or an exercise video work too. Anything to get your blood pumping is helpful.
  2. Pet your dog (or cat or horse or iguana). There is scientific evidence that being with your pets can decrease stress. If you don’t have a pet, “adopt” the wildlife by putting up a bird feeder so you can watch the birds and the thieving squirrels up close!
  3. Get dressed up. Even if you don’t have anywhere special to go, put on nice clothes and do your hair and makeup at least once a week. If nothing else it will make your family wonder what you have planned! When my son and daughter-in-law got married, they wanted to be able to get a second use out of their wedding attire so they dressed back up in them later in the week and walked around Target. They had a great time getting strange looks and congratulations from other shoppers.
  4. Dance like no one is watching. This one is from my friend Jason who regularly posts videos having a great time sharing his solo snazzy dance moves from his living room. Music and dancing can boost the mood of anyone – even if you dance like me and have two left feet!
  5. Prep your meals. Eating a healthy diet keeps your mind healthy too. It is hard to prepare a healthy dinner though when you are tired from a long day at work so prepping at the beginning of the day or on the weekend when you have more time ensures you get a healthy meal on the table with less stress.
  6. To do list. Keep a realistic to do list for each day so you can cross off your accomplished tasks. The key is to make the list realistic. If you have so many items on there you cannot realistically accomplish them in a day, it can have the opposite effect.
  7. Put on a good pair of socks. After my Mom died, we found a journal she kept that included her thoughts on socks – “A humble piece of cloth, yet what a difference they can make.” The difference between wearing old worn out socks and fresh comforting socks that keep your feet warm can make a day.
  8. Share your feelings. Just telling someone you have the blues can help. You may find that whoever you tell may have some of the same feelings and sharing can help both of you.
  9. Pray or meditate. Asking God for help may bring you some answers. Meditation can bring stability and calm. When I meditate, things that seemed to be super important and stressful lose their level of importance.
  10. Volunteer. If you are feeling down in the dumps or sorry for yourself, volunteer to help others. It reminds you that some have it worse than you do or at least there are others that are feeling pain as well. Your volunteer hours will also make the world a better place!

Two Steps to Move from Struggle to Strength

Megan R. Fenyoe, LCSW and best-selling author of You Are Enough, gives us concrete steps to transform negative self-talk into positive self-empowerment because YOU ARE ENOUGH!

Megan told her heart-wrenching and inspiring story about how and why she formed the “I Am Enough” movement. The movement prompted a book and helped her gain the confidence that she had a story to tell and she could “inspire and help people.”

Every one of us has a story and there is at least one person in the world that NEEDS to hear your story.

The steps Megan shared to help us get from struggle to strength were:

  1. Acknowledge your limiting self-beliefs through acceptance: rediscovering who you are today by going through the acceptance process
  2. Use grounding skills to reduce negative thoughts: acknowledge the thought and then use a visual to distract yourself from that thought

There are so many more details to the two items listed above. Be sure to watch the video below to find out more.

 

Key Things Parents Can Do to Help a Pre-Teen Reach Full Potential

Dr. Ali Lankerani, known as the “Parent Whisperer”, and Clinical Neuroscientist and creator of the Amazing Parents Network gave me three key things parents can do to help their pre-teens reach their full potential. The three items are:

  1. Nutrition – certain foods are better for brain optimization than others. For example, some foods may even help with autism and ADHD. Dr. Lankerani also gives us some great tips to get your kids to try and even like new foods.
  2. Rest – ensuring children’s lifestyle allows rest.
  3. Oxygen – making sure breathing is correct and beneficial. This includes correct breathing during sleep as well as at rest and during activity.

Dr. Lankerani began our talk with this great quote, “Parents are trying to do their best and be great role models who lead by example.” Thank you Dr. L for giving us the tools to do just that!

There are so many more details to the three items listed above. Be sure to watch the video below to find out more.

 

Proposal Writing: Understanding Benefits vs Features to answer “So What?”

My first attempt at writing a proposal was a disaster. The client wanted our company to win and had tailored the RFP so we would have a great shot at doing so. We bombed it and lost by just a few points despite the client wanting us to win.

What did we do wrong?

Well lots… we didn’t answer the questions in a way that was easy for the evaluators to give us points, we didn’t format the proposal in way so they could prove we had the answers, but more important — we focused on the features of our company rather than the benefits.

Bottom line is that your client wants to know that your solution is going to benefit them and benefit them better than anyone else.

As you write your proposal don’t forget to continually ask, “So what?”

Let me give you an example…

If an RFP is to provide sandwiches for their employees from 12-1 pm every weekday, you need to obviously state that you will do that.  But so will every other competitor.

A feature of your company is that you have provided lunch solutions to ten other companies in the past year that are similar in size to this one.  You have a history of reliably providing lunch on time and within budget.  You have the experience and know-how to do this.

So what?

How will this benefit the customer?

Your benefit is that their employees can rely on their lunch being ready so they can get back to work and improve their profitability and that employee morale is high because of the quality lunch so turnover is less and will decrease their recruiting and training costs.

As you work through the features and benefits, think about what keeps your customer awake at night and make sure your features scratches that worry… that is your benefit and that benefit is what will help you win new work.

The Most Important Element of Success in Business… and its not Talent or Expertise

A few years ago, I was helping someone with their due diligence when they were contemplating purchasing a company.  He had hired the best attorneys and accountants to review the books and the contracts of the company and the company had proven to be legally and financially sound.   It was fairly certain that the company’s prior success would easily continue under new ownership with little work on the part of the new owner.  It was a good deal.

Two nights before closing, he and I were sitting in a conference room going over last-minute details and he looked sick with worry.   I turned to him and said, “You don’t want to do this do you?”  Before I could get another word out, he nodded, gathered the pile of folders in front of him and as he scurried for the door said, “Nope.  I just don’t have the guts for this.”

He had the experience and had certainly done his homework regarding the purchase.  What he didn’t have was guts and the ability to take action.  He had what I call paralysis by analysis.

Action will get you further than talent or expertise and even hard work.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The wrong action can get you in trouble.  But I see people all too often do nothing because they think it won’t get them in trouble.

Doing nothing because of fear is an action.  And its always the wrong action.

Entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff.  You don’t know when you jump if you are going to fly or fall to the ground.  You don’t know if your new product will be a raging success or the biggest flop ever.  I don’t propose you jump off a cliff without putting on a parachute.  You MUST do your due diligence and be prepared – but eventually you need to jump and you will never be totally ready to do so.  I can guarantee you though, that standing on the cliff holding your research in your hand will never allow you to fly.

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