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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hospice is not a Death Sentence

I'm taking a little departure from the promised subject matter...  In the last few weeks I've encountered too many family and friends for whom this is relevant.  (Although care for elderly parents or relatives DOES usually fall to "girls", to pretend that this post relates to business tips is a stretch. Whatever - it's my blog!)

As many of you know, I have served on the board of the local non-profit Angela Hospice for the past 5 years.  During that time, I've learned enough to be dangerous, and certainly enough to know that there is a great need for education about what hospice is...and what it isn't.

Most people are terrified of the word "hospice".  To many it means "the end" and "giving up" - this couldn't be farther from the truth.  Entering hospice care does not change your diagnosis or shorten your life expectancy in any way.  It's true that you must have a terminal diagnosis to qualify for hospice care, but experience shows that those who go into hospice care actually live longer than those with similar diagnoses who don't - and there's no question that the quality of life is better.

When a "terminal" diagnosis is given, it often means that the condition is no longer treatable - or it is treatable but not "curable".  Doctors necessarily prescribe treatments that will prolong life: they have taken an oath to extend life by any means necessary.  "Any means necessary" is just not always pleasant or even effective for the patient.  When patients decide to refuse treatment or try alternative therapies, families and friends get nervous.  Many people believe that refusing treatment means giving up. On the contrary - it simply means that the patient is taking control of the situation and is deciding to live out the time s/he has left on her/his own terms. That's exactly the opportunity that hospice provides.

Hospice is for those who necessarily have a terminal illness, but either have a condition that is not treatable, or they have decided that they do not want to endure further treatement.  They want to live the remainder of their life as pain-free as possible, at the highest quality possible.  They are deciding to proactively manage the last phase of their lives.  Hospice makes no attempt to prolong life or hasten death:  it simply enables patients to live as comfortably as possible, surrounded by the ones they love.

Once a person starts working with the hospice team, they frequently relax and set about putting their lives in order - physically, emotionally and often spiritually.  There is a peace associated with this that may very well contribute to a longer life.

A hospice team can include a physician, social worker, nurse and nurse practicioner, therapists and spiritual care providers as well as volunteers.  The hospice team can provide extensive resources for the family in addition to caring for the patient.  Bereavement counseling for the entire family is also available (Angela Hospice goes above and beyond in offering a variety of counseling services, memorials and workshops, provided at no charge to anyone in the community even if you have never used their hospice services).

The #1 comment of family members who have experienced hospice is, "I wish we had done this sooner".  There is no obligation or commitment implied by meeting with someone to ask questions and learn more about hospice care.  In the unfortunate event that you have a loved one who receives a terminal diagnosis, I can't urge you strongly enough to contact a local hospice and find out about all of the resources they offer - sooner rather than later.

Finally:  click on this link and buy this book today:  Being Mortal: - Medicine and What Matters in The End, by Atul Gawande.  This is an interesting look into the mindset of physicians and why so many are uncomfortable with the end-of-life decisions that their patients must make.  It's also a wake-up call for any of us who mistakenly assume that the way we would choose to treat a terminal illness or live out the rest of our days is what others would choose.

A terminal illness is usually accompanied by a free-for-all of emotions and unresolved issues all around.  Hospice teams are prepared for this, experienced in working families through it and can provide a world of comfort and clarity. 

Commercial over!  Next month, back to snarky business tips.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Girl Groups

Every time my Posse meets, I am inspired with new material.  Yesterday we met for one of our every-other-month lunches and, as usual, did our "check in" (what we are doing, what projects we're working on, business or personal news) and then, as is also becoming usual, a digression into topics around staying healthy.  (Although I'm one of the oldest in the group, after a lengthy discussion of enzymes, Silver Water, vitamins, GMO's, organic food and cleanses, I commented that I needed to find a younger group of friends...).  I don't pretend to comprehend everything that they're talking about, but I'm thrilled that I have Posse sisters who research alternative therapies and preventative protocols and are proactively sharing this knowledge with others.

We also discussed a number of other revelations.  The oldest of us (in the back half of our 50's), are feeling an unexpected freedom. 
  • Freedom to change careers and focus on work that makes us happy (whether that work is profitable or not!)
  • Freedom to really clean out that closet:  give up the formal business clothes that aren't likely to be worn again, get rid of anything that doesn't bring us joy when we wear it
  • Freedom to see the people that we want to see and feel no guilt when we decline an invitation. (A favorite old TV line that I think came from Phoebe on Friends is: "I would, but I don't want to".)
  • Freedom from judgment.  Not that we're not being judged...just that we don't care.  This means freedom to have those injections or cosmetic surgery if it makes us happy - but just as free to let our hair go gray, go off the diet and accept who we've become.
Although we're not wearing Red Hats yet, we can see the benefit of such an organization.  A group of older women who are unabashadly enjoying each other and experiencing new things while playing a grown-up version of Dress Up.  Why the hell not?

A few of my Posse sisters are still fully embroiled in their first businesses.   For them, the revelation was more business related:  we feel sorry for men who don't have an equivalent of the Girl Group.  Groups like the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Center for Empowerment & Economic Development (CEED), Women President's Organization (WPO), Enterprising Women, The Woman's Advantage and similar groups are all places that women share experiences and expertise, ask and give advice in a safe environment.  Most of us have firm support from our husbands, families and friends, but there is no substitute for someone who is exactly in your situation:  feeling the pressures of running the company, feeling responsible for employees, trying to do your best in your work and personal or family life.  Girl Groups do not have to be formal organizations; it's perfectly acceptable to form your own.

Of course, there are some men that are comfortable sharing, and there are a number of general business organizations that are also very valuable like Entrepreneur's Organization (EO), Chambers of Commerce and industry associations. Our biased observation is that men just don't share like women do.  For whatever reason (let's don't try to speculate...), many men still hesitate to ask for directions.

So.  If you are not yet in your 50's, take heart!  You may mourn for your previous body, jawline or metabolism, but you're about to experience an invigorating freedom.  And if you are a female and do not have a Girl Group - go find (or form) one now!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Customers with Balls

If you are in sales or just about any other kind of business for any length of time, chances are good that you have some excellent examples of customers with more gall than the average bear. 

Full disclosure: a couple of stories are mine; a couple are from colleagues. Two are from the 70's/80's before corporations had rules against this stuff (the 70's and 80's are THE REASON those rules were established....).  You'll be able to tell which took place "back then" right away.

Sales to automotive companies and other major corporations in the Good Old Days was challenging, and few ethical lines were drawn.  I was fortunate enough to learn from a great boss who occasionally (grudgingly) crossed the line into his own gray area, but never considered doing anything remotely illegal or unethical.  The stories here are not about suppliers who offer "consideration", but about customers who demand it. You'll see that even without breaking laws, that gray area can be mighty wide:

  • Supplier calls to invite Customer to lunch.  Customer requests lunch at a topless bar, followed by an afternoon of adult movie entertainment.  (This was the 70's when many Gentlemen's Clubs had regular lunch specials and alcohol at lunch was expected.  Because he's now deceased, I will reveal that this was my old boss who was most often described as a "gentleman".  He obliged this customer but said that there is nothing that makes you feel sleazier than exiting an adult movie theatre into the bright sunshine at 2 in the afternoon...).

  • Customer is one of many contacts within a corporation that Supplier calls on.  Customer A is pleasant and sets meetings, but takes Supplier's ideas and buys them from Crony B.  Years later, Customer A is "downsized" and contacts Supplier to "catch up".  Customer A acts like they were Supplier's best customer and actually says the words, "I always enjoyed working with you".  Not how Supplier remembers it.

  • Customer and Supplier are in Las Vegas at a trade show; it's expected that the supplier will pay for any entertainment that is enjoyed in the evening.  This particular customer requested a limo, a table and bottle service for their group at a current hot spot (this means that greasing the door man will be required).  Expected customer entertainment; nothing strange here until the customer requested a hooker (or cash to procure a hooker).  Gray area breached.

  • Supplier quotes Customer a price on a project based on the required specs.  Supplier and Customer go back and forth for many days where the Customer asks the same question in a variety of ways: Customer wants all of the required elements but for half the quoted price.  Supplier politely declines the project (several times).  A couple of weeks later, Customer contacts Supplier and reiterates how impressed they were with Supplier, but cannot afford them at this time.  Would Supplier please answer the following questions and help Customer to craft the project contract with the supplier that they chose?  Seriously.

  • Customer calls Supplier for help with Christmas Gift for his wife (frequently purchased merchandise for customers at corporate/wholesale pricing; regular perk of business relationship) - and help with Christmas gift for his mistress?
Not nearly as provocative as the Kwame saga that we've experienced here in Detroit, but still noteworthy.  So what to do when you get these types of requests?  I'm happy to report that 3-martini lunches at strip clubs are not common practice anymore.  I'd like to think that the proliferation of women into the workforce is partly responsible for this. 

Everyone finds their own tolerance for gray area.  Consensus seems to be:  strip club/maybe, hooker/no, connecting bad customer with someone on LinkedIn/probably (why hold grudges?), helping a non-customer to write their contract with another supplier/I don't think so. Christmas gift for wife & mistress/send 2 things to Customer and let him sort it out.

I've heard MANY other stories over the years and would love to hear yours! Comment here or send me a private email and I'll include your story in Customers with Balls Part 2!