How to Manage Small Business Financial Stress

October 30th, 2009

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How can you turn your financial stress into small business success?

 

It starts with being realistic (and truthful) with yourself about your current situation.

How Do You Do That?  

Get the Picture

Where does your business stand financially? A simple Exel spreadsheet showing income, expenses, profit, debt, assets and liabilities gives you a financial snapshot.

Budget or root canal?

Budgets don’t have to be painful; they’re simply a tool highlighting where the money comes from and where it’s going - it shows you where to make more and where to cut back. 

It’s a Goooooooal!

Long term goals map out where you want your company to be; short term goals show you how to get there step-by-step. Breaking the big picture into manageable (and trackable) steps reduces the feeling of overwhelm and failure and reduces stress.

 Clean House

If your staff/subcontractors are draining your financial resources without showing results it may be time to either restructure their motivation (try offering profit share) or just let them go. 

Pressure Release

A bookkeeper, financial planner or accountant can help detangle the financial cobwebs by helping you plan ahead and cut costs. Hiring VA’s (http://www.virtuallysuccessful.com/) or an OBM’s (http://www.onlinebusinessmanager.com/blog/) to help with operations frees up your energy and time.

The Power of Empowerment

You don’t need to become an accountant or a bookkeeper to get a handle on your finances. Check out a basic financial planning book, teleclass or seminar designed for small business owners and/or try ‘Google Groups’ to connect with solopreneurs and discover how they handle their financial stress.

Going to Market

When is the best time to market your business? All the time. To ensure a continual flow of cash, even when business is flush with clients, pays off during the lean times.

Set Your Sales Copy on Fire With One Word

September 21st, 2009

We recently installed two new fire places in our Vancouver Island home so we’re on the lookout for firewood and kindling. Today I saw a roadside sign that read, “Free Wood”. Like a lot of people, I love free stuff - always have. istockphotofirewoodpile

So why did I speed past the ‘free wood’ when I definitley would have stopped for ‘free kindling’ or ‘free firewood’?

Here’s why.

A birdhouse is made of wood. So is a dock and a shed and a fence and a telephone pole…you get the picture. 

This free wood could have been anything from the size of a bread box to a trailer truck load. I didn’t think they were offering either, but since they weren’t specific, I wasn’t sure - so I drove on past.

What’s this got to do with your sales copy for your coaching practice, speaking event or information product? 

Lots.

 This is a classic example of  feature vs. benefit in action. A feature focuses on the offering. A benefit focuses on how it helps the consumer.

‘Free wood’ tells me the feature - it’s wood and it’s free.

‘Free kindling’ tells me SO much more: it’s wood; it’s free; it suits my purpose (lighting fires); it’s easy for me to carry; it’s small enough to fit into my car; it’s ready for my fireplace, etc.

The power of a single word…

The reason I didn’t stop for free wood is exactly the same reason online traffic speeds past the ‘buy’ button of most sales copy - because it doesn’t highlight the benefit.

What’s the one word that will set your sales on fire? You’ve probably figured out already, it’s different for all of us.

The challenge is to go through all of our sales copy to find that one word and add or remove it.

Vacation Deprived? 5 Tips to Taking Time Off (Without Going Out of Business)

July 20th, 2009

sad manager in the sea

Feel like you don’t take enough time off?

 

You’re not alone.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail found most people don’t take all the time off they have coming to them. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/managing/stressing-over-summer-vacation/article1171316/

Below shows the average number of holidays workers around the world have and how they use them.

Canada - 19 holdidays. Workers who don’t use them all = 24%

France - 38 holidays. Workers who don’t use them all = 22%

Japan - 15 holidays. Workers who don’t use them all = 92% 

Yikes!

If you’re a solopreneur you might be thinking, “Vacation!? Who’s got time for that?” and you either end up working during your ‘vacation’ or not taking the time off.

Gimme a Break.

The 3 secrets to profitable real estate investment is location, location, location. The 3 secrets to ensuring you don’t return from vacation feeling like you need another vacation (from your vacation) or discovering you’ve gone out of business are…

Planning, planning, planning.

1. Holida-ay! You can’t take it off if you don’t know when it is. Open a calendar (try hanging a full year calendar on the wall). Mark the days you must take off - weddings, graduations, Christmas etc. Seems like a lot? We’re not done yet…

2. I Feel a Cold Coming On. Remember the ‘good ole’ 9-5? Calling in sick (even if you weren’t - i.e. playoff season) and still getting paid? Ahhh. Ahem! Now you’re the boss and you never get sick, right? Of course you do. So plan for it. Add a few sick days (per month) to your calendar (even if you won’t use them all).

3. Resistence is Futile.  Include all statutory holidays. Want to beat the crowds? Take you ’stats’ on different days. Either way, you’ve likely earned ‘em so don’t skip ‘em.       

4. Are You Busy This Weekend? Again, your weekends don’t have to be Saturday and Sunday - they don’t even have to be paired up - chose what works for you.

Stand back. Take a deep breath. Looks like more holidays than work days? There aren’t. It’s just a realistic picture of your time off.

The Flip Side

5. All Work and No Play… You’ve mapped out your works days too. Think about it - you’ve just planned your entire work year.  

Planning your vacation actually makes you more efficient AND much more effective in planning your work days in order to meet your holiday targets - talk about motivation.

How successful are you at taking time off? What’s one proactive step you can take today to make sure you give yourself more time off?

Help! I Need a Vacation! How to Take Time Off When You’re the Boss

June 22nd, 2009

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A lot of solopreneurs think taking time off means losing business, but it you plan it right, time off actually makes you super effective.

No one would work for an employer who refused them time off - why are you?

Not taking time off is like not taking time to sleep - adrenaline and willpower can only get you only so far.

Once you’re past ‘business start-up’ there’s no excuse not to take holidays. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to help create a sustainable business.

So, how do you do it?

1. Cash Stash.You can’t enjoy time off when you’re worried about every last dime. Set up an automatic withdraw from your pay that goes directly into a high interest savings account. 10% of gross is pretty standard. You won’t miss it, trust me. 

2. As Time Goes By. Track it using a calendar - mark off weekends, statutory days, sick days, weddings, birthdays, summer vacation etc. for the entire year. Start now. Stick to it. The flip side - you’ve just plotted an entire year of work days too.

3. “Help me, Help you!” A great line from Jerry Maguire. People are willing to help - get out of their (and your) way. Think Virtual Assistants*, Online Business Managers*, designers, tech support etc.

4. ‘Back in 1  Hour’.Use Auto-responders to let your clients know you’ll be away - and when you’ll be back. You’ll get breathing room with fewer emails. 

5. A Rolling Stone. TV is an effective distraction, but include active activities too - bowling, kayaking, socializing, etc. It temporarily disconnects your ’work brain’ , evolves your work/life perspective AND provides space for your subconscious to generate ideas and solutions for work without having to try! 

What strategies have you tried to help make taking time off easier?

12 Tips to a Better Blog Post

June 16th, 2009

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1.       Be Unique – just like everybody else. Seriously, stand out by taking a stand the way only you can.

 

 

2.       Use Catchy Headlines. Provocative, helpful, promising a solution to a problem, etc. If it doesn’t ‘hook’ it won’t catch.

 

 

3.       Use Photos Where Appropriate. A picture is worth a thousand dollars (or could be if it gets people into your e-world).

 

 

4.       Get to Your Point and Move On. It’s a sprint, not a marathon. Need more than 250 words to make your point? Write a newsletter.

 

 

5.       Beginning, Middle, End. Have one of each. Don’t laugh. You’d be surprised.

 

 

6.       Focus. Make one major point per post. Too many ideas in a single post leads to long-winded confusion.

 

 

 

7.       “No offence, but…” Your posts will be criticised from time to time – don’t take it personally. Learn from any feedback (if you can) and move on. At least people are reading.

 

 

 

8.       Edit. Nothing annoys a reader faster than distracting errers.

 

 

 

9.       Don’t Be a Weak Link. Posts with links to related web pages help drive more traffic.

 

 

 

10.   Season with Keywords. What keywords will people use to search for your post? Include them in the text, titles and headers.

 

 

 

11.   Any questions? Asking questions of readers at the end of a post encourages feedback and interaction.

 

12.   Don’t follow the rules. Think of this list more as principles rather than rules. You never know what works and what doesn’t unless you try it. (BTW, this post is over 250 words).

 

If you still hate doing your posts or have no time but need a blog post to generate traffic why not hire a freelancer? Find someone who knows how to write effectively and can do so in your voice.

 

What tips have you discovered that have helped you make your blog posts more effective?

 

Sample Writing - Web Content

June 16th, 2009

Herb, Bud and the Beanstalk Boys (also known as simply, The Beanstalk Boys) is a partnership of adults with disabilities who own and operate an urban agri-business. What started out several years ago as a small project to develop a garden space out of a piece of land the size of a large living room, has grown into a year-round Urban Agribusiness with over 600 square feet of indoor and outdoor growing space. Last year the Beanstalk Boys grew a variety of crops including herbs, peas, beans, cabbage, flowers, etc. that were sold to local restaurants, farmers markets and a local grocery store. All seeds and plants were from donations from local garden centers and grocery stores.

After securing long-term partnerships with the Alternative High School, The University of Calgary Community Garden Project and Mount Royal College and with the generous support and cooperation of the local business community, Herb Bud and the Beanstalk Boys has turned a corner and is now a year-round agribusiness. With the development of two outdoor garden locations at the Alternative High School and the University of Calgary and one professionally equipped greenhouse growing space at Mount Royal College, hopes are high for future expansion.

After much ‘sweat equity’ and teamwork the location is now a series of garden boxes laid out in a circle design that signifies the ‘circle of truth’ philosophy of the school. This year, approximately 20 more garden boxes will be built with the assistance of up to 20 volunteers from Home Depot and CASS staff. ‘Team Depot’ will bring their expertise and their tools to assist in a “garden box work bee” on May 3, 2006 to increase the growing capacity of the garden business.

You Made My Book a 1000% Better!

June 16th, 2009

caseytruffo4“Mike, I just wanted to write you and let you know how much I appreciate all you did for me. Your editing work on ‘Be a Wealthy Therapist’ has improved the book in such significant ways it simply AMAZES me. I especially loved how you beefed up the introduction. As well, the overall structural changes you’ve made have really made the book 1,000% better. I am so grateful! Your input has made the benefits of the book so clear - this is definitely what I needed to increase my book sales. You really did a fantastic job adding improvements while preserving my voice and style (you took my writing and made me sound even better!) I am happy, happy, happy with the book.

Thanks again for all you did!

– Casey Truffo, Founder www.BeaWealthyTherapist.com

Ready to dive into your own book or writing project? Click here http://www.writingreliefnow.com/about/?preview=true&preview_id=2&preview_nonce=f28ee066e5

Sample Writing - CD Booklet Creation, Editing and Proofing

June 16th, 2009

Edited and Proofed the content and structure for Andrea Lee’s CD - ‘How to Measure What Matters.’

photometricsWhat is Metrics?

Metrics is a boring word for a very exciting thing…watching your business grow!

Put simply, metrics is tracking your numbers (sales, leads, promotions, etc) so you can truly see what is going on in your business.

If you have ever experienced a day of excitement when your first passive product hit the market And, wow, sales started rolling in… you’ll be just as much of a metrics-addict as me!

Measuring success is definitely one of my favorite gleeful guilty pleasures as a business owner… I hope you have one too, and no I don’t just mean the ice cream you had for lunch.

Now, the ‘numbers’ may not be the most exciting aspect of your day-to-day business activities, but what if measuring could be the catalyst that moves your business to the next level?

Let’s say to six or seven figures? Would this be good enough incentive to pull out the ‘virtual’ measuring stick? Listening to your numbers will point the way to what you must do next in terms of making more money in less time.

What can you learn from metrics?

· Tracking metrics tells you how well you are doing from week to week.

It helps you measure the things it’s most important to measure, which we will get into later in this program.

· You will immediately see when your measurements ’spike’ or ‘tumble.’

This means you know precisely what you should keep doing, and what you should stop doing.

· Your own Metrics Worksheet can act as an EKG for your business.

It will tell you if your business pulse goes flat-line, fast. Obviously flat-line is not a desirable state for us or for our businesses, and the more quickly you can respond when things are ’slow,’ the better chances you have for a healthy business. (Simply keep an eye on whether your metrics change. In all cases, if they aren’t moving somehow, things are not as they should be.)

· A great Metrics Spreadsheet also sharpens your focus.

Would you be better off adding new income streams to your product funnel? Could your existing streams be doing higher volume?

Although there are many more deductions you yourself can make when it comes to your Metrics, be aware that the process of tracking your metrics is a clever and elegant management tool.

I Highly Recommend Mike’s Work Ethic and Writing.

June 16th, 2009

“Mike’s writing, editing and content generation for the Herb, Bud and Beanstalk Boys organization was instrumental in giving them a professional, approachable and useful website. He also created extremely thorough and clear operating documents. I recommend his work ethic and his writing highly.

Mike has an extremely strong ability to communicate with others to get results - both verbally and in writing. I counted on him for his strong
work ethic, patience and sense of humour and would recommend him to anyone else seeking an energetic and conscientious team player.”

– Nicholas Mangozho, former Program Facilitator with Calgary Alternative Support Services

Sample Articles

June 16th, 2009

What’s Your Type (Your Marketing Type That Is)?

Struggling with marketing yourself and your business? Finding it hard to get enough clients to make a go of it? Spending thousands of dollars on yet another ad that turns up no new leads? Marketing is critical to attracting potential clients. So why do so many therapists find it difficult to succeed in marketing?
Knowing your marketing personality type can help put you on the fast track to finding new clients. Take this Self-Quiz and answer either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to see what your marketing type is and how that can help you bring in more business.
1. Would you rather have root canal than speak in front of a large room full of strangers?
2. Do you design and create your own ‘thank you’ cards and/or invitations?
3. Does working at a computer feel like second nature to you?
4. You don’t hesitate to attend networking events.
5. Does the idea that people are out there searching the web looking for counselors right now excite you?
6. Are you a great conversationalist when it comes to one-on-one, but the idea of pitching your business or ‘selling yourself’ to a group of strangers makes you uncomfortable?
7. Can you start a conversation with just about anyone at anytime?
8. Do you have a knack for turning a boring space into a spectacularly decorated room for any occasion (birthdays, Halloween, Anniversary)?
9. Small talk feels superficial and like a waste of time.
10. When you hear about a new online therapist locator site do you immediately check it out and sign up?
11. When you do a presentation, you arrive early and stay late so you can network.
12. Do you have a website and love to fuss over it and add all the latest bells and whistles?
13. When giving a presentation do you prefer to make it a ‘hands on’ experience for the attendees?
14. Do you avoid ‘cold calling’ at all costs?
15. When it comes to marketing your business, do you like to think ‘outside the box’ instead of going for the ‘tried and true’?
16. Does your energy come from interacting from other people – the more the better?
If you answered yes to 1, 6, 9, 14 you may be The Introverted Marketing Type – these types typically excel at listening and can use that strength to help them market themselves and their business.
If you answered yes to 3, 5, 10, 12 you may be The Techno Lover Marketing Type – these types are typically extremely effective at utilizing technology to develop their marketing strategies.
If you answered yes to 2, 8, 13, 15 you may be The Creative Marketing Type – ‘Creatives’ excel at design to capture the attention of potential clients.
If you answered yes to 4, 7 11, 16 you may be The Extroverted Marketing Type – This marketing type are the envy of other marketing types for their ease in meeting and making connections with people from all walks of life.

Each Marketing Personality Type has it’s own, distinctive strength and challenges. Knowing what marketing type you are can give you a leg up on your competition. Regardless of your personality type, isn’t it time you used your strength to find more clients and make more money?
For more information on Marketing Personality Types and how to make a living while making a difference, click here to buy a copy of ‘Be a Wealthy Therapist.’ 
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Knock Out (Top Banana) Websites.

So, you say you’re an introvert and you don’t like to cold calling, networking or speaking in public in an effort to get known and to get new clients. Or maybe you feel ‘technologically challenged’ and find the idea of creating your own website intimidating. Whatever the reason, creating and maintaining a website offers a simple and effective way for therapists to market their services.

As a therapist, what’s so important about having a website? 

Great website accomplish two things:

1. They help people get a feel for who you are and what you are all about from the comfort of their own home/office.
2. They make it easy for potential clients to take the next step by taking action –reaching out to you for your help.

When it comes to marketing your services on a website, keep in mind what the best websites have in common, they:

- Are simple in design.
- Are a reflection of your personality and style.
- Identify the pain/problem of the potential client.
- Identify a potential solution to that pain/problem.
- Offer something free (quiz, report, newsletter, etc.)
- Have a ‘call to action’ for the reader to take the next step with you.

If you’ve decided that a website is right for you (or you want to refresh an existing website) where do you start?

First, ‘Google’ ‘therapist’ or ‘counselor’ and see what comes up. Take a look at fellow therapists’ sites and make a note of what you like/dislike about them. Though checking out your competitor’s sites may be helpful, be aware that some of them may not be making any money from their sites.
Try searching other websites and making note of some that you particularly like. What is it about those websites that appeals to you. The colors? The Use of Photos? Personal Stories? Layout? Writing Style, etc.

Next, find a designer who can design a site for you. You can do this by asking for referrals or simply choosing a website you’d like to emulate and emailing that person requesting the contact information for their designer. Alternatively, if you look at the bottom of your favorite website, the designers’ contact information is usually found there – contact them direct for a quote.
Note: If you are a self-starter you can find templates for website design than offer an easy, step-by-step set up to get started. Casey, I hear you have a website template for therapists, maybe you want to insert a link here.
The key here is: It doesn’t have to be complicated.

One word of caution: If you approach a designer and are quoted thousands of dollars, you need to find another designer. IBM and Microsoft may have the budget and the need for pricey websites, but yours does not. There really is no need to spend more than a few hundred dollars to get started with a basic website. You can always ‘add bells and whistles’ as you go. The goal here is to make it doable.
 

3. The Upside of Being an Introvert When Finding New Clients.

When you find yourself with low energy and feel the need to ‘recharge your batteries’ by interacting with a lot of people, you are likely an extrovert. Extroverts are the envy of many when it comes to marketing their business because of their ease of talking about themselves and what they do.
What if you are an introvert and get ‘recharged’ by finding a quiet place to be alone? Does that mean you are destined to struggle finding clients to fill your practice? It doesn’t have to.
 
Here are 4 simple ways for introverts to get more clients:

1. Most people love to talk about themselves. Introverts love to listen. Talk about the perfect match! Set yourself up as the best listener in your field.
2. ‘Be’ yourself instead of trying to ‘sell’ yourself. If you are uncomfortable with selling your services (i.e. selling yourself) potential clients will pick up on it and may focus on that, rather than how you can help them.
3. Volunteer. You get a chance to be yourself and meet other people who service you ideal clients. People get to know the real you, one-on-one and are more likely to make referrals for you.
4. Find a business-networking group that is structured. Attending meetings with formal agendas means you won’t find yourself standing around trying to schmooze and hand out business cards to strangers.

Introverts typically avoid being the center of attention. It is this ability to put the spotlight on others that can really help fill your practice.

4. How To Reduce Business Burnout.

If your car ran out of gas while going down the hill it might take a while before you realized you were out of fuel, since the vehicle would still be in motion. At some point, however, you are simply running on fumes. Once you hit a level stretch of road and the car runs down and stops – it becomes pretty clear you need to refuel (or get out and start pushing).
When this happens in business it’s called ‘business burnout’. Except the vehicle is your body and the ‘fumes’ you are running on is often adrenaline.
Feeling powerless, overwhelmed, irritable, experiencing lack of sleep can all be signs of business burnout. You may already know how to reduce burnout when it comes to your daily life – exercise, eating right, getting lots of sleep, etc. but what practical steps can you take to reduce business burnout?

1. Stop what you are doing. This is the time to prioritize things. Look at (or create) your ‘to do’ list and distinguish between items that are: ‘emergency’, ‘urgent’, ‘important’, ‘can wait till later’, ‘things that can be ‘scratched off’, etc.
2. Set your work hours and stick to them. This is the designated time you are ‘open for business’. Of course you need to be flexible and occasionally work ‘overtime’, but make the commitment to yourself that that will be the exception, not the rule.
3. Set your hours of ‘no work’ time. Time where you do not work on or think about your business. Plan to do something fun and make sure it is away from the office.
4. Talk about it. Make it a point to hook up regularly with other small business owners to talk over, well, business stuff. Family and friends may be well meaning and offer certain levels of support, but there is no substitute for commiserating or problem solving with someone who is familiar with the ups and downs of running a business. You don’t need to find someone within the same field to talk to. In fact, it’s sometimes better if they aren’t. It ensures you focus on working ‘on’ your business instead of ‘in’ your business. You won’t end up ‘talking shop’.

Burnout is not a sign of weakness nor does it have to be a badge of honor. Don’t forget, working long hours isn’t the same thing as being productive.

 

5. Balancing the Business With The Rest of Your Life.

Entrepreneurs with no spouse or children often feel little pressure to get home ‘on time’. But, when you are juggling family life with business commitments, finding a healthy balance can be a big challenge. 

So, how do you know if your life is out of balance?

We all recognize some of the typical indicators that our lives are out of balance such as: lack of sleep, anxiety, irritability, jumpy, eating too much or too little, quick to anger, lack of concentration, frustrated, sense of a lack of control, not having any fun with life, etc.

If you suspect your life and business may not be in balance, here are some tips to help get things back on equilibrium:
 
 Set a work schedule and stick to it. Make use of a calendar and a red and green marker (or red and green stickers). Mark on the days that you are working with green (for ‘go’) and the days off with red (for ‘stop’). This can be a very powerful visual reminder. 
 On your days off, decide what you will do instead of ‘playing it by ear’. Plan something fun that involves getting out to a change of scenery – it will boost your energy level.
 Communicate. Let family members know what is going on with your business. The big picture is all that’s necessary. They will be more understanding if they know you are coming upon a very busy time. Let your loved ones know so they can be prepared.
 Schedule some ‘me’ time. When you board an airplane and the flight attendants give you the pre-flight instructions, they always point out ‘in the unlikely event of change in cabin pressure’ that you need to don the oxygen mask first, before helping anyone else. This is because you are not going to be much use to anyone if you are passed out on the floor from lack of oxygen. It’s important to take care of yourself first. Socialize with friends, go for a walk, swim, see a movie, and bake some bread - whatever healthy diversion that gets your mind off your business for a few hours.

In terms of operating a business, being out of balance can lead to decreased productivity, reduced job satisfaction and burnout which can all have an affect and cause stress within family relationships. As a business owner you are the CEO, customer service expert, secretary, janitor, etc. Trying to balance your life with all that’s involved with operating a small business is a challenge. Taking some simple steps can ensure you keep both you business and your personal life running smoothly. 

 

6. Four Reasons NOT to Use Pay Pal.

Do you remember what it was like before we had cell phones?
If you had an emergency or needed to call home because you forgot if it was eggs or milk you were supposed to pick up, you’d have to scramble to find the nearest mall or gas station and hope you had change for the pay phone.
Love them or hate them, cell phones have revolutionized how we live and do business. In terms of operating a small business they are one of the great equalizers. They help make it possible for small business owners to go head-to-head with the ‘giants’ in their fields and to do it from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day.
What cell phones have done for business communications, ‘PayPal’ has done for small business owners who want to compete locally, nationally and internationally. They have made it possible for the ‘little guy’ to compete in the ‘big leagues’ by offering options for invoicing (and paying) people anywhere there is a connection to the Internet. 
But, just because ‘everyone’ is using it, does that mean you should too when it comes to billing your clients for counseling?

Four reasons why therapists should not use PayPal:
 
1. As a healing professional, people put us in the same category as doctors. How would you feel about your doctor asking you to go to your computer and pay for his/her services?
2. PayPal is owned by eBay and has had some difficulties with fraud.
3. With PayPal, when you get paid is in the hands of the client.
4. Picture this – you are in your office after your session with your client and they want to pay you. How does that work? You have to have them sit at your computer and pay you via the PayPal link. Do you really want someone sitting at your personal computer? What if they hit the wrong key and delete something important or accidentally view confidential information?

Some people recommend using PayPal until your business is bringing in at least $1,000 a month - but I think counseling is a bit different than your typical Internet business. I encourage therapists and other healing professionals to get paid by check or credit card at each session

Think about it, how would you feel if your orthopedic surgeon asked you to pay via PayPal before your surgery?