Improve Your Well-Being – How Your Attitude to Health Can Help

What is Health?How do you define health? Is it a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being? Is it merely the absence of disease or infirmity? Or is health a resource for everyday life, rather than the objective of living; a positive concept, emphasising social and personal resources as well as physical capabilities?Good health is harder to define than bad health (which can be equated with the presence of disease), because it must convey a concept more positive than mere absence of disease, and there is a variable area between health and disease. Health is clearly a complex, multidimensional concept. Health is, ultimately, poorly defined and difficult to measure, despite impressive efforts by epidemiologists, vital statisticians, social scientists and political economists. Each individual’s health is shaped by many factors, including medical care, social circumstances, and behavioural choices.Health CareWhile it is true to say that health care is the prevention, treatment and management of illness, and the preservation of mental and physical well-being, through the services offered by the medical, nursing and allied health professions, health-related behaviour is influenced by our own values, which are determined by upbringing, by example, by experience, by the company one keeps, by the persuasive power of advertising (often a force of behaviour that can harm health), and by effective health education. Healthy individuals are able to mobilise all their physical, mental, and spiritual resources to improve their chances of survival, to live happy and fulfilling lives, and to be of benefit to their dependants and society.Achieving health, and remaining healthy, is an active process. Natural health is based on prevention, and on keeping our bodies and minds in good shape. Health lies in balancing these aspects within the body through a regimen consisting of diet, exercise, and regulation of the emotions. The last of these is too often ignored when health advice is dispensed, but can have a pronounced effect on physical well-being.DietEvery day, or so it seems, new research shows that some aspect of lifestyle – physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, and so on – affects health and longevity. Physical fitness is good bodily health, and is the result of regular exercise, proper diet and nutrition, and proper rest for physical recovery. The field of nutrition also studies foods and dietary supplements that improve performance, promote health, and cure or prevent disease, such as fibrous foods to reduce the risk of colon cancer, or supplements with vitamin C to strengthen teeth and gums and to improve the immune system. When exercising, it becomes even more important to have a good diet to ensure that the body has the correct ratio of macronutrients whilst providing ample micronutrients; this is to aid the body in the recovery process following strenuous exercise.If you’re trying to lose weight by “dieting”, don’t call it a diet, first of all – successful dieters don’t call what they do a “diet”. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are both important for maintaining a healthy weight. Even literate, well-educated people sometimes have misguided views about what makes or keeps them healthy, often believing that regular daily exercise, regular bowel movements, or a specific dietary regime will alone suffice to preserve their good health. Despite the ever-changing, ever-conflicting opinions of the medical experts as to what is good for us, one aspect of what we eat and drink has remained constantly agreed by all: a balanced diet.A balanced diet comprises a mixture of the main varieties of nutriments (protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins). Proper nutrition is just as, if not more, important to health as exercise. If you’re concerned about being overweight, you don’t need to add the extra stress of “dieting”. No “low-fat this” or “low-carb that”; just healthful eating of smaller portions, with weight loss being a satisfying side effect. Improve health by eating real food in moderation. (For many reasons, not everyone has easy access to or incentives to eat a balanced diet. Nevertheless, those who eat a well-balanced diet are healthier than those who do not.)ExercisePhysical exercise is considered important for maintaining physical fitness and overall health (including healthy weight), building and maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints, promoting physiological well-being, reducing surgical risks, and strengthening the immune system. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, running and swimming, focus on increasing cardiovascular endurance and muscle density. Anaerobic exercises, such as weight training or sprinting, increase muscle mass and strength. Proper rest and recovery are also as important to health as exercise, otherwise the body exists in a permanently injured state and will not improve or adapt adequately to the exercise. The above two factors can be compromised by psychological compulsions (eating disorders, such as exercise bulimia, anorexia, and other bulimias), misinformation, a lack of organisation, or a lack of motivation.Ask your doctor or physical therapist what exercises are best for you. Your doctor and/or physical therapist can recommend specific types of exercise, depending on your particular situation. You can use exercises to keep strong and limber, improve cardiovascular fitness, extend your joints’ range of motion, and reduce your weight. You should never be too busy to exercise. There’s always a way to squeeze in a little exercise, no matter where you are. Eliminate one or maybe even two items from your busy schedule to free up time to fit in some exercise and some “YOU” time. Finding an exercise partner is a common workout strategy.EmotionsYou may have heard about the benefits of diet and exercise ad nauseam, but may be unaware of the effect that your emotions can have on your physical well-being and, indeed, your longevity. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life. Mental health is how we think, feel, and act in order to face life’s situations. Prolonged psychological stress may have a negative impact on health, such as weakening the immune system.Children are particularly vulnerable. Caring for and protecting a child’s mental health is a major part of helping that child to grow into a normal adult, accepted into society. Mental health problems are not just a passing phase. Children are at greater risk for developing mental health problems when certain factors occur in their lives or environments. Mental health problems include depression, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia and conduct disorder. Do your best to provide a safe and loving home and community for your child, as well as nutritious meals, regular health check-ups, immunisations and exercise. Many children experience mental health problems that are real and painful, and they can be severe. Mental health problems affect at least one in every five young people at any given time. Tragically, an estimated two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need. Mental health problems can lead to school failure, alcohol or other drug abuse, family discord, violence, or even suicide. A variety of signs may point to a possible mental health problem in a child or teenager. Talk to your doctor, a school counsellor, or other mental health professionals who are trained to assess whether your child has a mental health problem.Control your emotions. If a driver overtakes you on the wrong side, or pulls out of a side road in front of you, don’t seethe with rage and honk your horn; You’re hurting no one but yourself by raising your blood pressure. Anger has been linked to heart disease, and research has suggested that hardening of the arteries occurs faster in people who score highly in hostility and anger tests. Stay calm in such situations, and feel proud of yourself for doing so. Take comfort in the knowledge that such aggressive drivers only increase their own blood pressure. Your passengers will be more impressed with your “cool” than with your irascibility.If you are in a constant rush, feeling that every second of your life counts, just slow down a little. Yes, every second does count, but consider the concept of quality of life. Compare how you feel when you’re in a hurry with how you feel when you’re not. Which feels better? Rushing everywhere increases your stress level. The body tries to overcome stress by making certain physiological adjustments. Some time after you slow down, the physiological adjustments and the stress symptoms revert to normal. If you don’t ever slow down, the physiological adjustments and the stress symptoms persist. It is this persistence of the body’s response that matters. You may develop physical, physiological or psychological problems, and may not be able to lead a normal life. Many cases of stress are somehow connected with money, or rather the lack of it. Such people struggle to make ends meet or to acquire more material possessions. This brings us to our final discussion: attitude.AttitudeIt is always pleasant to enjoy the fruits of our labours, of course. Sometimes, however, it seems that whatever we do, it’s just not enough to be able to afford that new car or that foreign holiday. So, what do we usually do then? We work harder, longer; we increase the stress on our minds and bodies; we spend less time with our families and friends; we become more irascible and less likeable people. If you find yourself in this situation, just stop for a moment, and consider: Is it all worth it? What is the purpose of life? Surely it is to be happy. You’ll probably be happier if you adopt the philosophy that true quality of life is not to be found in material things. If you convince yourself that you want less, you’ll need less. If you need less, you’ll cope with life more easily, and the happier, and therefore healthier, you’ll be. Buddha called this “enlightenment”. Enjoy a “good-health attitude”. Focus on your abilities instead of disabilities. Be satisfied with what you have, rather than be dissatisfied about what you don’t have and probably never will have.If you simply cannot cope with a healthy diet, exercise and emotional control, but genuinely prefer to eat junk food, be permanently drunk, be under constant stress, and be disliked by others, then enjoy your life while it lasts, but understand that the trade-off is that it will probably not last long. If you accept this willingly, you’ll be happy. There is some merit in the philosophy that it is better to live a short, happy life than a long, miserable one.ConclusionPersonal or individual health is largely subjective. For most individuals and for many cultures, however, health is a philosophical and subjective concept, associated with contentment, and often taken for granted when all is going well. The evidence that behavioural factors such as diet, physical activity, smoking and stress influence health is overwhelming. Thus, health is maintained and improved not only through the advancement and application of health science, but also through the efforts and intelligent lifestyle choices of the individual and society. Perhaps the best thing you can do for your health is to keep a positive attitude. Optimal health can be defined as a balance of physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual health. Maintain a positive attitude!

Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.