Happy Business Tax Day!

That’s right, a month before most people get excited about what their refund might be, business owners across the country have been struggling to get their business tax returns across the finish line on March 15th, the deadline for business taxes.

If you work for a small business, ever wonder why your boss gets cranky about this time each year, or the week or so after the end of each quarter? Because of this special day for year-end taxes, and more special days each quarter, small business owners live on a different tax calendar than most people. Businesses which use fiscal years are on yet another special tax calendar.

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Make Mistakes Quickly

When running a small business, it is important to make mistakes. A lot of them. And as fast as you can.

That seems counter-intuitive, but it is true. Embracing your mistakes and the opportunity hidden inside each one gives you a huge competitive advantage over larger companies. At the typical risk-averse BigCo, mistakes can often be career-ending events, hype and motivational posters to the contrary.

Fortunately, you, as a small business owner, are going to have plenty of opportunities to make mistakes, and it is highly unlikely that you are going to fire yourself. A small business operates in a world of competing pressures and opportunities, and with limited resources. Your business is built on your personal expertise, and that comes from experience and learning from those experiences, good and bad alike. Like any experience, your mistakes have value. Our business has accumulated a lot of this kind of value over the years!

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The Key To Success

“Your job is to make my job easier.”
Tony Soprano

Every now and then a TV show will produce a nugget of wisdom, and that quote above is one of the best I’ve seen. In the TV show “Sopranos”, mob boss Tony was telling a subordinate to get his act together and stop doing thoughtless things that made Tony’s day harder. On the other hand, for years, the cartoon strip “Dilbert”, the TV show “The Office”, and the movie “Office Space”, all of which I enjoy, laid subtle memes that bosses are out-of-touch idiots and suitable objects for ridicule. These media icons, and others like them before and since, are successful because they take real situations and amplify the silly parts. Soon, everyone in the office or in the shop is laughing about how “that’s so true!” about their own boss, when in reality the comparison is probably only superficial. High-tech people are especially prone to absorption of these memes and subsequent impatience with bosses and coworkers alike; the stereotypical IT guy isn’t, in turn, a source of humor for no reason. In my younger years, I succumbed to the dark side a time or two myself, and in the process limited my own success. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us (show of hands, here’s mine) have dipped our toe in this pool. The ease of Internet web-snarking and trolling, allowing these habits to quickly metastasize across organizational boundaries, doesn’t help, either.

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Time Management Skills

When running a small business, you wear many hats, and time management skills become essential to success. The Naval Academy taught a simple time management system to incoming plebes each year, and I’ve adapted that system over the years to running SoftBaugh. A “time management system” can also be thought of as a “task management system”, since you use time to accomplish tasks. Over the years, I’ve tried most of the big names for planning systems and software, including web- and cloud-based systems, but I keep coming back to the old reliable pen and paper method that works for me. Plus, what I use doesn’t take up half the briefcase with giant planning books, and I can walk around on a project site without stuff falling out everywhere. Better, my planner is always “connected”. This system incorporates four major low tech components:

A wall-mounted whiteboard
A large, year-long paper calendar
Full sheets of scrap paper
100-page, wide ruled, bound composition books

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Welcome!

Back in 1998, we started SoftBaugh to give ourselves a vehicle to do two things: a) design, manufacture and sell our own products, and b) help others do the same.

The road to that point, and the road since, has been a long and winding one. At the Naval Academy, some friends and I started a company. The Marine Corps sent me to learn sales and marketing skills at Xerox to prepare me for recruiting duty. While an Operations Officer at Marine Corps Recruiting Station Cincinnati, I first became exposed to the bimonthly Midnight Engineering magazine, and even had an article published in that magazine about time management skills as taught at the Naval Academy. That magazine, and some phone calls with Bill Gates (the real one who ran the magazine; that software guy is a different one) planted the seed for me to run my own business.

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