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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Your Open Source Office

Years ago, we were constantly in the software update rat race. In our business, we used some vendor-specific development tools, which were always being updated, and we did a lot of PC-based application development. As a result, we were paying through the nose for the latest operating systems and office software. Our technical tools for hardware and firmware development were a significant recurring expense category, also.

Today, things are much different. Thanks to the open-source revolution, many small businesses and individuals can cut their software costs to near zero, and get off the never-ending upgrade treadmill that is great for software vendor profitability, but terrible on your budget and expertise. Many people are already using open source options. But, to lay the foundation for future articles that build on this information, we want to establish a common baseline, especially for people who may not be up to date on the technology or trends (phone and tablet apps are another topic entirely).

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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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