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SBA Poll Results: When will you file taxes?

The Question:
April 15 is the tax filing deadline for individuals, partnerships and LLCs. When and how will you file?

7% - We will mail our return(s) by the deadline.

40% - We will e-file our return(s) by the deadline.

10% - We will file an extension, and then mail our return(s).

43% - We will file an extension, and then use the e-file option.

My Comments:
As you can see, we’re very close to an even split between those who planned to file their income tax returns by the deadline and those who planned to file an extension, with the latter being the larger group. But the IRS’s campaign to get us to file electronically seems to be working, since 83% of our sample will use that filing method.

The bad news is that increasingly, taxes have gone up and tax compliance has gotten more complicated and more expensive. The good news is the ability to file an extension or a return, as well to remit taxes due, has gotten easier. Of course, small business owners wish the opposite were the case.

Thanks for participating.

The opportunities in adversity

As the bubonic plague hung over Europe in the mid-14th Century, it must have been difficult to imagine any associated blessings. But that’s just what the late Norman F. Cantor proposed in his book, In The Wake Of the Plague: The Black Death and The World It Made.

Cantor wrote that the devastation caused the demise of the Dark Ages, and made way for a new, enlightened order. Cantor argues that, “the Black Death heralded an intellectual revolution.” He is talking about The Reformation, The Renaissance, and The Age of Enlightenment.

Consider a few developments that occurred not long after The Plague:

Gutenberg (1400-68) used his movable type to make mass printing possible. Books and bibles finally could be available to the masses. Now for the first time in human history, there was a reason for ordinary people to learn to read.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) began the Protestant Reformation, which helped loosen the grip of the old church dogma on the state and the people, and just in time for the new Gutenberg bibles.

Michelangelo (1475-1564) created Renaissance art that is still valid, imitated, and valued 500 years later. Enlightened minds are inspired by beautiful things.

Science and Engineering
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) actually made significant contributions to art, thought, AND science and engineering. He was perhaps the Renaissance man. Civilization still benefits from the leveraging of his work and his thoughts.

History tells us that, just as controlled burning of brush can leave a healthier forest, adversity can spawn opportunity. But to appreciate history, one has to take the long view.

Let’s all work on our long views.

In the marketplace, it ain’t over ‘till it’s over

One of sports history’s greatest upsets happened at the 1975 U.S. Open tennis tournament at Forrest Hills, New York, when the Spaniard, Manuel Orantes, defeated legendary Jimmy Connors in straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3), in Connors’ own back yard.

But that contest isn’t the best part of this story. Beating Connors to win a professional tennis Grand Slam tournament couldn’t have happened if the night before, against all odds, Orantes had not demonstrated enormous courage and extreme perseverance.

In the semi-final match between Orantes and Argentinian, Guillermo Vilas, the Spaniard was down two sets to one, five games to zip in the fourth set, and two match points in the sixth game. Vilas was serving triple match point to the seventh power.

If Orantes loses one more point in this game the match is over. And even if he battles back to win this game, he would then have to win the next six games in order to force the fifth set to determine who advances to the finals. Tennis fans know a score of 2-1, 5-0, 40-love, is an against-all-odds, improbable comeback scenario.

There’s another group that can appreciate the long odds Orantes faced—small business owners. Entrepreneurs are no strangers to the marketplace equivalent of triple match point to the seventh power. Here’s what it might look like: losing a major customer, having an unexpected expense, and a cash flow crisis resulting in a call from the bank, all in the same hour. The question is not whether a small business will have triple match point challenges—Orantes faced it only once, small businesses see it all the time—but how well the owner manages them.

Back to the tennis match: In perhaps one of the gutsiest display of guts in the history of pro tennis, Orantes overcame that triple match point to take the sixth game, and then proceeded to win the next six in a row to claim the fourth set 7-5. This courageous comeback not only produced the momentum to beat Vilas 6-4 in the final set and get Orantes into the finals with Connors, but, as you now know, it carried over to the next day when he became the 1975 U.S. Open champion by dispatching one of the greatest tennis champions of all time in straight sets.

Next time your business is down triple match point, remember that as long as the game isn’t over you can survive. As long as you have the desire to win you can succeed. As long as you believe in yourself you can gain the momentum to win today and become a champion tomorrow.

Even when you’re down triple match point, you can still win.

Business planning will always be relevant to success

In this week's video I explain why business planning is essential in small business.

Business planning will always be relevant to success from Jim Blasingame on Vimeo.

SBA Poll Results: Generational Gap

The Question:
Are differences in communicating and expectations between the generations a problem in the workplace today?

26% - Yes, it’s a big problem and getting worse.

3% - It’s been a big problem but is getting better.

51% - We’ve had some issues, but we’re managing it.

21% - No, it’s not a problem and never has been.

My Comments:
The challenge of effective communication between the different generations is not a new issue. Indeed, it’s been going on for millennia. But we’re just now in a time when there are more generations in the workplace than any other time in my career. So we wanted to know how things are today with our poll question last week.

Frankly, I was surprised by the results you see above. I’ll have more to say about this in the Feature Article next week. Stay tuned and thanks for participating.

Small business ethics

While talking with an attorney friend of mine, our topic of discussion was about professional behavior in the marketplace. She reminded me that attorneys have very specific ethical and professional standards that are published, plus a well developed monitoring organization, complete with sanctioning authority.

The story is quite similar for CPA’s, architects, medical doctors, or any securities representative such as stock brokers, financial planners, etc. Much of the behavioral track these professionals run on is pretty well spelled out for them. Not that the members of these groups need to be led or coerced into good professional behavior. It’s just that, when in doubt, they have published guidelines with which to refer.

Small business owners operate in the same marketplace as the so-called professionals. Indeed, they are often our clients and customers. We serve the same businesses and consumers as other professionals, plus we enter into similar relationships, contracts and agreements. And we often find ourselves perched precariously on the same horns-of-a-dilemma as other professionals. But here’s the difference: The Universal Small Business Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics doesn’t exist.

Small business owners, like all humans, ultimately behave according to their own moral compass, sense of fair play and inclination to deal in good faith. When we find ourselves in a quandary over how to respond to a difficult situation with a customer that is in the gray area of a contract, we’re on our own. When we are faced with an ethical issue that would challenge King Solomon, there is no sanctioning body or support group to dial up, or to whom we can email a “scenario.”

There are many ancient codes small business owners can turn to for behavioral guidance in the marketplace, such as the last three of the Ten Commandments. But in terms of a handy guide, I think philosopher and 1957 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Albert Camus, may have given us the best ethical vector when he wrote, “Integrity has no need of rules.”

Wise small business owners know that life is much simpler, and exceedingly more rewarding, when we just do the right thing.