Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I’ve been thinking about what it takes to be successful at writing, accounting, farming, or any other endeavor. The urban legend that 9 out of 10 businesses fail in the first year falls far short of reality. Many desire to own a business, but are ill prepared for the reality of running a business.

Of all the skills needed to start, build, and maintain a business, persistence seems to be the most important. It is so easy to quit when things become overwhelming. Challenges unimagined will arise. How you mentally handle these challenges will determine if you are successful or a statistic.

I have some experience starting businesses. You might even say a few are successful. Tax Prep & Accounting Services has been around since the mid 1980s and putting bread on the table all that time. I make a few dollars farming. Up to fifty steer grace the back yard at any one time and I turn a profit. Now I know what everyone says, you can’t make money farming. M’kay. But I do.

Now I am about to start another endeavor: writing. I have been writing since high school and love the process. About ten or fifteen years ago, Stan Schmidt, editor at Analog, liked one of my stories. He wrote a nice note on the rejection slip: “Too graphic in sex and drugs for our readers. Story is good otherwise. Good luck placing it elsewhere.” It was last time I submitted anything, until now.

You see, I sent each story out to one editor, and one editor only, and then shelved it. The truth is I didn’t think I could produce another salable story so why bother. I feel my skills have improved since and I can produce a steady stream of quality material.

Let me show you how persistence pays off in the tax office. The toughest cases are usually the inherited ones. Two clients stick out. The first came to me via a failed tax office. He owed over ten thousand and the taxing authorities were not interested in dealing straight. It took three years and tax court, but we got Revenue to accept our offer. Another client came to me from a Colorado CPA. This client owed over 1 million to Revenue and the IRS refused to resolve the issue. After four and a half years we got Revenue to declare the account uncollectible. After ten years it is out of stat and the client will owe nothing. And yes, the stat clock is running; we check every six months to make sure it is.

What would have happened if I gave up? Poor client would have been gutted is what would have happened. One thing I can guarantee you when you start a business: there will be days that test your constitution. It will happen.

And now I am submitting a short story. It will grace every editor on the planet, unless it sells first. I have a novel ready for an agent. I have article writing gigs in the pipeline from my WRWA conference contacts. Persistence, I tell you. I will never give up or quit. So my knuckles will be bloodied. Big deal. It will not be the first time.

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