On Friday, July 13 (!), at a campaign rally in Roanoke, Virginia — the one where more than 20 people fainted — the POS in the White House gave a “class warfare” speech.
The POS, who had never worked in the private sector, much less started a business, railed against the selfishness of “the top 2%” in America and called for increasing their taxes because “they didn’t get there on their own.”
Here’s a rebuttal from Ben Bruno, the founder of STR SoftWare in Virginia.
I founded STR Software in May 1986, leaving a well-paying position at Hewlett-Packard. Although I loved HP, I wanted to pursue my passion to develop software products and create a customer base with recurring support revenue — and to have the personal freedom to work whenever and however I wanted.
I am in my 27th year of business. It hasn’t been easy, especially coming up with a “big idea,” creating it, selling it and hiring people. I know what it is like to work long hours — while worrying about how to pay my people and vendors, keep ahead of the competition and satisfy the tax man. Now, I want to quantify the impact of my idea and its influence over the years on the local economy.
* * * * *When I began the company, it was just me. So by definition, I certainly started it myself. I didn’t get money from a bank or from an investor. I started the company with the confidence that made me willing to risk a year’s worth of savings, even if I ended up not making a dime writing and selling software.
I did all kinds of work at an hourly rate to generate my income so I could create a software product. During the day I would visit companies, handle specific programming and solve their complex problems. At night and on weekends I would build my software products. I did this for the first four years of the business, creating three distinct products.
I experienced several highs and lows during those first four years. Product No. 1 sold 24 licenses at $12,000 a piece — I calculated that I made 84 cents per hour. Product No. 2 never sold, even after spending $50,000 in marketing. I was losing money, but I was happy.
The saying that third time is the charm came true for me, starting in April 1988 as I envisioned Product No. 3. And I have to say I stumbled upon it.
Since my company’s inception, I had been writing monthly columns for HP3000 computer magazines. I found a press release in Computer World about a new PC-based product that could be accessed from a mainframe or minicomputer (“server”) to send faxes. It was revolutionary and I could see it saving businesses money. I visited the four-person, Boston-based startup named Biscom and offered to write an article showing the HP community how to interface their product. I took delivery of one of their servers, created an interface and wrote the article. I was in line at the post office to submit material for the article when I had a Eureka! moment: “I could sell it and launch the company!”
I returned home, contacted Biscom and learned they had sold to five companies that couldn’t get the fax server to work from the HPe3000, a general purpose business computer used by businesses and governments all over the world.
Somehow, I just knew I could learn to do that. For the next six months, I was “in code mode.” I worked day and night developing FAX/3000 software that would submit any document from an HPe3000, such as a purchase order or invoice, to a fax server to deliver to a recipient fax machine.
I met with all five companies, which were located in Georgia, New York, Virginia and two in Toronto. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. Somehow I got married during this time. The response to the product was amazing. Fast forward to today: We have 900 customers in 47 states and 19 countries. (And Biscom remains my strategic partner.)
* * * * *I encountered numerous obstacles over the life of the business, but I learned from each of them. The first was learning how to sell the product ourselves. With my business partner, we set a goal to annihilate all competitors by selling 300 licenses within three years. We did — with 305.
Working from my basement, I learned how to save money over six years to buy a $240,000 office building and use $125,000 to renovate it. Over 26 years, the company has purchased $1.3 million in computer equipment, fixtures, furniture and software. Imagine the number of people employed making all of that stuff.
I learned new technologies, operating systems, protocols and more to make our products competitive. That was the best part.
I also learned about tax penalties. A deficiency of only $65 from the 110 percent estimate of my prior-year federal tax liability (“Safe Harbor”) led to an IRS penalty of $1,977.23.
A $500 difference in the “commercial invoice” and the “customer invoice” amounted to a $4,000 penalty from the Canadian Customs Office — and the U.S. Commerce Department couldn’t help me.
I learned how to deal with the ups (Y2K) and downs (dot-com bust) of my industry. In 2000, our annual revenue declined 24 percent, so I went without pay for 90 days and reduced all salaries by 10 percent for 15 months, losing not one employee. We used the money to invest in what became our flagship AventX Oracle Connector product for the next decade.
I learned how to hire (and fire) people, train them, motivate/encourage them, reward them and, most important, retain them. My first employee became my business partner, and she is still with me today.
My 25 employees average 8.4 years with the company. Five have been with us more than 15 years. I have paid $19.1 million in salaries, plus $350,000 for their retirement, $175,000 in service awards and $1 million into our 100 percent company-paid health/dental/life/disability insurance.
* * * * *I have learned to successfully offer first-time employment to college graduates using internship programs and by building relationships with the computer science departments at Virginia Commonwealth University and the College of William and Mary.
Sadly, a large number of college graduates leave their first job within a year. Fortunately, I am doing something right because I have hired 20 college graduates — 13 remain and only two resigned in their first year. The longest-serving of the bunch is at 15 years! I just hired five more on June 4 who graduated in May.
My employees have been prolific while at the company — 11 have purchased their first home, 10 have purchased an upgraded home, and six purchased homes twice. Thirty-seven new cars have been purchased. Twenty-six children have been born, with 12 arriving since January 2009 — and another one on the way any day!
The company pays its fair share of taxes, such as federal and state income, Social Security, Medicare and unemployment to all states in which I have employees, including Georgia, Maine and Virginia, as well as business property, license and sales taxes.
STR Software was started with my ideas and passion. It has grown with the team I created. I pray our politicians realize that the money they spend comes from the ideas and hard work of individuals who create businesses that employ citizens who pay taxes!