ARBOR WEALTH: Calling Saul, census forms and Alan Jackson

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

“ …  the people go round but they seldom think

Bout the little man that built this town

Before the big money shut em down” from “Little Man” as performed by Alan Jackson

Are you watching Bob Odenkirk in “Better Call Saul”? Maybe you remember Saul from “Breaking Bad.”

Saul is Jimmy McGill, a ham and egg lawyer attempting to grind out a living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. McGill’s office (and domicile) is a tiny, one-room cubbyhole adjoining a nail parlor.  

Desperate for business, McGill attempts to improve his community profile by staging a rescue operation on a billboard platform. While shooting a television commercial, McGill “saves” a laborer from falling a hundred feet to certain death, and the entire episode is recorded on video and becomes front page news. When he returns to his office, McGill has seven messages from potential new clients who were impressed by his bravery. McGill also serves as an emcee for bingo games in a retirement community to bolster his elder care practice.

No firm, legal or otherwise, can demonstrate its professional skills and grow its clientele until it gets traffic in the door. All types of businesses battle competitors and struggle for survival daily in a heated horse race that, except for marketing campaigns, remains largely hidden from the general public.  And most fail. A recent Forbes article authored by Eric Wagner states that “eight out of ten entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months.” In some industries, the failure rate is even higher. 

Wagner cites a host of reasons.  Many businesses run out of cash. Some fall out of touch with their customers. Others fail to develop proper business models. But frequently businesses are simply squeezed out of the marketplace.  

For every college-aged wonder who develops a new app or establishes a successful tech company, there are thousands of small start-ups that fail. Neighbors and friends lose their discretionary income and sometimes their life savings attempting to breathe life into a commercial enterprise. 

Whenever we can lift the burden of undue taxation or time-consuming paperwork off the back of the American businessman, we should do it. The tangible property tax requires a business to pay taxes annually on equipment and furniture that may have been purchased years ago. And it can sometimes take a week to complete a required Census Bureau Form.  What struggling entrepreneur has time for that?  Small business has been the backbone of America for so long that we assume it will always withstand the competition from larger companies.  Unfortunately, it isn’t so.

Minus his nefarious activities, we all sympathize with Saul. He’s the epitome of the small businessman working without a net in a world controlled by large corporations. 

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.