updated 6/15/2005 7:36:07 PM ET 2005-06-15T23:36:07

One of Tom Peric’s favorite tools in running his small business is a big wall calendar. It tells him at a glance what’s coming up.

Other small business owners swear by the more high-tech schedulers in their personal digital assistants. Either way they’re managing by the calendar — anticipating all the dates, deadlines and seasons critical to operating a successful business.

It might seem obvious that a business owner should pay close attention to the calendar, but many people have learned the hard way that a missed appointment or forgotten deadline can be painful and costly. Penalties for late tax returns and late payments are the most obvious, but customers and clients can be equally unforgiving.

“I have one client who actually charges me a stiff fee each day if I’m late when the deadline shows up,” said Peric, president of Galileo Communications Inc., a Cherry Hill, N.J., publicity firm.

There’s an even more important reason for managing by the calendar — doing so gives an owner a better handle on the business. Knowing what’s on the calendar helps eliminate unpleasant surprises and provides a clearer picture of what’s ahead.

Dominic Rubino, a small business coach in Vancouver, B.C., said most of the owners he encounters don’t use any sort of calendar.

“They can’t manage themselves, and if you can’t manage yourself, you can’t manage others,” he said, adding that owners who try to manage without a calendar “become reactive in their business.”

Peric said his wall calendar helps him think in advance.

“I don’t tend to think strategically when it comes to dates,” he said, calling the calendar “a quick, visual way” to keep track of business.

Many owners focus on a calendar as a means of keeping on top of appointments and meetings. There are many other practical, seasonal and time-sensitive demands of running a business that deserve to put on a calendar.

From air conditioning to taxes
For example, if you’re only now making calls to get your office air conditioner serviced — because you lost track of the calendar, and all of a sudden it’s summer — you might find you’ll have to wait because AC companies are so busy.

But if you make an entry on July 1 to call your accountant for an appointment, you can start planning your financial and strategic decisions for the second half and next year too.

There are two parts to managing by calendar. First you need to develop an awareness of your company’s needs as you go through the year. The second part has to do with your choice of calendar.

Many owners have migrated from paper calendars to high-tech versions.

Microsoft’s Outlook software includes a calendar that can be programmed with reminders of upcoming appointments, events and deadlines even months ahead of time. For example, you could ask the calendar to remind you on Aug. 15 that your next estimated tax payment is due Sept. 15 — which means you have a month to get the money together.

(MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and MSNBC.)

The most techno-savvy use handheld computers like Palm and Blackberry PDAs, which include schedulers that also can be synchronized with a PC. These devices can be also be programmed with reminders.

Rubino, who used to be a big fan of paper, found as his business grew that he had to be able to share his calendar with employees, so they could schedule appointments for him. The network-capable functions of the Outlook calendar became indispensable.

Still, he finds that being able to look at his entire week at a glance on paper is helpful.

The beauty of high tech
High-tech calendars can be a necessity for companies with far-flung employees.

At SchoolNet Inc., a New York-based company that provides technology solutions to schools, CEO Jonathan Harber said PDAs allow his sales force to check the company calendar.

“One of the biggest roles and responsibilities of my executive assistant is calendaring for the company,” he said.

But even some owners who make a living in high-tech do it the old-fashioned way. Joe Kennedy, owner of ANT Computer Services in Los Angeles, relies on a Day-Timer, a planner book.

“I have not been able to find any handheld device or laptop to be as simple as an old book,” he said.

Kennedy offers some advice for other company owners: No matter what system you choose, be sure it has all your personal as well as business dates and deadlines.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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