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Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  348 ratings  ·  75 reviews
When columnist Paul Downs was approached by The New York Times to write for their “You’re the Boss” blog, he had been running his custom furniture business for twenty-four years strong. or mostly strong. Now, in his first book, Downs paints an honest portrait of a real business, with a real boss, a real set of employees, and the real challenges they face.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Blue Rider Press
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4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  348 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Paul Downs
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Well, I wrote this book so of course I'm going to give it 5 stars. But here's why: I've been running a small business for the last 29 years. And all that time I've been reading business journalism. And I never see anything that reflects my own experience: that business is confusing, difficult, and nerve-wracking. I've never arrived at a point where I suddenly have a lot of money and the wisdom to match. My days are filled both with ordinary duties and random catastrophes. That's the story I want ...more
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, avid-ideas
Highly recommended for any business owner who knows what it's like to be caught in the day-in, day-out routine of managing employees and cash flow. If you don't have firsthand experience in this world (or aren't looking to ever open a business), this probably isn't for you. But if you are indeed in charge of your own small business, this storyteller's journey of a particularly up-and-down year will bring you a lot of comfort and camaraderie. I underlined many a sentence and appreciated Downs's c ...more
Randal White
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I Never Knew! Boss Life is the story of one man's small business experiences. Down's is the owner of a woodworking shop, and this is his chronicle of a year in the life of that business. Except it is so much more. Down's bares his soul and discusses all aspects of running the shop, and of his own personal life. I admit to being very surprised by this book. I know very little about running a business, having been employed by the government almost my entire life. I always thought it would be easy ...more
Sonya Mann
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Paul Downs runs a furniture-making business, but Boss Life isn't about woodworking. It's about business, which means human nature and economics, but it's not a dry textbook examination of those topics. Boss Life fascinating because Downs is brutally honest about his own experiences and financial success (or lack thereof). Boss Life is really about sales. It’s about marketing and customer acquisition. It’s about cash flow, accounting, and management. It's about relationships.

Downs brings the read
Jim Knight
Jun 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Entertaining book. Basically just a small business owner's story. Not a blockbuster but interesting. It reads like a diary. e.g. "June 10, we only have 50k in the bank and payroll is due next week..." I enjoyed it but wouldn't go out of my way recommending it.
Katie Bruell
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It was suspenseful and well-written. I sympathized with the main character, and wanted him to succeed!
Mary Heller
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Quick & interesting read - a look into the life of a small business owner. My husband will be reading it next.
Richard Natali
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book! I have been dreaming about starting my own business and reading as much as I can to prepare. Paul's book is fantastic because it really is a "day in the life" or more like a year in the life of a small business owner. The business lives or dies on cash flow. Very candid, very honest telling of a very interesting story! It is full of suspense; I couldn't put it down!

Here are just some of my thoughts after reading the book: People who start a small business because they think they'll g
Franz Ozaeta
Mar 02, 2018 is currently reading it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christopher Brown
A Peak Behind the Curtain

As a fellow small business owner serving a similar clientele to Paul, I found this book to be a bit like looking into a mirror. If you've ever thought of starting and running your own small business, read this. This WILL be your experience. Not might. WILL. Not 100% identical of course, but these are the types of joys and headaches you'll be dealing with every day.

The cash and employee troubles can be mindboggling and completely unpredictable. You can be the world's grea
Minh Ngoc Pham
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business-bio
What can I say? I love love books that come at the right moment in time and resonate so personally that it feels like Providence must be answering my questions and doubt in the voice of another human.

I have started a small business last year. At that time, I read Shoe Dog & Rework.

I have been in the business for a little while, getting excited to test my products everyday, receive direct feedbacks from customers, growing frustrated with money in, money out, labor, hours, supply, you name i
David Klenk
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional book about the year in the life of a small business owner. Paul Downs owns a custom furniture business making mostly custom conference tables. The book is the story of his decisions, experiences, and efforts to keep the business going through the trials that arise during the year. From customer rejection through employee challenges to a trip through the middle east looking for contacts and more, Paul lets us see what he is thinking and feeling. He opens the books and explains why ...more
Guillaume Lbw
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a brutally honest portrayal of the struggle in becoming and being a successful small business owner. Reading and experiencing how Paul Downs created his own woodworking company was a remarkably interesting inside look in being a small business owner. The main character is likeable and easy to sympathise with, but it is also easy to relate to him and to learn from his own experiences.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is straight to the point. For a small business owner, i found this book very insightful and inspiring. Not only does Paul talk about the day to day challenges of being a boss, he also talks about his Family. Written in a narrative form, this book is very hard to put down and very easy to read.

Business principles, Family principles, and just being a great human being. The guy tell it all with a great sense of humor. My favorite read of the year!
Jason Schrock
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you love the nitty gritty of running a small business (which I do), this is the book for you. A very down to earth, honest & practical look at the day to day life of a small business owner....including all the day to day decisions to make, the delicate balance between work and home, employee issues, it's all here. I do not own a small business but I am fascinated by it. This book did not disappoint!
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this. It's a window into one small business owner's daily (and sometimes mundane) struggle with management, cash-flow, and the uncertainty that comes with not knowing whether your business is going to make it into the next year. Very well written, suspenseful, and such a refreshing change from all the "success porn" that the self-help industry churns out.
Jennifer Gardella
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The brilliance of this book is in the plethora of details. Golden nuggets of wisdom and honesty were wrapped up in what, at times, appeared to be the reading of financial statements. Highly recommend for the pearls for sure.
Gaisha Ogborne
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was very surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It’s like a memoir of a business. Downs follows 1 year of his business and its ups and downs. Not your typical business book but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I learned that Paul Downs and I are business soul mates. Who would have guessed that a business biography of a cabinet maker back East would have such a parallel with me, an architect in Utah. I have appreciated the difficult lessons Paul learned and then taught me. Thank you.
Jeffrey Moeller
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
It was hard to believe there was one whole cd of this much less ten however through the thinking out loud introspective way it was written overall it was quite interesting to experience all of the challenges the author faced and the way he decided to solve them.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! A true-to-life journal of the struggle, success and hardship of running a business. Paul Downs does a great job of weighing all his options, making difficult decisions and going through the rollercoaster ride of a business owner! Highly recommend!
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the only explicitly business-related book that I’ve ever read and enjoyed and found useful. This isn’t one of the best books I’ve ever read, but it’s definitely one of the most valuable.
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great memoir and honest look into what it’s like being the boss of your own small business.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Take a deep breath.

This is small business was a little too close to home in places, but it was cathartic in a way.
Kwang Wei Long
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
insightful. for all budding entrepreneur, this book provides a glimpse to the struggles and growth and the life of a small time business owner.
Mark Thomas
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great writing with an inside look into the day to day of a small(ish) business. Strongly recommend reading it!
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
I can smell the honesty and struggle in every sentence he wrote.

The most rewarding thing for him is being able to provide livelihood for his staff.

Well done Paul.
Daniel Hollands
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look into the life of a boss, and the challenges he faces on a daily basis.
Bill Kenney
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book isn’t for everyone but I enjoyed it. It was nice to read an honest account of what running a business can feel like to most of us. It’s a roller coaster :)
A.M. Pfeffer
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yes, yes, and more yes! Show me behind the curtain. Unveil your fears, and your family life, and the never ending, head pounding minutia it takes to maintain a small business. Paul Downs is a hero!!
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“Thinking about information is different from ordinary work. The challenge is to find good ways, using data, to describe what’s happening in the real world. It’s aligning the description of the company with the activities of the company. My job as boss is to monitor both of these and to continually modify the description to fit the reality. My employees can’t do it—they each work on their piece of the process. I’m the only one who sees everything. I decide what to keep track of, and how to do it. I” 0 likes
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