Summary of Boss Life

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  • Applicable
  • Engaging
  • Insider's Take


Small business owner Paul Downs’s chronicle of a year in the life of his woodworking shop describes a world where the biggest triumph is survival. Downs brings life and drama to such details as customer churn, production flow and employee problems. At times, he may get a little too granular in reporting his daily cash fluctuations, though if you’re running a small business, every detail will ring a bell. Downs’s candid account of how he learned the necessity of reaching out to mentors – in the form of consultants and business peers – is particularly helpful. getAbstract recommends his company’s life story, which may serve as a reality check for budding entrepreneurs, especially those hoping to turn a passion into a profession.

About the Author

Paul Downs is founder and owner of Paul Downs Cabinetmakers in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. He has written for The New York Times and his You’re the Boss blog.



Meet the Boss

Paul Downs founded his small business, Paul Downs Cabinetmakers, in 1986. The Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, business builds customized conference tables for corporate and government clients. Originally, Downs focused on design, woodworking and sales. Once he hired employees in 1987 and his operation grew more complex, he cultivated new skills in human resources, finance and operations. He learned as he went along, but, he admits, “I’m no business genius.” His management was good enough to keep the company growing steadily for two decades, but wasn’t strong enough to cope with the 2008 recession. By 2009, the business was at “death’s door.”

Downs started 2010 with $16,239 in the bank, enough to sustain operations for only three days. But as the flow of new orders increased, the company rebounded. Downs could rehire workers he’d laid off and restore salaries he had cut. The business ended 2011 with its highest-ever amount of cash on hand and a two-month backlog of orders. Downs hoped to repeat that success in 2012, but the year was full of new challenges. One of the biggest, most worrisome problems was an inexplicable slowdown in customer inquiries...

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