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Publisher's Summary

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 24 years strong - or mostly strong. Now he embarks on a book-length essay that intends to show a portrait of a real business, with a real boss, a real set of employees, and the real challenges they face, in hopes of promoting a better understanding of the behaviors of small-business owners.

In 1986, fresh out of college, Paul Downs opened his first and last business: a small company that built custom furniture. With no idea how to run a business or how to build custom furniture, Downs spent a year teaching himself the business, and in 1987 he hired his first employee. That was when things got complicated.

As his business began to grow, he had to learn about management, cash flow, taxes, and so much more. Furthermore, globalization and the arrival of the Internet made a big impact on the economy, causing him to have to reevaluate, restructure, and reinvent. Most important, Downs is keenly aware that every small business, no matter the product it makes or the service it provides, starts with people. He writes with tremendous insight about hiring employees, providing motivation to get the best jobs out of them and incentive to maintain their loyalty and respect, and the difficult decisions he's made to let some of them go.

With honesty and conviction, Downs tells the true story behind building and sustaining a successful company in an ever-evolving economy, often airing his own failures and shortcomings to unveil the difficulties that arise from being a boss and a businessperson. We've heard countless stories from employees about their managers; Boss Life seeks to tell the other side of that story.

©2015 Paul Downs (P)2015 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Close to home

I heard Paul Downs on WNYC Brian Lehrer this week and knew that I needed to read or listen to this book. As a small business owner in the trades, I feel profoundly related to his account of a year in the life of a boss. And feel understood.

Particularly resonant are his explanations of the complexities of the cash flow cycle, and the difficulty in finding craftsmen who are both good workers and good communicators.

I plan to recommend this book to peers and employees. And may even convene a book club to discuss how we can incorporate some of insights into the business.

Paul, thanks for writing this!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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14 year owner here

I would like to meet Paul. People like us don't socialize because we are interested in running a business. Not talking about weather and small talk. Paul pays his employees more than I do and gives a good reason. But I fire salesmen much quicker which nets great income. So I'm considering paying more to get better staff after boss life. It's also nice to hear real life. Not a Facebook fake life. Real problems and real solutions.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Gripping, suspenseful. Couldn't put it down

A business book that reads like a mystery, this book tells the compelling story of a year in the life of a small American manufacturer and its boss.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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great story

this was a great listen based on the realities of a small business operations! the details are impeccable because they allow The Listener to really understand just how much goes into running a small business and all the challenges with trying to keep Pace with a changing economy, and a bunch of external factors that can impact growth and success.

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entertaining with great tips

learn from the mistakes of another business owner. I found myself thinking through some of the same ideas Paul applied and failed at, with the reasons why he failed. This has brought to my attention that I need to step back and really look at my plans and have a better system before I lose all my COH. Worth the listen, and a relisten.

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The REAL Deal on Owning A Business

Where does Boss Life rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very high, particularly among business books. Most business books are fluff. Downs shows considerable candor and aspiring business owners would do well to read this to understand what they're getting into.

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VERY INSIGHTFUL-

I am the boss of a small woodworking company. I found this book extremely insightful in terms of what the day-to-day operations of a large scale furniture manufacturing company is like in United States these days. I think Paul downs does a very good job of showcasing the complexity of being the owner of your own small business – I would recommend this book to anyone who is planning on starting their own business especially those who want to start woodworking or handcrafted manufacturing businesses.

I listen to a ton of audiobooks and I find that the narrator Jonathan Hogan was a perfect match for the voice of Paul downs in this book – he does a fantastic job of capturing some of Paul’s sarcastic humor and frequent exhaustion while also making the listening enjoyment experience- I highly recommend this book.

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Small business in the trades? Read it.

The book may not appeal to everyone, but if you're a small business owner - or an employee of one, particularly in the trades - it's refreshing. It reads like a journal, the span of one year of operations, revealing the grit and determination that every small business owner must endure to merely stay afloat. Family dynamics and strain; employee training, motivation and retention; financial uncertainty and cash flow; economic turmoil; government beuracracy and taxes; marketing, lead generation and sales. It's all here, unabashedly honest. I'm thankful for having a glimpse into Paul Downs operation and for the lessons I've learned from this book.

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A great book for any small business owner

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, it gives a detailed account of one man's small business, from the good to the bad. It is a refreshing and good read.

What did you like best about this story?

Paul is blatantly honest about himself and his business, which is rare to find.

What does Jonathan Hogan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Rather than having a narrator that is not realistic, I was able to picture Paul himself as the narrator because of the way that Hogan narrated/sounded.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It was definitely humorous at times. Amazon, what is with this weird question?

Any additional comments?

Paul's book was a pretty amazing read. As a woodworker by trade and local to Paul's shop, I always thought of him and his shop as being on a much higher tier. I randomly happened upon his book and was pleasantly surprised. His detailed, honest, and humble account of this trade was extremely refreshing and came at the perfect time for me. I was looking for a book about this industry and randomly came across Paul's, and I am very thankful that I did. Even if I was not a woodworker, I feel that, as the other reviews say, he finds a way to make even the business side of things, detailed and numerical, quite interesting and keeps you intrigued. Also, even though the book is centered around woodworking, it is not TOO specific and definitely helps to see the intricacies of any small business, and helped me see the big picture of mine. Thanks Paul for the awesome read, going to have the rest of my shop get a copy.

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Disappointed

Not much to take from this book, unless you own a custom furniture business. Stopped listening half way through.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful