Periodically, I stumble across a book where I don’t want it to end. I found Boss Life by Paul Downs so absorbing, so real, and so transparent that I felt compelled to reach out to him for an interview. Not only did he agree to do so, but he also said, “Let’s take all the time you need to answer these questions.”
Paul Downs is the Next Derek Sivers and Paul Hawken
I loved reading Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog (who didn’t?). Phil or his ghostwriter did something few CEOs ever do, and that’s humanizing the business experience. Not only did the autobiography read like fiction, but we also got a glimpse of many of the foolish mistakes he made in building his Nike business.
But Shoe Dog is not my favorite business memoir. That’s reserved for Derek Sivers and Paul Hawken who wrote Anything You Want (2015) and Growing a Business (1987), respectively. Derek’s book is required reading for every CFO I coach.
Now, there’s a new book on my radar which I liked more than the one by Sivers and Hawken. It’s Boss Life by Paul Downs.
Paul has never worked for another employer since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. He’s owned Paul Downs Custom Conference Tables since 1986, and it’s based in Philadelphia.
Paul does something in this book I don’t think I’ve ever seen by another CEO writing about business. Yes, this humble business owner shared every high and low during the course of 2012 inside the four walls of his business. He also gave us more than a glimpse of the boss life at home too.
We get to see what home life is like for a husband and father with three kids who have not reached college yet on a limited and variable income. One of those kids has special needs, and Paul pulls back the curtain to share some of the unique challenges he and his wife faced during that stressful year.
What makes this book special? Paul does not glamorize the boss life. But not once does he say, “Pity me.” Instead, he states his story is the one being lived by many other small business owners.
Business readers tend to gravitate toward Phil Knight, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and other famous CEOs. But they are outliers. Paul represents the many business owners falling in the middle of the bell-shaped curve. It’s also people like Paul who put people to work and give them the employee life of happiness and satisfaction.
My prediction about this honest story of a business owner where the boss life intersects with the home life is that it will have a long shelf life for years to come.
Boss Life Book Stats
Audible – 4.6 on more than 200 ratings
Amazon – 4.7 on more than 200 ratings
CFO Bookshelf – we give it a 5.0
Meaningful Quotes from Boss Life
… found myself struggling with management, cash flow, taxes, and all the other details required to keep running a business. But we’ve endured–and even had one very profitable year. I am a survivor, but not a financial success.
Apparently a humble and honest look at small business life is rare.
Unfortunately, I’m no business genius and I’m not rich. My story has neither tidy conclusions nor a triumphant ending.
There’s only one thing I know will work for everyone. Get help. Find someone who knows you, knows your business, and who is willing to consult with you frequently.
Running a business can be a very lonely experience.
Interview Highlights With Paul Downs
- At the time he wrote the book in 2015, he still had a mortgage with a net worth less than $1 million. But he was able to pay cash for a new vehicle when two of his cars died in 2012.
- Paul started his business with the help of $5,000 from an inheritance.
- The cost of print advertising and the luck of Google and becoming a national firm.
- One of our favorite lines in the conversation from Paul, “I’m not rich, I’m lucky.” We quickly observed that he’s humble too.
- Mark calls Paul’s business the Cartiers of custom conference tables – his business doesn’t imitate, it creates.
- If you have read Paul’s book, you’ll know about Will and his promotion. Paul tells us about Will today.
- Vistage should make Paul their spokesperson. He started attending their monthly meetings in 2012 and he’s never stopped.
- Paul talks about Bob Waks of Sandler and his sales training for his team. “Bob is great … he looked at what we were doing, but tailored our process to the basic principles in sales over 18 months.”
- We asked if there’s another book in Paul Downs.
I appreciated the transparency Paul provided us in his book. For instance, each chapter started with the beginning cash balance and the relative change of cash from the beginning of the year (2012). At one time, Paul only had a few weeks of cash on hand with a small sales pipeline.
What Books Does Paul Downs Like to Read?
Paul likes reading history and good fiction. He’s not a consumer of business books.
Paul mentioned the book, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. He calls it the equivalent of War and Peace for World War II. Paul says, ” … read it, and you’ll never forget it.”
Paul also mentioned the fictional book, The Long Ships by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson. Paul calls this a fun Viking-era adventure book written in the early 1940s.
Where Can you Find Paul Downs?
First, you can find Paul Downs at his website, Paul Downs Custom Conference Tables. You’ll quickly notice what I did when I first looked at this site – “Wow, these are beautiful tables.”
You can find him on LinkedIn as I did. You want to connect with him, I’m betting he’ll do with 7 days.
Paul also has a Twitter account, but do not expect daily tweets. Remember, he’s busy and has a business to run.
Paul Downs and Paul Downs Custom Conference Tables hold the copyright on all images of himself used in this post. All rights are reserved and have been used with his permission.