Hi everyone. My name is Paul Downs, and I don’t own a bookstore. But I have been running a small business – a custom furniture factory – for the last 29 years. Like you, I’ve been in a long-running battle against the modern economy, struggling with enormous competitors while trying to maintain a viable business. I wouldn’t say I’ve succeeded–I’m not wealthy, and my history suggests that I’m not that smart, either–but I’ve kept the doors open for more than a quarter century.
In 2010, through sheer luck, I was given the opportunity to write about my experiences as a boss in The New York Times. I became a regular contributor to the “You’re The Boss” blog, in the online edition of the paper. I was given an unusual brief: write about whatever I found interesting in my day-to-day life, as often as I wished. I decided that I would try to tell a story that I had never seen in the business press: what it’s like to struggle, every day, to keep the doors open, without any successful end point.
I decided to concentrate on issues where I had questions, not answers. I wrote about how to manage my cash flow, make some sales, inspire my employees, deal with difficult customers,and find a way to co-exist with vast and indifferent institutions: banks, insurance companies, Google, and the government. I’ve been kindly invited by Beth Golay to share my best posts with you. These contain what I consider to be useful information, derived from my own experience as a small business owner.
I’d like to start this series with my single favorite post, on receiving advice. I wrote this after I’d been blogging for a year, but I’d been in business at that point for more than 25 years, and I’d received an enormous amount of input from a wide variety of sources. Do you get a lot of advice, and wonder why so much of it is off the mark? Read on.
Paul Downs is the author of Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business.