Paul Downs: Deciding Whose Advice to Take

Paul Downs: Deciding Whose Advice to Take

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.

Deciding Whose Advice to Take

Paul Downs is the author of Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business.

Paul Downs

Paul Downs started making custom furniture in 1986, shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in engineering. Downs has only one line on his résumé but he has a wide variety of skills gained in twenty-four years of running his business. His clients range from individuals and small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, all branches of the military, and foreign governments. Downs lives with his wife and three sons outside of Philadelphia.