Want to be your own boss? You might think twice after reading this large-hearted memoir from a frequently exasperated business owner.
New York Times “You’re the Boss” columnist Downs, the owner of a firm that builds custom furniture, notes at the outset that he doesn’t intend to offer any lessons of the sort that the usual how-to business book promises. At the end, though, he provides one guiding principle that might make a Chamber of Commerce I-built-this ideologue wince: namely, “get help.” Running a business is tough: that much readers who work through this longish but straight-spoken account will divine. Running it while having to reinvent every wheel is tougher still, though there are some things that a business owner must figure out himself or herself no matter how sage the advice. To trust Downs’ advice, hiring people is the toughest thing of all—and keeping the ones who work out and getting rid of the ones who don’t will take off years from a boss’s life span. The author recounts, pleasingly, that the best workers have been those who have come to him and announced that they wanted to work for him, not those who replied to a want ad or were pushed on him by well-meaning third parties. Cash flow is another thing: Downs’ ups and downs are dizzying, though in fairness to all concerned, it seems that he’s not the best money manager in the world. His solution, another reality of the being-the-boss world, is too often to deny himself a paycheck. But he’s nothing if not self-aware; as he writes, “it’s true that I make quick decisions and that I’m used to having my own way.”
Refreshingly absent of bulleted lists and sidebars, this is a welcome addition to the literature of business ownership. Read it—and then get help.