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December 20, 2023 | read

Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business by Paul Downs [Book Review]

Brandon Hall

One of my big goals is to read a book every month and let my readers know what those books are and my thoughts. The last book I wrote a review for was Atlas Shrugged which you can find here and I haven’t written another review since. I’ve been reading, I promise, I just haven’t had time to sit down and write a book review for the books I’m plowing through. So here we go folks, my August (yes, several months behind) book! 

I’ll admit, I was first attracted to Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business because of the cover. I thought it was sleek and creative – the marketing definitely worked on me. When I read the synopsis, which explained that the book is about how hard it is to run a business without all the fluff found in other popular books, I had to buy it to give it a try.

The Verdict

Overall, I thought the book provides a great and unique viewpoint into the struggles of running a business. If you’re a business owner and need to know that it’s not all fun and games as other books may suggest, I highly suggest you pick up this book. It was eye opening and often semi-terrifying. Yes, terrifying (in a good way).

The author, Paul Downs, runs a table manufacturing business. Even though his business grosses $2MM per year, he is barely profitable and is always struggling with employee issues, sourcing, and scaling. Downs explains at the beginning of the book that he promises a “no fluff” approach. He sticks to his purpose of giving you a true “insider” look into what business ownership is really like.

Who Should Read This Book?

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or are already running your own business, this book is a must read. The reason is that you need to know that business is quite difficult and that when times get tough, you aren’t alone.

What I Liked

Downs doesn’t sugar coat anything. He gives it to your straight as his entire purpose in writing this book is to show you how hard it is to run a business. We follow Downs for a full 12 months and I believe the book stems from his daily journaling that was later transposed into books pages as the details of each day, week, and month are too descriptive to retroactively remember and write. That makes it an even better book as he essentially wrote is as he went along.

The no fluff part was awesome and Downs truly delivered. Even at the end of the book, there was no mention of a success story or how he turned it all around. It just ended. I was left with what I thought to be a bad taste in my mouth but later realized he took a huge risk to write a factual book on business ownership in order to demonstrate what it’s actually like to own and operate your own business.

I also liked that Downs is motivated by something other than money. Specifically, he’s motivated by two things: (1) supporting his family; and (2) helping other business owners.  It becomes obviously that Downs’ deeply cares for his family throughout the book, especially for one of his special needs children. He writes in such a genuine way that allows you to share in his (often stressed) emotions.

What I Didn’t Like

As much I liked the “no fluff” approach, I often found myself scratching my head at details that may not have been relevant to the overall plot. Some sections of the book were dry and repetitive and tough to read as a result.

Additionally, I was really hoping he was going to turn his business around at the end (also the end of his businesses’s calendar year) of the book. But the ending just hits you head on. There’s no warning and it’s rather abrupt. I really felt that his business was starting to gain traction and I wanted to see the results, but I suppose those results were going to come in the following year, of which the book does not peer into.

Something That I Learned

Every book teaches me something. Boss Life taught me that when I’m feeling down, overwhelmed, or that the next obstacle is impossible, I’m one of many entrepreneurs who are likely sharing my thoughts and feelings at any given moment. Running a business is hard and not for the faint of heart. It was nice to hear that it’s not nearly as easy at The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss or Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki would make it out to seem.