Case Study: Boss Life

The owner of a small business that makes high-end furniture, particularly conference tables, describes a year of his life. He tries to open markets in Germany and the Middle East, puzzle his way through Google AdWords, learns he is terrible as a sale manager and hires a consultant, hires and fires workers, and tracks his spending (average $8,000 a day), sales, and cash flow.

boss life by paul downsYou’ll probably never need to earn more than $2 million a year to keep yours doors open, but Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business can give you insights into what it’s like to run a business. Indie authors, like Paul Downs, worry about income, hiring workers (cover artists, ebook makers, editors), and the struggle between doing the income-producing work and tasks that are not revenue-generating but important.

Reading Boss Life feels like coming across a desert floor glinting with gold nuggets. Every day, Downs’ job is to confront problems and come up with solutions. Some of it is technical; he spends weekends struggling with Google AdWords in a quest to learn why he’s getting fewer inquiries for his high-end conference tables (the answer is that Google stopped serving those ads when his daily budget sank below a certain number).

There’s also managerial questions. After several months of low sales from himself and his two workers, he hires a consultant. After taking an assessment test, he’s informed that they’re failing because he’s a lousy sales manager. He doesn’t track inquiries into his business, he doesn’t oversee his salesmen, he doesn’t close deals. After writing a five-figure check, Downs and his men begin a course in sales techniques that, Glengarry Glen Ross notwithstanding, brings immediate improvements to the bottom line. (Just the first tip he passes along—never let a potential client go without scheduling the next meeting—makes buying the book worthwhile.)

career indie author postsOver the course of the year, Downs faces many problems like these and has to come up with solutions. He has run his business for nearly all his adult life and relishes the authority he exercises. Although with that authority comes responsibility, for success as well as failure. If, after reading this, you decide to relish a 9-to-5 job with less control, but fewer nasty surprises, I wouldn’t blame you a bit.

That is the core of Boss Life, a business book that has no cant, no buzzwords, and no cheerful optimism that could be found on a motivation poster. Being a boss is a job that’s easy to win, but harder to hold onto.

One idea I’m exploring for The Career Indie Author book is to create Case Studies to highlight books and websites of interest to authors.