Boss Life | Paul Downs

Summary of: Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business
By: Paul Downs

Introduction

Embark on an insightful journey with Paul Downs, the founder of Paul Downs Cabinetmakers, as he navigates the trials and tribulations of running his small business. In “Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business,” Downs candidly shares his experiences tackling hurdles such as the 2008 recession, unpredictable customer inquiries, and managing a diverse team. Learn how Downs adapts, experiments, and evolves as both a boss and a businessman on his quest for growth and success. Discover the strategies and tactics he employs, from embracing digital marketing and dealing with international clients to fine-tuning sales skills and promoting employee engagement. Delve into this truly engaging read and gain a fresh perspective on the challenges and triumphs of managing a small business.

Paul Downs and His Business Ventures

Paul Downs is the founder of Pennsylvania-based Paul Downs Cabinetmakers, established in 1986. Initially, the business concentrated on customized conference table designs, woodworking, and sales. As the business grew in 1987, he employed workers, and the company’s activities became more intricate, necessitating the acquisition of new skills such as human resources, finance, and operations. However, by the end of 2009, the 2008 recession had reduced the business to its knees. Despite lacking business management training and mentors, Paul turned his fortunes around in 2010 by increasing orders’ flow, which led to the company’s rebound. In 2011, the business finished the year with a backlog of orders and the most money it had ever had. On the other hand, 2012 presented its unique set of challenges, including a slow rate of new customer inquiries, which Paul recognized as a possible Red flag.

The Journey of Paul Downs Cabinetmakers to Financial Stability

Paul Downs Cabinetmakers started 2012 with financial struggles despite having a team of 13 workers. The company needed to hit a monthly target of $200,000 to stay afloat, which was mostly accomplished by one salesman through Google AdWords. Downs pursued various strategic goals, including business deals and customer needs, and found flaws in employee measurements and promotions. Ultimately, his pursuit for new markets and improving operations led to financial stability.

Paul Downs Cabinetmakers was in a financial bind at the start of 2012, with operating costs of about $9,000 a day that its bank account couldn’t cover without new orders. With only $137,154.32 in the bank, the company’s team of 13 workers was struggling to stay afloat. Downs realized that to keep the company going, he needed to make drastic changes in how he ran the business.

One of the changes included promoting a craft worker, Nick Rothman, to a sales position, and hiring Dan Smolen as another full-time salesman. The team needed to hit a monthly target of $200,000 in contracts and orders to make it through 2012. Nick performed well, but Dan floundered, leaving most of the new orders totaling $193,602 to Nick in the first month. The company had only enough money to operate for 16 more days.

Downs’s major marketing strategy came from Google AdWords, which he invested $450 in daily. He struggled to convince clients that paying a premium for handcrafted products was worth it. Most of the company’s clients were in the United States and Canada, but an inquiry from Kuwait led to a connection with the US Department of Commerce representatives. The company signed up for a Commerce Department program connecting Downs with potential clients in the Middle East. Downs also pursued a deal with Eurofurn, a German furniture manufacture expanding into the United States.

One of Downs’s strengths was attending to customer needs and pursuing business deals, but he also struggled with employee measurements and promotions. He found that flawed measurements, if performed consistently, could be helpful as they showed changes from week to week. Firing an employee was one of Downs’s least favorite tasks, which he had to do after discovering falsified time sheets from a worker. The company offered little scope for employee advancement and lacked initiative from workers to improve production. Downs’s biggest frustration was not being able to promote an excellent craft worker, Will Krieger, who offered new production ideas.

Despite these struggles, Downs’s journey led to financial stability. Pursuing business deals with Eurofurn and new markets in the Middle East helped the company financially. Downs also improved the company’s operations by streamlining production processes, improving employee training, and reorganizing the workforce. Thus, Paul Downs Cabinetmakers transformed its financial struggles into a flourishing business.

Overcoming Sales Struggles

Meet Downs, a struggling sales manager who joined a business peers group to revive his company’s sales performance. After consulting with Bob Waks, he realized that his salesmen lacked the aptitude to succeed, and he was an inefficient sales manager. To turn things around, Downs and his team embarked on a 10-week sales course, and Waks observed them at work to identify areas of improvement. With Waks’s advice, Downs and his team started closing deals by getting follow-up meetings commitment from customers. Finally, after months of inquiry drought, the team hit its sales target in July, saving the company from collapse.

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