Paul Downs Vintage – What I’ve Learned from Blogging

For many years, Paul wrote a blog for the New York Times about business life. Those postings eventually became the book, Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business, available now at your favorite bookstores and on Amazon.com.  

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What I’ve Learned From Blogging

By PAUL DOWNS   

It’s been 13 months since I started writing about my business, and I’ve posted 60 times since then. I’ve been asked by many people how I got involved with “You’re the Boss.” The short answer: good timing and luck.

I had been a regular reader of the blog since it was introduced. In December 2009, with my company weeks from running out of money, I started searching the Internet for blogs dealing with business failure — and found nothing useful or compelling. All of the business journalism I came across had the same focus: stories about success, often after struggle but usually describing it as the inevitable reward for hard work and good ideas. There was nothing that described the experience of business failure in depth and at length, especially involving regular Main Street businesses.

After a particularly bad day, I sent an e-mail to the editor of this blog, asking if the Times would be interested in a failing business — and offering to document what I expected would be our company’s imminent demise. I heard nothing for two months, during which I laid off many of my people, continued to struggle with my partner and came very close to running out of money.

But in February 2010, I got an e-mail back from the Times, with an apology for the tardy reply. The e-mail said the idea was of interest and asked what exactly I intended to write about. The difficulty of keeping a business alive, I replied — and I offered a list of subjects that had bedeviled me, including cash flow, employee problems, partner problems, the poor economy, and plenty more. By chance, I had to be in New York the following week, so I arranged a meeting with the editor.

I told him my story, and he thought it had potential. He had been thinking about adding a struggling business to the lineup, and we discussed how it might work. I offered to write the posts anonymously, because I wanted to be free to write candidly about my experiences. I also wanted to demonstrate that I wasn’t trying to get publicity for my business. (I believed then — and continue to believe — that there is almost no intersection between this blog’s readers and my clientele.) The Times wasn’t interested in anonymous posts, but the editor asked me to write some sample posts.

I went home and in seven days wrote 10 posts that wound up forming the basis of my blogging: the first group about the history of my company, and then a series of posts on one harrowing week: My Week In Cash Flow. And then, in March and April last year, my business started to turn around, and my focus turned from the demise of my company to the many difficult issues I confront in running it….

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