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The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  26,159 Ratings  ·  1,533 Reviews
A lot of people talk about how great it is to start a business, but only Ben Horowitz is brutally honest about how hard it is to run one.

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley's most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, draws on his own story of founding, running, selling, buying, managing, and inve
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by HarperBusiness
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Bryan Rahija Here are a few things from my notes:

It's important to get 3 key processes in place:
-1 on 1s: possibly the single best way to make your organization…more
Here are a few things from my notes:

It's important to get 3 key processes in place:
-1 on 1s: possibly the single best way to make your organization a Good Place to Work, encourage employees to deliver important bad news, and clear obstacles to their work, these should occur very regularly
-Promotions: clarity on this front discourages political maneuvering
-Feedback: it's just really important for raising the bar

2 really good questions to ask:
-What would I do if my company went bankrupt? (This led Horowitz to conclude that he needed to spin off 80% of LoudCloud and bet the whole business on a product called Opsware, ultimately leading to a $1.6 billion acquisition by HP)
-What are we NOT doing? (Horowitz had this as an agenda item at staff meetings; once it helped surface a critical unmet need in the market)

An interesting way to structure account management for key accounts:
-Have one person in charge of delivering every last thing that the client asks for
-Have a second person in charge of worming their way in the organization and identifying hidden value -- i.e., things you could build and sell them

An insight Horowitz attributes to Andy Grove:
-Training is one of the single "highest leverage" activities that a manager do (http://www.bhorowitz.com/why_startups...)(less)
Ram G Athreya 1 - As a leader be clear on what you want
2 - Effectively get it done from other people

The rest of the book is simply about how to get the above two…more
1 - As a leader be clear on what you want
2 - Effectively get it done from other people

The rest of the book is simply about how to get the above two points done. Finally, you need immense courage to pull it off.(less)

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Arjun Narayan
Mar 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: econ-finance
Executive Summary: This is a book about Ben Horowitz's war stories. Ben Horowitz has good war stories, if you care about the narrow space of Venture Backed fast growth technology startups. I'm not so sure that they generalize to the point of making a good management guide. You might be better off reading some Drucker.

First: the absolute preliminaries: Ben Horowitz co-founded LoudCloud with Marc Andreessen in 1999, with a plan to do enterprise managed services (what has now grown to the SaaS and
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Brad Feld
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: entrepreneurship
This is one of the best books you’ll ever read on entrepreneurship and being a CEO.

If you are a CEO, read this book.

If you aspire to be a CEO read this book.

If you are on a management team and want to understand what a CEO goes through, read this book.

If you are interested in entrepreneurship and want to understand it better, read this book.

On Friday, I spent the entire day with about 50 of the CEOs of companies we are investors in. Rand Fishkin of Moz put together a full day Foundry Group CEO S
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Otis Chandler
I haven’t read many (any?) books that are written by CEO’s for CEO’s. If you are a CEO, aspire to be a CEO, or really, manage anyone - you need to read this book.

This quote is perhaps my favorite one from the book. At the top, nobody is there to tell you what to do. It’s easy to look at some leaders and wonder how they knew what to do to become so successful. Are they just really smart? The truth is that they likely did what everyone else in that situation has to do - get scrappy and just figur
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Chris Johnson
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the very best business book I have ever read.

I would estimate that I've read roughly 1,000. I've loved maybe 100. This one is in it's own category, a book that both documents the times about 12-15 years ago and paints a picture of what we can do today.

I cannot recommend it highly enough, and I cannot say more strongly: read it. If you know me - email me at my personal address and I'll buy it for you.

There are a few things that happen to an entrepreneur. I've faced down the belly of the
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Lena
May 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
Ben Horowitz joined Netscape in the very early days and proceeded to ride the internet wave all the way up, all the way down, and everywhere in between over the course of his career. In this memoir/business advice book, he recounts choice moments from his extensive career and shares information he found important along the way.

In a world filled with Rah-Rah You Can Do It! business books, I found the tone of this book incredibly refreshing. The opening paragraph gets right to the point that it do
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Eric Lin
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you got advice from someone you found really annoying - even if it was good advice from an interesting perspective - would you be able to get over how annoying the person talking your ear off is?

That's basically where I am with this book. I think his advice is really interesting, and it's clear that a lot of the lessons he's learned throughout the course of his career were earned with blood and sweat, but ultimately, I'm not sure I can get past how annoying I found the voice he was writing in
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Patrick Brown
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's hard for me give this a rating, as I haven't really read many other how-to business books. I liked the narrative section at the beginning of the book a bit better than the tactical advice section, but I think that's probably just how I prefer to get information. There are some great lessons in here for non-CEOs, but I suspect it's even more valuable for those who have founded and/or run a company.

I think most relevant and/or interesting to me were:

* Hiring for strength rather than lack of
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Angie
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This is not a book that I think many general readers would enjoy. The first part is about the author's experiences building and running various tech companies and is fairly interesting. Most of it, though, is a huge compendium of short bits of management advice that gets very tedious. It might be of interest if I were looking for a how-to book, but, even so, it seems to be based pretty heavily on the author's own experience, i.e., "I did this. I was successful. Ergo, this is the right thing to d ...more
Josh Steimle
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I rarely read the same book twice, but I'm going to do just that with this book. In fact, I'm considering reading it once a month for the next year until everything in it is ingrained in my consciousness. Why? Because this book has the lessons I need in my business, right now. I'm in the midst of hiring my core team that is going to help us grow. I've gone through, and continue to go through, many of the challenges faced by Horowitz, albeit with fewer zeros on the ends of all the numbers. This b ...more
Bülent Duagi
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
It's a must read if you're into management + tech.
The hard thing about hard things is that nobody and nothing really prepares you for them.
Anshu
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mybooks
Horowitz is the most prominent VC firm in the valley. This book depicts great stories about the struggle from Horowitz. Initial few chapters are good and the reader gets more curious especially how his business was transformed from selling cloud solutions to pure software based. How they pivot on initial phase. However, after 2-3 chapters, I got lost since this book turned into management/leadership lessons. That's the point I got lost. I was hoping that Horowitz will talk more about personal jo ...more
Ethan
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superb and unique book for its target reader - the founding CEO of a software company. Real, practical guidance that no one else has covered in a business book.

Becomes rapidly less applicable the farther the reader is from the target. A few useful nuggets for non-founding CEOs, executives of non-software firms, and non-CEO founders, but this is by no means a generalist book on entrepreneurship or "business".

Largely collected from Horowitz' blog, so regular readers there will not find too much ne
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Summer
May 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
I can't take insights from someone who has so little insight about himself.

Cases in point: As a white boy, you do not have to call yourself the "Jackie Robinson of barbecue". You can just say you are good at barbecuing. Or say nothing, really because it's irrelevant.

That fact that your grandfather once WENT to a black neighborhood is not a story. Seriously you should not tell people that, because IT'S NOT A STORY.

The fact that you bullied your wife into going on her first date with you, is ki
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Louis
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Some interesting insights, but nothing life-changing. I often felt like he was trying too hard to draw generalizations based on his experience at one particular company (Loudcloud/Opsware). And it's bizarre that he introduces each chapter with rap lyrics, often without any obvious connection to the chapter's topic.
Eugene
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-to-read
great lessons about running startups, hiring people, managing people, being ceo in good and bad times. I liked the direct style of the writing with almost zero self advertisements.
Sergei_kalinin
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: management, start-up
Если характеризовать книгу двумя словами: "учебник прикладного менеджмента". Два важных уточнения: 1) именно "прикладного", а не теоретического; 2) по сути это такая "настольная книга CEO", включающая в себя рекомендации и по оперативному, и по стратегическому управлению.

Книга - это один большой кейс; где в роли кейса выступает карьера самого автора. Бен Хоровиц начинал как рядовой программист в компании SGI, потом работал в Netscape, потом в AOL и далее ещё в десятке-другом известнейших IT-ком
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Ahmad Moshrif
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Briefly, this is the best business book that I've read in 2014 so far.

Thinkg seriously to read it again.

باختصار ... أفضل كتاب قرأته هذا العام في عالم المال والأعمال.
عنذما يتكلم بين هوروتيز، بالتأكيد يجب على كل قيادي وشاب أعمال أن يسمع ماذا سيقول.

نقلاته الناجحة (بشكل مفجع) في عالم الأعمال تستحق التوثيق بكل شكل وهذا ما نجح به فعلاً من خلال هذا الكتاب، وأجمل ما في الكتاب تطرقه بشكل كبير على التفاصيل الصغيرة التي تهم القارئ (رجل الأعمال/القيادي).
يعلمك بين كيف توظف وكيف تفصل، كيف تتحدث مع المستثمري
...more
Mateusz Kurleto
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was a game changer for me. I started reading it in the middle of my biggest struggle as a founder and CEO of Neoteric (#32 on Deloitte Technology Fast 50 CE). It was recommended by my co-founder, Mateusz Paprocki.
Ben shares tough stories here. He says what he fucked up and how did he manage to make it up. It helped me to trust my instincts and bet my decisions during company transformation on the values I live by. It's only 1 month since I started implementing the changes and I already
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Ostap Andrusiv
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Мені подобається, як ця книжка починається. Відразу ріже по живому:
- не складно придумати ГУЧНУ ціль, складно звільняти людей, якщо її не досяг
- … складно, якщо люди починають вимагати неможливого
- … складно заставити людей комунікувати у щойно стовреній компанії
- і ще багато отаких "складно".
Це книжка, розділи якої я інколи перечитую як підручник.

Резюме: нема формули для складних речей. І для вирішення всіх поблем теж формули нема. Кожна ситуація інша, і її потрібно вирішувати найкращим для неї
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Robert
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Horowitz has assembled a great collection of hard fought knowledge for future founding CEOs. I took away a lot from this book, despite neither being a CEO nor planning to be one. Anyone who intends to take a leadership role in a company, especially in high tech, should read it. The advice on hiring and firing is clear, succinct and valuable. I also got a lot of great insights on what to look for in product managers. While not entirely discouraging to would be entrepreneurs, Horowitz's vividly re ...more
Ashley
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was possibly the most useful management book I have ever read. Ben's personal stories along with key lessons and advice on how to handle those difficult decisions was amazing.

I'm not sure it would be of value to anyone who's not a founder CEO. However I think it's a must read for all founder CEOs who are in the process of building a big company, or trying to.

I should also throw in that's its a bit scary. Sometimes while in the grind you hold hope that someday everything will just get easie
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Jon Fish
Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Most business books talk in the abstract: "empower your employees", "give good and frequent feedback", "don't sweat the small stuff". This is all well and good, but, as Ben Horowitz correctly points out, is more about the "What" than the "How". The hard part of building an A+ team is not realizing that you need to find people who have complementary strengths and can work together, but is rather that sometimes the right person doesn't look the part, works for a friend, or is not as smart as the u ...more
Trung Thieu
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-summarize
This book is 5☆ in the knowledge that we could get.
the writing style would be less because the author talked and praised himself too much. however I think it's fair because it's about his personal experiences and how he got over the hard things.
1 observation is that at the beginning of the book, there are lots of highlights but it drops near the end. Probably readers feel less engaged gradually with the book.
Will need to summarize the lesson-learnt and apply.
Overall it's still a 5☆. Thanks Ben!
Михайло Мариняк
Читається на одному подиху, а читати треба кілька разів. Книга наповнена порадами, які вимагають трохи рефлексії, бо люди роблять бізнес успішним.

Пісні з епіграфів додав до свого списку улюблених пісень :)

Lech Kaniuk
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every founding CEO should read this book!
Jurgen Appelo
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: start-ups, _startups
Endless boring stories about how to handle situations when organizations are badly managed.
Athan Tolis
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: startups
This very personal book is a detailed manual on how to be the CEO of a technology company with 300 employees. It is unashamedly based on the author’s experiences and it’s “straight from the heart,” as they say.

I once owned and ran a tech startup that never got to more than 35, so I’m poorly qualified to comment on the quality of most of the advice.

• I never had to demote a loyal friend. I tried to give my loyal friend Tassos fewer shares than my co-founder Marko, but he did not accept and I bac
...more
Mikhail Kulakov
Буду наверное первым, кому книга не зашла.

Причина - ее направленность к оперативному управлению, что мне не очень интересно. Кроме того, книга посвящена крупным и быстро ростущим компаниям. Не малому бизнесу.

Другой масштаб, другой образ мышления, нужен соответственный управленческий опыт.

Martin
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First leadership /management book I went through, so can't really benchmark it against anything yet. will be comparing next ones against this one.

Lots of insight to the role of CEOs and how top level management really works. Makes you appreciate the people in these shoes way more. Thanks for everything JK! ;-)
Jim
Jan 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: business
This is a book set firmly, despite desperately trying to appear otherwise, in the "entrepreneur as hero" genre. This guy really believes that he, and he alone, could make or break a company. Breathlessly he tells of how he faced "total destruction" and personal bankruptcy in one company he was involved with. Really? Not smart enough to invest any of your cash in your wife's name? He talks of putting "first things first", with his family firmly at the top of the value tree, and then blithely expl ...more
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Ben Horowitz is the cofounder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs building the next generation of leading technology companies. The firm's investments include Airbnb, GitHub, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Previously, he was cofounder and CEO of Opsware, formerly Loudcloud, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard fo ...more
More about Ben Horowitz...
“Every time I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, “That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.” The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those “great people” develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things. The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed. The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.” 41 likes
“Until you make the effort to get to know someone or something, you don’t know anything.” 24 likes
More quotes…