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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  70,209 ratings  ·  3,251 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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Harper Business
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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 (
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 po…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
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
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
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
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
Kimberly Laurel (Trusty Bookmark Editorial Services)
If one of your executives becomes a big jerk dog, you have to send her to the pound

Woof. (Pun intended.) This was nothing like I expected, and not in a particularly good way. The subtitle “Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” led me to believe this would be a useful book for a budding entrepreneur, but the term “building” is rather misleading. This covers a great deal of “already very established business” issues in great detail, such as hiring and firing executives, designing
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
Angie Boyter
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
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
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
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
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
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to WhatIReallyRead by: an industry expert I trust
This is the kind of book I put on my "to re-read" shelf while I'm reading it. A great way to wrap up my 2018 reading year.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things is probably the best business/management book I've read to date.

Ben Horowitz doesn't feed you feel-good bullshit which is abundant in business/leadership books. He's not a consultant/trainer selling his leadership knowledge. He was the founder & CEO of a company that was close to bankruptcy multiple times, which he ultimately sold for over a
Christopher Lewis Kozoriz
"Hard things are hard because there are no easy answers or recipes. They are hard because your emotions are at odds with your logic. They are hard because you don't know the answer and you cannot ask for help without showing weakness." (Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Page 274)

Written by Billionaire Ben Horowtiz, founder and former CEO of Opsware. A silicone valley company, which he later sold to HP for 1.65 billion dollars. And he now is a venture capitalist, who funds mainly up
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.
Mario Tomic
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Must read for any entrepreneur. Dives into the psychology of being a CEO and also full of practical business advice for managing a company during challenging times.
Maciej Nowicki
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Hard Thing About Hard Things talks about being a CEO during peacetime and wartime. The book is written by Ben Horowitz, an American investor and a technology entrepreneur. Actually, the whole book is the journey through his founding of the company called Loudcloud which was the first major company offering cloud storage. Today all big companies, such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft are doing that, but the Loudcloud was really the first one which connected a cloud with computing. The comp ...more
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
Matt 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
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
Jan 04, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted this book to reveal something about accepting limitations, finding humility, working well with others, etc. Instead it was a nice reminder of the entrepreneur's exhausting narcissism. ...more
Farhan Khalid
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
You start with a company and a clear vision, with success looming. Then you hire all the right people and create an environment that is stimulating and encouraging. And together, you work on the vision, creating the perfect product that customers are going to love. You work day and night, shed blood and tears to get this done

Then, you reach a point where you realize that not everything is going as smoothly as you expected. There's a problem with the product and it’s hard to fix, or the market ha
Andrii Moscovchuk
Great book about business, Struggle, friends and persistence

What I really liked about this book is that it's very personal. Ben Horowitz just shares his own experience, including mistakes and painful moments. It's a book about running a company, about managing, giving feedback, hiring and firing people, creating process, deciding when to pivot or when to go public.

But it's even more a book about forming your character, dealing with fear and doing what matters.

Recommend it to people who are inte
Eustacia Tan
Sep 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nlb-ereads
This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, another book that was part of my MBA’s summer reading list and the last one that I’ll be reviewing (for now? Who knows). I don’t think I’ve read a lot of management books, so this is perhaps the most ‘traditional’ business book that I read.

The Hard Thing About Doing Hard Things is a business memoir with a lot of advice. Horowitz tells the story about his companies – Loudcloud and Opsware – and the lessons that he learnt while growing a startup to a listed IPO and
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. ...more
Jan Antonin Kolar
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
No bullshit book about firing people you love and a surviving guide for the worst possible scenario in a company.
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.
Lech Kaniuk
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every founding CEO should read this book!
Ali Sattari
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
AKA: bullshit-free insights on management and leadership.
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“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 ...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

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“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.” 69 likes
“No matter who you are, you need two kinds of friends in your life. The first kind is one you can call when something good happens, and you need someone who will be excited for you. Not a fake excitement veiling envy, but a real excitement. You need someone who will actually be more excited for you than he would be if it had happened to him. The second kind of friend is somebody you can call when things go horribly wrong—when your life is on the line and you only have one phone call.” 52 likes
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