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

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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 investing in technology companies to offer essential advice and practical wisdom for navigating the toughest problems business schools don't cover. His blog has garnered a devoted following of millions of readers who have come to rely on him to help them run their businesses. A lifelong rap fan, Horowitz amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs and tells it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, from cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.

His advice is grounded in anecdotes from his own hard-earned rise—from cofounding the early cloud service provider Loudcloud to building the phenomenally successful Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm, both with fellow tech superstar Marc Andreessen (inventor of Mosaic, the Internet's first popular Web browser). This is no polished victory lap; he analyzes issues with no easy answers through his trials, including

demoting (or firing) a loyal friend;
whether you should incorporate titles and promotions, and how to handle them;
if it's OK to hire people from your friend's company;
how to manage your own psychology, while the whole company is relying on you;
what to do when smart people are bad employees;
why Andreessen Horowitz prefers founder CEOs, and how to become one;
whether you should sell your company, and how to do it.
Filled with Horowitz's trademark humor and straight talk, and drawing from his personal and often humbling experiences, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2014

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About the author

Ben Horowitz

19 books1,473 followers
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 for $1.6 billion in 2007. Horowitz writes about his experiences and insights from his career as a computer science student, software engineer, cofounder, CEO, and investor in a blog that is read by nearly 10 million people. He has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Fortune, the Economist, and Bloomberg Businessweek, among others. Horowitz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Felicia.

Follow him on Twitter @bhorowitz and his blog, www.bhorowitz.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,707 reviews
Profile Image for Arjun Narayan.
44 reviews220 followers
March 21, 2014
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 IaaS space). They were technological pioneers in that space. They weathered the dot com bubble burst, but it was touch and go (since most of their clients were other tech firms going bankrupt). They IPOd in a post-bubble environment with a declining market. They pivoted to become Opsware, a tech services firm (i.e. further up in the backend of the managed services stack). They pivoted as a public corporation close to bankruptcy which is a nightmare I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies. They weathered NASDAQ delisting threats, mass employee revolts, ..., the whole Mad Max scenario. So he offers the prospect of excellent data from the inside. Ben also has a reputation in the valley as a no-bullshit guy, so this is valuable

Second: some initial thoughts. To the extent that Ben's stories will generalize, they only apply to fast growth venture backed tech startups that plan to IPO. It bears repeating that this is but one subset of the technology space - the subset that gets a disproportionately large amount of press coverage and fanfare. So much of the lessons are the kind that you've probably already osmosed from the Paul Graham/Peter Thiel/A360Z/AVC crowd. And if you haven't, then you should probably start with Paul Graham and Peter Thiel rather than jumping into this book, which has a narrower scope and doesn't make much effort to make clear the context. That's okay, since it's aimed at the specific crowd, but just be aware if you're not of that crowd and thinking of reading this book.

Ben tells the story from the technical CEO perspective, which is a fairly rare perspective to get, given the depth of Ben's experience: Note that Paul Graham only walked the walk through a ~50 million dollar acquisition, and never faced the challenges of being the CEO of a publicly traded corporation. Peter Thiel did, but is ultimately a non-technical founder. Besides, the PayPal mafia is fairly cagey about the war stories around PayPal given the extent of the internal fights (e.g. the ouster of Elon Musk from CEO) that they want to cover up. Much of the other available writings are from the V.C. perspective, and lack founder experience.

Thus, this book does give us an opportunity to read the thoughts of a founder CEO all the way through and beyond the IPO stage. But it is by no means a masterpiece that stands alone. It does offer an incremental view if you are primarily interested in the narrow niche of venture backed startups, and serves as a 4 star or 5 star book of anecdotes that have potentially generalizable lessons, if read critically, while fully aware of the appropriate broader context. That's a big asterisk though. So I will attempt to summarize the core lessons that I personally got out of the books, given that I am not solely interested in this space:

1. Being CEO in a fast growth venture startup requires learning at an incredible pace. The job description changes almost completely within 6 months given the growth rate. There isn't any way to get that experience except networking with founders who have previous lived experience as founder CEOs of large companies. This is why, for example, Zuckerberg had long walks with Jobs. A top notch VC firm will definitely help you get that, which is why they are so valuable. The rotating board circuit in the top Silicon Valley firms will provide this, if you can get them to sit on your board (Horowitz, for example, holds Bill Campbell's advice in particularly high esteem). You probably can't, unless Sequioa, Founders Fund, Andreessen-Horowitz, or KPCB is backing you.

2. At the end of the day, you have to make incredibly complex strategic decisions with extremely limited information, which creates crazy stressful environments.

3. To Ben's credit, he does focus on good management, but mostly doesn't add anything new to the corpus. It's mostly the usual good stuff: don't do arbitrary things, don't publicly shame people, don't let people get away with enriching themselves at the company's expense through strong arming, don't do short term things that jeopardize the long term, and if you do, it will rapidly become the culture and will remain permanently broken. Again, a decent coverage of the standard MBA literature covers this space better.

4. Being CEO is a lonely job. You cannot expect your executive team to understand all your decisions given their limited scope. You also cannot spend the time to give them the broader scope all the time, since that takes away from doing their own jobs. But if you don't, they might stop trusting you. It's Catch-22s all the way down.

5. In addition, while the CEO mentor network can help with your emotions, they can't help you with the decisions, since it will take them weeks to get up to speed on the context. You're really on your own on these decisions.

6. It's also emotionally harder when your final decision is 55/45, and you're facing opposition from underlings/your board that is 90/10 the other way, but lack the appropriate context. So you're on the fence leaning one way, but others are convinced that you're wrong. At this point, you should just learn to trust yourself, since you're the only one with the appropriate context. Your board should be more experienced than you, so they should be aware of this information asymmetry. Consequentially, they'll usually just rubberstamp what you decide anyway. This doesn't make the decisions any easier to make.

7. You absolutely need to develop decision making processes that are insulated from your own emotional rollercoaster/insecurity. Ben likes writing things down until the words are convincing on their own. I do too. Whatever your methods are, you will absolutely need to rely on them since you're going to be alone in the decision making processes, and need some check to make sure you're operating logically with no emotional biases. So develop those early. (I personally recommend the LessWrong corpus, but you might find that too kooky. Your choice.)

8. Ben Horowitz really likes rap and hiphop. That's not my thing, but whatever, I can respect his artistic side. Anyone who criticizes him for that aspect of his personality is really missing the point.

Context that Ben Horowitz did not mention that I think would have greatly improved the book:

1. The tides are turning, and the days when Venture Capitalists could oust founder CEOs and replace them with "adults" are permanently gone. Zuckerberg, and the fact that founders (like Horowitz and Thiel) now lead top Valley VC firms has permanently changed the landscape. So a lot of the fighting that Ben had to do, and the perpetual underconfidence that he did it with, won't apply to future founder CEOs. This book adds to the growing corpus that helps make your case to not be ousted, which partially obsoletes that aspect of lessons in the book. Ironic, I know.

2. Fast growth tech startups that have a distinctive tech advantage can win despite terribly dysfunctional management. When you're in a greenfield technology space, you can do whatever you want, and still win just from the tech advantage. For example, Valve gets cited a lot for it's "no management" structure, but they sit on a giant money spigot called Steam that just prints money. If I also owned such an oil derrick, I could probably get away with mandatory sex parties every Thursday. This doesn't make the case for workplace orgies.

3. There is great talk about how Ben rescued OpsWare from near disaster through their final acquisition by HP for 1.65 billion dollars. But there is not a single mention of how OpsWare fared post-acquisition. For all I know (and given the next point, I suspect) this was a shitty deal for HP.

4. It doesn't help that Ben Horowitz heavily raided the OpsWare executive team to form the core team at his next venture (the VC firm Andreessen-Horowitz). That can't have been good for OpsWare at all.

5. Ben talks about how you really need your executive team to hit the ground running. You can cover for one executive to get them up to speed, but you can't cover for every executive. Thus, you need to hire top tier talent, often from outside. This is great. But this also forms a good explanation for why top executives often seem to be from a different planet, move in completely different circles, and get paid orders of magnitude more. But Ben doesn't cover any of these pathologies, or how it really is a necessary side-effect of the realities of the executive responsibilities.

6. From Ben's raiding of his previous form for top executive talent, I get an increasing suspicion that the top talent moves in tight-knit teams that gel well together. Your management priority should be to network and form these connections from an early stage (definitely before you found your own VC-backed fast growth startup). If you don't have this focus, you have to develop it at a late stage in the game, and for that you _really_ need top VCs, otherwise you will not be plugged in at all and have no access to these folk.
Profile Image for Brad Feld.
Author 36 books2,346 followers
March 11, 2014
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 Summit. It used a format Rand has used before. We broke up into five different groups and has sessions on about ten total topics throughout the day. The groups were fluid – people were organized by category (alpha and beta) but then went to the topic they were interested in. There was a moderator for each session – the first five minutes was each CEO putting up one “top of mind” issue in the topic, and the then balance of the session (75 minutes) was the entire group spending between 5 and 15 minutes on each topic.

It was awesome. We finished with a fun dinner at Pizzeria Locale. I drove home with my mind buzzing and arrived around 8pm to see Amy laying on the coach reading a book. So I grabbed by iPad and looked to see what was new on it.

I’d pre-ordered Ben’s book so it was in slot number one. It felt fitting to start reading it.

At 10:30 I was finished with it. The Hard Thing About Hard Things was the perfect way to cap off a day with the CEOs of the companies we invest in.

Trust me on this one. Go buy The Hard Thing About Hard Things right now.

Ben – thanks for writing this and putting 100% of your heart into it.
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
386 reviews113k followers
February 10, 2017
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 figure it out - and don’t give up.

"Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweats, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary cofounder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say, “I didn’t quit.”

My second favorite quote from the book speaks to one of the greatest challenges all entrepreneurs face: work/life balance. I like to say "work hard, play hard". But sometimes it's easy to forget the play part. Or to buy flowers once in a while. But the cost of those on your health or relationships can cost much more.

"As a company grows, communication becomes its biggest challenge. If the employees fundamentally trust the CEO, then communication will be vastly more efficient than if they don’t."

Ben had a lot of great advice on how to hire well, especially executives. Looking to avoid reactionary big company execs when you need someone who will come in and get stuff done proactively. Looking for people who can think on their feet and not make everything a nail for the hammer of their prior experience by asking “How will your new job differ from your current one?” Looking for people who are mission driven and use the “team” prism instead of the “me” prism. He also had advice about onboarding, and training.

Hiring for strength instead of lack of weakness. I’ve definitely seen instances of this - where a candidate is great in some areas that we really need but isn’t great at everything. Knowing what you value most is critical here - and I fully admit - not easy to do.

"I’d learned the hard way that when hiring executives, one should follow Colin Powell’s instructions and hire for strength rather than lack of weakness."

On hiring internally vs externally. Internal candidates across often do better, which is a great thing to think about when building a team.

"when it comes to CEO succession, internal candidates dramatically outperform external candidates . The core reason is knowledge. Knowledge of technology, prior decisions, culture, personnel, and more tends to be far more difficult to acquire than the skills required to manage a larger organization."

One of my favorite sections was "Managing strictly by numbers is like painting by numbers". No matter how well you instrument your metrics and goals, you can ever perfectly encapsulate everything you need your company to be doing. Innovation is often like this - with many big innovations the team will often struggle to find how it drives value as it doesn’t seem to hit the core metric. But they can all agree it will improve things. I think a big part of the CEO’s job is to have a strong product vision, and to not compromise on it.

"I often see teams that maniacally focus on their metrics around customer acquisition and retention. This usually works well for customer acquisition, but not so well for retention. Why? For many products, metrics often describe the customer acquisition goal in enough detail to provide sufficient management guidance. In contrast, the metrics for customer retention do not provide enough color to be a complete management tool. As a result, many young companies overemphasize retention metrics and do not spend enough time going deep enough on the actual user experience. This generally results in a frantic numbers chase that does not end in a great product."

Ben talked about the difference between CEO’s who can set direction for a company (often founding CEO’s) and those can can operationally run it as it grows. How great CEOs need to be good at both, and founding CEOs who don’t scale are those who don’t learn the operational side. And conversely, operational CEOs who don’t get good at making decisions about direction will fail.

Ben talked about how "Some employees make products, some make sales; the CEO makes decisions." The strength of those decisions is built upon having data. Data about what customers think. Data about what employees think. Data about the metrics. A CEO has to be a constant data accumulating machine. Another nuance was that a CEO can make a decision at any point in time with the data they have now, identify what data would change their mind, and seek it out.

"Great CEOs build exceptional strategies for gathering the required information continuously. They embed their quest for intelligence into all of their daily actions from staff meetings to customer meetings to one-on-ones. Winning strategies are built on comprehensive knowledge gathered in every interaction the CEO has with an employee, a customer, a partner, or an investor."

Ben’s stories about Loudcloud and Opsware and the Hard Things he dealt with were impressive. I do think they spread too much throughout the book and would have been better concentrated in one part of the book and supplemented by more examples from other companies. But that doesn’t detract from one can learn from them. It was strange that he opens each chapter with rap lyrics - that often seem very disconnected to the chapter. I guess he likes rap - but still…

Pretty cool Ben had Michael Ovitz as an advisor. And that he modeled A16Z after CAA - where instead of independent agents/VCs, have a shared network - and invest in strategic networks that will help the companies.

Michael Ovitz on dealmaking: “Gentlemen, I’ve done many deals in my lifetime and through that process, I’ve developed a methodology, a way of doing things, a philosophy if you will. Within that philosophy, I have certain beliefs. I believe in artificial deadlines. I believe in playing one against the other. I believe in doing everything and anything short of illegal or immoral to get the damned deal done."

One interesting tendency Ben points out is that “When a company starts to lose its major battles, the truth often becomes the first casualty.”. You have to be vigilant in looking for the truth, and have backbone spot it. The reason for this, is that "humans, particularly those who build things, only listen to leading indicators of good news." Which is so true! We can always find reasons to excuse away bad news, and reasons to believe good news means more than it should.

Ben closes with a quote I really believe in - life is about the journey, not the destination. So you have to embrace the journey. Be so mission driven that the struggles you inevitably face are worth it. "Life is struggle.” I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle."
Profile Image for Eric Lin.
127 reviews63 followers
April 4, 2017
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.

- He sets up the most epic humblebrag ever, first by talking about this Bill Campbell guy and how awesome he is, and what a great mentor Bill Campbell is to people like Jeff Bezos. Then at the end of the book he introduces one of the chapters by sharing that Bill Campbell told him he (Ben) was the best CEO he's ever worked with. Nice.
- He uses rap lyrics from the Trinidad James "All Gold Everything" song to make a really relevant tie-in to the topic he's discussing because he likes the lyrics I guess? But I really want to take advice from someone who will take a break from bragging about shit to drop some Trinidad James. That really makes me feel like this guy's not just any CEO. He's a cool CEO.
- He is one of those people who reads The Art of War and tries too hard to apply it to business situations.
- Isn't it cool that he curses at work? Btw profanity can be great when used on purpose by a CEO to make a point. Btw profanity can be great when used on purpose by a CEO to make a point. Btw profanity can be great when used on purpose by a CEO to make a point. (Fuck. Sorry. That's about how many times in the book he makes this point.)
- Even though he's supposedly a Kingkiller and done all this other cool shit, by the end of the first book, Kvothe has done basically nothing.

Okay, I'm drinking too much haterade and all the books I don't like are blurring together. I'm cutting myself off.
Profile Image for Summer.
709 reviews10 followers
May 29, 2015
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 kind of a story... but it doesn't reflect well on you.

I wish I could get past these things because Horowitz undoubtedly know much more about business than I do. But no. I'm out.
March 7, 2019
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 an organization’s hierarchy, and conducting layoffs. I probably should’ve DNFd it after the first half, but every now and then a useful little tidbit would pop up and I would keep listening (audiobooks for nonfiction, always). I think essentially this book was neither my style (I mean...serious eye roll at that quote above) nor provided information I found useful. Coupled with my issues with the overall structure, I had to go with 1 star.

The structure started out well and I was hopeful. Horowitz provided a solid chronological background of his life and business experience through the first three chapters. And the next few chapters did in fact provide advice for entrepreneurs of startup-level companies; bits like his advice to “look for a market of one” and “ignore the thirty guaranteed rejections” were very engaging. But soon after, it became a lost cause. “Advanced business” advice was intermixed with stories from his own career, and the constant timeline jumping (between years and companies) was ridiculously confusing. From there, the structure felt completely abandoned in favor of a rambling stream of consciousness about any business-related topic that came to mind. All-in-all, it was incredibly difficult to find the motivation to finish this book (and I was passively listening to an audiobook...there was very little effort required).

There was a great deal of profanity and casual usage of terms like depression that left a sour taste in my mouth. On top of that, Horowitz came across as a rather aggressive, abrasive person with little regard for how his words and actions might affect those around him. I understand that he’s facing pressures and challenges of running gigantic businesses that I will never understand (particularly during his “war periods”), and he certainly provided examples of when he was thoughtful towards other people (like paying for the medical treatments of the ex-CEO of a company he purchased). However, his approach to other people and evident lack of empathy is just not my style, nor something I enjoyed listening to for an entire audiobook.

Too much of this book was spent in excruciating detail on his own companies and deals rather than providing advice and information transferable or usable by other entrepreneurs. Perhaps with better structure his intentions would have been clearer (e.g. lesson topic, story, reiterate lesson), but for the majority of this book, I felt like I was listening to stories with no concept of their relevancy or why I should care. There was also just a level of toxic masculinity (show no weakness, display unrelenting confidence) and aggressiveness displayed in this book that soured most of the messages for me. While some of the advice was useful (his emphasis on hiring for strengths rather than weaknesses), I just didn’t click with this book.

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Profile Image for Babak.
85 reviews66 followers
April 7, 2020
"زنده باد همه‌ی کسانی که در مخمصه‌ی برآورده کردن رؤیاهایشان هستند." این آخرین جمله‌ای است که بن هاروویتز در کتاب "سختی کارهای سخت" می‌گوید و اشاره‌ای دارد به این سخن مارکس که "زندگی مخمصه است."
کتاب سختی کارهای سخت، نوشته‌ی بن هاروویتز، کارآفرین سابق و سرمایه‌گذار خطرپذیر فعلی سیلیکون ولی است که در آن خو��ننده برخورد خیلی نزدیکی را با شغل مدیرعاملی و پیشبرد یک شرکت در حوزه فناوری تجربه می‌کند. نکاتی که در سایر کتب مدیریت کمتر دیده می‌شوند و عمدتاً مواردی در کتاب ذکر شده‌اند که مربوط به مدیرعامل بودن در دوران جنگ است و نه دوران صلح. نکاتی از تجربیات یک کارآفرین که حقیقتاً نوشتنشان کار بسیار سختی بوده است!
کتاب به ریزترین و جدی‌ترین درگیری‌های راه‌اندازی و پیشبرد یک استارتاپ می‌پردازد؛ از استخدام تا اخراج، از شکل‌دهی فرهنگ سازمانی تا مبارزه با سیاسی‌کاری در شرکت و ...
در حین مطالعه‌ی کتاب مدام به این مسئله‌ فکر می‌کردم که خواندن این کتاب برای کسی که هم‌اکنون درگیر مدیرعاملی است بسیار اثرگذار و مفیدتر از سایر خواننده‌ها خواهد بود؛ چرا که نکاتی دارد که در عمل بسیار به کار خواهد رفت، وگرنه احتمالاً خیلی زود فراموش خواهند شد. خیلی از نکات را در شرکت‌هایی که با آن‌ها همکاری کرده‌ام دیده‌ام و با تمام وجود لمس می‌کنم، خیلی از مواردی که من را در محیط کار آزرده است و خیلی از مواردی که مي‌توانست به سادگی توسط مدیرعامل مدیریت شود، ولی با تعلل و بی‌برنامگی و شاید بلد نبودن مدیرعاملی، یک مسئله‌ی کوچک تبدیل به چالشی بزرگ برای مهندسان شرکت شده و آن‌ها را دچار مصائب بزرگ کرده است.
و به این دلیل، احتمالاً در آینده‌ای نزدیک کتاب را مجدداً خواهم خواند؛ روزی که احتمالاً و ان شاء الله یک بنیان‌گذار-مدیرعامل شده‌ام و درگیر "سختی کارهای سخت" هستم...
نکته‌ی آخری که باید در مورد کتاب گفت آن است که بن هاروویتز، شاید بر خلاف خیلی‌ها، مدیرعامل بودن را یک توانایی ذاتی نمی‌داند و معقتد است مدیرعامل بودن نیازمند مهارت‌هایی است که صرفاً باید آن‌ها را یاد گرفت و نکته‌ی جالب‌تر آن که هاروویتز معتقد است برای این که یاد بگیرید مدیر عامل خوبی شوید، راهی نیست جز این که مدیر عامل شوید... مهارت‌های لازم برای این کار جز در برخورد با مسائل و درگیری‌ها و کسب تجربه، حاصل نمی‌شوند. فقط می‌شود اندکی از اصول را آموزش داد و بقیه‌ی مراحل را به تجربه کردن، تصمیم‌گیری در میدان عمل و پذیرفتن و بهبود نتایج این تصمیم‌ها سپرد.
Profile Image for Angie Boyter.
1,874 reviews50 followers
May 3, 2014
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 do." I suppose that is better than taking advice from a failure, but I would prefer more than one sample point.
I read it based on a positive mention in The Economist. I guess they are better at commentary than book recommendations.
68 reviews30 followers
April 19, 2014
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 'no cash, people might find out that we are phonies' thing a few times, but this adds a vocabulary to the emotions that I've felt off and on all my life. These are my people, this is what I aspire to be, how I aspire to live, and the journey I aspire to take.

Some will say that the book is for funded startups - and I'm a 'hustler for life'. I say nonsense: the struggle scales. It is just as scary fighting for your own personal livelihood as it is fighting for the jobs of 300 people.

There is practical information: how to conduct a review, how to live your life how move forward.

I can't say more strongly: if anything I've said has ever moved you over the years go out and buy this book.

A couple things: I missed my spot on the standby list because I was so engrossed in this book. I *literally* cried during a story of how they dealt with an employe's cancer during a merger.

Profile Image for Jim.
891 reviews2 followers
January 14, 2015
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 explains about twenty pages later how he left his (admittedly gorgeous, sexy, life and soul of any party, but level headed too) wife ill and near to death at home while he continued with an IPO roadshow. Of course, first he got his seriously ill (still sexy) wife on the 'phone to tell him she was alright with the decision. Sorted, eh? No doubt who was the "first thing first" in that situation then. But, when you have balls the size of Jupiter, there is no doubt who wears the trousers and a man has to do what a man has to do. After all, there are some of his - HIS - employees, people who rely on HIM to buy their kids shoes, who will be facing ruin if he can't pull off this IPO. (We know this, because two pages previously he has told us how he had to fire some of them. To preserve the bottom line,)
A cross between Indiana Jones and, possibly, Jesus, this man has it all. And that's just in the first thirty pages. Reading it, if you can suffer it, you are left in no doubt how these Silicon Valley swashbucklers changed the world. These guys could borrow a hundred million from the massively smart and credible bankers at Deutsche Bank just by the way they stood. (These are the same bankers, remember, who changed the world too in 2008, with their massive brains and intellect. And clearly the bankers knew a fellow Big Swinging Dick when they saw one. Or at least they recognised part of that phrase.)
Reading on, trying to ignore each chapter that begins with a quote from a rapper (bro') - I mean is this guy down with the street, or what? - I really began to genuinely giggle at the absurdity of it all. With a dawning sense of horror, you realise that maybe Donald "The Art of the Deal" Trump is actually quite humble. Nevertheless, the anecdotes keep coming. Did you realise that innovation requires combination of knowledge, skill and courage? But that sometimes it takes the founder to ignore the data and take the courage to innovate? Empires have been ruined over twaddle like this, but, you know what? F*** what you think, loser. History, and business books, are written by winners.
As I write this, I am just about to read a chapter on how to demote a good friend. Hmmm. How about not employing good friends in the first place, like anyone with any sense would do? Sensitively, he lets us know how to fire someone and preserve their dignity. Remember that they will feel some shame and embarrassment. Really? That would never have occurred to me.
About halfway through and running out of sick bags, I threw in the towel with this book. My cojones clearly weren't big enough to take the tough talking and I went back to Enid Blyton who, surprisingly, has more to say about human behaviour than this balloon does.
Profile Image for Patrick Brown.
141 reviews2,453 followers
January 26, 2015
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 weakness. If you're bringing someone new onto the team, really think hard about what strengths are most important for the job and find someone who is world class at those things. If that person isn't as strong at everything else on your check-list, don't sweat it.

* Importance of one-on-ones as a management technique. It's sort of incredible that people can manage without one-on-one meetings, but I guess it happens. The big breakthrough (or at least, the one that I hadn't put into words before) is that it's the employee's meeting, rather than the manager's. I mean, duh, but still a good framework for thinking about the meeting.

* As a CEO, you don't have time to develop your direct reports. I suspect this is really difficult for many CEOs to deal with at first. I know it would be tough for me. But it makes sense -- at that level, you just have to be able to do the job with minimal-to-no developmental runway.

Anyway, for my first management book, this one was fun and readable and very honest. Also lots of hip-hop quotes, for those who roll that way.
Profile Image for Lena.
Author 2 books337 followers
July 15, 2014
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 doesn't matter how much you believe in your company when your market has crashed, your funding is disappearing and your employees are revolting. The key to really being a successful entrepreneur has less to do with your vision and more to do with your ability to make good decisions when there are nothing but bad and worse options to choose from.

Horowitz' personal stories were the most interesting part of the book; particularly gripping was his tale about desperately trying to raise money right after the NASDAQ crash when his company was on the verge of bankruptcy and his wife was undergoing a major health crisis. He is incredibly honest as he talks about the sheer terror, the sleepless nights, the nausea and the incredible emotional toll trying to right a failing ship takes on the entrepreneurial soul.

In the middle section of the book, he offers more specific advice drawn from things he has learned over the years, including an interesting discussion on the difference between hiring for strength instead of for lack of weakness. Much of this section won't be useful for people outside the tech industry, however, as I don't think issues like how to handle job applications from people who work for your other CEO friends are likely to apply outside the small world of Silicon Valley. A lot of his advice also applies to people who are running companies with hundreds if not thousands of employees.

Despite not being in that world, however, I still found this book a useful read. Given how grueling starting and running a company is, it's helpful to get signposts from someone who has been through as much as Horowitz has.
Profile Image for Josh Steimle.
Author 3 books199 followers
March 15, 2015
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 book has definitely made it into my "top 10 books all entrepreneurs must read" list. I only give five stars to books I believe everyone should read. This book isn't a must-read for everyone, but if you're an entrepreneur it has five stars for you.

Update March, 2015. I've read it three times. Starting on the fourth time. Yes, it's that good and useful.

Update March, 2015. Four times. Every time I read it I learn several new things that are directly applicable to my business, right now.
Profile Image for Mario Tomic.
159 reviews301 followers
June 3, 2020
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.
Profile Image for WhatIReallyRead.
671 reviews489 followers
January 7, 2019
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 billion dollars.

He knows what it's like. He names and addresses the really tough questions which most of the books ignore.

How do you demote a friend? How do you lay off great people because money is scarce without making all the other employees run? How do you promote and give raises in a way that inspires people rather than motivates politics? What do you do with a genius expert who is a bad employee? Etc. etc. etc.

He doesn't sugar-coat the fact that you'll probably have incomplete information, may lack competency and feel terrified while making difficult and important decisions. But you still have to make them. There are no easy answers - that's the hard thing about hard things. But Horowitz offers the best he can - his own experience, things to consider, some techniques and their consequences.

Some of these issues hit close to home and made me emotional while reading.

He is honest. It felt very refreshing to read an author who tells is it like it is, without pretending he knows everything and can sell you a pill for every maladie.

The book has some great advice and things to think about.
Profile Image for Abolfazl Fattahi.
61 reviews9 followers
October 7, 2017
چند وقت پیش که به دیدن یکی از دوستانم رفته بودم این کتاب رو بهم داد و گفت حتما بخونش، اون زمان خیلی حال و حوصله خوندن کتاب نداشتم ولی چند روز پیش تصمیم گرفتم بخونمش، کتاب سختی کارهای سخت نوشته بن هاروویتز و ترجمه سعید قدوسی نژاد توسط انتشارات آریانا قلم به بدترین شکل ممکن به چاپ رسیده البته نظر من هست. نمی دونم چرا از طراحی جلد کتاب اصلی استفاده نکردن و اصلا نمی دونم انگیزه طراح این کتاب به این سبک چی بوده، حجم ��تاب کم نیست و برای من که راه میرم خیلی باعث اذیت شدن مچ دست ها می شه، به جز مشکلات این چنینی محتوای کتاب واقعا به نظرم خوب و کاربردی هست، خوندش دید خیلی خوبی به آدم میده.

از ویژگی های خوب کتاب این بود که یک مدیرعامل واقعی که چندین کسب و کار نوپا را به کسب و کارهای میلیارد دلاری تبدیل کرده بود نوشته نه کسانی که مشاور کسب و کارها بودن و هیچ کدوم از فشارها و سختی های مدیریت شرکت را هیچ وقت تجربه نکردند، وقتی صاحب کسب و کاری باشید و این کتاب رو بخونید خیلی از جاهاش احساس می کنید دقیقا الان در همون موقعیت هستید و راهکارهای ایشون فوق العاده است برای کسب و کارتون، این کتاب اصلا تحقیقاتی یا نظریه پردازی نیست، برگرفته از تجربیات شخصی یک مدیرعامل در فراز و نشیب های اداره کسب و کار از نقطه شروع تا زمانی که ارزش اون به چند میلیارد دلار میرسه، به نظرم وقت بزارید و حتما این کتاب رو بخونید، ببخشید اگر من حوصله ندارم بیشتر درباره کتاب ها بنویسم چون راستش این روزها به شدت درگیر کار هستم و نمی تونم ذهنم رو متمرکز کنم برای نوشتن مطلب، این چند خط هم می نویسم که بگم این کتاب ارزش خوندن داره، حتما بخونید.
Profile Image for Christopher Lewis Kozoriz.
825 reviews262 followers
September 8, 2019
"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 and coming technology companies. Previously, he was a project manager at Netscape and has been in the silicone valley landscape his whole life.

This book shares his struggles and successes as CEO of Opsware, and how he founded his venture capital firm with his partner Marc Andreessen, who is also a billionaire.

There were instructions on how to hire the right CEO, how to find the right employees, if you should keep or sell your company, how to handle performance management, dealing with shareholders...

Basically, he built a technology company and sold it for a billion dollars and now does venture capitalism. The trend I am seeing in reading billionaire books is that they build a company of value, take it public, generate millions and sometimes billions of dollars, sell it for millions or billions and then take life a little more easy and become an authority on business. This is the same story repeated here.
Profile Image for Matthew Jordan.
71 reviews48 followers
February 21, 2022
I have worked in proximity to startups for the last year, but have never created one, nor do I ever plan to. But I figured it might be useful to read at least one canonical book on how startups work, to gain a better understanding of the industry I work with.

I don’t really know what to say about this book. I think startup CEOs would probably enjoy it. It contains valuable advice about the emotional experience of running a company. Starting a company is very, very hard, and part of what makes it so hard is that any playbook is incomplete. If you’re doing something genuinely innovative and boundary-pushing, there cannot be a playbook for it. You’re gonna have to make extremely difficult and emotionally taxing decisions. That’s the hard thing about hard things.

I enjoyed the portion on how to respectfully fire someone. There is a great deal of overlap between firing an employee and breaking up with a partner. Be direct. Take accountability. Explain yourself. Do it face-to-face with minimal drama.

My biggest gripe is not about the book itself, it’s about the culture of the tech industry, which Ben Horowitz embodies: the central metaphor for startups is war. In the book he talks about “the battle against Microsoft”, “knucling up to go to war”, “Peacetime vs. Wartime CEOs”, and lots of adversarial football metaphors for describing what it’s like to scale a company. This is not good. Why are we doing this? I like companies. I think innovation and technology are a very good thing. But are we really supposed to believe that the best way to spur innovation & technology is to make everyone working in this industry feel like they are in a constant battle against their corporate adversaries, rather than a noble quest of mutually enforcing support towards a brighter future?? I realize this sentiment is extremely naive. But a guy can dream. We need better metaphors ASAP. (One encouraging early sign: venture capitalist Paige Doherty recently wrote a VC guide for children called “Seeds to Harvest”. Growing a garden! That’s nice. [Unclear how I feel about teaching children about venture capital, but that’s another story.])

I also feel there must be PhD theses about warlike language in business writing. I would like to read a systematic study on the topic. It also reminds me of Julia Galef’s book The Scout Mindset, where she talks about the bellicose language used to describe beliefs and changing one’s mind (e.g. “knockdown argument”). Surely the fundamental problem here must be that these industries are overrun with men and war is a guy thing. It is time for a feminist revolution in business whose primary target is war metaphors. I am dead serious about this.

More than anything else, the book taught me about the mindset that is required to be a successful entrepreneur. It doesn’t really pay to worry about whether your company is going to make positive material contributions to the actual world and improve people’s lives. There is zero incentive to think about this every day. There is incentive to think about your brand, your revenue, your investors, and your employees. When Horowitz talks about his companies, he never talks about the people actually using the software—heck, he never talks about why he cares about or believes in software as a force for good. I don’t think this is a bad thing. It’s honest. It’s more honest to say “I’m doing this because I want to lead and I want to win” than it is to pretend you’re making a moral contribution.

On reflection, there are two things I don’t like: (1) People inventing moral reasons to start companies when in fact they just like being entrepreneurs and want to start companies, and (2) The fact that ultra-successful companies really have no reason to think about the common good and the fabric of a healthy society. Ben Horowitz does not do the former, but he is a good case study of the latter. I don’t even know how to think about his companies, morally. I have no way of knowing. It never seems to cross his mind.
Profile Image for Jefi Sevilay.
571 reviews50 followers
May 27, 2020
Kişisel gelişim ve işletme kitaplarından hiç haz etmememin en büyük sebebi büyük çoğunluğunun "Altın Yumurtlamanın 10 Kuralı", "Hayır Diyebilmenin 5 Yolu", "8 Adımda Satış" gibi "bullet"lara sığınmalarıdır. Onun yerine anılar ve yaşam hikayelerini çok daha severim. Her satırın altını çizmeme gerek yok, sen anlat, ben içinden alacağımı alırım.

Zor Şeyler Hakkında Her Şey de Ben Horowitz'in kendi deneyimleriyle başladı ama çok hızlı bir şekilde yine madde madde tavsiyelere döndü. Bu arada iyi kötü önemli insanları takip ederim ama Ben Horowitz'i hiç duymamıştım. Bunun bir nedeni de sadece iki girişimde yer aldıktan sonra kendi VC şirketini kurmuş olması. Büyük başarı, çıkışını 1.6 milyar dolara yapmış. Ancak açıkçası sadece iki örnek ve üç karakter üzerinden tavsiyelerini madde madde anlatması çoğunlukla bana birşey katmadı.

Belli ki Ben Horowitz sıkı bir rap hayranı ve her bölümün başlangıcında rap şarkılarından alıntılar var. Mesela bir bölüm şöyle başlıyor "Mahalle! Duyduk duymadık deme. Nas Efendi bu işi anlamıştır". Bir diğeri "Bu bir şaka değil dostlar. Eğer gerçek bir siyahi iseniz o zaman benimle dans edin". Pardon da bu kitapla ne alaka?

Eğer gerçekten vaktinizin karşılığını verecek, değerli bir işletme/biyografi kitabı arıyorsanız aşağıdaki kitapları tavsiye ederim.

Onward: Starbucks Ruhunu Kaybetmeden Nasıl Yaşam Savaşı Verdi
Steve Jobs
Aradığın Her Şey: Jeff Bezos ve Amazon Çağı
Alibaba: Jack Ma'nın Evi
Ayakkabı Gurusu: NIKE'nin Yaratıcısının Yaşam Öyküsü

Herkese keyifli okumalar
Profile Image for Ostap Andrusiv.
51 reviews19 followers
January 6, 2019
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 створеній 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 чином.
Висновок: 5. Горовіц шик��рну книжку написав. Цікаво, що вони разом з Марком напишуть через кілька років про a16z.
Profile Image for Ahmad hosseini.
268 reviews65 followers
July 16, 2019
دردسرهای مدیر عامل بودن یا کابوس های شبانه یک مدیر عامل نیز می توانند عناوین مناسبی برای این کتاب باشند!
موضوع این کتاب چالش ها و مشکلاتی است که یک مدیرعامل ممکن است با آنها مواجه شود. کتاب در واقع زندگی کاری بن هاروویتز یکی از شناخته شده ترین و محبوب ترین کارآفرینان سیلیکون ولی است. او در این کتاب به داستان خودش از بنیان گذاری، اداره کردن، فروش، خرید، مدیریت و سرمایه گذاری در شرکت های فناور اشاره می کند و برای هر یک از چالش ها و مشکلات مطرح شده نیز راهکارهایی را ارائه داده است.
به نظرم راهکارهای ارائه شده فقط راهکار هستند و ارزش آنها زمانی مشخص می شود که بتوانیم آنها را به کار بندیم و نتیجه درست بگیریم.
Profile Image for Bülent Duagi.
84 reviews16 followers
May 21, 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.
7 reviews
October 24, 2018
اگرچه دانستن الزاماً به اقدام منجر نمی‌شود، ولی ای کاش این کتاب رو ده سال پیش خوانده بودم
July 17, 2019
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 interested in creating their own business. Also a good read for people who are working on forming their character"

Some quotes:

"By far the most difficult skill I learned as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring, and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared with keeping my mind in check. I thought I was tough going into it, but I wasn’t tough. I was soft."

"I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward? What is the difference between being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel" - CUS D'AMATO, LEGENDARY BOXING TRAINER

"COURAGE, LIKE CHARACTER, CAN BE DEVELOPED In all the difficult decisions that I made through the course of running Loudcloud and Opsware, I never once felt brave. In fact, I often felt scared to death. I never lost those feelings, but after much practice I learned to ignore them. That learning process might also be called the courage development process. In life, everybody faces choices between doing what’s popular, easy, and wrong versus doing what’s lonely, difficult, and right. ... Every time you make the hard, correct decision you become a bit more courageous and every time you make the easy, wrong decision you become a bit more cowardly"

"Until you make the effort to get to know someone or something, you don’t know anything. There are no shortcuts to knowledge, especially knowledge gained from personal experience. Following conventional wisdom and relying on shortcuts can be worse than knowing nothing at all"

"My old boss Jim Barksdale was fond of saying, “We take care of the people, the products, and the profits—in that order.” It’s a simple saying, but it’s deep. “Taking care of the people” is the most difficult of the three by far and if you don’t do it, the other two won’t matter. Taking care of the people means that your company is a good place to work."

"Now that we’d improved our competitive position, we went on the offensive. In my weekly staff meeting, I inserted an agenda item titled “What Are We Not Doing?” Ordinarily in a staff meeting, you spend lots of time reviewing, evaluating, and improving all of the things that you do: build products, sell products, support customers, hire employees, and the like. Sometimes, however, the things you’re not doing are the things you should actually be focused on."

"Startup CEOs should not play the odds. When you are building a company, you must believe there is an answer and you cannot pay attention to your odds of finding it. You just have to find it. It matters not whether your chances are nine in ten or one in a thousand; your task is the same."

"Every really good, really experienced CEO I know shares one important characteristic: They tend to opt for the hard answer to organizational issues. If faced with giving everyone the same bonus to make things easy or with sharply rewarding performance and ruffling many feathers, they’ll ruffle the feathers. If given the choice of cutting a popular project today, because it’s not in the long-term plans or you’re keeping it around for morale purposes and to appear consistent, they'll cut it today. Why? Because they've paid the price of management debt, and they would rather not do that again"

"To make matters more complicated, my second daughter, Mariah, had been diagnosed with autism, which made working at a startup a terrible burden for our family, as I needed to spend more time at home. One very hot day my father came over for a visit. We could not afford air-conditioning, and all three children were crying as my father and I sat there sweating in the 105-degree heat. My father turned to me and said, “Son, do you know what’s cheap?” Since I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, I replied, “No, what?” “Flowers. Flowers are really cheap. But do you know what’s expensive?” he asked. Again, I replied, “No, what?” He said, “Divorce.” Something about that joke, which was not really a joke, made me realize that I had run out of time. Up until that point, I had not really made any serious choices. I felt like I had unlimited bandwidth and could do everything in life that I wanted to do simultaneously. But his joke made it suddenly clear that by continuing on the course I was on, I might lose my family. By doing everything, I would fail at the most important thing. It was the first time that I forced myself to look at the world through priorities that were not purely my own. I thought that I could pursue my career, all my interests, and build my family. More important, I always thought about myself first. When you are part of a family or part of a group, that kind of thinking can get you into trouble, and I was in deep trouble. In my mind, I was confident that I was a good person and not selfish, but my actions said otherwise. I had to stop being a boy and become a man. I had to put first things first. I had to consider the people who I cared about most before considering myself."

"During acquisition talks, both sides had agreed that Tangram’s CFO, John Nelli, would not become part of Opsware. But during the time between signing and close, John began to get severe headaches. His doctors discovered that he had brain cancer. Because he would not be an Opsware employee and it was a preexisting condition, he would not be eligible for health insurance under our plan. The cost of the treatment without health insurance would likely bankrupt his family. I asked my head of HR what it would cost to keep him on the payroll long enough to qualify for COBRA and what COBRA would cost. It wasn’t cheap—about $200,000. This was a significant amount of money for a company in our situation. On top of that, we barely knew John and technically we didn’t “owe” him anything. This wasn’t our problem. We were fighting for our lives. We were fighting for our lives, but he was about to lose his. I decided to pay for his health costs and find the money elsewhere in the budget. I never expected to hear anything else about that decision, but fifteen months later I received a handwritten letter from John’s wife letting me know that John had died. She wrote that she was absolutely shocked that I would help a total stranger and his family and that I had saved her from total despair. She went on for several paragraphs saying that she didn’t know why I did it, but it enabled her to continue living and she was eternally grateful. I guess I did it because I knew what desperation felt like."
Profile Image for Maciej Nowicki.
74 reviews50 followers
December 6, 2019
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 company was founded in 1999 and soon after it quickly grew to hundreds of employees and millions in revenue along with other Internet-based companies which peaked in value until March 2000. Then the burst of the bubble happened, also known as the dot-com crash and many online shopping companies and communication companies have evaporated from the market. Cisco, for instance, declined by 86% from around $80 to $15. In order to survive, he went to IPO, transformed the company into Opsware, an enterprise software company and finally sold to Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in cash.

Anyway, it is not a book about the dot-com bubble but, in my opinion, about the difference between being a leader and an CEO in the period of prosperity and during the financial crisis. It might be also comparable to being a CEO of the top company in your industry versus running the company which is 20th in everything. There are a lot of books talking about peacetime, about being nice to people, having great goals, credos etc. There are also some books about wartime, nevertheless, there are almost no studies which addresses the duality which might occur. So as the book says the methods are completely different, in peacetime you have to be idealistic, paying attention to every, to be super nice to your employees, never curse or anything like that. As a wartime CEO, you have to curse on purpose to emphasize your point. Of course, it doesn’t mean that during wartime you have to be a jerk. You always have to understand the importance of creating a good work environment in a company and taking care of the people to ensure the team works effectively and efficiently towards the company’s goals. In both cases, you have to be a great problem solver, as well as, a quality-oriented manager. Nevertheless, the delivery, the timing and your behaviour have to be different.

I really liked one of his stories when he, as an inexperienced wartime CEO, tried to pretend that everything is ok. He thought he had to be positive and suddenly, one day, he found out that his employees knew things were bad and a couple of them asked him why does he always have to keep pretending everything is perfect. They were not kids, they understood the situation. Here Horowitz wrote a lot about the most difficult skill for a CEO which is the ability to manage your own psychology.

Last but not least, the book also talks a bit about how difficult it is to set a company without a real business connections in your circle and without experience in...(if you like to read my full review please visit my blog https://leadersarereaders.blog/the-ha...)
Profile Image for Sebastian Gebski.
933 reviews799 followers
March 12, 2016
One of the best things I've read this year.

In theory, it's a book about being a CEO. Based on actual experience, filled with real-life stories, far away from being dry & theoretical. But in fact it's much more than that - it's a book about enterpreneurship, with a focus on leading a company. And ... it's awesome. Brutally straightforward, packed with interesting insights, "it's over" moments, hints about the most challenging moments authors has experienced (& any other CEO can experience). It would be naive to treat it as a guide that will prepare you for being a CEO (nothing will ...), but it's definitely worth reading.

What did I like most?
* large vs small company specifics comparison (from exec's perspective)
* politics chapter was very good
* profanity story was actually interesting, I didn't give it much thought until now

What didn't I like?
* rap / hip-hop quotes ... I'm not getting these seriously
Profile Image for Ethan.
87 reviews5 followers
July 24, 2016
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 new. It also suffers from blog collection syndrome, meaning the structure of discrete essays precludes much of a continuous line and results in some distracting repetition. Also some unintended cut-and-paste ephemera (e.g., a reference to "the commenter above").

Still, downright excellent overall and I suspect massively helpful to any founding CEO of a software company.
Profile Image for Matt Kurleto.
7 reviews54 followers
February 4, 2017
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 see a huge improvement of both business and personal life.
I wish I had read this book 2 years earlier. I recommend it to anyone who has entered fast growth. I hit the glass roof before adopting - you don't have to and this book can help you prepare.
Profile Image for Anshu.
15 reviews1 follower
October 11, 2017
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 journies, his investment journies and the struggle that the funded startups faced.

Good learnings though. I had to skip few pages just after glancing those.
Profile Image for Sadra Aliabadi.
45 reviews73 followers
April 18, 2019
اولین کتابی بود که سال ۹۸ خوندم.
هرکتابی که تعارف رو کنار گذاشته باشه و تجربه شخصی رو تعریف کنه تو حوزه مدیریت برام جالبه و خب این کتاب هم شهرت خودش اونقدری هست که من نخوام تعریفش کنم. فصل نه بهترین فصل کتاب بود اونجایی که به چالشهای شخصی کارآفرین پرداخته بود. چرا که خب خیلی کم در این مورد حرف زده میشه، همون چیزی بود که انتظار داشتم. به رفرنس هایی که به جاهای دیگه میده هم بی توجه نباشید. طلا تو بعضی هاش هست. همین

یه چیز کوچولویی هم با الهام از کتاب نوشتم. ریویو نیست اما میشه خوندش:)

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