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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  33,748 ratings  ·  1,920 reviews

Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley's most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup—practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular ben’s blog.

While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are ho

Kindle Edition, 308 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 (
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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4.23  · 
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 ·  33,748 ratings  ·  1,920 reviews

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Arjun Narayan
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Chris Johnson
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Eric Lin
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
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, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Patrick Brown
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Angie Boyter
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
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ove
Josh Steimle
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 29, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Ostap Andrusiv
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Abolfazl Fattahi
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 کتاب کم نیست و برای من که راه میرم خیلی باعث اذیت شدن مچ دست ها می شه، به جز مشکلات ا ...more
Bülent Duagi
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ali Sattari
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, startup
AKA: bullshit-free insights on management and leadership.
Matt Kurleto
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan Antonin Kolar
No bullshit book about firing people you love and a surviving guide for the worst possible scenario in a company.
Athan Tolis
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bhumil Haria
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you're looking at starting a business, this is a good reality check of things you're likely to face. Highly recommended.
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
Ahmad Moshrif
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
6 stars. Even 10 stars. This is the best business book I've ever read. Hands down. Just like building a company, its gritty. It's a book about the hard things.

I think part of the reason I loved this book so much is because it struck an emotional cord. I've been through those sleepless nights, lived through months of those pit in the gut, sick, 'I think I might vomit' feelings. During certain chapters I got chills. For a moment, the hair on my back and arms raised. I felt that humbling, pit in m
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jon Fish
Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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what recommendations would you make about this book? 1 9 Apr 02, 2018 07:23AM  
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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
“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.” 48 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.” 28 likes
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