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What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture
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What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture

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4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,695 ratings  ·  359 reviews
Ben Horowitz, a leading venture capitalist, modern management expert, and New York Times bestselling author, combines lessons both from history and from modern organizational practice with practical and often surprising advice to help executives build cultures that can weather both good and bad times.

Ben Horowitz has long been fascinated by history, and particularly by ho
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by Harper Business
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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Julia Gaffield
Nov 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Lessons in Leadership Conservatism

In What You Do Is Who You Are, venture-capitalist and NYT best-selling author, Ben Horowitz, turns to history to teach CEOs and business leaders how they can shape and change the cultures of their companies. His first of four models is Toussaint Louverture, a military and political leader in the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804).

In the eighteenth century, sugar took over the economy of the western hemisphere and the heart of this exploitative system was France’s C
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Frank Chen
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've worked in Ben Horowitz designed cultures for decades (Netscape, Loudcloud, Opsware, Andreessen Horowitz). So it was fun & fascinating to go behind-the-scenes to understand his detailed thinking behind some of the decisions he made. Like "Hard Things About Hard Things", this book is practical and philosophical at the same time.

Culture is hard to design, it takes constant work to design and reinforce, it's subtle, it needs to be refreshed constantly. It's also often overlooked as startup CEO
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Kair Käsper
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: starting-up
After The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, this book was a disappointment. Here’s a few reasons:

First - a large portion of this book could have been written by anyone. For reasons unclear, Horowitz brings examples mostly not from his own experience, but from history. Let’s remind ourselves that Horowitz is not a historian and it feels a lot like he has interpreted the stories, characters and their decisions to fit the points he’s trying to make.

L
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Carl Rannaberg
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
It was not as good as a book as Hard Things About Hard Things. But it reminded about many principles of how to create a culture in an organization. For example, your culture is what you tolerate. When you tolerate repeated bad behavior then you can expect it happening more often and spread all over you organization.
Also, your culture is how your actions are interpreted, not what your intentions are. This makes a good point about thinking about how your actions are percieved and not what you are
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Greg Bae
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, bae-ovation
In short summary: What you say means far less than what you do. Culture begins with deciding what you value most. Then you must help everyone in your organization to get there. Creating culture is being a leader.

Ben Horowitz writes in an interesting style that is engaging and broad in its examinations of various unexpected sources of culture cultures, like bushido samurai and Haitian slave rebellion. The Shaka Senghor chapter was so good, especially with the Audible narrator.

At times I forgot th
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Philip Joubert
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've read dozens of management books and Ben Horowitz's latest book is unique among them. He writes in a real, no-bullshit way about the messy real-life situations that nobody else talks about. As an entrepreneur reading this book I felt both deeply understood by him and challenged in a profound way.

Ben leads with examples far removed from the tech world, using Toussaint L'Ouverture (Haitian Revolution), Genghis Khan, Shaka Senghor (prison gang leader) and the Sumurai. The decision to use those
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Jacek Bartczak
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I don't how people behave in this company" - if you have ever said that it means that book is for you. I've never had a pleasure to meet such tangible content about the company's culture.

I guess there are CEOs / managers who won't like it - books included many suggestions about how a leader's actions and consequence determine how employees approach to the company look like.

"The hard thing..." was more spectacular, but that book is still a must-read for anyone who cares how his teammates behave
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Lori
Nov 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
What a mess. What a waste of time. He berated Hillary Clinton for taking responsibility for things that weren’t enticing her control and lauds Mary Barra, who spent 38 years in multiple departments but had no idea people died for over ten years due to a Design defect, threw a few engineers under the bus and got millions, for her dress code. Praises managers who fire good workers for giving them good references. Genghis Khan?
This book is full of messed up ideas and it’s horrifying to know that e
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Faye Zheng
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it
(Read for book club at work)
Trade-offs: On the one hand, Horowitz is not a historian and the way he chose to structure the book was bizarre. On the other, there were enough good nuggets of food for thought (scattered throughout but mostly in last 3 chapters) that it made for a healthy book club discussion with colleagues.
Sebastian Gebski
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I respect BH as a very smart person with incredible experience. Even people who have so much to share don't have to be great in sharing - fortunately BH is. I don't like his interviews, I find some of his references (especially hip-hop song citations) annoying, but in the end - both his books ("The hard things ..." & "What you do ...") are absolutely stellar - I can only recommend them.

"What you do ..." is a book about culture. Defining it (up to the level it's possible ...), cultivating it, thr
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Sven Kirsimäe
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: at-audible
A must-read for anyone interested in how company or group cultures are created. Nice set of examples, easy read/listen.

Long story short: list of values or listing values does not create culture. What happens and what is done, especially when you're outside of the room, is the culture and that is mostly build based on "leading by example" not by the wishful thinking and promotion of "these are our values" lists.

For example, if we ask people to stay focused in the meetings and fail ourselves it mi
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Jaana
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had a feeling that I would like the book and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the fact that it wasn’t just thoughts and experiences from the author but it was backed and illustrated with historical stories and facts about what culture is and how it impacts where the group with the culture gets to.

The book definitely made me think about our company’s values, what works, what doesn’t, why and how really good values look like.

One thing I hadn’t thought about before is the idea that company values
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M. Nasiri
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A journey through "culture", from ancient to modern.
فرهنگ سازمانی
Never underestimate the importance of a business’s culture. Examples past and present show that culture should be much more than just a list of values pinned to the wall: it should be a set of virtues that underpins everything your business does. That’s because it’s our actions – what we do, not what we say or feel – that define who we are.
Andrea Carlevato
Jul 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-learning
Worth reading but below expectations.
Michał Korba
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book about building Culture in your Organization.
Maciek Wilczyński
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This time, Ben Horowitz aimed to explain company culture. Again, his thoughts are crystal clear and profound as they're based on his experience, rather than scientific research. I buy it.
His book is written in a very specific, yet interesting format. There is a visible storytelling approach:
1) Do you know the story about "some known, yet not common knowledge historical fact"?
2) Here is what happened in this story!
3) There is more! We can learn something from it
4) Case study of XX/XXI century
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Alexandra
Aug 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This is the most in depth book about culture I've found. But it's not as good as his other book. I do like the thesis: culture is actions not beliefs so you have to keep readjusting.

"One difficult in enforcing integrity is that it's a concept without boundaries. You can't pat yourself on the back for treating your employees ethically if you're simultaneously lying to your customers because your employees will pick up on the discrepancy and start lying to each other. The behaviors must be univers
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Tõnu Vahtra
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
The good thing about this book are the direct intriguing questions that Horowitz makes you ask, in that matter the book is similar to his other book The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

Moving forward: "If you cannot get a decision from lower levels come directly to me and I'll promise to get back to you within a week" ->things immediately started moving in the organization.

“I hear you and, quite frankly, I agree with you, but I was overruled by the powers that be.” This is absolutely toxic to the
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Jonathan Lu
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Worthy followup to "the hard thing about hard things" that still is one of the 5 best leadership books I've ever read. Where Ben Horowitz dug deeply into the challenge of management, leadership, and decision making in his last book, he digs deeply into what comprises a company culture in this one. Featuring examples of Touissant Louverture converting slave culture to military culture in the only successful slave revolt; Samurai Bushido culture and its lasting impact on Japanese culture across 10 ...more
Bailey L.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this book quite a bit, in the same sort of way I liked his first book. It has a lot in it that is helpful regardless of what kind of company you are in, but some of his material is really specific only to SV or tech companies.
Stories about specific values statements helped me to understand better what it looks like to be clear about what the culture is as a leader. The story below is one such example from the book:
'So he came up with a pithy axiom: “If you cannot see your car from your
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Roger Grobler
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliantly practical

It is very hard to write about culture. There are many ways of achieving the same thing, and many very different cultures that will work, depending on the leader and the people inside the business. So to write about culture generally is very hard, but Ben brilliantly achieved this.

It is sometimes dangerous to retrospectively fit a story to the past to make it seem plausible. Narrative fallacy is the technical term for it. Ben does use stories to illustrates principles, and
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Angad Singh
Apr 07, 2020 rated it liked it
This book could have been a blog post and did not need all the long-winded examples that Ben was trying to use to get the message across.
I picked this up because Ben's first book was a gem.

I am usually cautious of such books which try and deliver a message by focusing 80% of the time on examples (and over-glorifying the person or company in the example). Additionally, some of the statements and messages were over-simplifications, while attributing success to "one" reason.
Regardless, there were s
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Srirang Ranjalkar
Nov 21, 2019 rated it liked it
What you do is who you are is a nice book about creating a winning culture. However, in chapters 4, 5 & 6 Ben focuses more on the lives of Shaka Senghor and Genghis Khan than on the core subject - how to create your business culture. I picked up the book to read about how cultures of different companies evolved and what decisions helped them build that culture, not to know about the lives of Shaka Senghor and Genghis Khan. Their lives may be exceptional, no doubt about it. But having read Ben's ...more
Andrew Tollemache
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really strong follow up by Horowitz to his 2014 book, "The Hard ThingAbout Hard Things" in which he tries to explain how companies can build the ever desireable "strong culture" by using a series of historical analogies such as Toussaint Overture, Genghis Khan and Shaka Sendor (prison gang leader).
Horowitz does a great job using these historical examples coupled with modern business case studies to illustrate his points. He also couples this analysis with a strong emphasis that quality corpo
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Vinayak Hegde
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: business, ebook, startups
Let me start my review by saying that this book is not like "The hard thing about hard things". So it felt quite disappointing. Maybe my expectations were quite high. The book looks at historical figures and then analyses how they fostered cultures. I felt that most of the examples that were taken were from people from violent or military backgrounds whether it was the prison inmate gang leader Shaka Senghor or Genghis Khan or Japan's military elite - the Samurai or Haiti's slave rebellion. I th ...more
Roshni Bhattacharya
If you feel stuck in your life career wise and wonder how to improve your surroundings, this is definitely your pick. One might not agree with all that is being said in this, BUT you'll have to stop for a while to admit how Ben took examples from ancient history and made them relevant in the present world. Adopting a samurai's culture probably would help you survive your team at your tech start-up. It is all up to you. He uses the examples of Genghis Khan and Louverture and Shaka Senghor as well ...more
Nick
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stefan Bruun
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: business
Having read The Hars Thing About Hard Things multiple times, I had such high hopes for this book.i must say I was disappointed.

The book is much more descriptive than prescriptive and action oriented (as I would have expected from an entrepreneur and VC). Also, it is close to become a cliche of a classic "airport business book" in its use of examples from historical figures.

Disappointed. This could have been so much better and useful.
Gabit
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What you read is what you do, and what you do is who you are. Therefore, it is important to approach this book carefully so that it can have a positive influence on you and your company. Implementing some of these lessons without the requisite level of experience and maturity can go bad. No need to blindly follow what the book prescribes. What it does prescribe, however, is a great recipe for sustainable and successful partnership and leadership. Highly recommended.
Fiona
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
Great inspiration for how to build culture. Without being prescriptive, Ben Horowitz talks through historical and recent examples of how armies, empires and global companies achieved big goals because of cultural strengths and how cultural flaws have broken many a mission by not being amended soon enough.
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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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