Willian Molinari's Reviews > The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
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really liked it
bookshelves: audio, non-fiction, doist

It's a good book overall, especially if you are (or want to be) a CEO. Some (many?) ideas are not aligned with the way I would manage my own company, but there are many useful insights into hairy situations one may be faced during his CEO time.

Sometimes the author contradicts himself, IMO. The difference between wartime and peacetime seems like being a jerk and being someone I would follow.

The description of good and bad product managers was the best part of the book, IMO. I saw some product managers failing miserably in the course of my career, and it was exactly what he described.

Here are my notes for this book. I added some personal comment after double dashes:

* The hard thing about hard things is that we don't have the formula to solve them
* Don't attach yourself to first impressions. People are usually more than they look
* The best thing about startups is that you only feel two kinds of emotions: euphoria and terror
* You need two types of friends: one that will be very happy for you when you succeed. Truly excited as if it was happening to him. The second one is a friend who you can call if things go terribly wrong
* "I was so absorbed into work that I forgot what really matters". -- her wife stopped breathing because of wrong medicines and almost died. He knew that 1 day after it happened
* If you are going to eat shit, don't nibble
* "I will not receive a recommendation from people who don't know the whole picture" about the employees who made a presentation against the "new project". "Did I asked for this presentation?"
* Sloppiness will not be tolerated
* It's good to ask yourself: Why am I not doing it?
* Startup CEOs should not play the odds.
* "I don't believe in statistics, I believe in calculus" -- pfff
* The first principle of the Bushido: keep death in mind
* When your dreams start to become a nightmare, you find yourself in 'the struggle". The struggle is when you ask why you started this when people ask why you don't quit when you believe you shouldn't be the CEO of your company when you go on vacation to feel better and feel worse
* Share the burden whenever you can. Noone will feel it weightier than you, that are responsible
* Let people know the problems of the company so they can fix it. It doesn't matter how good is your team, they can't solve a problem they don't know about. Let the information flow in both ways inside the company.f
* Layoff correctly. Admit your fault in the layoff. Don't try to use it as an excuse, saying that you can use it for the better. Show them (lay-off employees) you care.
* How do I win with such misfortunes? Nobody cares, just run your company
* Mark's opinion: doesn't look like a head of sales, went to a weak school. -- LOL
* He wasn't an easy cultural fit, but he is a genius. -- LOLOL
* Take care of people first -- dafuq, he just said that he hired a guy who wasn't a cultural fit and his team was not very comfortable with the guy. "In war times, I need a general"
* Why people usually leave: because they hate their manager or because they were not learning anything
* Good project managers know the market, the product, the product line, and the competition extremely well, and operate with a strong balance of knowledge and competence. A good product manager is the CEO of the product. Good product managers take full responsibility. They measure themselves by the success of the product. A good product manager knows the context going in and take responsibility for implementing a winning plan.
* Bad product managers have lots of excuses: Not enough funding, the engineering manager is an idiot, I'm overworked, Microsoft has more engineers working on it. I don't have enough direction. A CEO doesn't make that kind of excuses and neither should a CEO of a product.
* Good product managers are not part of the product team, they manage the product team.
* Engineering teams don't consider the product manager as part of the marketing team. Good product managers are the marketing counterpart of the engineering manager.
* Good product managers define the what instead of the how of a product.
* Good product managers don't give informal directions, they write FAQ, white papers, and other documents that can be used by the sales team.
* Bad product managers voice their ideas loudly but say that "powers that be won't let it happen". Once bad product managers fail, they point out that they predicted it would fail.
* Good product managers focus the team in revenue and customers. Bad product managers focus the team on how many features the competitors are building.
* Good product managers send their status report on time because they are well organized. Bad product managers forget to send their status report because they don't value discipline.
* To hire an employee from a friend's company, always ask the candidate to talk to your friend first. * If the candidate doesn't feel comfortable with that z end the process.
* Schedule meetings where the new executive can ask as many questions as he needs. If he doesn't have any questions in the first days, consider firing him.
* Management debt: Don't overcompensate employees because they have a better offer. Other people will find out that the best way to get a raise is by getting an offer
* Bad feedback generates crappy performance
* Do your employees believe in the mission of the company?
* Minimize politics
* Hire people with the right kind of ambition. The ones who want the company to grow and grow with it. Avoid people who only consider his/her personal success
* After any promotion, everyone in that sector will judge if it was by merit or politics. Depending on that judgment, they may feel undervalued, go against the promoted person, or try to copy the political behavior. You must have a formal, visible, and defendable process of promotion to avoid this behavior on the other employees.
* Hire people who describe themselves as part of a team, more we than I.
* The Peter principle: someone will be promoted until it's competent for the role. This person will stay in the role he is not competent for.
* The law of crappy people: people on other levels will benchmark themselves to the crappiest people in the next level, so they can demand a promotion as soon as they reach that level
* When defining levels of careers for promotions, be very specific about the competencies. Avoid terms like: "Should be very competent in business". If possible, use names of great people of the market as benchmarks.
* Why to hire senior people: you buy time for your company, and time is an important resource for startups.
* Think about your needs. Do you need internal knowledge or external knowledge? Sometimes it worth promoting an employee who has a lot of knowledge on your codebase for a role that needs it
* 1-1 are employees meeting, not managers meeting
* The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company
* The difference between a hero and a coward is just what they do. The hero is more disciplined, and he does what he has to do, but both feel the same.
* Wartime CEO is the one you don't want to work with. Basically, he is a workaholic stressed guy (because of pressing times and the chance of a broken company)
* Peacetime CEO works to have a more creative environment and grow with new ideas.
* Sometimes you need to go to war
* If you want to fire someone, fire this person. Do not prepare her to get fired, prepare her to succeed.
* If you have negative feedback, just say it and suggest improvements. Don't try to start with "It's good but..."
* Accountability versus creativity paradox.
* Assume people have good intentions until proved otherwise
* Accountability for effort. If people are not giving enough effort, this needs to be checked
* Accountability for promises. Make a commitment keep a commitment. You have to weight accountability for promises: a promise to send an email is different from a promise to solve a harder computer science problem
* Take the right risks and hold employees accountable to the risks they take.
* When the company starts to become a candidate for acquisition, it's important to pay the CEO a market salary

It's a book worth reading. Extract the good parts and ignore what doesn't match your managing style.
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Reading Progress

February 5, 2018 – Shelved
February 5, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
February 5, 2018 – Shelved as: audio
February 5, 2018 – Shelved as: non-fiction
February 5, 2018 – Shelved as: doist
June 12, 2018 – Started Reading
June 12, 2018 –
June 14, 2018 –
June 15, 2018 –
June 17, 2018 –
June 18, 2018 – Finished Reading

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