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The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers Hardcover – March 4, 2014
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*Starred Review* It’s fairly evident that this is a collection of blogs, loosely strung together, united in their varied perspectives on start-ups, CEO-dom, and business in general. Though Horowitz is a cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and his credentials reside mainly in Silicon Valley, he’s imparted some valuable insight on hard lessons learned that apply to any manager, whether in the executive suite or not. As with most experiential books, it is all about him—but it’s written in such an engaging and universally acceptable manner that no one could object. Leave aside his background, for the moment. Who would realize, for instance, that executives worry about things like initiating layoffs, hiring the right people, training, and minimizing politics, among others? It’s a refreshingly honest take, and his colorful (and, yes, profanity-laced) language breaks down any other misperceptions about the role and the person. Plus, his imagination is compelling, such as the comparisons between peacetime and wartime CEOs: Peacetime CEO always has a contingency plan. Wartime CEO knows that sometimes you gotta roll a hard six. After all, the success equation is easy: the hard thing is getting it done. --Barbara Jacobs
“More than any other business book released this year, “Hard Things” gives an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to lead and scale a startup.” (--Business Insider's Best Business Books of 2014)
“This is easily one of the essential books every business leader should read if they’re looking for proven and honest management advice.” (--Entrepreneur's 25 Amazing Business Books from 2014)
“The most valuable book on startup management hands down” (PandoDaily)
“There is more than enough substance in Mr. Horowitz’s impressive tome to turn it into a leadership classic.” (The Economist)
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The book is refreshing as the terms and concepts are not dumbed down and rely on background in finance and tech. Throughout the book a number of situations are explained which provide fantastic advice for building relationships and dealing with others in undesirable situations.
Horowitz gives advice to entrepreneurs. And it is not business school-like advice indeed. “People often ask me how we’ve managed to work efficiently across three companies over eighteen years. Most business relationships either become too tense to tolerate or not tense enough to be productive after a while. Either people challenge each other to the point where they don’t like each other or they become complacent about each other’s feedback and no longer benefit from the relationship. With Marc and me, even after eighteen years, he upsets me almost every day by finding something wrong with my thinking, and I do the same for hi. It works.”
I began my review by quoting the first page. I will quote here with his final page: “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. When I first became a CEO, I genuinely thought that I was the only one struggling. Whenever I spoke to other CEOs, they all seemed like they had everything under control. Their businesses were always going “fantastic” and their experience was inevitably “amazing”. But as I watched my peers’ fantastic, amazing businesses go bankrupt and sell for cheap, I realized I was probably not the only one struggling.” […] “Embrace your weirdness, your background, your instinct. If the keys are not there, they do not exist.”
The book is not an easy read. So you may not enjoy the book if you do not need to apply it now. Still it is a great book.
This book is different.
This book is written from the perspective of a CEO who's been to hell and back. You may not always agree with his ideas but they are always grounded in reality, as opposed to the abstract theory of most other management books. As a four-time CEO myself I found myself thinking repeatedly "I wish I'd learned this lesson earlier in my career..." and agreeing with most of Horowitz's conclusions. While some of the language and nearly all of the sports analogies passed me by, I enjoyed the simplicity and clarity of the text itself.
Some reviewers seem to think that this book only makes sense for venture-backed CEOs in high-growth situations but I've been involved with so many smaller companies that aren't venture-backed that I believe strongly any CEO in any situation can benefit from reading this book. The ideas and guidelines aren't specific to tech companies, although that's what the author knows about. The fact is, the basic principles and actions are applicable to any company, whether it's a three-person creative design firm or a fifty-person machine shop. Things may move faster in venture-backed tech companies because the external market dynamics are extremely volatile, but in management the same problems keep coming up over and over again regardless of context. And that makes this book valuable for all CEOs and aspiring CEOs.
If you are a CEO and you only have time to read one book this year (probably while in transit or while in the restroom) then make this the one - and act on the advice therein. It will either save your company or, in the best case, dramatically improve its future. Most small companies end up being rate-limited by the CEO; this book can help you out of that trap.
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The stories he mentions are breath taking.Read more