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on January 24, 2017
If you want to know why The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers is worth buying, here’s the money quote.

“Almost all management books focus on how to do things correctly, so you don’t screw up, these lessons provide insight into what you must do after you have screwed up.”

If you’re planning to start a company, whether it’s a high-tech company or the kinds of companies that I started and ran, read this book. If you’re going to be someone in charge of anything in any kind of a company, read this book.

If all you want are the big ideas, or Horowitz’ philosophy, you can get them from his blog and articles. You don’t need to buy this book. But if you want a handy advisor for that 3 AM moment when you’re thinking about firing someone you like, buy the book. Keep it handy. I’ve had those moments and I wish I’d had it.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things has a whole lot of information packed inside it. You can read it from cover to cover and get a lot of value. Or, you can think of it as a series of conversations with bosses and mentors. Horowitz had a lot of those. And his mentors included people like Andy Grove and Jim Barksdale.

The wisdom that he shares and credits to them, reminds me of the wisdom that I received from bosses and mentors and which I later shared with protégés. It’s real, it’s practical, and it will help. I think that the discussion of things like firing and laying people off are more than worth the price of the book by themselves. And they’re only a small part of what’s in The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

Here are a few quotes from the book to give you an idea of what you’re in for. You don’t have to be a CEO to use what’s here, even though Horowitz aims the book at CEOs. Substitute “leader” for “CEO” in most quotes and use the wisdom.

Quotes from The Hard Thing About Hard Things

“That’s the hard thing about hard things— there is no formula for dealing with them.”

“People always ask me, ‘What’s the secret to being a successful CEO?’ Sadly, there is no secret, but if there is one skill that stands out, it’s the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves. It’s the moments where you feel most like hiding or dying that you can make the biggest difference as a CEO.”

“Don’t take it personally. The predicament that you are in is probably all your fault. You hired the people. You made the decisions. But you knew the job was dangerous when you took it. Everybody makes mistakes. Every CEO makes thousands of mistakes. Evaluating yourself and giving yourself an F doesn’t help.”

“One of the most important management lessons for a founder/ CEO is totally unintuitive. My single biggest personal improvement as CEO occurred on the day when I stopped being too positive.”

“Management purely by numbers is sort of like painting by numbers— it’s strictly for amateurs.”

“The first rule of organizational design is that all organizational designs are bad.”

“Embrace the struggle.”

There are plenty more in The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers.
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on January 22, 2018
Ben posits that the "hard thing about hard things" is that there really is no answer or formula, that you need to rely on the situation and your experience. An example given is that the difficult decision is not how to start a company, plenty has been written on this, the hard decision was deciding what to do when Ben had 3 weeks of cash and needed to meet for an IPO at the trough of the tech bubble and the night before getting a call that his wife was in the hospital and stopped breathing.

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.
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on May 19, 2014
“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. The problem with these books is that they attempt to provide a recipe for challenges that have no recipes. There’s no recipe for really complicated, dynamic situations. There’s no recipe for building a high-tech company; there’s no recipe for making a series of hit songs; there’s no recipe for playing NFL quarterback; there’s no recipe for running for president; and there’s no recipe for motivating teams when your business has gone to crap. That’s the hard thing about hard things— there is no formula for dealing with them.” This is how Horowitz begins.

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.
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on October 22, 2017
This book can be read as the Art of War for business. The first few chapters alone make this book amazing with a wonderful story. After the background story is told aspects of lessons learned were broke down into detail.

Why should anyone read this book? If you read books on business you never hear how it didn't go well. This book is all about how the author and his peers seemed to always be making hard decisions and were constantly doomed to fail... But didn't. In comparison to other books, the quote from Mohammed Ali fits most books on business, "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." This book is about taking ever sucker punch a business can throw at a CEO and how this one survived. This book is a quick read and one anyone can enjoy.

Another reason to get this book, it helps an employee understand their manger. This book also talks about some things that no one else will say, such as a business changes then so does everyone's job... And they might not be ready for that position. As the tech industry grows forcing change, this book reinforces that a job may change over time and it is not easy.
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on March 25, 2014
First a few disclaimers: I've hated nearly every "management book" I've ever read. While studying for my MBA I had to plough through all the "classics" in the genre. Afterwards, working for a high-end management consulting firm I had to read every HBR article until I wanted to reach out and strangle someone - ideally the authors of the vacuous nonsense promulgated therein. Most management books, with the notable exception of those by the late great Peter Drucker, are nothing but snake-oil and unadulterated BS.

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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on June 16, 2017
The most memorable part of the book to me was the notion that there are no silver bullets to solve problems, just good old fashioned lead bullets. good lesson to learn, and a mistake I see a lot of young start-up companies make. Of course this is my oversimplified version of the concept which Mr. Horowitz does a far better job of explaining. Worth reading just to see what he has to say about this concept.
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on September 11, 2017
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to start a business. Ben, the author, really knows how to describes the struggles of the entrepreneur's journey. He gives plenty of examples and illustrates his saying very well.
The book is a great inspiration to me and living in the Bay area it helped me better understand the place I live in.
The end of the book was a little fast too end, it seemed a tiny bit rushed but it's also due to the chapter being more straight forward and recent (he describes his beginning as a VC founder)
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on April 12, 2017
Far better than the average business / mgmt book, where most of the time I'm reading things I've heard before. Not here. Highly recommended for anyone trying to start, build, grow, sustain, save, or transfer a business at the CEO level. There are many excellent business ideas and experiences here that, I'll bet, you've never considered. If I taught an MBA course on the CEO suite, this would be among the required reading.
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on March 30, 2015
As a startup founder, I'm experiencing situation after situation that is made easier having read this book. Running a startup isn't glamorous. It's a really tough slog and this book does not mince words. Most business books by luminaries of the caliber of Ben Horowitz are just so much literary masturbation, filled with glittering generalities and advice far removed from the trenches of actually building a business. Not so much with The Hard Thing About Hard Things. This is deep, gritty, relevant stuff straight from the trenches of building an eventually successful technology startup in quite possibly the worst-ever economic environment for technology startups.

We're just getting started, and this book has already been exceedingly helpful. Reading The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a little scary as a founder, because you'll learn a lot about what can go wrong--and indeed, very much can go wrong. It certainly has for us (along with a lot of things going right, and of course, we hope what we got right is ultimately the most important part). It should be considered essential reading for any startup founder, whether this is your first or your fifteenth venture.
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on September 17, 2016
Horowitz covers all the bases from starting up to scaling up; from strategy to execution; from recruiting to firing... it's all in there and more. He steers away from being prescriptive without being fluff. It's a great outline of his experience in taking his company from start up to eventual sale. Worth it's weight in gold.
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