The Hard thing about hard things – Ben Horowitz
Phew ! Building a business is a hard thing to do. It is not for the faint hearted. We as business owners get into this pursuit for various reasons. For some it is the fame, the money and the glamour, for others it is the impact that they would wish to have on the world. Personally for me, I got into entrepreneurship because I get to be in the league of those people who take our species forward. We subscribe to a lifetime of hardships, which comes to us as day to day challenges. It is valuable for folks like me to get business wisdom from someone, who has been successful in building businesses, facing the struggles that we go through. Ben Horowitz is one of those well respected individuals who currently runs the venture capital firm Andresson – Horowitz in silicon valley. This book is about his business experiences and the learnings he has had over so many years. The book has priceless wisdom about building and running a business, when there are no easy answers. The book is a must read for anyone interested in building, growing or leading a great company.
Our education system runs around a syllabus, the things we need to study for an exam and pass. However, the world of business and life at large does not come with a prescribed syllabus. There are no fixed solutions to fixed problems which we can implement. Running a startup company generally involves doing what nobody else has done. It requires finding answers to questions that are probably unique to the case in point. It is about figuring out the hard things- the ones that do not have standardised formulas. Ben presents his story as a CEO, and the hardships he has dealt with, the actions he took and the emotions he went through. The deeper patterns and the lessons keep resonating as the new generation of entrepreneurs head out to the unknown to build meaningful business. The fact that someone has a job, with security is a result of someone else taking the high risk, battlling it out each day and making it through the hard times. The book provides pratical insights about building such a business with case studies and anacedotes.
When you are building a company, you must belive there is an answer, and you cannot pay attention to your odds of finding it. Your ability to make the best possible moves, when there are no good moves are what would diffrentiate a good CEO from an avarage one. The book talks about the things that one can do when things are falling apart. It teaches the reader resilence, the ability to make it through the struggle.
” Product has issues that are hard to fix. The market is not were you anticipated it to be. Some good employees quit, some of them are wondering if staying makes sense. You are low on cash and it is hard to raise money. You lose a loyal customer, a great employee. Where did you go wrong? Why did your compnay not perform as envisioned? As your dreams turn into nightmares, you find yourself in the struggle. Every great Entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through the Struggle, you are not alone. But it does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. The struggle is where greatness comes from”
The book tells a number of stories which one will relate to. In his own fashion, Ben helps the reader in understanding the different challenges that we as business owners face on a day to day basis. There is business advice in the book, one that is drawn from the emotional, rational and managerial aspects of Ben’s experience. The language is very casual; it removes the jagron and gets to the point very crudely. A business owner has limited time. The book does total justice to the reader in cutting the chase and getting to the point.
To be sucessful in business, one needs to typically have three skill sets. The first one is technical skills, the one that helps you in building or selling your product. The second is your resource management skills, how you allocate time, effort and money in the various aspects of your business. The third and the most critical skill would be the people management skills of the top leadership. Today, our education system has not done much justice in imparting us these three skills that are relevent to succeed in business, and life at large. Putting oneself in the marathon race of Entrepreneurship would certainly require the individual to develop and practise these skills. This book plays a pivotal role in imparting these skills, especially people management skills to the individual reader. The context of the book is the hard times. How do you use these people management skills when things are not going as per plans and falling apart ? The book provides valuable and practical insights to the reader. It answers questions about how to hire thoese smarter than yourself, how to let go of employees and how to captain the ship during rough waters. It is very valuable advice to any top level business leader or CEO.
Businesses at different levels have different problems to face and solve. It would be very rewarding if one could predict the problems that might arise to a business in the future and try and avoid them. Today’s actions lead to tomorrow’s results. In this context, the book helps an entrepreneur in identifying the possible hard times that he might face in the future and how he could possibly prepeare for them. The insights from the book seem very pratical and are certainly of help to the reader. If one is mentally and emotionally prepared for the bumpy ride of building a business, then he must read this book to understand the hard times he would go through. If you are not prepared, then the book will prepare you for the hard ride. We all struggle to achieve great things; this book helps us in trying to keeping our head over the water during the tough times. Anybody wanting to build a profitable business should read this book, ignore at your own peril.
Happy Reading !!