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Book Review: ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz

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Ben Horowitz is a legendary Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and is the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, a highly reputable venture capitalist firm that specializes in seed, start-ups, early, mid-stage, growth, and late-stage investing. Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a book that gets underneath the hard bits of running a startup, based on real-life examples encountered in Horowitz’s experiences in developing, managing, selling, buying, investing and supervising a range of startups. It is a great read for aspiring entrepreneurs to get a proper sense of what it takes to run a startup, and how it’s all done intricately.

Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things is packaged in three parts: building the team, running the business and taking care of oneself in all of this process. The first part delves into hiring the right kind of people and the culture around it. Foundational aspects like trust and accountability are key in this stage, and constant feedback and reflection may be necessary to get this part right. The second phase of running a business deals with setting the right type of goals, making the tough decision and managing struggles and failures that come along. In the third part, Horowitz explores ways to manage the anxiety and pressures of running a business and on how to stay healthy in the process of all of it.

Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things leans on several examples that help enumerate the story of how to get underneath a startup and make it work. He notes that the phase of going from founder to CEO is quite a challenging one. Because there’s a difference between being that socially romanticized idea of a fiery entrepreneur to being a leader, which brings a new set of principles to work on. Being a CEO comes with the additional priorities of team management, decision making, and setting the overall direction of a company. Hiring the right kind of people is an important skill in making a company. Beyond just the hiring, there comes the new task of keeping good talent, while dealing with the challenging task of letting go of non-performers. The book looks into how to hire, and what sort of strategies there are in setting up and keeping a company going. It discusses the complex nature of personnel management, while being a playbook for building powerful teams that make a company.

Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things enumerates the powerful influence of culture in shaping a company. The book looks into the ways and means of building a culture that would impact decision making, teamwork principles, feedback lopes and all the groundwork that’s needed to put a company’s values in place. The book details a range of lessons and principles to create culture, and a strong work environment that establishes the foundations of a company.

Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things unfolds the challenges and steps it takes to create a good product. He gets underneath aspects like research, customer needs, motivations, frustrations, product positioning, market feasibility and all the insights and strategies that lead to a strong product fit worth pursuing alongside the right business objectives. The book looks into practical advice on customer value management, product creation, production management and the mechanics of innovation to take and evolve a product fit for success.

Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things also discusses the dynamics between founders and CEOs, and if founding CEOs are the right type of people to lead a company as it scales into something bigger. The book offers arguments that make a case for all possible scenarios drawing from Horowitz’s experiences, and from examples of other successful startups. Similarly, the book also looks into strategies to be applied in times of crisis, on aspects such as what sort of management styles and actions may work. He uses personal experiences to enumerate a range of crises management strategies that can be useful preparation for entrepreneurs.

Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things spotlights the idea that all startups face challenges and struggles. From bad products, poor pricing, lack of cash flow, customer loss and everything in between. That struggles are part and parcel of work, or that there are no formulas to eliminate them entirely. Even great success stories, like that of Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, have had to deal with struggles. Emotional pressures, insecurities, self-doubt, confidence, personal relationships, stress are all common factors that sideline the nature of building a company. By using personal experiences, Horowitz brings the human side of what it takes to make a company work. He inspires readers by tapping into human traits like resilience, determination, perseverance and other endurance ethos that everyone can resonate with.

Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things is an excellent book that serves as a guide for potential entrepreneurs by getting those on-the-job insights with practical strategy to prepare and be inspired by in their ambitions to build and run a startup. The book offers a variety of takeouts that leave a strong impact. Such as struggle being a common part of the whole company building exercise. He normalizes struggle by pointing out that even the greatest minds have to go through them. But prepares readers with the tools and advice to manage them better. Horowitz highlights people as the key ingredient, followed by product, and then profits. He suggests that people make the company, and the culture that people create sets the foundations for success. The book contains a range of strategic wisdom, from the need to minimize the politics of pay to conveying more than just optimism, to building faster feedback systems that iron out issues and more. This is a book that brings out the realities of building and leading a company, and is therefore an inspired read for all. Get your copy here:



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