• Avishek Kataria

The Hard Thing About Hard Things Book Review

Detailed Book Review of ‘The Hard Things About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz


Many of us aspire to be an entrepreneur. We get enchanted by the lifestyle and identity with being an entrepreneur. We wish to be in the same league with successful entrepreneurs and live their life. We know the journey and life of an entrepreneur is tough, however, we don’t have the first-hand experience of it. This is where this book fits in. In this book, The Hard Things About The Hard Things, Ben Horowitz takes us through the actual feelings, thoughts, and emotions that go through while running a business.


About the Author - Ben Horowitz


Ben was co-founder and CEO of Opsware, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in 2007. Later, he was vice president and general manager at HP. He has also worked for Netscape and AOL service. Currently, he is co-founder and partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm.


What is the book “The Hard Things About Hard Things” all about


In this book, Ben opens up unreservedly about his 8+ years journey of co-founding and running companies. He gives the readers a holistic outlook of incidents and elements in a company from starting up to selling it for a billion-dollar valuation. He describes exactly the types of challenges and problems entrepreneurs face. He retrospects on his approach, mindset, and decisions.


There were a few times, where he had faced big obstacles that could have shut down his company. He gives us hindsight on the emotions and things that go through during this time.


He also highlights how the operation of a company changes when it reaches a bigger scale. And how the management needs to adapt for various scales of the company in its journey.


You will find a lot of management lessons from real-life examples of various essential topics that are not taught in a B-School. A few topics like the role of a CEO, the right way to layoff employees, training of employees, product management, the concept of management debt, designing of the work environment, and many more are covered in this book.


How was the book “The Hard Things About Hard Things”


When I started reading this book, I had no idea about Ben Horowitz or his startup Opsware. I picked up this book as it was part of most of the list on top business books and most especially the best books on product management. My expectation from the book was it would talk about product management. However, the book turned out to be something different from my expectations. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I found a lot of unexpected good things that will be very helpful in my professional life.


As you start the book, the things mentioned in the initial chapters are shared in many talk shows and blogs. However, as you move forward and as Ben’s company advances to a different scale, Ben mentions the rarely mentioned challenges a business faces. After a point in the book, every page will give you some new knowledge and learning.


This book gives us a lot of management insights that could take us a lot of time to experience in actual life. The best part of the book is that it not only highlights the difficult scenarios but also gives us the approach and teachings during such situations.


Another good part about the book is that it gives us a peek into the emotions of the CEO, the management team, and the employees during such hard times.


Overall, the book enlightens users on scaling up a company and managing a company and its employees through its life cycle. It also gives us hope and courage to accept difficult situations in your company and to stay positive during such times.


What are the top 3 things from “The Hard Things About Hard Things”


1. Embracing the Struggle

“As an entrepreneur, the only guarantee is that it will be tough and there will be a struggle”

Ben encourages us to go through the struggle instead of running away from it. He asks us to embrace the struggle as the greatness comes from the struggle. Ben says the struggle is common for all entrepreneurs and you have no choice but to go through it. This struggle will help you and your company grow.


“Every great entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through the struggle. You are not alone. That does not mean you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is a struggle.”

Another important aspect that Ben highlights about struggle is to hold on during hard times. If you survive long enough to see tomorrow, it may bring you the answer that seems impossible today.


2. How to be a good CEO


As Ben has a long experience of being a CEO and a successful one, so he has a lot of stories to share about being a CEO. Throughout the book, you will find a lot of wisdom on how to manage your company as a CEO.


One of the key points he talks about is that as a company grows, communication becomes the biggest challenge. If the employees trust the CEO, then the communication will be more efficient. As a CEO, it’s important to tell things as they are to build trust. Also, he enforces to have a culture where everyone shares bad news. A company that discusses its problems openly can quickly solve them.


The biggest reason why a CEO takes a better decision is access to superior knowledge, i.e. knowing all the aspects of a situation.


There is also an analysis of different CEO personalities, i.e. wartime CEO and peacetime CEO, and how to decide what kind of CEO a company needs.


3. What is Good Product Management


During his early days of being an entrepreneur, he observed that in his company a certain standard was not maintained in building the products. And he wanted to set an instruction guide on how to build good products. That’s when he wrote a detailed note on good product management covering what makes a good product manager. That’s when he started writing and sharing his knowledge. That note is part of this book, and it is very useful for every product manager and business manager.


A few things that good product managers should follow are knowing the market, product, product line, and competition well. Communicating crisply to the engineering team, creating product collaterals like FAQs, presentation, white paper, and more for the sales team. And there are more such pointers covered in the book.


What could have been better in “The Hard Things About Hard Things”


In any management book that you read, you would surely like to know as much as possible. Similar is the case here, the book is great and covers a lot of topics. However, the book could have gone more into various divisions of a company like Operations, Marketing, and more. Book has surely covered product management and sales really well. This is probably my greedy side asking for more.


Who is the book “The Hard Things About Hard Things” for


This book is a must-read for all entrepreneurs, senior managers, and product managers. It’s also a good read for middle managers and management students as it gives a holistic view of a company’s lifecycle.


Conclusion


Overall, this book has enlightened me on multiple aspects of running a business, strategizing decisions, and managing a team. The book has been a great value add for me in terms of business knowledge and learning as it gives us the inside view of running and growing a company.


It is surely one of the must-read business or entrepreneur books.


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