The Hard Thing About Hard Things
“ Building a business when there are no easy answers ”
by Ben Horowitz
- Rating: 4.5 / 5
Building a successful company is hard and stressful. Everything is the CEO’s responsibility. You must accept failure, take personal responsibility, experience things first-hand. You must bring clarity, build a team based on skills and not lack of wicknesses. Be honest and courageous. Show vulnerability, but not panick.
Prioritize cheap actions that can spare big problems
Booting a company
Odds are against you, so focus on doing things right
Sometimes you’re going to ask yourself why you started the company in the first place
Survive until tomorrow to get the answers to the problems that seem impossible today
CEO’S job desc
CEO’s biggest skill is to take decisions when all choices are bad.
You can make mistakes. Don’t take it personally. You’re human
No-one cares. Just coach your team, just try to fix it.
Attitude towards others It’s not all on your shoulders, we’re in this together, be honest about the situation and share the worries and their resolution
Don’t be positive all the time, be honest instead to build trust
Beware of signals sent - you get what you ask for, make sure what you ask for is what you want. At a basic level, metrics are incentives. Anything measured is creating a behavior
Make sure you are not creating a system that will push people to sacrifice the future for results now
Recruit for talent, not lack of weaknesses. Perfect talent with no issues would be a ceo somewhere big
Don’t hire from your friends company
If you don’t know what you want there is little chance you’ll get it
Be clear in your expectations. Write the strengths you want and the weaknesses you can tolerate ; develop questions to test those criteria
Don’t overlook references. You’re not looking for + or - but for match of your criteria
Optimize for too talent
Beware of self-centered people in interviews, I, I, my. Check claims by asking for details.
Layoff and layout
Reason need to be clear
Focus on future
Have managers handle them
Firing people is accepting failure in interviewing / integration process
Use ‘I have decided’ rather than ‘I think’ or ‘I’ d like’. This is non negotiable
Beware of post rationalization; it tends to accuse context for bad results and take credit for positive results.
Same thing for indicators, tend to look more into leading indicators of good news
Most big issues are fixed by lead bullets (sweat) and not silver bullet
Look for bad excuses when customers buy the product, just not yours.
Look into user experience, not only the data
Organization and culture
If employees trust that doing good will result in good things for them, they will like work and be confident and calm and produce good work. In bad orgs, they will focus on politics and visibility
The only thing keeping an employee through rough times is that they like their job
Sometimes organizations just need clarity
Training is the boss’ job.
Training is the single most ROI activity with employees. The math tells it (high leverage). Its worth the investment
Training is the basis for performance management and set expectations
Training can provide guidance and career management
Training is better than off-site to build culture and binding
Promotions and raises need to be decided on a process and schedule to prevent giving them to those complaining only and create a political environment
Long lasting companies have a cult like culture (their why is clear and central)
The job in a small company is very different than the job in a large company, 100% proactive and searching for what to do, whereas in big company is more responsive and time management
Search for clues that the candidate understands. Make sure they’ll fit, and make sure they integrate
Who will interview, who will help validating
You’re the one making the decision
The reason to hire seniors is to acquire knowledge and experience
Management debt is created when short term decisions are made that detriment the long term. Chose the hard answer, be a professional
Don’t do counter offers
Peter principle, and law of crappy people : a given level in the organization tends to converge to the level of the worst person with the title
Don’t give big titles too easily. You also don’t want the people who focus too much on these
You can tolerate a few toxic people in the organization if they bring a lot of great value to the company