“ Building a business when there are no easy answers ”

by Ben Horowitz

Book Cover


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.

Reading notes

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

Product management

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

About Reading Notes

These are my takes on this book. See other reading notes. Most of the time I stop taking notes on books I don't enjoy, and these end up not being in the list. This is why average ratings tend to be high.