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Learn the key ideas of the book by Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz’s Tips to Become a Good CEO

The Hard Thing About Hard Things clearly defines the difficult role of a CEO of any company. Using his own experience as the starting point, Ben Horowitz retraces the steps, providing a truly comprehensive guide, along with some useful advice, not only on how to lay down the foundations of a company, but more importantly, on how to navigate through the difficult times. In fact, the “hard thing” is not really managing a company in peacetime, when everything is running smoothly, but managing one during a war, when the pressure is on, emotions run high, and the risks are completely unpredictable. One can become a good CEO through experience and by making difficult tasks become easy, and impossible ones become possible. The only hard and fast rule is to fight with conviction.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things
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Starting a company is easy, making it work and keeping it going is the hard part

How many companies open and shut after just a short life? How many startups set out, bright eyed and bushy tailed, sure to hit their targets, only to be struck, out of the blue, by a problem completely off course from the success thay had dreamt of? This happens much more often than you might think. Anyone who dips their toes into the entrepreneurial pool for the first time can make the mistake of being naïve and imagining huge success before they even come close to it. Success, as we all know, does not come easily, and it can depend on many different factors and unpredictable dynamics.

There are some precautions that we can take to help guide us through the storms that we will inevitably hit, regardless of our corporate positions, but which affect us, all the same. This, according to Horowitz, is the Hard Thing About Hard Things: navigating those unforeseen storms.

For example, managing resources during a crisis and adapting to an emergency without ever losing control of the situation is complicated. As a commander steers his ship to safety during a storm, so must the head of a company guide their business through difficult times. Their job is to analyse the situation and make difficult decisions, and this is their real challenge. It is not so much driving the company towards success, hiring the right people or even optimising the efficiency of their processes. No, the hard part is avoiding collapse when everything goes wrong.

So a good CEO, as well as directing the company, manages the critical issues, always keeping in mind that the company is, infact, primarily built on its people.


The key ideas of "The Hard Thing About Hard Things"

Starting a company is easy, making it work and keeping it going is the hard part
A good CEO needs to know how to fight, to roll up his sleeves, and get his hands dirty
There are no precise rules to manage a company, just practical advice and useful guidelines
You become a good CEO on the job, and learning how to fire your employees is excellent training
Firing managers requires an even bigger effort
Prepare to fire executives calmly, without causing disruption
The right order of priorities for both CEOs and companies: people, product and profit
Among the mistakes not to make: never give in to the temptation of hiring friends of friends
The importance of vision and ambition for a CEO
Embracing the fight is the secret to building a business, even in times of uncertainty
Take-home message

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