The hard thing about hard things

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I have just finished Ben Horowitz recent book The Hard Thin About Hard Things. It is really an excellent no management speak book about the rise and fall, and rise again of Ben’s startup career.

I really like the way it really demonstrates that there are sometimes decisions that you are forced into. No startup plans to make some decisions (like going public!) but specifically for Ben, he has a stark choice – close the company down or go public.

There are so many lessons to learn in this book and any CEO or manager should read it. I really like the fact that it talks about some of the things I have seen again and again, here are some of my favourites:

  1. He won’t make it as CEO

There is no course for becoming a CEO, you have to be given the time and space to learn how to become one. There is a distinct difference of being a great manager and being a great CEO. A CEO has to create the strategy out of thin air, while constantly adjusting it to avoid failing. A manager has to execute the strategy – usually set for many years and tested thoroughly.

So you need to 100% support your startup CEO, point out the errors, guide on experience, but don’t do their job – or think anyone else could do it better.

  1. We need some grey hair

This one is sort of true, experience is a great asset, but isn’t enough on its own. You need a balance of experience, risk taking and quick decision making, so don’t be scared to change the strategy if it isn’t working. Surround yourself with people that you trust and understand their strengths and weaknesses.

  1. It’s always going to be hard

It never get’s easy, if it does you are not pushing the company forward. You sometimes think it will get easier just to be kicked somewhere that it hurts. Great CEO’s and founders don’t quit when the going gets tough. I personally quit when I was a CEO of a public company after years and years of hard work. It is probably one of my biggest regrets and I don’t plan to make it again!

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