The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is based upon Horowitz’s experience as a technology start-up founder and CEO. He did it twice in technology and his most recent start-up is as a venture capitalist with a different model. The companies are LoudCloud, OpsWare and a16z. [This last is a easier way to represent (Marc) Andreessen-Horowitz.] The link to Andreessen is to his Wikipedia article and will inform you of who he is and what he and Horowitz have accomplished, which is pretty spectacular.
This book is based on Horowitz’s popular blog. His experience and interest is all about software and technology but his wisdom applies to all types of companies and to life as the final decision maker in any small business. There are nuggets in there for you if you run an HVAC company or a pharmaceutical marketing company or anything in between.
While I don’t agree with everything he espouses, many items resonate with me as a professional EOS Implementer who has helped more than four dozen business owners and their leadership teams use EOS to get more of what they want from their businesses. Here are some of the key points that align with the principles of EOS.
Take care of the people, the products, and the profits
In that order. This was advice from Ben’s former boss, Jim Barksdale. If you don’t take care of the first, the other two won’t matter. Leaders who run their companies using EOS believe with a passion that to be a great company that you have to surround yourselves with people who are as passionate as you are about where the company is going and how it is going to get there. They also believe that in addition to being great at the roles they fill in the company that the people have to embody the Core Values of the company as well. In other words, they have to be the right people in the right seats.
Don’t Put It All On Your Shoulders
You won’t be able to share everything but share everything you can. As the final decision maker in the company you can come to believe that you have all the right answers and are responsible for making all decisions. To be clear, EOS does not believe in voting majority rules, but it does believe in the leadership team being open and honest with each other, including with the founder/owner and vice versa. Open to new ideas and honest about everything, even when it hurts.
There are two types of CEOs
Horowitz calls them Ones and Twos. Ones are the visionaries, those who see the big picture and see the possibilities. Twos prefer execution and managing. For a company to truly shine, you need to have enough of both qualities, so if you’re a One, get some Two skills and vice versa. In EOS parlance, we call these two types of people Visionaries and Integrators. See my blog on that subject here and here.
This book is chock full of impactful insights. I strongly recommend you put it on your reading list. The hard thing about hard things is that there are no recipes for success. The best way to become a great leader is to be a leader. EOS can help by helping create common language and disciplines that removes as much of the friction from the process as possible.
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