There are tons of books & advice on "company building", "entrepreneurial journey", "startup advice", "CEO's story", "how we made a gazillion dollar company" etc etc...Some useful most of them useless.They all talk about becoming successful and doing the right things. Things like "capture the need", "identify the pain points", "talk to your customers" , "build a rock star team", "be lean | nimble & pivot quickly", "build the right thing people want", "identify repeatable processes", "create a great culture", "build great relationships" et all. All great advice.
But most of the times reality strikes & shit happens. What does the entrepreneur do then? Where does he go for advice and what does he do to stay alive?
Its funny and paradoxical as startup outcomes follow the "Power Distribution Law". They tend to be very bimodal. Some companies succeed wildly. Most fail and go to zero. Finding the company that falls on the right tail of the distribution is absolutely crucial. Venture capitalists who don’t realize this lose money. Entrepreneurs or employees who don’t realize this end up doing the wrong things.So its ironical that we DO HAVE books/advice about becoming successful, doing the right things and building a great company, when our odd of failing are more. If you are an entrepreneur (esp a first timer) most of the times things go wrong & shit is all over the place.
"We DO NOT HAVE books or lots of advice for what to do when you are in a fix & feel like throwing up and just breathing is getting difficult."
After working night and day to make your vision reality, you wake up to find that things did not go as planned. Your company did not unfold like the legendary keynote that you listened to when you started. Your product has issues that will be very hard to fix. The market isn’t quite where it was supposed to be. Your employees are losing confidence and some of them want to quit. Some of the ones that quit were quite smart and have the remaining ones wondering if staying makes sense. You are running low on cash and raising money seems a nightmare. You lose a competitive battle. You lose a loyal customer. You lose a great employee. The walls start closing in. Where did you go wrong? Why didn’t your company perform as envisioned? Are you good enough to do this? As your dreams turn into nightmares, you find yourself in The Struggle.
Enter Ben Horowitzs book "The Hard thing about the Hard things"
image courtesy: pandodaily.com
Ben Horowitz is one of the most powerful investors in Silicon Valley right now and has built his following largely through his writing on his blogs.He is also a high technology entrepreneur and co-founder and general partner along with Marc Andreessen of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He co-founded and served as president and chief executive officer of the enterprise software company Opsware, which Hewlett-Packard acquired for $1.6 billion in cash in 2007.
Its a book about his experiences as an Entrepreneur running Opsware - his enterprise software business in early 2000 when things went from wrong to a complete nightmare. Its what an entrepreneur normally goes through on a routine basis.He gives examples from hos own journey as an entrepreneur on topics like leadership, people management, hiring, customer acquisitions, relationship management, lay offs, training programs, raising capital, productivity measurement, metrics, programming your culture, dealing psychologically with the turmoils of building a company etc. Some of the stories from the book make "hair stand on end" and empathize with the struggles of Ben's own journey.
Check this out..
" I had a great deal of trouble sleeping as I thought about our fate. I tried to make myself feel better by asking, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” The answer always came back the same: “We’ll go bankrupt, I’ll lose everybody’s money including my mother’s, I’ll have to lay off all the people who have been working so hard in a very bad economy, all of the customers that trusted me will be screwed, and my reputation will be ruined.” Funny, asking that question never made me feel any better....."
My favorite chapter "The Struggle" talks about the daily struggle & turmoil entrepreneurs go through.He says
"When you are in THE Struggle, nothing is easy and nothing feels right. You have dropped into abyss and you may never get out..."
This books goes on to talk about WHAT CAN BE DONE WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF DROPPED INTO ABYSS....."
Horowitz’s partner, Marc Andreessen, says that there are two very simple hallmarks to success in entrepreneurship: Giving a shit and not giving up. This book is a painful manifesto of that. Seldom comes a piece of art which speaks to you directly & creates a dent somewhere in your subconscious. It makes you feel more humane and gives you courage to keep going & building that business who's time has come. Reading this book made me feel this way after a long time.
Thank You Ben Horowitz - for your honesty & no bull shit advise. A must read for all Entrepreneurs going through a lot of SHIT on a regular basis.
PS: If you are a big fan of hip-hop & rap (like I am) you will love this book even more.