06.06.22 - The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Notes & review
One of the things I do each month inside the Wealthy Consultant resource group (it’s free here) is document books that have had an impact on me.
One such book has been Ben Horowitz “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.”
This will be a quick summarization of the material & some takeaways that I think are universally applicable no matter what sort of business you are in.
The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those “great people” develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things. The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed. The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.
True to it’s name, it pulls no punches.
Building something exceptional with any amount of speed is difficult. Part of my operating philosophy in life and business comes from having built things very quickly (zero to 40,000 clients and 200,000+ customers in a period of 36 months).
A lot breaks when you’re growing at warp speed. In most cases, the utility of growing that fast is not worth the pressure or the burn. Better to grow slowly and enjoy it.
Finally, I had to rebuild the executive team. I had a CFO who didn’t know software accounting, a head of sales who had never sold software, and a head of marketing who did not know our market. Every one of them was great at their old jobs, but not qualified for their new jobs. It was miserable, but necessary, to see them all go.
The worst mistake you can make is leaving the wrong people on a team.
This is tough for empathetic people, and at times feels cold. However, the benefit nobody talks about is when the wrong people leave, there are open spots (finally) for the right people.
An early lesson I learned in my career was that whenever a large organization attempts to do anything, it always comes down to a single person who can delay the entire project.
Bureaucracy sucks. Don’t tolerate it. Netflix culture is a great study on how to grow without adopting a stiff, slow culture. You can be agile and large at the same time.
In any human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust.
Keep in mind when onboarding, people must be trained & then trusted. I respect people who say “Trust is at 10 as soon as I hire you and you have to lose it but I trust you on day one.”
I respect them. I think they’re kinda stupid.
Trust has to be built. Period. As my teams onboard they know that we’ll talk more in the beginning, and less as we advance because I trust them to make the right decisions.
The goal for me is to be as unnecessary as possible.
A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news. A company that discusses its problems freely and openly can quickly solve them.
A bit self explanatory but so important. Here’s another just like it:
If you run a company, you will experience overwhelming psychological pressure to be overly positive. Stand up to the pressure, face your fear, and tell it like it is.
Tougher than it sounds.
Leaving a failing leader in place will cause an entire department in your company to slowly rot.
Emphasizes my point earlier about making sure the wrong leaders are not left in place. A-players despise being led by B-players and C-players. There is no substitute for good people. There is also nothing worse than people left out of guilt, obligation, or etcetera.
If you find yourself running when you should be fighting, you need to ask yourself, “If our company isn’t good enough to win, then do we need to exist at all?”
I’ve had the privilege of consulting many thousands of businesses & entrepreneurs. Here’s something I’ve noticed: there is a stark contrast between the founders who know they NEED to exist for the world and the greater good… and those who are just cash grabbing.
One of the tell tell signs? As soon as it gets tough, cash grabbers are running away and the ones with purpose are leaning in. To them, the game starts when it gets tough. Be like that…
My old boss Jim Barksdale was fond of saying, “We take care of the people, the products, and the profits—in that order.”
I told my executive team in one of the portfolio brands last week: “We revolve around two types of people here — our TEAM, and our CLIENTS.” When you keep your focus on the things that matter most, the things that are required but don’t matter most always take care of themselves.
Force them to create. Give them monthly, weekly, and even daily objectives to make sure that they produce immediately. The rest of the company will be watching and this will be critical to their assimilation.
Do not get stuck with a team that is not held accountable to the number one responsibility of an organization: creating solutions.
It’s your job to make sure your teams are aligned properly and advance according to the mission. No one else’s.
Companies execute well when everybody is on the same page and everybody is constantly improving.
This is the game. The entire game. The only game that matters, like at all. Same page. Unified. And improving CONSTANTLY.
Nothing else matters.
You can grab the rest of my notes here. If you enjoyed this style of post, let me know and we’ll keep them coming.
Goodbye for now!