The Hard Thing about Hard Things
I suppose that I am one of a few people who had an interest in Loudcloud even though they had no vested interest in it. Maybe because it was Andreessen’s second company and I thought it would it would go south, I am not sure though.
However, because of its CEO, who also has three children and one of them autistic, the book was even more interesting to me. Horowitz is only a few years older than me. The first part of the book describes the origins of Loudcloud, the efforts to keep it afloat after its clients went under, its transformation to Opsware and finally the sale. You can read the first part really fast; in fact you can feel the adrenaline.
Then comes the second part, equally interesting but a slightly slower read, where Horowitz explains his strategy and tactics and how he came to learn the job on the job, how mentoring helped him and how he built and transformed his management team. Without doubt the hardest things discussed are how to “properly” fire people and how to develop a HR process that can handle growth and personnel management.
However, due to two incidents briefly discussed in the book, I strongly believe that the author does not even come close to the hardest decisions that were made during this 8 year journey:
My father turned to me and said, “Son, do you know what’s cheap?”
Since I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, I replied, “No, what?”
“Flowers. Flowers are really cheap. But do you know what’s expensive?” he asked.
Again, I replied, “No, what?”
He said, “Divorce”.
Because you see, the hardest choices were made by his wife and she has not written a single page.
There is also another thing I take issue with the book. Horowitz describes himself as a wartime CEO and he complains that there is no wartime management literature and that most likely there cannot be a CEO who can run things both at peace and during war. First, this is not a war. Let’s get rid of the analogy, no matter how much Sun Tzu has helped you manage things. You did not kill any people. And second of all, if you ever need advice on how to run an organisation at peace and during turbulent times just ask a ship’s captain or figure out their curriculum if you’re so much in need of a citation.