The Hard Thing... About Business Books

March 11, 2014   

It's 9:40pm on Monday night and I just put down Ben Horowitz's The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

I bought it at 4:45pm on Saturday, and the last time I read a book front-cover to back-cover like that was several years ago. It was that good.

It was so phenomenal, in fact, that I'm going to be buying a copy for each of my Red Bud CEOs and I'm going to encourage everyone on my team at Picturelife read it.

You don't have to be a CEO to get great information from this book.

But, for as much as I loved Ben's book and the rich, informative, and at times heart-breaking, stories it held, I could help but feel like it missed the mark for me in an important way every single business book seems to miss the mark for me: It wasn't written for me at all.

You see, at least fifty percent of The Hard Things... was only relevant to managing a company much larger, with much different issues than my startup, Picturelife.

Yes, we are a venture-backed, high-growth company (Spark is our lead investor and we have amazing angels like A16Z's own Chris Dixon), but most of Ben's book is centered on his Loudcloud story -- a company which raised $21m out of the gate, and $45m only 2 months after that.

Much of Ben's story was about managing a team of hundreds of people and several layers of bureaucracy within a couple of months of its founding. A company with less than 20 people is not the same.

For me, the hard thing about business books is how few of them actually speak to what I experience in the struggle (Ben's phrase). If it were just me, I wouldn't say anything about it and I would have stopped this post after my glowing review of The Hard Things..., but I think there are actually more venture-backed startups in my position than those in the LoudCloud position, and there aren't enough great stories told by the CEOs of those company who make it to the other side.

I don't want to take away anything from Ben's tremendous book -- it was immensely valuable to me as a new CEO, and ton's of the content was relevant to any manager or innovator -- however, I do want to make this call to the successful CEO community:

If any of you have a story that looks more like most of ours do, please share it. Who else has been 12 people a few years in and made it work?

I promise to write this story when Picturelife has made it to the other side, but in the meantime, who's going to step up to the plate. Who already has?

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