Week 4 Book Reflection

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Harowitz

This weeks reading included the difficult things that a CEO or Entrepreneur may go through. These include the struggles, having to tell it like it is, laying employees off, firing an executive, and demoting employees when things fall apart.

Horowitz’s answers to overcoming the “Struggle” include not putting everything on your own shoulders. He encourages you to get the maximum number of brains on your problems even if the problems represent existential threats. Second, understand that your business can be extremely complex, business is like chess there is always a move. Third, Play long enough and you might get lucky. Things can be going dead wrong and if you make it long enough to see tomorrow, it may bring you the answer that seems impossible today. Fourth, Don’t take it personally. Finally, Remember that this is what separates the women from the girls. If you want to be great, accept the challenge.

Mr. Horowitz’s thoughts on laying employees off. You should not delay telling your staff that there are going to be layoffs. It is better that they hear it from you. Be honest. Train your managers on the proper things to say. Assure your employees that it is a company failure, not an employee failure. Be prepared to offer employees benefits and support.

Firing an executive, the person that you have many times searched months for to carry out your mission at the company, is usually not because of incompetence or laziness. It is probably you, the one that hired them, that blew it. You possibly did a poor job defining the position, you hired for their lack of weakness instead of their strengths, or you possible failed to integrate the executive into your company. You prepare when firing an executive: be clear on your reasons, use decisive language, and have their severance package ready. You will then have to inform the company being careful not to damage the reputation of the employee.

Harowitz includes a section on how to demote a friend. I am sure he included this because of a personal experience. In my experience, this is a very hard thing to do. Unfortunately, you have to look at the good of the whole company over the good of your friend. While your friend will be embarrassed and feel betrayed, you have to decide what is your friends best role in the company. When demoting a friend, you must be honest. Many times your are not telling them what they want to hear. You have to admit reality while acknowledging their contributions to the company. Harowitz also suggests when demoting include and increase in compensation to let them know they are still valued. Now that is a tactic I have never witnessed.

This weeks reading was intense but informative. I find it interesting that he always uses the pronoun her or she when referring to the CEO. I am going to try to figure that one out.

2 thoughts on “Week 4 Book Reflection

  1. I have family that works with me and I hope to have more someday. I think about it often if that day happens where I have to fire one of them. I hope it never comes to that, but things like that happen. I probably should read this book to prepare for it because it’s inevitable to happen some day.


    1. Marie,

      Sometimes it is hard to work with family. I have always had a hard time letting them know when they are not doing things exactly right. I wish you luck with your business.



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