The NOT good thing about The Hard Thing about Hard Things

Got interrupted by coding, meetings, flying across country, teaching judo, more meetings and flying back across country. Just finishing The Hard Thing about Hard Things and and I thought it was a terrific book EXCEPT for the part about not hiring people from your friend’s companies. I completely disagreed with this, and even though I admired what Horowitz has done and appreciated the great advice in his book, this part would make me very reluctant to ever work with or for him, not because he’s necessarily a bad person or manager but because it reveals a completely incompatible view of the world and business.

In short, he says that you don’t hire people from your friends’ companies. I just read a rather damning article about the collusion of tech companies in artificially lowering wages of engineers and programmers by a “gentleman’s agreement” not to hire one another’s star employees in Pando Quarterly..I hope Horowitz’s friends lose the anti-trust lawsuit and pay a lot of penalties because I believe they are wrong.

His argument is that if your friend’s company is in dire straits that person is a major loss, if they are that good, and why would you do that to a friend? He equates it to dating your friend’s ex-husband.

I completely disagree.

What about the poor man/woman who is a superstar programmer , manager, sales person at company X. They are great at their job, that’s why you are interested in them. They want to leave company X because it is circling the drain, or maybe they just want more money or a shorter commute. They have worked very hard their whole lives to be a superstar whatever and they would be good at the job. They would be good for your company. And you refuse to hire them not because they are unqualified but because your friend doesn’t want to release them. This is so much like indentured servitude or slavery that it creeps me out. Your master must release you. Ick.

It is NOT like dating someone’s ex-husband. It is like beating their friend in a match. You get over it.

This came up in a story at lunch today with some friends. MANY years ago, I was on the U.S. team and one of our athletes came out as a lesbian while we were on the European tour, when her girlfriend showed up. The rest of the team had a meeting without her present, called by the manager, and discussed “what to do about it”.

I said,

“At the last tournament, the only two people who won gold medals were me and her, and so the way I see it, the only person who has any room to talk is me and I don’t care if she has sex with small desert animals as long as she brings back medals for our country. As far as who would be willing to room with her, I’ll room with her.”

After that, a couple of other women on the team spoke up and agreed with me. So, nothing was said and she roomed with someone else on the team, because we weren’t particularly good friends at the time.

One of the women at lunch asked why we weren’t friends and I explained that she had beaten a very good friend of mine and replaced her on the U.S. team. The same woman asked why I offered to room with her then, and I said,

Because we were team mates.

To me, it made perfect sense. Yes, I was not happy my friend wasn’t on the team. I liked her. I would have liked to have roomed with her. I was also really sad for her that she was not on the U.S. team. However, I sure didn’t expect someone else to lose out to their own detriment to benefit my friend. Moreover, I wanted my team, the United States, to win, and that meant having the best people.

It seems as if Horowitz decisions harmed people who were outstanding performers who had done no more wrong than choosing to work for one of his friends, reducing those “stars” opportunities and maybe offering less than optimal employees for his company.

I think he was wrong to do that.



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