“What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture” by Ben Horowitz is a comprehensive guide to understanding, establishing, and maintaining a strong company culture, which is vital to the success and longevity of any business. Drawing from his own experiences as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, as well as from various historical and contemporary leaders, Horowitz provides practical advice and insights into the nuances of shaping an organization’s culture.
The book is organized into several sections, each exploring different aspects of company culture and presenting case studies of effective leadership:
- Defining Culture: Horowitz begins by explaining the importance of company culture and the role it plays in an organization’s success. He defines culture as the collective behavior of a group, shaped by the values, beliefs, and customs that guide their actions. A strong culture not only unifies employees and helps them work towards common goals but also influences how a company is perceived by customers, partners, and investors.
- Historical Lessons: In this section, Horowitz draws lessons from historical figures such as Genghis Khan and Toussaint Louverture. He demonstrates how these leaders successfully established and maintained strong cultures in their respective organizations, despite facing significant challenges. Horowitz highlights the importance of clear communication, adaptability, and shared values in shaping an effective culture.
- Contemporary Examples: Horowitz presents case studies of contemporary leaders who have excelled at creating and sustaining strong company cultures, including Shaka Senghor of the Cut50 initiative, and Chris Larsen, the founder of Ripple. Through these examples, Horowitz underscores the importance of empathy, accountability, and innovation in fostering a healthy organizational culture.
- Culture in Practice: In this section, Horowitz offers practical advice for implementing and maintaining a strong company culture. He discusses strategies such as setting expectations, reinforcing cultural norms, addressing cultural issues, and evolving the culture over time. Horowitz also shares his experiences as a co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, highlighting the importance of company culture in the firm’s success.
Throughout the book, Horowitz emphasizes several key principles for creating and sustaining a strong company culture:
- Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Horowitz argues that a company’s culture is defined by the actions of its leaders, not just their words. He encourages leaders to lead by example and consistently demonstrates the values and behaviors they expect from their employees.
- Clear and Consistent Communication: Horowitz stresses the importance of clear communication in establishing and maintaining a company’s culture. This involves setting expectations, reinforcing cultural norms, and addressing any issues or misalignments that may arise.
- Adaptability and Evolution: Horowitz highlights the need for companies to adapt and evolve their cultures as the organization grows and changes. He emphasizes that a strong culture is flexible and responsive to the needs of the business and its employees.
- Accountability and Empathy: Horowitz underscores the importance of holding leaders and employees accountable for their actions and fostering a culture of empathy, where individuals are encouraged to understand and support one another.
- Innovation and Creativity: Horowitz suggests that a strong company culture should encourage innovation and creativity, allowing employees to take risks, learn from failures, and continuously improve.
In summary, “What You Do Is Who You Are” provides a comprehensive and insightful exploration of company culture and its crucial role in an organization’s success. Ben Horowitz offers valuable lessons from historical and contemporary leaders, practical advice for implementing and maintaining a strong culture, and emphasizes the importance of consistent actions, clear communication, adaptability, empathy, and innovation. This book serves as an essential guide for business leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to create a thriving company culture that supports their organization’s goals and values.
About the Author
Ben Horowitz is a venture capitalist, management expert, and New York Times best-selling author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things. He is a co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and former president and CEO of the software company Opsware, which was bought by Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in 2007.