There comes a time in every company’s life where it must fight for its life. If you find yourself running when you should be fighting, you need to ask yourself “If our company isn’t good enough to win, then do we need to exist at all?” – Ben Horowitz
I recently did a book review on Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It is a great book with no shortage of gems of insight and wisdom, but there’s one that stuck with me in particular.
This lesson is actually from one of the shorter chapters in the book, titled “Lead Bullets”. (The chapter is actually available on Ben’s blog as a post here) The title is a reference to advice given to Ben when Netscape was going through a crisis with the release of a superior web server product from Microsoft. The advice came from Bull Turpin, responding to the plan Ben had put into place to deal with the thread.
Ben, those silver bullets that you and Mike are looking for are fine and good, but our Web server is five times slower. There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.
I love the sentiment of the quote, and personally I think the meme of “Lead Bullets” will become at least as common as that of “Silver Bullets”, at least in the context of entrepreneurship. The “Lead Bullet” phase is the phase that, when they make the movie of how your company was built, they’ll condense into a 5 minute montage. It’s the phase when there’s no clever pricing trick, marketing play, or technology tool that’s going to save the day, and when all that’s left is grinding out the things you know you need to do.
The irony is that this is actually most of building a business. The amount of time being clever and getting big wins is tiny compared to the amount of value that has to be created just through good old-fashioned grind.
If you work with me, this is a phrase you’ve probably already gotten used to hearing me use frequency. If so, don’t expect to stop having to hear those two magical words anytime soon!