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What You Do Is Who You Are

How to Create Your Business Culture

By Ben Horowitz
15-minute read
Audio available
What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz

In What You Do Is Who You Are (2019), venture capitalist and management expert Ben Horowitz offers his own definition of business culture. Through contemporary examples and some historical detours past such notables as Genghis Khan and the samurai, he offers fascinating advice on how to create a culture that’s best suited to your business.

  • CEOs and company founders
  • Aspiring entrepreneurs
  • Aspiring leaders looking to create an ideal workplace culture

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.

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What You Do Is Who You Are

How to Create Your Business Culture

By Ben Horowitz
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz
Synopsis

In What You Do Is Who You Are (2019), venture capitalist and management expert Ben Horowitz offers his own definition of business culture. Through contemporary examples and some historical detours past such notables as Genghis Khan and the samurai, he offers fascinating advice on how to create a culture that’s best suited to your business.

Key idea 1 of 9

Culture is crucial – and it's unique to each successful company.

It’s common for business leaders to say that culture is key to a company’s success. But ask for more detail, and the response is often vague. What exactly is culture, and why is it so important?

Let’s start with what it’s not. Culture isn’t the same as values – values are more like aspirations, while culture has to mean something in practice. Culture isn’t the personality of the CEO, either: that can only ever be one part of it.

What’s more, culture varies hugely from one company to the next. Compare Apple and Amazon: the former places such an emphasis on quality that it spent $5 billion dollars on a beautiful new headquarters. Amazon, meanwhile, is famously thrifty – an expense like that would be unthinkable on the Amazon campus.

What culture should be is an expression of the business itself. Bob Noyce, who co-founded Intel in 1968, provides a great example. He found that the developing field of technology, in which it was the engineers who were really driving things forward, needed a new sort of workplace environment. So, he created a radically different business culture that profoundly influenced the development of Silicon Valley. His egalitarian system had no vice presidents; he gave most of his workers stock options; and he sat everyone in a single large room, rather than in separate offices. He also made people go to sessions on what was known as “the Intel Culture.” All of this created a culture in which ideas could flourish – exactly what this innovative company needed.

A great workplace culture won’t magically transform your company into Intel. And a bad culture isn’t automatically a recipe for disaster. Think of a hugely talented athlete with a bad training regime: it’s still possible that they’ll succeed based on talent alone. A better diet and training schedule, though, will still help them to maximize their potential – which is also what culture can do for your business.

In these blinks, a diverse range of examples from both business and the wider world – stretching all the way back to Genghis Khan – will demonstrate the many ways in which culture contributes to success, and give you some advice on defining your business’s culture for yourself. Because culture isn’t something that can be generalized; it has to be your own.

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