The Start-Up of YOU: A book review by Bob Morris

The Start-Up of YOU: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career
Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
Crown Business (2012)

How and why start-up mind-sets and skill-sets are essential to achieving and then sustaining success…however defined

The basic premise in Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha’s book is that the same mind-sets and skill-sets that can help to ensure the success of a start-up company’s performance can also (with appropriate modification) help to ensure the success of an individual’s career. In fact, all companies should always be viewed – and managed – as a start-up. This what Jack Welch had in mind years ago when, during a GE annual meeting, he explained why he admired entrepreneurial companies:

“For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy.”

Hoffman and Casnocha assert, “To succeed professionally in today’s world, you need to adopt entrepreneurial strategies…In the same way, you need to stay young and agile; you need to forever be a  start-up.” Speaking for both of them (as he does throughout the book), Hoffman adds, “The business strategies employed by highly successful start-ups and the career strategies employed by highly successful individuals are strikingly similar.” Readers are introduced to several “strategic frameworks” within which valuable (usually counterintuitive) insights are revealed by exemplary entrepreneurs such as Hoffman and Casnocha  (of course) as well as Marc Andreesen, Jeff Bezos, Benjamin Franklin, Reed Hastings, Steve Jobs, Mary Sue Milliken, Marc Pinkus, Joseph Priestley, and Sheryl Sandberg, with insights anchored in their real-world experience.

Although Hoffman and Casnocha carefully identify the “what” of what organizational and individual success requires, they focus most of their attention on how (and how not to) achieve it. For example:

o How to develop a YOUR COMPANY/YOU Mind-Set
o How to develop a YOUR COMPANY/YOU Skill-Set
o How to develop and then sustain a competitive advantage
o How to anticipate and prepare for contingencies with agility and resiliency
o How to bounce back from adversity
o How to establish and then strengthen a network of genuine and appropriate relationships
o How to identify and then pursue breakout opportunities
o How to identify and evaluate “intelligent” risks
o How to navigate professional challenges with network intelligence
o How to synthesize information into actionable intelligence

Each of the Fortune 500 companies was originally a start-up and each of their CEOs was once a career-entry employee.  My guess (only a guess) is that the most successful companies and their leaders understand, appreciate, and affirm the power and value of the start-up mind-sets and skill-sets that Hoffman and Casnocha examine in this book. For them, for all of us, “life is a permanent beta [and] the trick is never stop starting.”


Posted in

Leave a Comment