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How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business

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Dave Hitz likes to solve fun problems. He didn't set out to be a Silicon Valley icon, a business visionary, or even a billionaire. But he became all three. It turns out that business is a mosaic of interesting puzzles like managing risk, developing and reversing strategies, and looking into the future by deconstructing the past. As a founder of NetApp, a data storage firm Dave Hitz likes to solve fun problems. He didn't set out to be a Silicon Valley icon, a business visionary, or even a billionaire. But he became all three. It turns out that business is a mosaic of interesting puzzles like managing risk, developing and reversing strategies, and looking into the future by deconstructing the past. As a founder of NetApp, a data storage firm that began as an idea scribbled on a placemat and now takes in $4 billion a year, Hitz has seen his company go through every major cycle in business--from the Jack-of-All-Trades mentality of a start-up, through the tumultuous period of the IPO and the dot-com bust, and finally to a mature enterprise company. NetApp is one of the fastest-growing computer companies ever, and for six years in a row it has been on Fortune magazine's list of Best Companies to Work For. Not bad for a high school dropout who began his business career selling his blood for money and typing the names of diseases onto index cards. With colorful examples and anecdotes, How to Castrate a Bull is a story for everyone interested in understanding business, the reasons why companies succeed and fail, and how powerful lessons often come from strange and unexpected places. Dave Hitz co-founded NetApp in 1992 with James Lau and Michael Malcolm. He served as a programmer, marketing evangelist, technical architect, and vice president of engineering. Presently, he is responsible for future strategy and direction for the company. Before his career in Silicon Valley, Dave worked as a cowboy, where he got valuable management experience by herding, branding, and castrating cattle.


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Dave Hitz likes to solve fun problems. He didn't set out to be a Silicon Valley icon, a business visionary, or even a billionaire. But he became all three. It turns out that business is a mosaic of interesting puzzles like managing risk, developing and reversing strategies, and looking into the future by deconstructing the past. As a founder of NetApp, a data storage firm Dave Hitz likes to solve fun problems. He didn't set out to be a Silicon Valley icon, a business visionary, or even a billionaire. But he became all three. It turns out that business is a mosaic of interesting puzzles like managing risk, developing and reversing strategies, and looking into the future by deconstructing the past. As a founder of NetApp, a data storage firm that began as an idea scribbled on a placemat and now takes in $4 billion a year, Hitz has seen his company go through every major cycle in business--from the Jack-of-All-Trades mentality of a start-up, through the tumultuous period of the IPO and the dot-com bust, and finally to a mature enterprise company. NetApp is one of the fastest-growing computer companies ever, and for six years in a row it has been on Fortune magazine's list of Best Companies to Work For. Not bad for a high school dropout who began his business career selling his blood for money and typing the names of diseases onto index cards. With colorful examples and anecdotes, How to Castrate a Bull is a story for everyone interested in understanding business, the reasons why companies succeed and fail, and how powerful lessons often come from strange and unexpected places. Dave Hitz co-founded NetApp in 1992 with James Lau and Michael Malcolm. He served as a programmer, marketing evangelist, technical architect, and vice president of engineering. Presently, he is responsible for future strategy and direction for the company. Before his career in Silicon Valley, Dave worked as a cowboy, where he got valuable management experience by herding, branding, and castrating cattle.

30 review for How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Eunice

    NetApp is one of the great success stories of Silicon Valley. Dave was a founder. This was his view from the inside, combined with lessons he's learned along the way. I met Dave recently at a NetApp event, where they were handing out these books by the box. I'm skeptical of such "I founded a business" books, which are usually camouflaged commercials, either for the company or the person. But he seemed both savvy and nice, so I gave it a try. I started reading on the plane ride back, and found it NetApp is one of the great success stories of Silicon Valley. Dave was a founder. This was his view from the inside, combined with lessons he's learned along the way. I met Dave recently at a NetApp event, where they were handing out these books by the box. I'm skeptical of such "I founded a business" books, which are usually camouflaged commercials, either for the company or the person. But he seemed both savvy and nice, so I gave it a try. I started reading on the plane ride back, and found it to be funny, genuine, and actually insightful. It's a quick read, and it helps to explain NetApp's company culture and why so many people really like working there.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Conti

    I really wanted to like this, but I didn't get nearly as much out of it as I wanted to. Still an enjoyable, short read, but it lacked any actionable insights. I really wanted to like this, but I didn't get nearly as much out of it as I wanted to. Still an enjoyable, short read, but it lacked any actionable insights.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Denis Vasilev

    История создания Netapp и мемуары основателя. Есть любопытные мысли, но без грандиозных свежих идей

  4. 5 out of 5

    May Ling

    An unexpectedly good book found randomly left behind at my friend's place of work. It details the story of Dave Hitz, CEO and founder of NetApp. He has great lessons on how to think about various stages of growth. I like the story he tells on pg 134-136 about companies hire people who can manage stuff, not that are brilliant. The quote du jour is when a client complains of his sales force "They come in and they tell me about your products. They tell me how fast they are, how reliable they are, h An unexpectedly good book found randomly left behind at my friend's place of work. It details the story of Dave Hitz, CEO and founder of NetApp. He has great lessons on how to think about various stages of growth. I like the story he tells on pg 134-136 about companies hire people who can manage stuff, not that are brilliant. The quote du jour is when a client complains of his sales force "They come in and they tell me about your products. They tell me how fast they are, how reliable they are, how they work, speeds and feeds -- more technical detail about your products than I could possibly want to know....I pay you guys enough money that I want you to figure out my problems. I don't want to figure out what your products do. You come in and look around, and you tell me how your products will fix my problems. That's what I want." Brilliantly put. There are other gems throughout on how you think about managing and growing talent that can keep pace with growth. How to encourage others to be able to sink or swim into this idea. Lots of great wisdom for an entrepreneur.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek Kona

    I wanted to read a book about corporate history of an older silicon valley company, but this book was quite disappointing. It did not have much structure to it, its just the rambling of the author (a co-founder) about some choice anecdotes about the company. Its littered with perhaps some useful generic advice, but the book itself is poor. Its not even a book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    Interesting story and a short read not much to it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Light, fun read with lots of excellent anecdotes and hard-earned lessons. Sometimes I was wanting for more details, but still worth the read. Especially liked it because it provides a glimpse into challenges of a large, growing company that C-levels face, but I'm hidden away from as an eng Light, fun read with lots of excellent anecdotes and hard-earned lessons. Sometimes I was wanting for more details, but still worth the read. Especially liked it because it provides a glimpse into challenges of a large, growing company that C-levels face, but I'm hidden away from as an eng

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Weeks

    Quick read with a bunch of simple takeaways you can apply to everyday business. It sat on my bookshelf for many years..pulled it out this weekend and glad I did!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jono

    4.3

  10. 4 out of 5

    Edgar

    Somewhat simple in prose and narrative. Encouraging, with very little esoteric information for the non-IT audience, but explanatory enough for those with a technical background to remain interested.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mart Roben

    What if someone with the mind of an engineer became an executive in a huge company? That's what happened to Dave Hitz of NetApp. Engineers are not famous for their people skills, but they excel in drawing objective lessons from experience. This book is a collection of such lessons to help analytical types deal with people problems in work organisations. (Plus some charming personal memoirs and anecdotes.) Here are two examples: How to hold planning meetings, so that something would actually get de What if someone with the mind of an engineer became an executive in a huge company? That's what happened to Dave Hitz of NetApp. Engineers are not famous for their people skills, but they excel in drawing objective lessons from experience. This book is a collection of such lessons to help analytical types deal with people problems in work organisations. (Plus some charming personal memoirs and anecdotes.) Here are two examples: How to hold planning meetings, so that something would actually get decided? For each problem, make sure there is a person in charge of solving it. Have the person explain their plan for others to approve. Point out that for the sake of getting things done, you, as the leader, have a strong bias towards the person in charge. Others should withhold approval only if they believe the plan is fundamentally broken. If their argument is that the plan is good, but theirs is better, they should go talk to the person in charge and try to convince them after the meeting–the meeting is not a beauty contest. But if they think a plan is really busted, better speak out. How to deal if you find people (or yourself) whining? Whining is actually an opportunity: it's the evil twin of vision. Whining is a description of how you wish the world was not. Vision is a description of how you wish the world would become. Whining is a sign that you have an opportunity for vision. They may be closely related, but vision is much more motivational. Another enjoyable element that shines through the episodes of the book is the spirit of doing things the way you're not supposed to. (Also a big part of NetApp's early culture.) After all, who would write a business book called "How to Castrate a Bull" and actually include a lesson on castrating bulls in it? Well, Dave Hitz did.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Raghu

    Dave Hitz is currently the Chief Philosophy officer of NetApp, the no.1 company to work for, according to the Forbes magazine in 2009. He was one of the founders of NetApp, a programmer, tech architect, marketing evangelist and VP of engineering at various times in NetApp. This book is basically a management book. It is autobiographical and Hitz outlines how NetApp was started as a Silicon valley start-up company, funded by VC money and how it gradually established a new market segment and grew Dave Hitz is currently the Chief Philosophy officer of NetApp, the no.1 company to work for, according to the Forbes magazine in 2009. He was one of the founders of NetApp, a programmer, tech architect, marketing evangelist and VP of engineering at various times in NetApp. This book is basically a management book. It is autobiographical and Hitz outlines how NetApp was started as a Silicon valley start-up company, funded by VC money and how it gradually established a new market segment and grew to compete with the big names in Storage and eventually grew into a multi-billion dollar company employing more than 7000 employees. The style is unpretentious, engaging and is filled with a lot of lessons that he learned as they grew. Some of the lessons of interest are: In public speaking, focus on how you want the audience to feel after the talk, then what action you want them to take and then only worry about the content you will present to inspire those feelings and result in those actions. In all presentations, start with your final conclusions and then present all the data to support the conclusions Useful truths are those which may not be scientifically true. If the real truth is too complex to be inspirational, simplify it a bit and this may create an useful truth. But if you go too far in simplifying it, then you may create a disillusioning falsehood. Good leaders must help people to step back and see the broad picture instead of getting lost in what he calls 'speckled egg thinking'. I enjoyed reading the book and learnt a few things about successful start-ups. Recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Phil Everitt

    A good insight into Network Appliance and how they started. It could probably shrunk to 25% of the size but then the cost would be seen as outrageous. There are some gems in there, such as remembering to take a step back and think what the person may have been thinking or what they needed when a particular feature was developed. It is too easy to take one look now and see it as ill fitting your own personal needs, but it may have been just fine then.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dmytro

    This is a pretty short book which details the story of growth of a company called Net App which essentially went from being a start up to now a multi-billion dollar enterprise. I really enjoyed the authors writing style and on every couple of pages I found valuable lessons with respect to building a company or managing people

  15. 5 out of 5

    Seymour Hersh

    This is an excellent read. Written by one of the founders of x Davie Hitz provides insights into his startup growth, fall and growth of a multibillion dollar high tech company. Coming from the heart the insighs help the readers understand the day to day personal and professional challenges of leadership,finance, and organizational in raising a company. Well done.. S

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Dave Hitz is the founder of the company I work for, NetApp. This book was a quick read and very interesting to get his perspective on founding a company and what changes and what shouldn't as a company grows and the decision making behind a start up and a grown up company. The background of his family and life experiences is also very interesting. Dave Hitz is the founder of the company I work for, NetApp. This book was a quick read and very interesting to get his perspective on founding a company and what changes and what shouldn't as a company grows and the decision making behind a start up and a grown up company. The background of his family and life experiences is also very interesting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wanda H Oehrli

    This book is a great one if you are interested in entrepreneurship and the data storage industry. It is a story of how a small company in Silicon Valley can grow to be giant and the growing pains that come along with it. For being a business book this is really a great read for anyone. I enjoyed reading it and thought it contained great advice and interesting stories.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I really enjoyed this, so it went very quickly. Dave is a very talented writer; he navigates the story of a very technical company in extremely simple language. In addition, his stories are very humorous, and he does a great job weaving in technical anecdotes between his bits of personal philosophy. Definitely a must read for anyone in high tech startups or early stage companies.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Assaf

    A nice and fast read (took me two days). The story is nice as a recap of the way startups got started during the 90s. Not amazing. Can't say that I learned a great deal from the author's insights... the only anecdote I'll remember is probably the one about seagulls. :) A nice and fast read (took me two days). The story is nice as a recap of the way startups got started during the 90s. Not amazing. Can't say that I learned a great deal from the author's insights... the only anecdote I'll remember is probably the one about seagulls. :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel F.

    I liked this book. NetApp is a company that has gone through many ups and downs -- their stock went from U$150 to $13 in 6 months back in 2001 -- and the book presents many stories that are typical of startups in the Valley.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chidambaram Ramanathan

    Very good book. I have worked with NetApp so I could relate to most of the events mentioned in the book. It's fast paced and plenty of inspiring quotes are present. Overall it's a satisfying read Very good book. I have worked with NetApp so I could relate to most of the events mentioned in the book. It's fast paced and plenty of inspiring quotes are present. Overall it's a satisfying read

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Interesting read, I enjoyed his frank, honest approach to story telling.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Harsh Surana

    Nicely done. Well structured journey of the startup. The journey in divided into 3 phases, which helps to understand the flow.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Muhammed

    Want to read a sincere story about startup life in the buble? Read this book. Good anecdotes and lessons from Dave Hits.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Vineet

    Simply told about building a technology, convincing people and scaling your company (and going boom in the process as well)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Schoenfeld

    If you want to read a highly informative but also funny book on business, this is the book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    This book was authored by a founder of NetApp and has some interesting stories and nuggets of advice for both start-ups and more established companies. A quick and easy read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kinze

    Gives an interesting perspective on establishing a business and growing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Derrell

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