strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /var/www/sites/ on line 126.

Book Review: Dave Hitz' "How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business"

Dave Hitz is one of the cofounders of NetApp, which is a Silicon Valley success story, and has been with the company since 1992. I just finished reading his new book, How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business, and I highly recommend it.

In the book, Dave tells the intertwined stories of both his professional history (which included a stint as a working cowboy on an isolated cattle ranch; thus the title of the book) and the history of NetApp, and he shares many of the insightful lessons that he has learned along the way.

Dave is a natural story teller, and besides being fun to hear, his stories usually manage to memorably convey some point of wisdom. He's also a very nice guy, which is unfortunately rarer than you might wish in Silicon Valley. I've had the privilege of knowing Dave socially and professionally for a number of years, and I'm always pleased when I run into him at some industry or social event, because I know that a fun and interesting conversation will likely ensue.

The book is a great peek into what it takes to grow a startup from scratch to 8000 employees and billions of dollars in annual revenue, while also making it one of the most respected Silicon Valley companies and a fixture on every year's Fortune Magazine Best Companies to Work For list. He talks about the various stages of the company's growth, from the early product development days ("beat Auspex!"), to the hyper-growth phase (double the company's size and revenue every year for several years in a row), to the dark days following the dot-com crash in 2001 or so, to today's renewed growth in "The Age of Data".

Dave especially focuses on how NetApp has built, maintained, and continues to evolve the positive corporate culture that is one of its major strengths; that didn't happen by accident, and Dave discusses how they did it (and why!).

Strongly recommended.