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Sunday B2B Book Review: How To Castrate A Bull by Dave Hitz

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Michael Brown

October 21, 2018
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We are back again this Sunday with our book reviews from great business software leaders. This week, we give you a book review of How To Castrate A Bull by Dave Hitz. Written by NetApp co-founder Dave Hitz, the book summarizes the nearly 20 year lifespan of the company and how they went from just 3 guys with an idea to over 10,000 employees, 10,000 customers and more than $5B in annual revenues. There is a lot on NetApp’s creation, search for funding, struggle for survival, and ultimate success delivering storage and data management solutions to customers worldwide.

We give the book a 4.5 out of 5.0. Dave talks about the various stages of the company’s growth, from the early product development days, to the hyper-growth phase, to the dark days following the dot-com crash in 2001, to today’s renewed growth in the age of data. Dave is also an an excellent writer and the book is well edited so that the reader is kept entertained and feeling like they are actually learning things that they can apply in helping to manage a business. Below were a few key takeaways from our book review of How To Castrate A Bull.

1. Working On A Farm Is A Lot Like Starting A Company. Dave describes his experiences at Deep Springs ranch before coming to Princeton (fun fact: Jeff Bezos was his roommate!) as a very pivotal point in his life. He came from a middle class background, had a good education, and had never done any blue collar work before. Hitz says his experience on the ranch was invaluable because it exposed him, a suburban kid, to people from other walks of life. He had to learn on the fly. He did not know how to do a lot of things that were critical to success on a farm. So, he figured it out. In many ways, start-up companies are very similar and this should be one of the biggest takeaways from our book review of How To Castrate A Bull.

2. Castrating A Bull Involves Planning & Calculated Risks. The title of the book, one will find, is about taking calculated risks. The reason he chose How To Castrate A Bull as the title is because one of the book’s themes is taking risks. You might screw up some of the things you dive into, which isn’t a big deal. However, there are some things like going into a pen and cutting the balls off a bull calf, that need to be carefully planned out before you jump in. Hitz emphasizes knowing which decisions in your start-up should be calculated, well thought out, and focused versus which things do not need a serious amount of calculation.

3. Re-Invention Is Necessary For Success. Among the more interesting sections are when Hitz recounts the challenges and risks NetApp confronted when it tried to evolve and grow. The big challenges came when the company moved to direct sales from indirect sales, added support for Windows to a product line based on Unix, and embraced SANs when the company was totally focused on NAS. “Change is a natural part of life and business. You should embrace it and in some cases demand it. Too many people think that if they have to change they must have been doing something wrong. If the management team can provide the perspective that the world has changed and we also need to change, that can make it easier for people to go along on the change journey,”

If you liked “Sunday B2B Book Review Of How To Castrate A Bull by Dave Hitz” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog.