Zuckerberg isn’t the kind of CEO you hear about every day. He’s been known to stand his ground from the early days of Facebook, running the company almost like a one-man show. And his non-conventional approach to getting things done notwithstanding, he’s ultimately the unflinching CEO of a $100B Internet empire. Other than his sense of dress, and being described by critics as socially awkward, his remarkable achievement of scaling Facebook to the heights it is at now is the hallmark of a true CEO. A CEO that was able to gracefully transition from startup CEO to corporate CEO.
The road for Zuckerberg has been long, and certainly not without challenges, dare I say, fun. In just under 10 years, his entrepreneurial experience can only be rivaled only by a few. As such, every aspiring entrepreneur can learn a thing or two from his unique experiences. So here are 5 entrepreneurial (and management) lessons from the Facebook CEO.
Start your business with a higher purpose
Zuckerberg says that he never intended to start Facebook as a company. According to him, he just wanted it personally to satisfy a global need to connect. His social mission has always been “to make the world more open and connected”. In one of his letters to the shareholders, Zuckerberg wrote:
“Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.”
I think Zuckerberg is being sincere here about his true intentions. He didn’t just build a website to make money. Of course, he would never have dreamed that Facebook would become what it is today. But we can safely attribute part of the success of Facebook to its CEO’s true mission. The mission to connect people with other people, businesses, and brands; forging closer relationships – that’s what has kept the social network ticking till now. Because, as Zuckerberg observes, “Building a mission and building a business go hand in hand.”
Hire the best talent to complement your skills
In 2008, Zuckerberg brought on board Sheryl Sandberg from Google as the new COO. By doing so, he was acknowledging the truth about what he wasn’t best known for: people skills. That appointment marks just one of many that Mark made, for the better of the company. And though his vision has largely steered the company over the years, it probably wouldn’t be any close to where it is now without the right team.
He says he spends roughly a quarter of his time trying to find the right people to build his team. He’s always on the hunt for new talent that he can put into “impactful roles”.
Hiring Sandberg allowed Zuckerberg to spend more time on his true strengths – improving the Facebook platform – while she ran the whole business show, from communications, PR, expansion, and relationships with the top advertisers. It’s little wonder why many have attributed the success of the company in large part to Sandberg’s ‘leadership’ as the number two.
And Zuckerberg has long maintained the need to build a g product, rather than place all the focus on making profits. His recruitment approach has therefore centered on hiring a team that is aligned to the company’s term vision. That, according to him, is more important than the money, and the reason he’s had to release some people.
Think long term
Just 3 years after Facebook’s launch, Yahoo made a billion dollar offer to buy it out. Zuckerberg rejected the offer, saying “I’m here to build something for the long term,” adding “Anything else is a distraction. Well, if he had given in to that once-in-a-lifetime offer at that time, the boy would be deeply regretting today. But maybe Facebook wouldn’t even have taken the right direction without his stewardship. Who knows?
Facebook’s long-term vision was no doubt driven by Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘higher purpose’. There’s a story also about how in his senior year in high school, he and his friend D’Angelo rejected Microsoft and AOL’s millions and job offers. Both companies were head-hunting the pair after the success of their popular free Winamp plugin, known as Synapse. The boys chose college instead.
Move fast and break things
Facebook has long sworn by this motto, thanks to Zuckerberg and the letter he wrote to potential shareholders. He’s never been afraid of moving fast enough to shake things up, with the risk of making mistakes always there.
Facebook Beacon was one such mistake. Oh, well maybe you’ve never heard of it, because according to Zuckerberg, people will forget your mistakes in the long run and only remember the value you’ve provided them.
When Facebook first introduced News Feed, there was a major uproar among the social network’s users, so much so that a protest group on the site hit a 700,000-strong membership only a few days later. Users were infuriated, and it looked like the end of Facebook had come. But they added privacy settings and tried to make users see how it worked. In the end, the users got used to it, and even loved it.
The Edgerank algorithm was later introduced, changing the face of the News Feed that users had gotten used to. Again, the users hated it at first. Facebook gave them the option to switch between the old and the new News Feed and they stopped complaining.
There’s also the Timeline feature and a number of other changes that didn’t go down so well with other users at first. But like Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg has never been afraid to take risks. He believes in moving too fast and messing up some of the time, and sometimes moving too slowly to balance that.
Companies need to be constantly growing
We’ve seen how Zuckerberg has always tried keeping things fresh at Facebook. He wants change, and he wants growth, too. In the early days, he set up a growth team whose mandate was to get more people to sign up on Facebook. Facebook observed that users needed at least 10 friends on the site to keep coming back, so it streamlined the signup process and set up a suggestion feature to help people discover other people they might know.
Part of this growth was the ability of Facebook to listen intently to its users despite growing ever so big. Zuckerberg’s focus has always been on two things: having a clear direction for the company (constantly improving) and a great team driving in this direction. With this focus in place, growth is inevitable.
And while he acknowledges that it may not be the same for every company, he says “…once you get a core product that you’re happy with, I think it’s worth going through and having the discipline to do this exercise.”
Tom writes for Valuator.com.au. They can help you determine the value of your website and see if now is the right time to sell.
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