Whether you love him or dislike him as a person (I lean more toward the latter), there’s no doubting the world-changing impact of the 28-year-old Mark Zuckerberg. Entrepreneurs like us can learn a lot from his strategic mindset and innovative approaches to business. As a social media innovator at Intel, my friend Ekaterina Walter has long been one of the top authorities on Facebook. In the following guest post, we’re lucky to have her share with us the key elements of Zuck's success from her new book, which hits store shelves today!
From stories of reunited families to stories of saved businesses, from social movements that have changed lives to communities that have come together, Facebook has changed the way society connects, whether at an individual, group or global level. Over 1 billion of us now have a Facebook account and around a billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook daily.
How did founder Mark Zuckerberg create such a staggeringly successful business, and what can we all learn from his own story? I discuss the answers to this question in more detail in my book “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg”, but in this post I wanted to share some quick insights around the five key elements of success.
There is no such thing as ‘failure’ if you really want to pursue your dream. It is simply an invaluable learning experience towards the next iteration of an idea or a product.
The most successful entrepreneurs share the same trait: they are passionate about what they do. Mark Zuckerberg has always been passionate about using technology to connect people, but he has also put in the hard work to achieve it. Estee Lauder once said: “I didn’t get where I am by thinking about it or dreaming it. I got there by doing it.” Zuckerberg has never rested on his laurels or sold out to the offers to buy his company, however successful Facebook has become. Facebook keeps evolving because the company is always trialing new developments: their passion means that they are not afraid of ‘failure’, they are always learning from the process.
Truly successful companies stay true to their purpose, or their reason for being, however large they get. Apple’s purpose is to create stylish, intuitive products. Amazon provides low-cost internet shopping. The greatest companies change the way we live: they create movements rather than products. Apple didn’t invent the mp3 player, but they streamlined the process of downloading and listening to music and so brought it to a mass market. Amazon popularized internet shopping by making it easy to use.
Facebook has stayed true to their long-term vision “to make the world more open and connected” and this has shaped their development, no matter how large they have become.
A company’s culture comes from the people it hires and Facebook have a rigorous screening process so they only hire the employees for the company who have both the skills and the right outlook.
“One of the things that we’ve focused on is keeping the company as small as possible… How do you do that? You make sure that every person you add to your company is really great.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Tony Hsieh, the founder and CEO of Zappos, a company famously supportive of its employees, attributes his company’s success to the investment they have made in their workforce. As he says in his book Delivering Happiness they “are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run. Everything else can and will eventually be copied.”
At Facebook, the product is never finished. This is the core philosophy behind the ‘hacker way’ that dominates the Facebook method of development. For Zuckerberg, the product comes out of his desire to connect people using technology, and so he and his team are always looking for better ways to do this. Staying true to their passion for connectivity has meant that the Facebook product has stayed relevant no matter how big the company grew. They have always focused on “the best, simplest product that lets people share information as easily as they can” and this simplicity has been a key factor in Facebook’s success.
There have been some phenomenally successful entrepreneurial partnerships over the years: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, or Pierre Omidyar and Jeffrey Skoll, to give just a few examples. Mark Zuckerberg may be the most famous face at Facebook but it is his partnership with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, that is responsible for the massive business success of the company. A great leader is aware of his/her own shortcomings and partners with the right people, whether internally or externally, to build a strong team to grow their company.
Facebook’s future has never been more debated than since their recent IPO. The company’s growth has been incredible, and yet Zuckerberg has always kept the company true to their mission to make the world a more connected place. If Facebook continues to stay true to their culture and values, then their future growth and evolution seems assured.
To me, “Think Like Zuck” is an analogy of a leader who follows his passion, leads with purpose, builds great teams, and strives for continued excellence in her product (or services). It is a mentality that drives great leaders to build successful business.
About the author: Ekaterina Walter is a social media innovator at Intel, a speaker, and an author of the book “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg”. Walter was named among 25 Women Who Rock Social Media in 2012. She sits on a Board of Directors of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). You can find her on Twitter: @Ekaterina and her blog www.ekaterinawalter.com.