This is a guest post by Ekaterina Walter.
There can be few companies that have become part of so many people’s daily lives in such a short space of time as Facebook. Since 2004 it has grown to over one billion users globally, with over half of those logging on daily. What can we learn from founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s incredible journey, and what are the keys to his success? 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.
Passion is what sets the successful entrepreneurs apart from the rest. Think of some of the top business people – Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates – they might have very different personalities but one trait they all share is passion.
Mark Zuckerberg has always been passionate about using technology to connect people, and this passion has driven him to succeed despite numerous setbacks.
Passion fuels perseverance – one of the key ingredients of success.
“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected.” - About Facebook statement accompanying company’s press release
Great leaders (and great companies) create movements, not just products. Facebook isn’t just a social networking site; it is a way of staying on touch with people around the world, a place to bring people together and building communities, and a tool for sharing information. By always keeping his purpose in mind, Zuckerberg has been able to focus on creating the best product for achieving this. The most successful companies build their products on their purpose, whether it is Southwest Airlines striving to bring affordable air travel to everybody, Apple to create a seamless and stylish user experience, or Dyson to re-invent what we use every day and make it better.
“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 in his 2011 BYU speech
Facebook’s famously rigorous screening process for new employees is designed to find people with not only the right skills to do the job, but the right attitude. The culture of a business comes from its employees, and Facebook provides intensive training – ‘Bootcamp’ – that teaches new starters to “think like Zuck”. With everyone operating on the same wavelength, Facebook has been able to achieve great things with a relatively small team.
No matter how big it grew, Facebook has always been about people: Zuck’s product stems from his passion for connectivity, and this has kept Facebook relevant despite the fast pace of development. Innovations such as Groups, the Wall, photo tagging or the Timeline have always centered on users’ requirements and have grown out of the Facebook culture of fast, imaginative design.
The most innovative companies give their employees the freedom to experiment and take risks that drive product ideas.
Make innovation personal! Involve your employees and give them freedom to create.
No business leader can run a company all by themselves. Good leaders recognize their own weaknesses as much as their strengths and bring in the right people to form partnerships that drive success. Whether it is investors, a management team, suppliers, distributors or retail partnerships, partnering with the right people is vital.
The partnership of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, his COO, has been hugely important in growing the site as a successful business. This partnership of imagination and execution works because both partners have complementary skills and a shared passion for the Facebook mission.
The way people use the internet has changed in the last eight years since Facebook was founded, and will continue to change. Under Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership, the company has responded to changing user needs. Zuckerberg’s passion and commitment to his product and vision has been central to pushing the boundaries of social networking and will continue to do so as user needs evolve.
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 building successful business and the approach they use to doing so.
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.