Find that thing you are super passionate about.
A lot of founding principles of Facebook are that if people have access to more information and are more connected, it will make the world better; people will have more understanding, more empathy. That’s the guiding principle for me. On hard days, I really just step back, and that’s the thing that keeps me going.
Mark Zuckerberg could have only talked about the social network of his dreams, like many of his peers at Exeter and many of the students at Harvard. But he was the only one who had the guts to take the plunge and act on it. He thought through it, he designed it, he came up with the features, he paid for the hosting company, and he launched it on an average night no different from any other when he played with the coding of his other projects.
Doers always act! The word possibilities always translates for them as “possible it is!” To them, that’s how a dream becomes a reality. A Facebook poster hung in the Palo Alto headquarters reads: “Done is better than perfect.”
Passion + Action = Results
With anything you do, you always encounter criticism. And the bigger you are, the bigger the target on your back. Such is the case with Facebook. It is often criticized for its disregard for privacy in favor of this radical openness concept. It seems that the younger generation isn’t as concerned with privacy issues as the older generation is. A lot of youngsters who were brought up in a global village welcome the openness and opportunities that Facebook provides them, such as being a platform for speaking up and seeking out like-minded people. I won’t argue with the fact that privacy is a serious issue to consider always. But I also believe that it is a two-way street, that it is a matter of personal responsibility as well. I am of the opinion that one shouldn’t share something one wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with the whole world anywhere online. Everything we do online or offline is a personal choice. And so is our decision about what to share on social networks.
Your passions help you understand who you are and what you want to do with your life. That understanding shapes your purpose. And purpose is what crafts your ideas, defines your creations, molds your products, and propels your innovation. Purpose is the heart of your business.
Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.
—About Facebook statement accompanying company’s press releases
Great companies don’t just create great products, they create movements. Everything a successful company does stems from its purpose: the products it makes, the employees it hires, the working environment it creates, the customers and investors it attracts, the partnerships it forges, the way it markets its products or services, and the way it delivers customer service. The reality is that any new product or service can be copied, the quality can be made comparable, the incentives can be offered, and the prices can be cut in an effort to make a company competitive. But what really breeds long-term customer loyalty (and with it success of the company) isn’t a specific product or a discount but rather the authentic belief your customers hold that binds them to your company and makes them relate to your company’s mission in the world. That is what speaks to customers’ emotions, dreams, and values.
Ignited by Mark Zuckerberg’s passion, his Harvard friends got together numerous times to discuss the topic of changing the world. They talked about a better, more open, and empathetic world. From that, Facebook’s purpose was born—“to make the world more open and connected.” His friends, who shared Zuck’s beliefs, rallied behind that purpose of building communication bridges between people, and they dropped out of college to help Zuck make it a reality. They set out to build a directory of people, a gateway to the people in our lives we care about. They wanted to bring our offline world online.
Now, with close to 4,000 employees, Facebook always buzzes with passion, excitement, focused activity, and sheer determination. Why? It isn’t because Zuck is charismatic. He may be brilliant, but he isn’t charismatic socially. But when he starts talking about Facebook and its mission, people cannot not pay attention.
I’ve always focused on a couple of things. One is having a clear direction for the company and what we build. And the other is just trying to build the best team possible toward that … I think as a company, if you can get those two things right—having a clear direction on what
you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff—then you can do pretty well.
The “hacker” culture within the company is very well defined and understood by all. With almost 4,000 employees, Facebook continues to live and breathe its hacker culture, which allowed its employees to take the network from a simple student site to a worldwide enabler of personal and professional communication. As Zuckerberg wrote:
As part of building a strong company, we work hard at making Facebook the best place for great people to have a big impact on the world and learn from other great people. We have cultivated a unique culture and management approach that we call the Hacker Way.
The word “hacker” has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers. In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done. Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers want to have a positive impact on the world. Those kind of hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.
At Facebook, allegiance to the hacker way permeates every aspect of the business, from product innovation to organizational structure to management and training. For the first time, in the same letter, Mark Zuckerberg also clearly defined the company’s five core values, which are consistent with the hacker way:
- Focus on impact. “If we want to have the biggest impact, the best way to do this is to make sure we always focus on solving the most important problems. It sounds simple, but we think most companies do this poorly and waste a lot of time. We expect everyone at Facebook to be good at finding the biggest problems to work on.”
- Move fast. “Moving fast enables us to build more things and learn faster. However, as most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities by moving too slowly. We have a saying: ‘Move fast and break things.’ The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.”
- Be bold. “Building great things means taking risks. This can be scary and prevents most companies from doing the bold things they should. However, in a world that’s changing so quickly, you’re guaranteed to fail if you don’t take any risks. We have another saying: ‘The riskiest thing is to take no risks.’ We encourage everyone to make bold decisions, even if that means being wrong some of the time.”
- Be open. “We believe that a more open world is a better world because people with more information can make better decisions and have a greater impact. That goes for running our company as well. We work hard to make sure everyone at Facebook has access to as much information as possible about every part of the company so they can make the best decisions and have the greatest impact.”
- Build social value. “Once again, Facebook exists to make the world more open and connected, and not just to build a company. We expect everyone at Facebook to focus every day on how to build real value for the world in everything they do.”
I believe that over time people get remembered for what they build, and if you build something great, people don’t care about what someone says about you in a movie … they care about what you build.
What this young CEO did right was to invest money and time into building a great product first and think about revenue second. He waited to go public until he built a solid product that set the foundation for profit in the long run. He knew that if he would have started flooding Facebook’s members with ads instead on focusing on growth and reinvention, it would have alienated users (which is what ended up happening with MySpace). Too many companies place a lot of emphasis too soon on revenue generation rather than on the product itself. Steve Jobs saw Zuck’s brilliance. Jobs’s biographer, Walter Isaacson, says Jobs had a lot of respect for the young leader. He says the reason Jobs felt Apple didn’t crack the code on social (referring to Ping, Apple’s failed attempt at building its own social network) was largely because of Facebook’s success. Mark did it so well, Jobs said.
Mark Zuckerberg has redefined the way people communicate and share. He has proven to be a visionary leader and a long-term strategist. He understands that to be successful, one needs to run a marathon, not a sprint. He knows that game-changing success is an endurance game. A lot of times, people who lead organizations forget that and instead succumb to the pressure of peers and stakeholders. Until leaders are rewarded for long-term thinking, persistence and patience won’t be encouraged. Patience, commitment to purpose, and strategy are the key pillars in business success; you cannot reach the finish line without them. “I’m here to build something for the long term. Anything else is a distraction,” Mark Zuckerberg continues to say to his critics and stakeholders.
The reason Mark and I are a good fit is we spent most of our time talking about what we both care about and what motivated us, and I could see from Mark that what he really wanted to build was something that fundamentally was going to change who we are and how we interact.
—Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer
When leaders of a company share the same purpose but bring different things to the table, that is the kind of partnership that tends to be the strongest. The Zuckerberg-Sandberg duo is an example of such a partnership. If Facebook’s vast membership is purely Zuckerberg’s contribution to the company’s success, the business prosperity is largely the contribution of Sheryl Sandberg.
Intelligent, elegant, and highly ambitious, Sandberg arrived at Facebook in early 2008 and immediately took over the operational side of business, freeing Zuckerberg to focus on what he knows best—building up Facebook as a site and a platform. Their working approach is rather effective. Every Monday morning and every Friday afternoon, Mark and Sheryl huddle to discuss the issues of the week around strategy, product, and personnel. They also touch on personal topics.
One of the reasons the company is doing so well is because the two of them get along so well,” said one of Facebook’s executives. Another longtime Facebook executive called the partnership “a blessing from the gods.” A number of Facebook’s board of directors’ members share this point of view. The key to the success of this relationship is the fact that Sandberg truly wants Zuck to succeed, and she is willing to take second place to him whenever necessary to support him in his mission.
Some are perplexed by this partnership. Zuckerberg is a young engineer who is socially awkward and isn’t comfortable being in the spotlight. He dropped out of Harvard and doesn’t have any experience in building a company. Sandberg is in her forties and is highly successful. She is polished; and she is known for her interpersonal skills and vast industry connections. But their differences are what make the Zuckerberg-Sandberg duo such an extraordinary team. They complement each other very well. What Mark lacks in experience, Sheryl brings to the table in abundance. When he doesn’t feel like stepping into the limelight, she steps in for him masterfully. The difference in age, as well as gender, contributes various perspectives and capabilities.
What we can learn from the Facebook duo is that the most vibrant and fulfilling partnerships are based on a set of philosophies that partners agree upon. Those are:
- Clear expectations. Partners need to be clear about their expectations of each other and about the benefits they expect to get out of the partnership.
- Shared values and vision. The importance of shared values and a common vision are often underestimated. If partners have different goals, the business can’t grow successfully
- Mutual trust. A strong partnership is based on mutual trust; it seeks to maximize the happiness and accomplishments of all parties involved
- Fair exchange of value. Partners have to contribute equal amounts of valuable contributions for a partnership to survive, including financial resources, a strong business network and connections, client lists, credentials, expertise, time, etc. Partners
- Complementary strengths. No single person is a master of all things. The more diverse skills each partner brings to the table, the easier it will be to start, build, grow, and run your enterprise.
- Commitment. From the start, partners need to communicate their level of commitment to the venture so that there is no animosity if one contributes less than another
- Mutual respect. Mutual respect keeps them open to constructive criticism. Establishing equality early on allows them to accept each other’s opinions, feedback, and ideas.