Lessons from Facebook for Entrepreneurs

So the big financial news this week was that Facebook filed it’s IPO.  On Thursday, if you watched the financial news channels, you might have been forgiven for thinking there was no other financial news that day.

As I listened to the news reports and read the articles in The New York Times, I was struck by the little nuggets behind the news about how to be the founder/CEO of an entrepreneurial endeavor.  Not that any of this is new and hasn’t been said a thousand times before, but it always seems worth repeating.  So, I thought I would share with you what leaped out at me.  Perhaps you saw/heard some different things that could also be “lessons from Facebook for entrepreneurs”.

Be the Visionary
“Mark’s vision on the purity of the product … wasn’t subject to committee decisions. It was all Mark.”

The business founder(s) is(are) the one(s) with the vision of the goals for the business.  While they take in input and advice from the people and environment around them they have to be the visionary guides.  Just as Steve Jobs was at Apple.

Maintain Control
Zuckerberg “arranged ownership … to give himself extraordinary power to steer the company” and maintained voting power of almost 60% of total shares.  Some have given the impression that he did so ruthlessly – I leave you to make your own judgement.

It can be tough when you are raising external investment to maintain the level of “extraordinary” share control that Zuckerberg was able to; but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Also, founders (especially first-time entrepreneurs) are too willing to give up the CEO position.  This is usually justified along the lines of “I don’t know how to run a business; and I just want to focus on x”.  But the CEO is, amongst other things, the keeper of the vision – so refer back to ‘Be the Visionary’.  If you need assistance running the business, look for that complimentary skill in a co-founder – or hire your own Sheryl Sandberg.

Control the business, control the vision.

Get Your Product/Service Out There
Zuckerberg “pushed his team to be fast and take risks”, with a philosophy of “better done than perfect”.  Facebook has continually looked to improve their product – even if you didn’t like some of their changes – with a mantra of “stay focused and keep shipping”.

The sooner you get your product out there, the sooner you will know what the market acceptance is.  The sooner you will be able to improve your product to overcome any market issues.  It will never be “perfect”, so what are you waiting for.

Making decisions quickly allows you to move to the next task or issue; which can be better than hanging on to some idea, position or product that has been shown to be not working.

Should You Really be the Smartest Person in the Room?
Zuckerberg “sought out the most successful technology bosses”, because although “there is no problem he doesn’t think he can solve, … he constantly tries to find the smartest people he can to give him advice”.  He constantly asks “who are the smartest people for me to talk to about this?”.

This is true not only of the advisors and mentors you need to surround yourself with, but also the people you put on your team.  The people you hire should be the smartest people you can get with the required skills and experience (as long as they can fit into the team and the culture).  I’m sure when Zuckerberg hired Sheryl Sandberg in 2008 as his COO, he did so because she was smarter than him about running the operational aspects of a business.

What lessons have you identified from all the news about Facebook?  I’d love to hear them.  Now, get out there and build your “Facebook”.

All quotes are taken from the article “Controlling His Network: Mark Zuckerberg Remains the Undisputed Boss at Facebook” which appeared in the February 3rd Business Day section of The New York Times.

Excellent Execution

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