I’ve been lucky enough to spend time behind the scenes at Facebook. Here are success lessons not everyone gets to see.
The Zuck is a total badass. A standard of success.
I was having dinner with some Facebookers at a restaurant on the Menlo Park campus when the icon of success himself walked in. Zuckerberg quickly noticed stares he was drawing from the packed joint, made some gestures, and quietly slipped out.
Probably to have his dinner brought to him by a drone–one that looked like a sweet Star Wars TIE fighter. Probably. He’s that badass.
Anyway, in between bites, I was vetting inspiring lessons I gleaned from spending time inside Facebook jointly constructing business building plans, an opportunity I had since I ran several multi-billion dollar businesses for Procter & Gamble.
Here’s what I learned:
1. It’s intensely about the purpose
Resident star Sheryl Sandberg and Sam Lessin (the brainchild behind Facebook’s Timeline) both spoke to me with fervor about the purpose of their work, telling me it is a “social mission to make the world more open and connected”.
This zeal was palpable in every employee I encountered. While I’m sure I was often talking to twenty-something millionaires, I never once heard a quip about the financial appeal of the job.
Case in point, employees proudly told me that after Facebook’s much vaunted IPO bell-ringing ceremony on campus, everyone went hurriedly back to work, with little fanfare. It’s about the meaning, not the money.
Articulate your purpose and let it drive you as well.
2. Build it. Don’t talk about building it
Most have heard of Facebook’s “Hackathons”, the dusk ’til 6 a.m. sessions where engineers build prototypes for a pet idea, as long as it’s outside their day job.
What’s inspiring is just how ingrained the prototyping mindset is at Facebook. Dubbed “The Hacker Way,” it’s about solving a problem using the means you have at your disposal.
As one company guidebook says, “It’s a prison shiv, not a Ginsu knife. MacGyver, not Bond”.
It’s also about do, don’t ask. Test. Learn. Iterate. And it’s a driver of Facebook’s product development success. So entrepreneurs take heed.
Build it, and they will come. Or maybe they won’t. Yet. But you’ll have started.
3. Plan for six months or 30 years
We tend to spend far too much time on the 3-5 year plans, which can be utterly fruitless if you work in environments that change a lot, which is many of us.
Facebook revisits their 30 year plans every 6 months, which informs what they do for the next 6 months. As for the planning in between? Not as much.
Yes, that’s a bit radical and maybe you shouldn’t take it that far, but the spirit is inspiring. Your longer term vision should be discussed more often in lieu of mid-term planning minutiae, and should have far more impact on your short term actions.
4. Create the thing that kills your business, or someone else will
Complacency is virtually absent at Facebook. There’s a healthy underlying tension from the knowledge that consumers have many other ways to spend their time and to share in social.
Facebook knows that even Zuckerberg can’t escape what’s known as Zuckerberg’s Law–the idea that the amount of information people share every year doubles, while the amount of time they spend consuming and sharing remains constant.
Net, the social engagement space is incredibly competitive. Knowing this drives Facebook to continually reinvent themselves to win more of those moments of social engagement.
So ask yourself, “What could kill my business?” Then do it first.
5. Speed and impact are the only option
Inspirational posters pepper the Facebook campus. Two in particular appear frequently and caught my eye: “Proceed and Be Bold”, and “Move Fast and Break Things”.
Not only are these inspiring anthems for all entrepreneurs, they’re the foundation of Facebook’s
Standard Operating Procedure.
For the day-to-day this means success comes to those who ponder big, don’t procrastinate making big happen, and don’t worry about perfecting big.
6. Treat high standards as a job perk
Facebook employees are asked to do insanely difficult things, and to do them well, and fast.
They wear these standards like a badge of pride and consider it a privilege.
You can create this atmosphere too. Make a big deal about how high standards yield progress, personal growth, and can only be effectively held over the most talented employees.
7. “You were hired for your opinion, not Mark’s”
This refrain can be heard when someone is guessing at what Zuckerberg would want or thinks.
Even a company as intertwined with their leader as Facebook prides itself in promoting the power of original thinking.
Whether you’re the Mark or you have a Mark up the food chain, protect and promote the power of unique opinions.