Mark Zuckerberg is not a new name to a lot of people around the world, more so in the United States where he has become a figure of the American dream, launching the behemoth social network, Facebook. In 2004, at the very tender age of 20 years, Zuckerberg launched “TheFacebook” to very little fanfare with the dream of one day connecting the world. He admits that he didn’t know Facebook would connect the world, and his dream of the world being connected was so real if a big company in tech like Microsoft or IBM would have done it. Today Facebook is used by over a billion and a half people every day. There are more than 7 billion people around the world. While the journey to connect the world is not even a quarter way done, Facebook is the company with the most chance, and there is a huge probability that it will be the first to ever do it if it is ever done in our lifetime. With Facebook’s success came Zuckerberg’s break into the billionaire club; he is now worth $54 billion and the fourth richest person in the world. Mark calls himself a millennial, like most of us. The generational challenge he believes that millennials need to solve is giving people a sense of purpose. It is not just that though, it is a lot of other things like climate change, equality, democracy, community, and job creation among other concerns. He believes that the entrepreneurs of our time have a chance to do all these things right. As entrepreneurs launch companies pushing for various ideals around the world, here are Zuckerberg’s most compelling pieces of advice for the entrepreneurial journey;
1. Explore your options
There are high chances that as an entrepreneur, you have so many options on how to build your company. There are several ways people build companies from the lean startup method, believing and following a business plan, bootstrapping, hiring fast, or having a remote team or bungling everyone in an official address, all these are options that Mark thinks you should explore to find the best option that will help you to enjoy your job. Before settling on a way of running your company, building your team, product, marketing and public relations you have to explore all the available strategies and find a suitable one. Do not be too quick to settle onto something.
2. Done is better than perfect
This is probably the millionth time you are reading about another successful entrepreneur insisting on building a minimum viable product. It is because this strategy works. You can always improve the product or service later. What you need is to be build something that works; the very tone down version of your product. After that begin to market it. Mark recalls when Facebook first launched as a toned-down version of what the platform is today. If you joined Facebook between 2004 to 2011, you know that the newsfeed didn’t exist. Those were 7 years without the feature that has come to define the social network in the years following the launch in 2012. Facebook launched in 2004 with the ability to connect people; so you were able to send and accept friend requests, update your status, upload a photo and share with your friends. That was all it did. Most things you know Facebook for today, from Groups to Newsfeed, ability to upload albums, or tag people on photos, update stories, etc. all came in later years. It wasn’t perfect but it was ready. Zuckerberg runs Facebook the same way today. He encourages teams to release features that are done but not perfect as soon as possible so testing can begin. It is about testing, getting feedback, and improving further.
3. Pinpoint the problem you’re solving
Mark has expressed his frustrations with the current vibe in Silicon Valley where startups are building products of services without clearing out the question of ‘What change do you want to make in the world?’ He says that people are beginning to think about building companies first before thinking about a pain point they want to provide a solution for. With the advent of venture capital funding, and easily found capital, it’s easy to get funding for a company with no clear mission in the world. It is the wrong way of building a startup. Entrepreneurs and founders have to be very clear on the problem they are tackling. It has to go on to make a change in the world. It is the right way to go about starting a company. So, founders and entrepreneurs out there, what problem are you solving exactly?
4. Be consistent with your message
Every single time Mark has spoken about his journey building Facebook with an incredible team, he has continued to orate the message of connecting the whole world and making people feel a little closer together. This is the company’s chief task, and everyone who works for Facebook knows this. The shareholders and management know this too. Understanding the message and consistently putting it out there whenever he gets a chance has helped Mark to secure large followings of a fan base who believe in his dream of the world. It has helped him nurture his teams to work on building features that focus more on this message. Even in person, he has been able to work and steer the company towards the direction of that message. Startups can learn from this by consistently building on their own message and speaking it into existence every chance they get. Let everyone be sure what your company’s message and story is. Do not leave it to chance. It helps you push for that message to actually happen as well as enabling you as the founder to steer the company towards the right objectives.
5. Have conviction
How much belief do you have in your company’s progress, process, and releases? All this goes to show is that your belief matters. You have to believe in you and the direction you are steering the company to. While discussing this point, Mark Zuckerberg once gave an example of the Facebook newsfeed. When it was launched sometime in 2012, he saw a lot of articles written about how bad an idea the newsfeed was. Additionally, there were groups that would call themselves ‘I hate Newsfeed’ in Facebook Groups. People said they didn’t like it and that Facebook was on its way down. Without true conviction on the importance of the newsfeed, Mark would have pulled the plug on that feature. He believed in his own idea of what the newsfeed would achieve and stuck with it. A couple of years later, it had become one of the most loved features on the platform. Conviction is important when you believe in your dream. Naysayers will always be there but they do not have to stop your belief in how much you and your company can change the world’s culture.
6. Set a framework for innovation
Innovation in a company should never stop. Whenever you think of your team and how you can challenge them to do better, ask yourself if you have created the right framework for innovation to thrive. Back when smartphones became a thing, the Facebook app was terrible and one of the worst rated on Google’s Play Store. The app was super heavy even for really powerful mobile phones. It was lagging, excruciatingly slow in touch response and just one of the worst apps to ever come from a future tech giant. However, Mark understood that the app was a new territory since Facebook had been built largely on desktop mode at the time. He asked his team to innovate and start building a working app from scratch. For two good years he discouraged people from trying to build more features and focusing on getting the mobile app out there. He asked that if they built a new feature onto the platform, they had to show him how it works on mobile first otherwise he won’t listen to the idea. The result is a turnaround by Facebook, the app now sees a lot of positive reviews by people and it has over a billion downloads from Play Store alone. The features work fantastic and most people including myself who had uninstalled it a couple of years ago now have it back on my phone. Tailor your startup to innovate by setting a framework for that innovation. Give them everything they need to be creative.
7. Build a team for the long-term
Some of the engineers who got into Facebook early in their careers are leading teams within Facebook right now. Several new hires who came later went on to become important cogs in delivering the right product to billions of people worldwide. Mark always insists that startups have to look at the long-term picture when building winning startup teams. The hires have to be centered on the long-term scope of the company. He also advises startups to do internal hires. Promote people from within the company into vacant positions. This motivates the team to work knowing the rewards are there and that they have a shot at being a leader in the company. This message was also emphasized by Microsoft when they hired Satya Nadella who was a member of staff to be the company’s CEO. They encouraged the rest of the team to know that there are perks of being loyal and working for the company as much as Satya had done. Google also promoted Sundar Pichai to become Google’s new CEO after he had worked with the search engine company for many years. Startups have to focus on building a company for the long-term by providing the right incentives and mindset for a great team.
8. Hire more talented people than you
Mark is a great engineer. However, he is not the best at Facebook. There are several other engineers who would compete for the title. He also has a chief operating officer in Sheryl Sandberg who runs a lot of the company’s day to day operations in a way Zuckerberg himself never could. While speaking about Sheryl, he has always said that he is proud of what she is able to accomplish because it makes him better, and therefore makes Facebook better. To advise startups, he insists that you have to ask yourself whether, if tables were turned and you the company’s founder had to work for your hire, would you do it? If the answer is no, it means you are selling your company shot and you need a better hire in the position. He would absolutely work for Sheryl, and insists that startup founders should hire people who they would be comfortable working with.
9. Inspire a sense of purpose
At Facebook, everyone feels that they are there for a greater mission than any of them. For a bigger role in shaping the world; connecting everyone in it. This single vision has connected the team and they always feel that they are fulfilling a bigger role. According to Mark, everyone from the janitor to the managers and CEO contributes a lot towards the final goal. Every little or large amount of work done by the team should contribute to the greater sense of purpose. If your employees are not feeling like they are part of something bigger than them, they will probably not feel that sense of purpose working for you. If they are feeling the sense of purpose towards your vision, they work towards it until the vision is achieved.
10. Don’t wait for a Eureka moment
The concept of the eureka moment, according to Mark, is a lie. It doesn’t exist or at the very least it never happens to most of us. However, we all generate good ideas, and Facebook’s founder insists that don’t get bogged down by the fact that the idea didn’t feel like a Eureka moment. A good idea is a good idea. Pursue it. The notion of the eureka moment has made people afraid to start companies and venture into solving the most pressing problems around the world. Even people with genuinely good ideas are always worried that their idea is not good enough. Venture into the idea and let the market tell you whether the idea is good or not.
11. Develop your ideas as you go along
No one has it figured out. No successful person had a manual of how to build a great company. Challenges are usually very company-specific. So how did they do it? Well, they took the first step; getting started. Mark encourages people with ideas to start working on them. Ideas only form fully as you continue to work on them. If it stays in your mind, then you do not get to explore. If it is out there getting feedback and being tweaked and improved, it gets only better. You will learn along the way. You will be fine. And if the execution is right your company will turn out great.
12. Use failure as an opportunity to test your ideas
Before building Facebook, he built games, chat systems, study tools, among other things. None of them worked. They failed and as they did, he continued to build the next one. Before he knew it, he had built Facebook. Do not be afraid to fail. It happens to so many of us. Startup founders and entrepreneurs have to consider that failure doesn’t rule you out. It gives you another chance to try something else. So dust yourself up and get going to the next big dream.
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