Think Like Zuck: What We Can Learn From Facebook’s CEO

Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been one of the most-discussed figures of our time. Some people love him, some criticize him, but most just watching from the sidelines marvel at how a 19-year-old could become the 29th-richest person in the world (according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index) by building a simple social program. Last week, I finished reading Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Ekaterina Walter and I found a lot of answers to that very question. So I sat down with her to talk about the book and Facebook in general.

Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been one of the most-discussed figures of our time. Some people love him, some criticize him, but most just watching from the sidelines marvel at how a 19-year-old could become the 29th-richest person in the world (according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index) by building a simple social program. Last week, I finished reading Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Ekaterina Walter and I found a lot of answers to that very question. So I sat down with her to talk about the book and Facebook in general.

Dennis Yu: Why Think Like Zuck, and what are the five principles that you describe in the book?

Ekaterina Walter: Think Like Zuck is an analogy of a leader who follows his or her passion, leads with purpose, builds great teams, and strives for continued excellence in his/her product (or services). It is a mentality that drives great leaders to building successful business and the approach they use to doing so.

The 5 Ps described in the book are:

  • Passion — Keep your energy and commitment fully charged at all times by pursuing something you believe in.
  • Purpose — Don’t just create a great product, drive a meaningful movement.
  • People — Build powerful teams that can execute your vision.
  • Product — Create a product that is innovative, that breaks all the rules, that changes everything.
  • Partnerships — Build powerful partnerships with people who fuel imagination and energize execution.

Yu: To what degree is luck involved?

Walter: There is some luck involved, absolutely. And there are definitely more factors to consider. For example, timing is important: Are the customers ready to embrace your product? A number of external factors play a big role. But depending on your purpose, you will take advantage or miss the opportunities that are in front of you. Every decision is made through the eyes of an entrepreneur.

Yu: Who should read Think Like Zuck? What should a reader expect to get from the book?

Walter: Anyone who has a passion for innovation and disruption. Those who have an entrepreneurial streak, whether they are an intrapreneur (a person who drives change within a large company) or an entrepreneur (someone who owns his or her own business). And just anyone who wants to learn from other successful leaders.

Packed with examples of Facebook’s success principles in action — as well as those of Zappos, TOMS, Threadless, Dyson, and other companies — Think Like Zuck gives you the inspiration, knowledge, and insight to make your own mark in the world, to build a business that makes a difference, and to lead your organization to long-term profitability and growth.

Yu: Entrepreneurship is painted as a glorious endeavor. How about the dark secret moments of doubt, when there’s not enough to cover payroll, your main customer is threatening to leave you, or Google is creating a competing product. What causes some teams to fail versus succeed?

Walter: You are right; it isn’t a glorious endeavor. As they say, an overnight success takes many years of hard work. I think what distinguishes those who succeeded is their true belief in their purpose and perseverance. It took Steve Jobs nine years to make Pixar successful, but he believed in animation so much that he kept investing. Of course, at that point, he did have personal money to invest. Some businesses don’t have that luxury.

But I also think it is about finding people (not just partners, investors, but employees, as well) who believe in the same mission. That’s why it is important to create a culture where you establish right hiring practices and communicate your purpose out clearly. Tony Hsieh says that when Zappos hit its rough patch, only those employees remained who truly believed in what the company was trying to do, they took the pay cut and worked harder. Sharing a passion for something or believing in singular purpose unites people in the most amazing ways, it bonds them, and it helps them get through the toughest of times.

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