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Think like Zuck: Five lessons from the Facebook founder

feature-zuckerberg-200When Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in 2004 as a site for Harvard University students to connect with each other, he had no idea it would become the $100 billion-plus company it is today, but he did know one thing – he wanted to create an open world through a “social utility”.

This passion Zuckerberg had for connecting people hasn’t changed. The “About Mark” section on his Facebook page states: “I’m trying to make the world a more open place”.

It’s this clear vision and passion which author Ekaterina Walter believes drove the success of Zuckerberg and others like him, and all entrepreneurs should take note.

Walter’s new book Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg details five areas crucial to the success of any entrepreneur.

Walter told SmartCompany she was inspired to write the book because of her own background working with big companies and start-ups.

“I’ve been working for big brands my whole life and on the side I advise a number of start-ups. I’ve watched them grow and watched companies like Facebook develop and equally I’ve watched small companies grow. I looked back and discovered there were specific trends that successful large and big companies all possess and I wanted to explore those and find the similarities.

“My philosophy is that every single one of us is an intrapreneur (people with an entrepreneurial streak who choose to align themselves with a large organisation), but there are certain things that people can do to make them successful,” she says.

In Think Like Zuck, Walter takes the reader through the five Ps to success: passion, purpose, people, product, partnership.

Walter spoke to SmartCompany about the five Ps and what entrepreneurs can do to actualise their dreams:

1. Passion

Walter says passion fuels perseverance, “one of the key ingredients of success”.

I believe a lot of people can be a little cynical and people look at passion as a fluffy word. But passion fuels everything, every advancement and innovation, everything that’s really great. Zuckerberg has a passion to connect people around the world and make it more transparent so everything he does is helping this. That passion always serves as a lens for how we see the world,” she says.

Walter acknowledges passion alone won’t make you successful, but it’s a differentiating factor which can make a business fail or succeed.

“I think it’s a combination of factors, including things like timing and luck. But at the end of the day luck and timing and market readiness is not enough. At some point your business succeeds because of your purpose and why you’re building it.

“If you’re just passionate about something, you won’t create anything unless you act on it. I’ve also seen some really smart entrepreneurs who aren’t great leaders and they’re just not going to be successful,” she says.

In the book, Walter says businesses shouldn’t “be afraid of failure”, instead, be willing to embrace adaptability and be able to change with the environment and the consumers’ needs.

“Everybody fails. The reality is the smartest start-up is about adaptability; you can’t try new things if you’re not accepting risk. A lot of the time you don’t know how the idea is going to go because entrepreneurs are trailblazers. You’ve got to learn from your experiences,” she says.

Walter says Flickr is a good example of a company adapting to their environment.

“Flickr started as a gaming company but noticed their picture-sharing feature was getting more popular. You have to be able to adapt,” she says.

Similarly, Zuckerberg is constantly updating and altering Facebook based on user behaviour.

“Only a small number of businesses create something and it works straight away, even Zuck created previous applications and learned from them.

“He learned from his failure, listened to criticism and created something better. He continues to stay successful because he looks and listens to the data, he sees how people use things and adapts,” Walter says.

2. Purpose

The chapter on purpose begins with the tale of four Soviet soldiers who were lost at sea on a small self-propelled barge for 49 days with only two days of emergency food rations. The four men survived despite their adversity and Walter writes “the purpose that drives a strong mission can mobilise colossal physical and spiritual strength.”

Walter says it’s important for businesses to stay focused on their core goals, rather than focusing on turning a profit.

“If you fly off the handle you become absolutely distracted and things start falling apart. Look at Myspace, they got bought out and they were super successful, but they got a new director who put the pressure on making money. The overflow of this monetary focus turned a lot of people off.

“Zuck would never have been this successful without balancing user needs and the needs of the business. Don’t chase the money or opportunities that aren’t part of the core goal,” she says.

Walter says every successful company stems from its purpose.

“Great companies don’t just create great products; they create movements.”

Apple is given as an example in the book of how, ultimately, the loyalty of customers and their ability to relate to a company and its product is paramount.

“We look at Apple’s higher pricing and smaller market share and wonder how it succeeded,” she writes.

She believes the company’s “think different” slogan inspired a generation and kept them coming back to the brand.

“Products that represent a belief or a purpose allow people to indirectly communicate their sense of who they are and where they belong,” she writes.

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Yolanda Redrup

Journalist

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Yolanda is a SmartCompany reporter who has a knack for covering business misconduct and retail issues. Previously, she was the editor of RMIT's student magazine Catalyst. Follow her on twitter: @YolandaRedrup