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TIPS FROM THE VERY TOP: The principles Mark Zuckerberg applies to business

The Tips from the very top series gives you an inside look into how leading businesses have achieved success. At Bankwest, we believe that good relationships lead to great businesses. Watch our client success stories at bankwest.com.au/ingoodcompany.
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: David Ramos / Getty Images

Just over a decade ago Mark Zuckerberg was a 19-year-old Harvard-going know-it-all who hacked the email addresses of the college’s newspaper staff to discover whether they were writing anything negative about him.

Today he’s at the helm of global phenomenon, Facebook, and has an estimated net worth of around $US35 billion.

Zuckerberg has come along way from his youthful follies, developing the key principles that have helped him on his path to success.

We’ve had a look at his career and what he’s said along the way to success to pull for an overview of his approach to business. Here are the key insights.

Modesty and generosity

When his dorm room project became a multi-billion dollar company Zuckerberg became famous. For anyone in the public eye, perception is often crucial to the continued success of their business.

Modesty is at the core of Zuckerberg’s approach. He lives in a pleasant, yet not mansion-like house. He drives a Volkswagen hatchback. These humble lifestyle choices make him likeable and, more importantly, understandable. It also illustrates that his passion for work and achievement exceeds any other ambitions.

Zuckerberg, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have donated billions to a range of philanthropic organisations and also have their own charities.

Endless curiosity

Zuckerberg’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to read an “important” book every two weeks and discuss it with the Facebook community.

His book club, A Year of Books, has focused on big ideas that influence society and business.

Here’s a sampling of some of the books he’s read this year:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg relaxes at home with a book. Photo: Getty Images

Embracing change

In May last year Zuckerberg announced an about-face on two of his most central ideas:

  1. It’s OK to fail, even if you break things.
  2. There’s no need to be anonymous online.

It turns out that Facebook’s famous motto, “Move Fast, Break Things” isn’t such a good idea, he told the F8 Developer’s conference in San Francisco.

“This wasn’t actually helping us move faster because having to slow down and fix these bugs was slowing us down more than we were actually improving our speed,” he said.

‘Move Fast With Stable Infra’… it might not have quite the same ring to it, but it helps us build better experiences,” he said.

Secondly, Facebook gave up on the idea that it’s better for people to use their real identities online.

Remember, Zuckerberg is the guy who famously said: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Last year, his business announced it would let people login to third-party mobile apps anonymously.

Zuckerberg’s penchant for admitting when he’s wrong, a change in direction, even a departure from some of his own guiding principles, make him a stronger and more adaptable business leader.

Building the best team

When it comes to employing people, Mark Zuckerberg has one guiding principle: “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person,” he told an audience in Barcelona.

“Over the long term, you’re only going to be better if you get someone really good.”

Example? Sheryl Sandberg.

In 2007, Zuckerberg pried her away from being vice president of global online sale at Google to be COO at Facebook. Eight years later, she’s still there.

In June, Sandberg told the graduating class of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management that what she admired most about Zuckerberg was his willingness to accept criticism.

“For the first few years, we stuck to this routine and met every Friday afternoon to voice concerns big and small,” she said.

“As the years went by, sharing honest reactions became part of our relationship, and we now do so in real time rather than waiting for the end of the week.”

The ‘mission’ is as important as the business

Prior to Facebook going public in mid-2012, Zuckerberg penned a very important letter to shareholders.

In his opening line he made a bold statement:

“Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.”

He went on to admit this is a “different approach for a public company to take” but said “we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services. And we think this is a good way to build something.”

Zuckerberg said more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits.

“By focusing on our mission and building great services, we believe we will create the most value for our shareholders and partners over the long term — and this in turn will enable us to keep attracting the best people and building more great services.”

Zuckerberg’s idea that “building a mission and building a business go hand in hand” is exemplified through Facebook.

Facebook is all about connecting like-minded people — generating business is a natural reaction to these circumstances.

Zuckerberg seems fascinated by the opportunity to connect the world, giving everyone a voice and transforming society for the future.

And while he has often made some spontaneous and over-eager decisions, Zuckerberg continues to rely on these guiding principles to help him achieve his goals and improve Facebook, which has become unquestionably one of the world’s great companies.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND DISCLAIMERS: The information contained in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to be nor should it be considered as professional advice. You should not act on the basis of anything contained in this article without first obtaining specific professional advice. To the extent permitted by law, Bankwest, a division of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL/Australian credit licence 234945, its related bodies corporate, employees and contractors accepts no liability or responsibility to any persons for any loss which may be incurred or suffered as a result of acting on or refraining from acting as a result of anything contained in this article. Bankwest is not responsible for third party websites. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bankwest, nor does Bankwest confirm their accuracy.

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