Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: if you're not embarrassed by your first product release, you released it too late.
Mark Zuckerberg knew some startup would build the largest social network in the world. He just didn’t think it would be Facebook. “It wasn't even a question that I asked—of course it wasn't going to be us.”
Yet, living by his famous mantra, “move fast and break things,” Zuckerberg and his team scaled Facebook into social network that today connects 1.8 billion people.
But it wasn’t just this quick-moving philosophy that helped Zuckerberg build a multi-billion dollar company. Important strategies and approaches gave the team the focus it needed to grow and bring that mantra to life.
Zuckerberg discusses those approaches in the latest episode of Masters of Scale, a 10-episode podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner, a show that explores unconventional theories for growth.
In his conversation with Hoffman, Zuckerberg shares his strategies for scale as well as what other entrepreneurs can learn. Below are excerpts from this chat -- as well as anecdotes not included in this week’s podcast -– published first on Entrepreneur.
1. Have conviction -- you’ll need it.
When Facebook first rolled out its News Feed, the features that allows people to see updates of your friends’ activities, the public didn’t welcome the change with open arm
“There were a lot of people who were voicing concerns about it,” Zuckerberg recalls.
Indeed, in a post last year celebrating 10 years of the News Feed feature, Ruchi Sanghvi, the woman who oversaw News Feed, describes the backlash a little bit more vividly.
“We launched News Feed in the dead of the night. We were popping Champagne bottles, celebrating while watching the logs scroll by, she wrote on Facebook. We had no idea what was about to hit us the next morning. We woke up to hundreds of thousands of outraged people. Facebook groups like ‘I hate newsfeed,’ and ‘Ruchi is the devil’ had formed in the middle of the night. News reporters and students were camped out in front of the offices. We had to sneak out of the back door to leave the office.”
Despite the criticism, Zuckerberg and his team knew they were onto something.
“It just comes down conviction—how much you believe in that thing,” he tells Hoffman, adding, “We really believed that this was a good thing—not just me, but the whole team that was working on it.”
And they were right. The engagement numbers went up dramatically after the feature launched – and News Feed continues to be a major pillar in the Facebook experience.
Having convictions -- and knowing why they’ll help you grow -- can help you decide when to listen to feedback and when to wait out the critics.
2. Test, test, test.
Facebook doesn’t guess -- it tests, all to ensure it delivers the best possible experience to users.
For instance, on even given day, Facebook can run up to 10,000 different versions of the social-media network to measure how many people are sharing and connecting, along with how much revenue the site is generating.
“Giving people the tools to be able to go get that data, without having to argue whether their idea’s good through layers of management before testing something, frees people up to move quicker,” he says.
That swiftness helps staffers move forward -- so they can get more feedback. “We have this saying at Facebook that ‘done’ is better than ‘perfect’—that's the idea,” Zuckerberg tells Hoffman. “Having something that you can get feedback from the community on, so you can start to learn whether you're even going in the right direction at all, is much better than trying to polish something up completely.”
3. Create a framework for innovation.
Facebook’s shift to mobile was rocky -- and taught the company how to plan for transitions. “We got off to a bad start,” says Zuckerberg. “Our initial impulse was to try to make mobile more like the thing that we knew, which was the web.”
But while working both on mobile and rolling out new features on desktop, the team couldn’t get the new experience right.
“We made what was a pretty hard decision at the time, which was basically, ‘No new features for two years’ -- which is kind of a crazy thing to think about,” he says. “In general it was just full speed ahead on building the simple mobile app.”
To transition his team into this new strategy, Zuckerberg provided training and set strict rules for pitching new ideas.
“Anytime you come in for a product review, you need to show me the mobile version first or I’m going to kick you out of my office,” he recalls telling employees.
Being clear about expectations can keep staffers focused while planning for big transitions.
4. Build a team for the long term.
Most members of Facebook’s leadership team grew into their current roles, says Zuckerberg. “Ten of the folks who are the management team of the company basically grew into these roles from doing different things—everything from, one woman started as an executive assistant, and now is running our growth team, and another person started as an engineer and now is running a huge product group, and ran HR along the way,” says Zuckerberg.
There’s an efficiency to this approach, of course. “By the time that you build this management team of people who have been in the company, they've all been working together, and they know how to get things done—and there's good trust, and good alignment on values,” he says.
But internal hires are also a powerful way to shape the company and the culture for the long term. Says Zuckerberg, “It sends the signal to everyone else in the company that they can be those people in a few years, if they do good work and really excel.”
5. Hire people better than you.
The difference between good companies and great companies lie in the hires, says Zuckerberg. He says better companies have founder who are confident enough to surround themselves with stronger talents.
To this end, Zuckerberg has developed a simple rule: Never hire someone you wouldn’t work for. “If the tables were turned, and you were looking for a job, would you be comfortable working for this person?” he says. ”I basically think that if the answer to that is no, then you're doing something expedient, but you're not doing as well as you can on that.”
This approach ensures new hires help the company evolve. “There are things that Sheryl, for example, is just much stronger than me at—and that makes me better, and makes Facebook better,” he says. “I am not afraid or threatened by that—I value that.”
Listen to the latest episode of this new series below. Listeners can also access new episodes on Apple, Google, Stitcher, Spotify and other streaming platforms.
Andrea Huspeni is the special projects director at Entrepreneur.com and the founder of This Dog's Life, the go-to platform for local and national news, along with resources to help make pet parenthood easier.