Thoughts on Leadership: Facebook and a Reminder for the Future

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me back at my Los Altos, CA home office following a restful family vacation in Hawaii. On Wednesday, I made a short drive to Menlo Park for a visit to Facebook and its sprawling, world headquarters.

I admire Facebook, its philosophy and corporate culture. From CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Sinmi Tinubu, an intern who helped greet my small group, everyone is encouraged to “be bold” and “focus on impact” – constantly collaborating and innovating to solve the most important challenges.

In fact, Facebook embraces a mindset that helps keep the company fresh and progressive in a tech world that quickly casts out those who don’t. Its phrase “this journey is 1% finished” reminds all involved that Facebook has only started to fulfill its mission: “To make the world more open and connected.”

The company’s iconic sign board outside its headquarters, at 1 Hacker Way, carries the mindset one step farther. On the reverse side remains the sign of Sun Microsystems, a pioneering computer and systems firm that used to occupy the premises before it collapsed and was acquired. The old sign reminds employees and others what can happen when you grow complacent and do not innovate.

As I toured the Disney-inspired facility – one of the coolest places in corporate America with colorful buildings, a Main Street with shops and cafes, wide-open work spaces, fun amenities and even a huge park atop the warehouse headquarters – I thought about how quickly Facebook arrived on the scene, how much it has grown and how disruptive it’s become.

“Attention is the No. 1 currency in our society before you tell me how great you are at what you do, or how great your service is, or what you do, or how nice you are dressed.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk, bestselling author, speaker and internet personality, said that the world trades on people’s attention and companies like Facebook have removed the middle man. It enables practically anyone with a laptop or hand-held device to reach any combination of people with low or no cost. “Attention is the No. 1 currency in our society before you tell me how great you are at what you do, or how great your service is, or what you do, or how nice you are dressed,” said Vaynerchuk in June at the Relentless conference, held in Southern California. “Before you do that, you need my attention to even tell me that.”

And Facebook is one of the primary conduits. It has changed the way many communicate, market and advertise. That’s why Vaynerchuk advises, “You are a media company first and then whatever else you do for a living because the cost of being in the media business is now zero in distribution opportunity and low in production.”

Vaynerchuk, like Facebook, has a watchful eye on the future. “Your entire life regardless of industry over the next decade will be eaten up by technology and either you’re on the eating side or you’re on the other side, and I don’t think that most people want [to be on that side],” he said.

I want to thank Facebook for an enlightening tour. We met with Client Partner Scott Shapiro, Industry Manager Keith Watts, and Client Solutions Manager Lindsay Mitchell, and each was incredibly welcoming and provided a wealth of information.

So, what’s the message? Facebook’s vision and its ongoing promise to innovate should provide inspiration for any business. Avoid complacency while embracing change, constantly questioning and testing the boundaries of your operation. Be on the “eating side” as Vaynerchuk urged, and thrive.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

[Pictured in feature photo above: Gino Blefari (second from right) joins Facebook staff members (from left) Scott Shapiro, Sinmi Tinubu, Lindsay Mitchell and Keith Watts during his tour of Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters.]

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