A few years ago it would have been unthinkable to consider twenty-something and millennial Mark Zuckerberg in the same vein as Jack Welch. But there I just did it and I think it’s worth consideration. Jack Welch was a terrific CEO for GE (his 20 year tenure ended 15 years ago in 2001) and for the time. Clearly Facebook is a vastly different company than GE yet Facebook has had to face challenges to its business model and the results have been impressive. And anyone that cares to nominate Howard Schultz of Starbuck’s would be well within his or her rights to do so.
It’s not only the appreciation in the price of Facebook’s share price (currently around $105/share with a market cap of $307 Billion), although that in and of itself has been impressive. Mr. Zuckerberg now at 31 makes decisions with the assistance of a stellar team that includes a fantastic hire in Sheryl Sandberg as COO.
An article by Paul R. La Monica @lamonicabuzz in CNN Money Magazine late last month also weighed in on the effectiveness of Mr. Zuckerberg’s tenure as CEO.
‘Mark Zuckerberg is not the same guy that Jesse Eisenberg famously (and unflatteringly) played in “The Social Network. Yes, the Facebook (FB, Tech30) co-founder may still have an unhealthy affinity for grey hoodies. But he’s now a philanthropist, education investor, aspiring artificial intelligence creator and a new dad. He also just might be the best CEO in America.’
It is true that for many, the portrayal of Mr. Zuckerberg in the movie “The Social Network” was unflattering and biased and I have said it might be one of the best business movies ever made. Movies tend to be biased to make their point. The same can be said of political candidates but that’s a different story.
People want to work at Facebook. It’s got a cool campus-y workplace, employees get to work on cool stuff (think Oculus Rift), and most importantly Facebook makes money. A lot of money. No other social network even comes close to Facebook when you keep score on the P & L sheet. You can credit Ms. Sandberg if you like but if the expression “the fish stinks from the head down” correlates for mismanaged companies in today’s business climate, Mr. Zuckerberg at least has done a great job of not messing things up.
Now a philanthropist and father Mr. Zuckerberg weighs in on things such as Apple’s refusal to turn over data to the U.S. Justice Department (he agrees with Tim Cook) and other important issues regarding consumer privacy.
And then there’s China. Facebook is still blocked (not banned) in China for its refusal to allow the Chinese government to choose how Facebook is accessed in China. At the same time Mr. Zuckerberg has taken to learning Mandarin (he is married to an American woman whose parents were ethnic Chinese refugees who fled Vietnam in refugee boats.), and going to China and making his remarks in Mandarin. The slow courting of the Chinese is a long game indeed but with tremendous stakes (add China’s total population to Facebook’s current users and nearly half the planet would be on Facebook).
Facebook makes mistakes. Remember Facebook Beacon? However from what I have observed, Facebook is willing to move away (and quickly) from its missteps perhaps because it actually listens to what its users are saying and doing.
Like many millennials, Mr. Zuckerberg is smart, sometimes brash, and seems intent on making Facebook better and making the world a better place. Even if you don’t like or use the Facebook platform you have to acknowledge that what has transpired under Mr. Zuckerberg’s leadership of Facebook is impressive.
How long can it last?