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Carly Fiorina: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is meeting would-be investors as the largest social-networking service begins marketing its initial public offering.
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg is meeting would-be investors as the largest social-networking service begins marketing its initial public offering.

Dear Mark,

Congratulations!

Through vision, grit, persistence and brilliance, you are about to launch the largest IPO in American history.

You have understood our needs and desires for connection and communication better than we understood them ourselves.

You have gathered a great management team around you, hired the brightest and most motivated employees, and maneuvered through a competitive landscape that is unprecedented in its complexity and pace of change. You are a great entrepreneur who will now define and personify our ideal of American innovation. You have made history and changed history, not just on Wall Street but on streets around the world. You have altered everything from teenagers' social lives to tyrants political calculations.

None of us can imagine what it feels like to be you, which is one reason the cameras are ever-present and there will be more books and movies.

However, some of us can imagine the transition Facebook must now go through as the company rushes, with huge fanfare, headlong into the world of publicly traded stocks. (In 1995, I helped lead what was then the largest-ever IPO, spinning out Lucent Technologies from AT&T On the day of our New York roadshow, the WSJ headline read: "It's The Rolling Stones, it's Barbra Streisand, no it's the Lucent roadshow".)

Whatever the ultimate valuation of Facebook, it will be one of the most sought-after equities in the world.

It is in that spirit that I humbly offer three tips:

1) Do not change your focus on the creation of long-term value or deviate from your strategic ambitions.

While this may seem simple and obvious, it will become increasingly difficult. The majority of investors now hold stock for an average of four months. Most money-managers are rated annually on their performance against benchmark indices. While you are focused on the longer-term, those who buy your stock are focused on the shorter-term. And because your stock has received so much hype, these short-term investors will be very impatient. While you, your team and your Board know that their impatience cannot drive company strategy, their pressure will be real.

Do not establish the precedent of providing quarterly earnings guidance. While you must of course protect competitively sensitive information, communicate as proactively and transparently as possible about your strategic goals and operational performance metrics as well as how you track your own progress and performance against both.

2) Whatever the ultimate valuation of Facebook, it will be one of the most sought after equities in the world.

A lot of people are now counting on your performance. Beyond risk-tolerant venture capitalists, risk-averse pension funds and 401ks will now own your stock. Expect a lot more questions about how you make decisions.

Many of these questions will be driven by current headlines and conventional wisdom, but they are nevertheless legitimate. Your new owners want to understand how you lead and how you evaluate choices.

Answering them will encourage longer-term holdings.

3) Be patient.

No one knows more about Facebook, or has more riding on its performance, than you. That won't stop what will quickly seem to be endless commentary, scrutiny, suggestions, questions and sometimes, criticisms. Some of it will be thoughtful, some ignorant, some well-intended and some malicious. Be open to what makes sense and try to ignore the rest.

You have come very far, very fast and the sky is still the limit.

You represent all that is right about our economy, our markets, our nation. In the midst of all the pressure and expectations, hold onto who you are and what you do best. We are all rooting for you.

Carly Fiorina

Ms. Fiorina is the former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a contributor to CNBC. She has served on the Boards of Cisco, Kellogg, Merck and Taiwan National Semi-Conductor. She is currently Chairman of Good 360, the largest on-line product donation marketplace in the world.