The Definitive Guide to Business

What Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is more afraid of than screwing up his $438 billion company

Mark Zuckerberg
Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg runs a public company with a market cap of more than $438 billion. He's got almost 19,000 employees and nearly 2 billion users visiting his site every month.

There's a lot at stake when Zuckerberg shows up to work every day. But there's one thing he is more afraid of than screwing up his enormous business: missing out on the opportunity he has to change the world.

"I am much more motivated by making sure we have the biggest impact on the world than by building a business or making sure we don't fail," Zuckerberg says in a conversation with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

"I have more fear in my life that we aren't going to maximize the opportunity that we have than that we mess something up." -Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

"I have more fear in my life that we aren't going to maximize the opportunity that we have than that we mess something up and the business goes badly," Zuckerberg says.

The lesson is apt: Chasing opportunity will get you further in life and in business than trying to avoid mistakes. That perspective is part of what makes Zuckerberg so successful.

"He has no qualms about rushing out an imperfect product. In fact, his famous mantra is 'move fast and break things,'" says Hoffman of Zuckerberg's hacker mentality. "If you are Steve Jobs, you can wait for your product to be perfect, but there are almost no Steve Jobs in the world."

As a CEO, Zuckerberg sees his role as managing risk. "On a day-to-day basis, a lot of the decisions I am making are like, 'OK is this going to destroy the company?' Because if not, then let them test it," says Zuckerberg.

"If the cost of the test isn't going to be super high, then in general, we are going to learn a lot more by experimenting and by letting the teams go and explore the things that are worth exploring than by having a heavy hand in that," he says.

It's not all talk — Zuckerberg has proved he really means it.

"Is this going to destroy the company? Because if not, then let them test it." -Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells a story that's become famous in the halls of the company, about a young summer intern, Ben, who in 2008 accidentally took down the entire site. He was trying to debug a problem and triggered a failure operation that completely shut down the platform.

Ben was hired full time.

That's because he had a good idea and he tried it, according to Sandberg. It was poorly executed, but mistakes happen, and that's part of Zuckerberg's Facebook ethos.

See also:

Billionaire Bill Gates says these 3 fields have the most potential to change the world

Top Silicon Valley CEO Padmasree Warrior: These are the 3 traits you need to make it in tech

4 keys to launching a successful business, according to this entrepreneur who sold Siri to Steve Jobs