Mario's Corner - December 2018.

The Key Differences Between Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos - And What These Mean For Each of Them and For Their Companies.


Blue Sail Consulting: Business Planning, innovation, And Execution

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Last month I wrote about the problems facing Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, its CEO.  I mentioned he has been embattled since last year.  It seems he is under more pressure this month.  Recently some shareholders have been asking him to resign as Chairman and some have even asked him to leave the company.  Although I do not think this will happen, it is still a worrisome sign and it could signal that he is losing control of his company.


Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO and Chairman has been rewarded financially by the states of New York and Virginia for locating his "second headquarters" in those cities.  Additionally, his ventures outside the core area of his company, including Whole Foods Market, Washington Post, and Amazon Web Services (aka AWS), are doing very well.  


It seems that Mark's fortunes have gone in the opposite direction of Jeff's.  I believe there are four main reasons why this is happening.  These reasons reflect each one's business philosophy and explains why Jeff is succeeding today while Mark is struggling.


1.   STRATEGY. 


Jeff has used a diversification strategy that has allowed him to expand into multiple industries.  As I mentioned above, in addition to the core business, he has decided to expand into retail, publishing, web services, and even rocket ships (Blue Origin).  


Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, has stuck to his original business - social media.  This is not necessarily a bad strategy in and of itself.  However, the fact that Facebook has been under fire the last few years, given that it monetizes people at the expense of data protection, should have made Mark realize that he needs to expand into other areas.  He is finally realizing that the social media business is very risky and that it could be regulated in the near future.  Hopefully, he will be able to utilize the large amount of funds the company has to invest in or acquire other businesses or to expand into other industries.


2.   MATURITY AND FOCUS.


​We have seen Mark (and his COO, whom we will discuss next), continuously called before House Committees and European Union regulatory bodies to defend the Facebook model.  Instead of being open and working with and influencing these bodies, Mark's modus operandi is stonewalling and instructing its employees to maintain complete secrecy.  Additionally, his "annual challenges" take away from his focus on the business.  Running a company like Facebook is not a part-time job, but Mark seems to believe it is and takes a cavalier attitude towards it.  This is exacerbated by his COO's activities.  Instead of taking up the slack that Mark creates by his external pursuits, Sheryl Sandberg has focused on publishing and promoting her "Lean In" approach to life.  This has taken a very large amount of time that could have been utilized in protecting Facebook and fixing the problems it has faced regarding the "Russian trolling" controversy.  Apparently, they both have yet to learn that a business does not run itself.


One benefit of Jeff Bezos becoming successful a little later in life is that he has the maturity to handle his success and to focus.  The fact that he has invested in The Washington Post means that he understands the importance of government and lobbying efforts on his business.  Amazon has long been under scrutiny from Congress and other government organizations due to the fact that it initially did not collect taxes in many states.  Thus, a few years ago, when there was public scrutiny of his company due to the belief that he did not care about complying with local statutes, he immediately built physical structures (warehouses and stores) and started to collect taxes in almost all states.  Thus, he has shown maturity and ability to make quick decisions that Mark lacks.


3.  SUCCESSFUL PURSUIT OF PUBLIC RELATIONS EXECUTION.  


As mentioned above, Jeff has been a master of managing the perception of Amazon.  One example of this is his purchase of the Washington Post.  In the recent "Second HQ City Competition," the Post did not publish the same in-depth negative stories, nor the amount published by other newspapers.  This helped to take focus off this activity in the city where the government could have reacted and had some influence - the nation's capital.  He also has created the ability for people to donate to charities when they buy on Amazon.com.  This creates the perception that he is a caring, giving individual.


Mark and Sheryl Sandberg, COO, on the other hand, have had to continue to defend their actions and, by not being proactive in some of the recent Facebook controversies (hacking, trolling, etc.) and being secretive rather than addressing it publicly, have created a perception that Facebook does not care about its users and that it only cares about profits


​4.  RELIANCE ON EXECUTIVE TEAM AND TAKING RESPONSIBILITY.


Jeff has a very capable Board of Directors and a fantastic team of executives.  However, he is involved in every decision made by the company and immediately steps forward to take responsibility when things go awry.  Mark, on the other hand, seems to rely too much on his COO, Sheryl, and, given that she also seems to have a lack of focus on details, this leaves Facebook without a clear leader who is decisive and proactive.


​Mark might benefit from examining Jeff's approach to his company and his laser-like focus on details and decisions.  Unless he does this, Mark might find himself being fired from his own company, as Steve Jobs was before maturing and learning some humility before returning to run Apple successfully.


Jeff, on the other hand, seems to be headed for continuous success!

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Please do not hesitate to call me at 1 (617) 391-0347 or e-mail me at mariocastaneda@bluesailconsulting.com to talk about this or any other subject.  I always like to hear from clients and readers.  

 

Also, please don't forget to read my interview with BostonVoyager magazine.  To read it, click here.

 

Please contact us if you want to find out how we can help you to develop a successful strategy that will create a healthy company that avoids costly mistakes.  

 

Happy Holidays and I look forward to seeing you here again in January!

 

Best Regards,

 

​Mario