Billionaire Jack Ma, the founder and ex-CEO of Alibaba Group, as well as one of the most successful Chinese Internet entrepreneurs, shares his wealth of experiences.
Jack Ma: The mistake I regretted the most
In 2001, I made a mistake. I told 18 of my fellow comrades whom embarked on the entrepreneurship journey with me that the highest positions they could go was a managerial role. To fill all our Vice President and Senior Executive positions, we would have to hire from external parties.
Years later, those I hired were gone, but those whom I doubted their abilities became Vice Presidents or Directors.
I believe in two principles: Your attitude is more important than your capabilities. Similarly, your decision is more important than your capabilities!
Jack Ma: You cannot unify everyone’s thoughts, but you can unify everyone through a common goal.
Don’t even trust that you are able to unify what everyone is thinking; it is impossible.
30% of all people will never believe you. Do not allow your colleagues and employees to work for you. Instead, let them work for a common goal.
It is a lot easier to unite the company under a common goal rather than uniting the company around a particular person.
Jack Ma: What does a leader have that an employee doesn’t?
A leader should never compare his technical skills with his employee’s. Your employee should have superior technical skills than you. If he doesn’t, it means you have hired the wrong person.
What, then, makes the leader stands out?
- A leader should be a visionary and have more foresight than an employee.
- A leader should have higher grit and tenacity, and be able to endure what the employees can’t.
- A leader should have higher endurance and ability to accept and embrace failure.
The quality of a good leader therefore is his vision, tenacity, and his capability.
Jack Ma: Don’t be involved in politics
One should always understand that money and political power can never go hand in hand. Once you are in politics, don’t ever think about money anymore. Once you are running a business, don’t ever think of being involved in politics.
When money meets political power, it is similar to a match meeting an explosive- waiting to go off.
Jack Ma: The 4 main questions the young generation must ponder on
- What is failure: Giving up is the greatest failure.
- What is resilience: Once you have been through hardships, grievances and disappointments, only then will you understand what is resilience.
- What your duties are: To be more diligent, hardworking, and ambitious than others.
- Only fools use their mouth to speak. A smart man uses his brain, and a wise man uses his heart.
Jack Ma: We are born to live and experience life.
I always tell myself that we are born here not to work, but to enjoy life. We are here to make things better for one another, and not to work. If you are spending your whole life working, you will certainly regret it.
No matter how successful you are in your career, you must always remember that we are here to live. If you keep yourself busy working, you will surely regret it.
Jack Ma on competing and competition
Those that compete aggressively with one another are the foolish ones.
If you view everyone as your enemies, everyone around you will be your enemies.
When you are competing with one another, don’t bring hatred along. Hatred will take you down.
Competition is similar to playing a board of chess. If you lose, we can always have another round. Both players should never fight.
A real businessman or entrepreneur has no enemies. Once he understands this, the sky’s the limit.
Jack Ma: Don’t make complaining and whining a habit
If you complain or whine once in a while, it is not a big deal.
However, if it becomes habitual, it will be similar to drinking: the more you drink, the stronger the thirst. On the path to success, you will notice that the successful ones are not whiners, nor do they complain often.
The world will not remember what you say, but it will certainly not forget what you have done.
Jack Ma’s advice to entrepreneurs
The opportunities that everyone cannot see are the real opportunities.
Always let your employees come to work with a smile.
Customers should be number 1, Employees number 2, and then only your Shareholders come at number 3.
Adopt and change before any major trends or changes.
Forget the money; Forget about earning money.
Rather than having small smart tricks to get by, focus on holding on and persevering.
Your attitude determines your altitude.
Jack Ma on entrepreneurship
A great opportunity is often hard to be explained clearly; things that can be explained clearly are often not the best opportunities.
You should find someone who has complementary skills to start a company with. You shouldn’t necessarily look for someone successful. Find the right people, not the best people.
The most unreliable thing in this world is human relationships.
“Free” is the most expensive word.
Today is cruel, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be beautiful.
Jack Ma: The 4 don’ts of entrepreneurship
- The scariest things about starting up is the inability/refusal to see what your competitors are doing
- Being snobbish, looking down on your competitor
- Unable to understand what is going on in the business environment
- Unable to keep up with the competition
If you do not know where your competitor is, or overconfident and snobbish about your competitor, or are unable to comprehend how your competitor became a real threat, you will surely fall behind him. Don’t be the “they” in this idiom: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Even if your competitor is still small in size or weak, you should take him seriously and treat him as a giant. Likewise, even if your competitor is massive in size, you shouldn’t regard yourself as a weakling.
Jack Ma on starting your own company
What starting your company means: you will lose your stable income, your right to apply for a leave of absence, and your right to get a bonus.
However, it also means your income will no longer be limited, you will use your time more effectively, and you will no longer need to beg for favours from people anymore.
If you have a different mindset, you will have a different outcome: if you make different choices from your peers, your life will then be different from your peers.
Jack Ma on opportunities
If there are over 90% of the crowd saying “Yes” to approving a proposal, I will surely dispose the proposal into the bin. The reason is simple: if there are so many people who think that the proposal is good, surely there will be many people who would have been working on it, and the opportunity no longer belongs to us.
About Jack Ma: Jack Ma is a Chinese Internet entrepreneur. He is the Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, a family of highly successful Internet-based businesses. He is also the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes Magazine and ranks as one of the world’s billionaires. Ma was named the Financial Times’ 2013 Person of the Year because he personifies the Chinese internet, referring to him as the “godfather of China’s scrappy entrepreneurial spirit”.