Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, China’s answer to Amazon, has business acumen that few others can match, having grown the eCommerce website started in his living room into a $400bn business.
In Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, Ma gave a room full of upcoming business leaders some insight into the philosophy and traits that took him to the top of China’s rich list.
Verdict has compiled some of the best soundbites from the session to deliver some Jack Ma leadership lessons that will help to take your business to the next level.
Everybody has a chance to be successful
“One thing I never doubted about is that I believe somebody, if not us, if not me, somebody will win. Somebody will be there. It’s the early stage of the internet, 1999, everybody has a fair chance. There’s no expert at that time. Even to today, there’s no expert of tomorrow, there’s only experts of yesterday.”
“When you do business, my rule is never be afraid. Never worry about competition, never worry about the pressures. If you worry about the pressure, if you worry about the competition, don’t be a businessman.”
Invest in the right people
“There is no best people in the world that is ready for you. You find the right people, working together, training him, developing him, and he’s training you, developing you. Never ever think ‘Wow, that guy used to work in Google, Alibaba, or Facebook. He must be good’.”
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Focus on improving the world, not making money
“As a technology company, don’t be evil is not enough. You should be doing good things for the world. Do good things for the world, do good things for the future, and believe in young people.”
Prioritise the right things
“We have six values. There is two that are very unique. I think in the future, no matter what Alibaba’s values, these two will never change. The first customer number one, employee number two, shareholder number three. That means enable others, make other people better.”
Don’t fear the unexpected, embrace it
“No matter what comes, something you didn’t expect to come, embrace it. If you cannot change it, embrace it.”
“When people start to worry, think this is an opportunity. If people start to complain, you think this is an opportunity if I solve it.”
Don’t mix business with pleasure
“There are lots of people you can do business together, but not in the same group. This is no good. I’ve seen a lot of classmates in the business school, the MBA, when they start to do business together, they break the friendship and they break the business. Business is like a marriage, but business is not a marriage. Don’t invite your friend to join your company to be partner, because being friends is more precious.”
Don’t let work keep you up at night
“I sleep very well. You will get used to that. When you go through life with a company like Alibaba, people always see the good side. But there are so many scary times, worries, and you have to overcome them again, again, again. I know if I cannot sleep well, the problem is still there. If I sleep well, I have a chance tomorrow to fight against the problem. Sleep well no matter what happens.”
Learn from the failure of others
“Don’t always follow the successful stars. Those people who are successful, there are a lot of reasons behind it. But learn from those people who fail, for all the failure mistakes are almost the same. Study that, not because you can avoid the mistake, because when mistakes come, when failure comes, it’s how you face it.”
Money isn’t everything
“Good experience is not how much money you made. It’s not about how famous you are. It’s about how much experience you have encountered.”
Don’t rely on others to make you successful
“Always be optimistic. Try to comfort yourself with your own hands. Nobody can comfort you, can warm you up. Only you can warm up yourself. If you want to be top, successful, pay the tough cost.”