January 22, 2020

Lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Jack Ma

By Rading Biko

Jack Ma, the man who founded Alibaba which recently became one of the biggest IPO listing ever as well as one of the most famous entrepreneur success stories ever created in the Internet Industry.

 He was once quoted by Bloomberg Media ‘Today is hard, Tomorrow will be worse, but the day after that will be Sunshine.’

Jack Ma Davos, a short, lean man in his early fifties who came across a computer when he was 31, went on to build the most formidable empire of e-commerce in China without writing a single line of code or selling a product directly. That’s why the nickname ‘Crazy Jack’. Today, his brain-child ‘Alibaba.com’ is identified as one of the biggest success stories of e-commerce in the world. His incredible journey from failing thrice in middle school exams to founding Alibaba group with an estimated value of 240 billion (Amazon.Inc is estimated 175 Billion) has been a lesson for thousands and an inspiration to millions of people all over the world.

The life of this short Chinese man is a buffet of wisdom nuggets for every budding entrepreneur and given below are the four dishes you should incorporate on your entrepreneurial journey:

 

Leadership

Jack Ma believes that a leader should always hire an employee who has superior technical skills than the leader, but at the same time the leader should be a visionary and have more foresight than the employee. He should be more resilient and tenacious than any of his employees as the leader is the only source of inspiration and motivation for them when the going gets rough. Jack believes that a leader may not be able to unify everyone’s thoughts but can unify everyone through a common goal, and that is his biggest task.

 

 Have Vision, money can wait

At an early stage, Jack focused on imbibing trust in his consumers rather than trying to build the best revenue model. Many people chase after money, some of whom go on to become rich and successful but real successful people, in Jack’s opinion, are those who have the vision to change the society for the greater good. He believes in creating something that has an impact on people’s lives because the relationship between the company and its customers is more valuable than any material wealth. In his opinion, money should always be a by-product and never the end goal.

 

 Make your Competitor’s weakness your biggest advantage

Alibaba faced a significant threat when US e-commerce giant EBay entered the Chinese market in early 2000’s. By the late 2000’s EBay had suffered heavy losses and had shut down its operations in China. All because of the wit of Jack Ma, who made it a point to make the weakness of his competitor his greatest advantage. While EBay charged sellers for listing their products on their website and poured massive investments in China for aggressive marketing and campaigning, Alibaba made a deal with Yahoo selling 40% percent of Alibaba’s stake for a billion dollars and allowing sellers to list their products for free along with several other perks. To defeat EBay in its own game, Jack launched a consumer-to-consumer sales platform.  He made sure that Alibaba was more user-friendly and had longer ‘listing’ periods for products than EBay. The deal with Yahoo helped as Alibaba took over the Yahoo’s Chinese services (including its search engine and mail services) which proved to be the final nail in the coffin for EBay.

 

Failures and Perseverance

Failures and rejections have been synonymous with Jack since his early days. He failed thrice in his middle school exams and twice in his college entrance exam before making it into Hangzhou Normal University in his third attempt where he received his Bachelor’s degree in English. He applied for 30 jobs during and after his bachelor’s and faced rejection in each one of them. When KFC came to his city, out of 24 people who applied for the job, 23 got selected, and Jack was the only one who got rejected. When he tried in the police academy, out of 5 applicants, 4 got selected, and again he was the only one who didn’t get through. He also applied to Harvard and got rejected ten times. His first two ventures did not succeed. But his persistence finally won and in 1999, he laid the foundation of Alibaba in his apartment with the help of  17 of his friends.

 

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