Jack Ma, who started life with very little, is now one of the richest people in the world. He is the founder and executive chairman of retail behemoth Alibaba Group, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
In an interview with Kenneth Chenault, chairman and chief executive officer of American Express, Ma enumerated seven key points. These points are valuable to those at any point in their careers:
Rejection comes with benefits. “When Ma graduated university, he applied to 30 different large companies — and no one would hire him. So, he started a translation agency, earning $50 his first month. Years later, in 1999, he gathered 17 investors in his apartment, explaining to them his vision to use the Internet to help small-business owners sell. With $50,000, they started Alibaba.
Get your business global. “Innovative products and services bring those small and medium-size companies to China. I would say China, in the next 20 years, will become the largest importer country in the world because China’s resources can never support such huge demand.”
Don’t wait to innovate. Ma said: “Repair the roof while there is still sunshine. “When the company is good, change the company. When the company is in trouble, be careful. Don’t move. Just like if the storm comes, don’t go up and repair the roof.”
Learn from the failures of others. “For Ma, it’s the mistakes that business owners should really learn from. ‘A lot of people fail for the same reason. If you know why people fail and you learn [from] that, you can make a correction.'”
Be passionate. “If you’re just in the business for money, you’re going about it wrong. Ma and Chenault both emphasized the need for passion in what you do, and agreed that that fervor is a hallmark of successful small-business owners.”
Customers come first. Ma said: “The ones supporting you are not the shareholders. Not government. It’s the customers, the people, the employees. Focus on the customer. Focus on making employees happy. And focus on integrity to everything you’re committed. That is the only thing.”
Help build strong leaders. “If a business is to continue after the owner has moved on, the younger generations must understand and embrace its vision and values. ‘Give them the chance to make mistakes. Listen to them. Respect them,’ said Ma.”