How To Channel Jack Ma’s Success Into Your Own Business in 5 (Not So) Easy Steps
With the goal of placing Top 10 in his industry, Jack Ma and his team shot for the moon and landed on it. While he has stepped down as the head of billion-dollar company Alibaba (in full rock star garb), he is simply doing what he has always done – passing on his knowledge, experience, beliefs and opportunities. His years as a teacher has made this one of his strongest abilities and it is why he is referred to as “Teacher Ma”.
How has he been leading and what has made him such a game changer?
1. “You should learn from your competitor, but never copy. Copy and you die.”
In a world where 15 seconds of fame is all you get and people measure “originality” by how creative you are with something someone else has already done, emphasis is on leveraging on what people do. This is not wrong – hey, if they did it well, I want to use it to succeed as well. But if you build yourself and your business on duplication instead of innovation, you can only go as far as your closest rival. You are setting your limit to be only as high as theirs. By doubling your efforts with their system, do you also get double the returns they do? Maybe. Nonetheless, is that all you strive for – double of 10% success? Ma attributes his accomplishments to the “garage culture” of working for your dream (you know, the same one Apple, Amazon & Google where born from) that he does not want his people to forget. In the pursuit of revenue and profit, companies fail because they forget their original dream. “Dreams keep us working hard, and to not be afraid of the possible mistakes and setbacks”, Ma believes.
2. “The book I want to write is ‘Alibaba: 1,001 Mistakes’.”
Instead of just leveraging on other people’s success, learn from their failures as well as your own. There is so much more to pick up from failure –
• Why did it fail?
• What could have been done differently? – Was there a risk that could have been avoided?
• Where is there room for improvement? – Was there a risk that should have been taken?
• Whom do you need to enlist to get things back up again? – Could a fresh pair of eyes take your venture to another level?
• When would be a better time to reintroduce this strategy? – Is this the right time of the financial year? Should you wait until payday? Would it be better to implement it during a certain season?
• How will you do it this time? – Via a different platform of distribution?
If a strategy did not work for your rival company – find out how you can make improvements with a smaller margin for failure. Who knows, you might end up with an idea that is completely different from the original simply because you took the time to address issues they did not. “Why not have a try? Do not be afraid. Don’t be scared,” urges Ma.
3. “I’ve seen a human invent a computer but I never saw a computer that invented a human.”
Technology is not a replacement for your human employees. Sure, technology does not get tired (although, how useful is your computer during a blackout?) and is less likely to make mistakes (it is called “human error” for a reason) but there are many things that people can do that computers cannot. Ma believes that a successful person has EQ, IQ & LQ – emotional, intellectual and “love” quotients. These are things that a computer cannot replicate – or can replicate as far as programmed to do. While it might be tough to see due to the precedent of demand for people with high IQs, the shift towards demand for people with high EQs has been slow but forthcoming. Why is EQ now sought after? It can be taught, practiced and applied to any variety of sales in any industry – business is about selling yourself, your service or your product right? Imagine having an AI, make your sales calls: can it relate to and respond with empathy – a quality proven to be behind maintaining successful B2B and B2C relationships? Exactly. “Computers have chips, men have hearts. It’s the heart that brings the wisdom,” says Ma.
4. “Clever is knowledge driven, smarter is experience driven.”
By 2020, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. Prejudice against millennial employees is prevalent with millennials seen as “selfish”, “demanding” and “entitled”. Statistics show that millennials are only willing to stick around for an average of 2 years. Should you go ahead and place your company in their hands? Ma seems to think so. Guided by his origins as a teacher, Ma explained his handover as, “Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership role”. He believes in educating the younger generation to arm them with knowledge enough to get the opportunities to gain the experience they need. Why is this important? With your company soon to be “overrun” by millennials in the coming years, it is important to know what they want and it is important for them to know what you want. By teaching them and giving them the space to grow with the opportunities you can provide, you might end up with someone who can take your company to new heights.
5. “There are no experts of tomorrow, only of yesterday."
We only know as much as what has already happened. At the end of the day, business is all about risks; it is how you handle the aftermath of these risks that sets you apart. Business is also about growth – personal growth, your team’s growth and the growth of your company. There is room for mistakes, improvement and learning. With so much to do to keep up in such a fast-paced economy, it can be overwhelming. But people like Jack Ma are proof that you need a goal, the ability to constantly improve, and the drive to succeed. “If you worry about pressure, don’t be a businessman. Never worry about competition and pressure,” Ma quips.