I made these notes for my team at Viktorianz. Then realised it would be of great value to entrepreneur and startup community as a whole. Those who may not have time to read the book – but can gain critical advice from my Notes on this Book. Here is the cover of the book i am reviewing here … “NEVER GIVE UP” Jack Ma in his own words (Suk Lee & Bob Song)
Jack Ma and Alibaba, represents the struggle and hardships that any Start-Up or Entrepreneur would go through – and achieve success the hard way up. His style of leadership, positivity, humility and perseverance is an inspiration for any entrepreneur or a start up team.
Jack Ma in Short
With $21.8 Billion worth, Jack Ma is one of the wealthiest individual on earth. In 2015, Forbes Magazine named him as one of the 22 most powerful people in the World
Jack Ma’s journey to the top is a rags to riches story. Before creating Alibaba, he was a humble struggling English teacher at Hangzhou Normal College.
Ma faced rejection at every stage of life. He made to city’s worst University (in his own words) after failing twice. After graduation, Ma applied for 30 different jobs and got rejected by all. The Harvard’s Graduate School rejected him 10 times and when KFC came to China 24 persons applied and he was the only one rejected.
Alibaba is now one of the most valuable tech companies in the world and Jack Ma now serves as executive chairman of Alibaba Group, which is a holding company with nine major subsidiaries: Alibaba.com, Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, eTao, Alibaba Cloud Computing, Juhuasuan, 1688.com, AliExpress.com and Alipay.
Quoting Jack Ma on Startups
There is inspiration and wisdom in what Jack Ma has to say about starting a business and making it a success. Here is what he says …
1. Believe in Your Dream and Never Give Up.
“In the internet recession of 2001-02, we talked only about ‘surviving’. Even if all other internet companies died, we had to survive. And we did so only after Refusing to Give Up, by believing in our dream. This incessant effort and constant ability to learn from our mistakes led to success”.
“While today is tough, tomorrow may be tougher. However the day after tomorrow may be beautiful. But too many will give up after tough times on the eve of tomorrow night. Therefore Never Give Up today.”
“From Day one all entrepreneurs know that their day is about dealing with difficulty and failure rather than defined by Success. My most difficult time has not come yet, but it surely will. Nearly a decade of entrepreneurial experience tells me that difficult times cannot be evaded or shouldered by others – the entrepreneur must be able to face failure and Never Give Up.”
2. Establish Credibility & Trust.
“After lots of research, we found that number one thing for business is Trust & Credibility. Business people are most concerned with this.”
“I am lucky now, in that, if i were to leave this company, i could still finance USD 30 Million, with one telephone call. That’s credibility. We have walked the walk, relying on this belief”.
3. Client is God, Period.
“The important comments come from your clients – If users find your service useful, then it is. If they say it is useless then it is.”
“You can talk your product to high heavens, but if users regard your product without value or utility, you will be crashing to earth in no time.”
As i say to my staff “Don’t tell me how to make money. Just tell me how to provide value to our clients”.
“Most of the time Salesman think of how to get 5 Yen from your pocket into theirs. Alibaba employees need to consider, how they can keep that 5 Yen in your pocket and change it into 50 Yen. Thinking this way makes us different.”
“When a disaster strikes, think of your clients. Then think of employees and then your competition.In fact better not think of competition as you need to handle your own troubles first.”
4. Always tell the truth .. Always.
“Our only secret is to always tell the truth. No matter wherever or whenever, say what you are thinking.”
“Don’t say things that media wants to hear or to cater to them. Tell a lie now and you will be forced to keep it going even as you forget parts of it. This will only cause lots of pain.”
“People like honesty. Not many people, however, will tell the truth at anytime. Do so and you will differ from others.”
“Never deceive others, in business or in life. In 1995, I was deceived by four companies – four companies that are now closed. A company can not go far by deceit.”
5. Failure or Mistakes Will Happen, Its part of Entrepreneurial Journey.
“Invariably, mistakes are made when starting a business.”
“Failure (in fast moving internet company) comes from fear of making mistakes. Mistakes have to be made today, in order to grow and run better tomorrow. Just don’t keep making the same mistake.”
“Strength accumulates from failures.”
“Final success includes many miserable mistakes.”
“There in no CEO who does not make mistakes. Every successful person has faced frustration and made mistakes.”
I call Alibaba ‘1001 Mistakes’.
“We expanded too fast, then Dot Com bubble and lay offs.
By 2002 we had only enough cash to survive 18 months. We had lot of free members using our sites and we did not know how we will make money. So we developed a product for China exporters to meet US buyers online. This model saved us. By end 2002 we made $1 profit.
Each year we improved. Today, Alibaba is very profitable.”
“If you only regret the fact you failed but not the reasons for it, you will always be in a state of REGRET.”
6. Your Business Strategy is Three Questions …
“One word – Survival. Small and Medium enterprises need unique survival methods. Opportunity exists in danger. A big crisis may take down larger companies, allowing small to medium sized companies to emerge.” Think through three questions :
What do you want to do?
“You must have an ideal and a dream you are willing to give up your house for.”
What should you do?
“It is critical that you think about this from very beginning. Easy to say, difficult to do.”
How long do you do it for?
“No matter the Industry, count on at least 30 chances in your first five years. Insist on this principle, no matter outside temptations and pressures.”
7. An internal Email to Employees
“We never promise that as Alibaba employees you will enjoy non-stop promotions and share in lots of wealth. We do promise however, that you will have a steady share of our difficulties, depression and pain.”
“If you have been with us for less than a year, please spare us Alibaba Strategy reports and development plans. Better you should open an exit door on your way out, than your mouth.”
“However if you have been here at least three years, I am all ears, happy to hear your suggestions for our growth and grateful for you intention to make us better.”
“Remember Alibaba does not pay you for your own personal development, but for helping our customers in their growth. We develop ourselves though our customers.”
8. Financing …
“Never think about financing when creating a business. You will never create a good company that way. Don’t chase after investors ( they will only run away faster) but know that as a successful small to medium- sized company, investors will come to you. Money will then be a happy surprise.”
“If everything could be won by money, then banks would control all the biggest companies.”
9. Free Services
“When we launched Taobao two years ago, we offered it free. Alibaba also provided three years of free service. Almost all of our services are launched free for the first year or two.”
“The main reason is to understand our clients needs during this period. Then we make adjustments accordingly . But if you find then that you can’t generate any traffic even as free service, it’s hopeless. You may not have any value.”
“We gained lots of valuable experience during our free period, so that today things are very good. We now have USD 1 billion and can provide even more free service.”
10. Equity and Shareholding
“Equity should be dispersed. Wisdom, not financing should influence company management and employee teamwork.”
“While i respect shareholders and occasionally even listen to them, i act on my own ideas. I hear from my staff too, but still do what i think is right. But for customers, i am all ears and try to follow their advice as much as possible.”
“Customers First, Employees second, Shareholders third – this order does not change … because of an IPO or stock market.”
11. Softbank CEO before Investing in Alibaba
“700+ companies apply to Softbank and they invest in only 10%. The CEO Masayoshi Son negotiated directly only with one : Alibaba.” And this is what he said to me :
“I invest in you because of your unique leadership. Keep it up!”
12. Creating Value …
“If your CEO serves 10,000 clients, then your team should serve 100,000 clients. These 100,000 clients should serve 1 million clients. You create the most value when you clients can help other clients.”
Can Alibaba be copied?
“Our methods, may be, but not our team and the wisdom gained from our mistakes. Nor can you copy my thoughts, our client’s trust, or the opportunities they have presented us.”
“You company’s core competitiveness is you team and you. Others may copy your model, but not your constant persistence and passion.”
14. Ranking First or Second in Your Industry
“We rank first in some of our industries and second in others. Some of our ventures fail to make money and die. Ranking second while still spending little, making good money and being influential is fine.”
“Be either first or second, NEVER third. If after two years of being third we cannot pass into second, then it is time to close that venture.”
15. Crocodile in the Yangtze – Succeed in Home Turf First
“Alibaba is like a crocodile in the Yangtze River. To fight with the shark in the sea is to lose. However if we fight in Yangtze river, we surely will not be defeated.”
“eBay came to China to do battle in our native country, where we have home field advantage. Here it is Ok for us to eat a bowl of noodles for 3 Yen and rather stupid to spend 300 Yen for the same.”
“eBay invests 70 billion Yen in the Chinese market to our mere 100 million. But what can they do better than us?”
16. The Four Qualities in Addition to Talent
“At Alibaba, four qualities are needed in addition to talent :
Trustworthiness, Team Spirit, Adaptability & Optimism.”
17. Common Company Values
“A common mission, values and goals are mandatory in any company or organisation. Without these three things you cannot succeed.”
“When we employ a person, we choose those who identify with our company values.
No matter a person’s individual talents, they must identify with our culture and ideals.”
“From first day of our training, we talk about common values and team spirit. Together this leads ordinary people to extraordinary achievement.”
18. There will be Uncertainty – Always Adapt – Blind Tiger
“In the past 15 years that I’ve been working, I’ve called myself “a blind man riding on the back of a blind tiger”. Those experts riding horses, they all fell. We survived because we worried about the future, We believed in future. We changed ourselves.”
19. Wild Dogs and White Rabbits
“We assess employees on two standards : Performance & Team Spirit.
Those with high performance but no team spirit are ‘wild dogs’ and those with a good team spirit but low performance are ‘white rabbits’.
No Dogs or Rabbits in employees, please; they must excel at both.”
20. Focus is the Key
“Our concentration on e-commerce is persistent.
10 years ago we concentrated on e-commerce and we still concentrate on e-commerce.
10 years ago we focused on small and medium companies, and we still concentrate on small and medium companies.”
21. On Business with Government or Relatives
“I have never gotten one cent from government.”
“I had a very strict talk with my team. Never, ever do business with the government.
Love them. Don’t marry them. So we never do projects for the government. ( if they ask help, we do it for free)”
“When Selling to close friends and family, no matter how much you’re selling to them, they will always feel you’re earning their money, no matter how cheap you sell to them, they still wouldn’t appreciate it.”
“When doing Sales, the first people who will trust you will be Strangers, Friends will be shielding against you, fair-weather friends will distance from you. Family will look down upon you.”
I am really inspired by these quotes from Jack Ma. I thought these would be useful as not everyone has time to read the whole book. I would be really keen to know which of these 21 wisdoms you liked the most. And do subscribe if you wish to keep receiving such blogs …