How many English teachers believe that they can start a small business and then grow it into a multi-billion business empire? When Jack Ma started Alibaba, he may not have known that his company would propel his net worth to over $50 billion.
When Alibaba came out with an IPO in New York in 2014, it set a record by raising $25 billion. How was Jack, who was an English teacher, able to deliver so much success? He has a unique journey and business lessons that he shares with the world for future leaders to learn from.
Every Journey Begins With Failure
Most people who know Jack have heard his story of how 24 people applied for a job at the first KFC in his city. 23 people got accepted. Jack was the only one who was rejected. He then applied for a police job. 4 out of 5 people were accepted. Jack was rejected.
Jack has in fact been failing right from an early age. He failed the test in primary school twice, failed three times in middle school, and he failed after trying to get into three colleges. He wanted to get into Harvard so desperately that he applied 10 times and got rejected.
Failures continued to be a problem when Jack started Alibaba. Back in 2001, he went to raise $3 to $5 million from venture capitalists here in the US. He was rejected. Despite these repeated failures, he persevered and created the success he envisioned.
Believe In What You Do
People often compare Alibaba with Amazon. What they don’t know is that these two companies are operating under two completely different models.
Amazon wants to own the whole supply chain, which is why they are buying things like airplanes. Alibaba on the other hand depends on other small companies for its supply chain.
Jack believes the world needs different models. Having one model to follow would be, according to him, boring. The Alibaba founder believes that the world should have multiple models and each entrepreneur should really believe in his/her business model.
Your Project Is Your Baby
Sometimes all it takes in order to be successful is a shift in mindset. When former President Barack Obama asked Jack about how governments and big business can help small companies, he had an interesting perspective.
Jack said that the people who can help small business owners, which includes government and investors, are like uncles and aunties who can pitch in. However, ultimately an entrepreneur should learn to help herself. If you think of your company as your baby, you will find a way to help yourself and help your baby grow.
Imagine A Better Future
A startup company is ideally working on a new technology or a new system that can change the world. In order to do this, you have to be able to imagine a better world. Only when you have a vision of a better tomorrow will you be able to think about the technologies that can make that vision a reality.
One common worry about the future is automation. Technology will take away many of the jobs of today. Jack sees things differently.
Jack feels that there will be a lot of jobs in the future. More importantly, the world will be so advanced in the future that we won’t need a lot of jobs. A typical situation in the future, according to the billionaire, is that employees will work 3 days in a week and have enough time to pursue leisurely activities.
When People Worry, There’s Opportunity To Solve Problems
How do you find the next billion-dollar business idea? Jack has a simple formula. When people start to worry, that is where you have the opportunity.
Some of the greatest companies were created during tough times. Life is like a musical symphony for Jack. You have your highs, you have your lows, and you have some sharp notes.
One of Jack’s favorite lines about life is from the Tom Hanks movie “Forrest Gump.” “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
How is this relevant to business? According to Jack, the opportunities for the future are huge. Take Information Technology as an example. This used to be the domain of multinationals just a few years ago. Now, with the technology advancing and costs going down, these tools are increasingly being made available to small business owners who can take advantage of it.
Software are not only getting cheaper to create, they are also becoming easy to use.
One of the reasons why Jack was able to grow Alibaba so quickly was because the infrastructure for ecommerce in China back then was bad. This was an opportunity for someone like Jack to come along and build what was needed.
Key Lesson for Small Business Owners
Don’t wait for someone to come along and help you. Don’t wait for things to improve. Don’t just hope for a better future. If you see a problem, see if you can help yourself and help others. Go out there and do what needs to be done.
When you start this journey of getting things done, you may become a billionaire without even trying. Even if you don’t make a lot of money you will have become a better version of you, and you would have had a good journey to look back and feel proud!
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