6 Lessons Jack Ma wants African entrepreneurs to learn

Chinese entrepreneur and richest man in Asia, Jack Ma’s rags-to-riches story has endeared him to many people across the world. He built his Alibaba from scratch, to becoming a global e-commerce giant.

Apart from being chairman of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma is also a Special Adviser on Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Business to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Ma, who visited Africa for the first time, gave a lecture on empowering Africa’s young entrepreneurs at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, some days ago. With over 500 young business leaders in attendance, the event offered the right opportunity for Ma to share some lessons about entrepreneurship and life.

Jack Ma addressing the audience at the University of Nairobi

The Art of Managing People

While making his speech, Jack Ma explained he learnt the art of managing people from being a student leader in the university, many years ago. He claimed the experience he garnered from that opportunity to lead 100,000 students makes him to place priority on the growth and development of employees in his organization.

“If you want them better, train them, discipline them and support them”, He said. “I call myself CEO (Chief Education Officer) of the company. You don’t have to be the best, but you have to know who is better than you and work with him. Be a good teacher; a good teacher shares knowledge and also expects people are better than you are [sic].”

Wealth comes with responsibilities towards Society

He explained wealth always comes with some responsibilities which should be aimed at the collective good of society.

“When you have 1 million, that is your money. When you have 20 million, that is a problem. You have to think of the valuation, where to put the money; if it has to be real estate, buy stocks, or invest as VC [venture capitalist]. When you have more than one billion dollars, that kind of money belongs to the society. And people in the society trusted that you can spend the money better than the government. “

Don’t Complain; Act.

In Africa, slow growth and development act as roadblock sto many entrepreneurs, in their quest to realize their dreams. It is commonplace to hear different complaints about the situation the continent has found itself. However, Ma believes successful people complain less.

Hear him: “A lot of people complain ‘nobody helps me. Why don’ t people help me to get money from the banks? Why am I not born into the Bill Gates’ family?’ People have a lot of stupid complaints. I had all these complaints that young people have today, I had them. I complained about Bill Gates, Oracle and all these companies taking our jobs. I later found out that complaining doesn’t work.

“I travel around the world, I see so many successful people, politicians, business people, scientists and artists, I find one quality that the successful people share: they never complain; they are always optimistic.”

Failure Lessons are more important than Success Stories

Ma revealed that he uses failure stories to teach his organization (which has about 57,000 employees, by the way). He believes talking about failure should be an important curriculum for entrepreneurship.

“The MBA teaches success stories. When you read two minutes of success stories, you get up and think ‘I can be successful.’ When you share a lot of failure stories, you learn.

“No matter how smart you are in your business, you will make the same mistakes again and again.The way we teach and share failure stories, by not wanting you to avoid mistakes, is to teach how to face the mistakes when you are in trouble [sic].”

Stick close to technology; See Opportunities in Challenges

According to him, almost 90% of the businesses in the future will be online. He enjoined African entrepreneurs to understand how technology is changing the world.

“The first technology revolution reduced human energy and we knew humans were not as strong as machines. The second technological revolution reduced the speed of human beings and we knew we could never run faster than planes and trains. This (present) technology revolution relieves human brains. Don’t be scared because machines will be smarter than we are.

“One of the things I want to think about is: how will the world look like? What will China look like? What will my neighbours look like? What kind of problems will they have in five or ten years? If this is a problem that is going to happen to China; if these are the problems going to happen to my customers; if I can fix these [and] if I can start preparing now, five years later I will be successful as a person.

He added: “Africa has much opportunities [sic], because of its young population.  Africa has so many complaints and problems. That is the opportunity. If you want to be big companies, solve big problems, if you want to be small companies, solve small problems.”

Customers and Employees take precedence over Shareholders

Towards the end of his speech, Ma advised the audience: “Always remember customers are number 1, employees number 2, and shareholders number 3. If you make your customers happy, they pay the money; if you make your employees happy, they will be creative and innovative.”


PHOTO CREDITS: Campusradio.co.ke  &  the-star.co.ke

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Deji Aroloye91 Posts

    a graduate of Linguistics and a staff writer at Outrepreneurs, Deji's forte includes tech, startups and innovations. Years back, Deji wrote on Entertainment and Lifestyle for a tabloid. If he wasn't a writer, Deji would be a photographer or teacher.


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