19 August 2013

What Make Great Businesses? Learning from Jack Ma

From his speech at "China 2.0" hosted by Standford GSB in 2011 titled "Alibaba's Ma Reflects on 12-year Journey", we can learn much about building great business of the 21st centuries. Great businesses are about creating value to fill the gaps to impact and bring benefit to the largest number of people. Ma chose to work with the SMEs and to create value for them with his Alibaba, TaoBao and Alipay.  It is not about making money alone.  
Here is a mind-map of Jack Ma's speech given at the China 2.0 conference in Sep 2011. It is my summary of Ma's speech. It may not be comprehensive. It is just the key points that I picked up from him.

Here are the Key Points:
  1. Business is not about making money but about creating value for the society. 
  2. The large amount of money made represents the trust from the people of the society. 
  3. Hence, everything should be transparent in this 21st century.
  4. The major business of the future is about solving the problems of the society rather than just pursuing the opportunities to make money. Company policies affect the society too.
  5. It is Eco-system of connected contribution and not the 'Empire business' of killing of competitors.
  6. Staff should run the company.
  7. Global vision with local wins. Back to basics is key.
  8. Solving Misunderstanding: Our job is to change ourselves to suit the others.
The Chinese mindset of "Harmony" is clearly seen in his belief of "Eco-system of mutual contribution" rather than the 'Empire thinking of domination and killing off'.  Business is about contributing to the maximum good of the society. You need to decide and pick the area of operation where you can contribution. Gaming could bring you lots of money, but Jack prefers to help the SMEs to grow and that he can sleep well at night.

The best evidence of his work can be seen in the people on whom he met on the streets to thank him for the help his businesses brought. It can also be seen in the word of his staff when asked why is still working so hard? He replies:
  1. I never know in my life I can do that much 
  2. I never know the things that I am doing are so meaningful to the society.
  3. I never know life is that hard. We work day and night.
People are very concern about the business ethics of the Chinese with so much bad publicity on the poison milk powder, oil, etc. Does the Chinese know about other values beside making money? With business leaders and thought leaders like Jack Ma, we can see hope. With greater emphasis and popularity of the Sinology (Ancient Chinese Wisdom and Philosophies) and greater emphasis of anti-corruption by the government, they will learn about sustainable business is about righteousness, ethics and laws-abiding. 

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