Jack Ma is the founder of Alibaba Group, the most successful online company in Asia. He’s the first Chinese businessman to appear on the cover of Forbes magazine. He came from humble origins and worked in many different professions, and therefore has had his fair share of ups and downs, successes and failures. But he never gave up.
We thought we’d share some of Ma’s best pieces of advice — not just for those who want to be successful in the professional lives, but in life in general.
On developing ideas
• If 90% of those present at a business meeting vote in favour of one or other suggestion, I’ll always throw it out. The reason for this is simple: If everyone present can see the opportunity here, then the chances are lots of different companies are already working on the same idea, and we won’t be able to lead the way in it.
On what not to do
• In 2001, I made a mistake. I told my employees who had founded the company with me that the limit of their career growth was the managerial level. I thought that I needed to have professionals on my side. Year later, and none of those professionals work for us, whereas those whom I doubted had the potential to go far are now my vice-presidents.
• The worst qualities an entrepreneur can have are: snobbishness, an inability to understand the situation properly, adopt a high tempo of work without having the ability to sustain it in the long-term, and not possessing the ability to see what’s going to happen next.
• One principle guides me: your attitude towards work and the decisions which you take are more important than your abilities.
• Nothing terrible will happen if you occasionally allow yourself to complain.
• Falling into depression and constantly complaining about the state of your life is no less destructive than alcoholism. It’s the same dangerous situation: the more you do it, the worse it gets. Successful people don’t have these kind of problems.
Advice for youth
• What does real failure mean? It means when you give fighting for what you want.
• What does adaptability mean? You’ll understand when you experience failure and disappointment.
• What are you obliged to do? You’re obliged to work as hard as you can and be more ambitious than others.
• Only fools talk out of their mouths. Intelligent people speak to themselves only in their head; wise people only in their hearts.
On living life to the full
• Sooner or later, you’ll regret it if you spend all of your time at work.
• I’m always reminding myself that none of us were born in order to work, but instead to enjoy life. We’re here to help make other people’s lives better, and not spend all our time working.
On competition and competitors
• Competition is like a game of chess. If you lose once, you’ll always have another chance to win. And you don’t have to fight about it when you lose the current round.
• If your competitor is weaker than you, you should still seem him as an equal. This works the other way, of course: even if you’re opponent is stronger than you, don’t be afraid of him.
• A real entrepreneur has no enemies. When you understand this, no one can stop you.
Advice to entrepreneurs
• Clients are number one. Employees are number two. Shareholders come after both of these categories in importance.
• Instead of looking for quick solutions and ready-made schemes, concentrate on establishing stability and promising long-term plans.
• Today might be tough, tomorrow might be worse. But the day after will be wonderful.
On setting up your own business
• When you start your own business, this means you’re giving up a stable income, as well as annual bonuses.
• On the other hand, your income will be unrestricted, you’ll make use of your time much more effectively, and you won’t have to ask anyone else for permission to do something.
• When searching for a partner, you should always look for someone who adds to your abilities and knowledge. You don’t need someone who’s already been successful at anything in particular.
• Do your best to make sure your employees come to work every day with smiles on their faces.