Small Is Beautiful
Wednesday 15th September 2010 - 9:15am - 10:15am
Small Is Beautiful
Jack Ma Yun, a Mentor for the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group, shares his perspective with growing global companies on how Internet-based technologies are forever transforming the business model paradigm.
• Jack Ma Yun was rejected by China’s best schools but achieved success anyway, fuelling his belief that hard work, independent thinking and luck are also routes to success.
• The key to managing a business is to focus on the customer, not on business strategies and other theories taught in MBA schools.
• The Internet and China’s rapid economic development are opening new opportunities every day, so young people must be optimistic about the future.
• In business, it is important to be honest, avoid blaming employees for making mistakes and recognize that it is the team and luck, not the leader alone, that bring success.
As a boy, Jack Ma Yun learned English when he showed tourists around Hangzhou. The experience opened his mind to different perspectives – that China is far behind other countries, for example, despite the fact that most citizens thought the opposite at that time. This capacity for independent thinking continues to serve Ma well in business today. Ten years ago, nobody took him seriously when he started Alibaba because few in China owned personal computers, but he forged ahead and achieved success.
Ma believes that entrepreneurship and leadership cannot be taught. Professors who can go on for hours about successful business strategies cannot necessarily run a company themselves. The senior executives he sent to MBA school returned to work with ideas that Ma says he thinks are not really useful in running an actual company. The most important thing in business is to always make the customer happy, but it seems that academics focus on other things.
Around the world, but particularly in China – where rapid economic development and the Internet open up so many opportunities – young people have no reason to be pessimistic about the future. They must be given room by their parents and teachers to think for themselves and behave in ways that are outside the norm, as Ma has been able to do.
Business leaders must always tell the truth and avoid blaming subordinates for their mistakes, which should be seen as opportunities to learn. There are secrets to success but, equally, there are also valuable lessons from failure.
Entrepreneurs should also recognize that the success of a business is due not only to their own effort, but also to everyone on the team. Ma credits himself for only 10% of Alibaba’s success. His team accounts for 30%, he says, good luck another 30%, and media hype the remaining 30%.
Robert Greenhill, Managing Director and Chief Business Officer, World Economic Forum
Jack Ma Yun, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Alibaba Group, People's Republic of China; Mentor of the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2010; Young Global Leader
This summary was written by Cesar Bacani. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum.
Copyright 2010 World Economic Forum
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Wednesday 15 September
Keywords: Jack Ma Yun, Alibaba, MBA schools, business success, independent thinking