Thursday, February 9, 2012

Person to Follow - Jack Ma

He has been called China's Steve Jobs, Jack Ma is the founder of one of the biggest private business conglomerates in all of Asia. Similar to Jobs, Mr. Ma was able to create this business out of nothing in one of the most competitive places for business in the world. He considers himself a simple man, and is looked down on by his colleagues in other companies for his plainly-dressed, humanistic approach to business affairs, but he has single-handedly changed the way that online business is done in China, has brought unique and innovative ideas to what a positive business is about, and has helped to promote creativity in everyone around him.

 Jack Ma's life began with many difficulties. He was unable to afford to go to high-school, and despite studying on the side he wasn't accepted into college. Ma has admitted that were he born a generation earlier in China, he would never have lived through the Cultural Revolution. Despite all this, Ma taught himself English and worked as a tour guide and translator to gain more chances to expand his knowledge. He formed the Alibaba Group, which now has as much as 1 billion members between its many services, while sitting at his home with a group of his friends. The group includes Alibaba, Taobao, Alipay, and others, which are Chinese equivalents of Ebay, Paypal, Craig'slist, and Amazon all under one group. The group includes the biggest business to business market in the world, and has rewritten how small- and medium-sized businesses (SME's) in China contact suppliers and buyers. Ma is proud to be able to say that he has made business possible for hundreds of thousands in China that otherwise would have been unable to.

Regarding what makes Mr. Ma so creative is the fact that he truly speaks his mind, and looks at business in a way that is contrary to popular handling. When he conceived the businesses that he founded, his thoughts were not on how he could make the most money. Ma believes that in the modern age, the reason for a new business is to find a problem in the world and to solve it. All of his businesses have been created not to make himself rich but to solve a problem. The riches naturally followed. When running his business his primary concern is to make the customers happy, and second to make his workers happy. He considers the stockholders to be the last of his concerns, saying that they are the least loyal and the least valuable to the business. This has proved successful for Alibaba, as the loyal customers and employees have been able to keep Alibaba consistently earning a positive income, much to the dismay of those that disagree with Ma's management style.

Many business environments are harshly competitive places, where every worker is fighting against his or her co-workers for success. Ma's business model creates a much more nurturing environment which actually encourages teamwork. He refers to his team as his family, strongly promotes communication between workers and their superiors, and has implemented one of the most powerful ethical codes of any large business, even more impressive because this is an internet business, and a Chinese one at that. Ma even considers the protecting environment to be an important factor in any decision made by the business group, and contributes stupendous amounts to charitable organizations. Something that it is worth noting; Steve Jobs gave very little of his massive fortune away, showing that Ma's innovative mind may prove as successful as Jobs's and is more generous. Many of Ma's donations are to programs that will help increase creativity in Chinese schools and for the workers in his company. Any worker within Alibaba that has a business idea is financially and personally supported to follow through with his ideas, and several successful businesses have been created from this process.

Going back to Ma's personality, the driving force behind his companies has been the innovative way that Jack Ma can communicate and can give straightforward plans. Ma has very little technical knowledge - he is not afraid to admit that he can use a computer for little more than checking email - and yet he is running one of the world's largest technology-based firms because he understands what role the world needed filled, and because he treats his (technologically-savvy) employees with utmost respect. Only 45 years old, Ma is going to be someone that will be on the front-line of innovative businesses for a long time, and will be adding great things to the world. Although Ma has already made his fortunes, he says that he has no intention of stopping. He sees no use in the money he has earned if it is not solving more of the world's problems, and when he retires, Ma plans to become a high-school teacher and continue to bring creativity into the lives of the future generations.

The following is a video with Ma, explaining the importance of innovation in business, and about human potential.

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