Everyone is talking about Jack Ma.
Alibaba, Ma's enterprise, is China's biggest online commerce company and its shares surged in their first day of trading on Sept. 19. Investors jumped at the chance to get in on what turned out to be the largest initial public offering (IPO) in history and profit from China's growing middle class.
Essentially, the IPO has made Ma, 50, the richest man in China with an estimated fortune of $25 billion and it’s a big deal not just because of the money involved but also because of his incredibly inspiring story.
In 1999, Ma started Alibaba in his tiny apartment in China's eastern city of Hangzhou, about 100 miles from Shanghai.
Along with his wife Zhang Ying and $60,000 raised with the help of his 18 friends, Ma started a website for businesses to sell one another goods on a slow dial-up connection – so slow that it took him more than three hours to load half a web page.
Fast forward 15 years and Alibaba becomes a tech giant, so much so that analysts are now joking that it could “buy Yahoo for free.”
Jack Ma has no doubt proven that he is a successful businessman, but he has also, on many occasions, demonstrated the skills of being an inspirational leader for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Here are some important pieces of advice from the man and his life:
Ma believes in being happy with what you have.
"The best day I had was when I graduated. I got £20 a month as my pay. That was fantastic...When you have $1 million, you’re a lucky person,” he told the audience at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York recently.
"When you have $10 million, you’ve got trouble, a lot of headaches. When you have more than $1 billion ... that’s a responsibility you have— it’s the trust of people on you, because people believe you can spend money better than the others."
Sanjay Varma, a former Alibaba vice-president who now works in Hong Kong, said although his chairman has seen a lot of success, it has never affected his humility.
"Jack back then was humble, and today he's still very humble. What's changed is his power – he's obviously extremely rich, but in terms of his goals and his vision, those haven't changed a bit."
Enjoy The Suspense Of Life:
“Life is like a box of chocolates,” Ma said, drawing from a line from one of his favorite films, Forrest Gump. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
He believes “today is going to be a tough day, tomorrow will be tougher, the day after tomorrow is beautiful, most people die tomorrow."
Persevere And Move On:
For young people who feel disheartened after failing at entrance examinations into their favorite colleges or after getting no replies from coveted employers, Jack Ma is truly an inspiration.
“Mr. Ma is a big believer in perseverance,” states a Wall Street Journal article. “Born in Hangzhou, China, he perfected his English skills by talking up tourists at a local hotel. He failed his college entrance exam twice before enrolling in a local teachers college. After trying with no success to land a number of jobs, including one as a secretary to the manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, he borrowed $2,000 to start a website called China Pages,” after which he went on to create Alibaba.
Do Not Be Dependent On Connections:
At the Clinton Global Initiative, Ma disproved the notion that people cannot succeed in China without powerful connections.
He said: "People say, well Jack, if you're successful in China, you must have some strong, secret government support, and this and that...We don't have a rich father, we don't have a powerful uncle— We only have the customers who support us."
And last but not least, Jack Ma believes in keeping the dream alive and planning ahead by training and helping the young generation who will be the leaders of tomorrow. He said:
“We are successful today not because we did a great job today, but because we had a dream 15 years ago, and we believed that the Internet could help small businesses."
"Young people, what you plant in their minds as seeds, will grow up and change the world," Ma said. "Help those who want to be successful, and remember, small is beautiful."