Lessons from Jack Ma’s resignation

Chinese business magnate Jack Ma.
Last week, Chinese business magnate Jack Ma stepped down as the chairman of Alibaba Group as it marked its 20th anniversary.

The 55-year-old businessman gave an emotional farewell speech that was full of important life and business lessons. Here’s what stood out from it.

1. Kindness

In Ma’s view, “kindness is the strongest power”. He added: “There were lots of people saying I had really good luck, but actually the mistakes Alibaba made were no fewer than other firms.

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But we’ve also made many right decisions, mostly because we did not make them purely out of business considerations. All the critical decisions we made in the past 20 years were not about money.”

2. Set targets

Ma revealed that 15 years ago, he set a target for Alibaba: to make it last at least 102 years, and since then he’s been thinking of strategies to achieve that.

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The billionaire noted that most people either have no faith in their own or organisational goals or disregard them.

“Lots of people treat company targets like empty slogans. However, we at Alibaba know we need to have faith in this goal to make it become a reality.”

3. Empower the next generation

With this target of 102 in mind, Ma revealed that he did his research on lots of other companies to figure out how to keep a business alive, and he found two basic ways.

One was to pass on the business to the founder’s next generation, the second to identify professional managers.

However, Alibaba chose a third path, which Ma says is to nurture one’s own team, and “make sure the succession process is smooth with the help of system and culture.”

4. Prepare for the future

The Chinese billionaire takes to heart the saying that failing to plan is planning to fail.

“I have been preparing for 10 years for today,” he said, adding that the decision to step down was not a sudden impulse, nor was it because he was under any kind of pressure.

“There have been rumours online saying I was afraid of something. People at Alibaba are never afraid of anything. We only have respect for the future, but not fear.”

5. Work hard and play hard

The billionaire reiterated the importance of incorporating fun into work.

“Lots of people thought Alibaba was a company focused on holding performances and events, but this is in line with one of our company values: we work hard and play hard,” he said.

The organisation praised Ma for bringing life to the annual events, and at his resignation, he performed the song, You Raise Me Up, with his successor.

6. Embrace technology

Ma believes technology will continue to play a critical role in our lives. In his view, technology will address the major challenges currently facing the world, including sustainable growth and inclusiveness.  

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