Top 5 Advice from Alibaba’s Founder, Jack Ma

Jack Ma faced many rejections in his early years but his persistence and foresight brought him to where he is today.

Singapore Business Owners

Last Updated on October 6th, 2021


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A successful Chinese billionaire and founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma became the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes and is currently one of the richest people in the world. However, his road to success was not one without trials and controversies. Jack Ma has shared his learnings through many different forums and events. These are his top five advice.

    1. You don’t have to be knowledgeable to be successful.

      Jack Ma Advice
      “I knew nothing about technology. I knew nothing about management. But the thing is, you don’t have to know a lot of things. You have to find people who are smarter than you. For many years, I’ve been finding people smarter than me and my job is to get these smart people to work together. And if smart people can work together, it’s easier.”

      Reported by South China Morning Post
      (Jack Ma at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland)

    2. Get used to rejections.

      Jack Ma Advice
      “I’ve had lots of failures. I failed for funny things. I failed a key primary school test two times. I failed three times in middle school. I failed my university-entrance exam. I applied for Harvard University for ten times and got rejected for all ten applications. I was rejected by thirty different jobs. I even applied for a job at KFC when KFC came to China but I still got rejected. I think we have to get used to rejections. The most important thing is to never give up. We have to keep fighting and keep [improving] ourselves.”

      Reported by World Economic Forum
      (Jack Ma at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland)

    3. Prepare for the future.

      Jack Ma Advice
      “I was born in a very poor family. I never had a great education. I don’t have money. I don’t have the technology. I don’t have a good [family] background like a rich uncle or something. The only way I could compete was by competing 10 years later. This is what I believe will be happening 10 years later and I will prepare for it.”

      Reported by World Economic Forum
      (Jack Ma at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland)

    4. See challenges as opportunities.

      Jack Ma Advice
      “I complained a lot when I was young because I thought that Bill Gates took all the opportunities with Microsoft. Steve jobs with Apple. There is no big stuff left for us. But I [learned] that opportunities always lie in the challenges. If you can solve a challenge, you will be successful. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity you have.”

      Reported by South China Morning Post
      Jack Ma at Alibaba’s Gateway ’17 conference in Detroit on June 2017

    5. Put your customers and employees ahead of your shareholders.

      Jack Ma Advice
      “We believe that customers are number one, employees number two and shareholders number three. It is the customers that pay us the money and the employees that drive the innovation. For the shareholders, when a crisis came, the [shareholders] were the first to run away. My employees stayed. My customers stayed.”

      Reported by Charlie Rose
      Jack Ma’s interview with Charlie Rose on September 2010

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