Alibaba’s Founder Business Success Secrets


Arguably the richest man in mainland China and Asia, Ma Yun, famously known as Jack Ma is a man with a pack of lessons especially for startups struggling to make a mark in the world of business. The company he founded, Alibaba, conducted a record breaking IPO in the USA that raised USD 20 Billion a few years ago. His life, ever since he started cultivating interest in the English language at a tender age, presents many lessons that we who are rising up in entrepreneurship can adapt and have guaranteed success.
Lesson 1: Treasure your Passion 

It is said that when a young boy, Jack Ma used to cycle for over 45 minutes to a hotel which was frequented by western tourists so that he can practice speaking English. Through the interaction, a young female tourist could not pronounce his Chinese name properly and she christened him Jack Ma. It has stuck to date.

Through his love for language, he was employed as part of a governmental team that went to Seattle in the USA for a government exchange and that marked his initial interaction with a home PC in a friends home. And it fascinated him that through the desktop box, he could get a lot of information but not for his dear country China. When he returned, he purposed to develop Chinas first internet commerce platform for local businesses. And hence, his love for language birthed his ecommerce business.

What can you do best? What are your talents? Purpose to discover and develop these by developing a passion around them. Utilize these special gifts you have to help solve a society challenge and you will be in business! History has proven that no business anchored on passion has ever failed. I call these passionpreneurs.

Lesson 2: Be objective about providing solutions

Despite him being wealthy, Jack Ma confessed during his inaugural Africa Tour in Nairobi that he had no intention to be rich. He did business to provide solutions. Africa, he said and especially Kenya, presented a perfect environment to launch enterprises due to the various challenges facing the populace. 

Let your business be run based on values. When you have a value system, you enable your clients build trust and loyalty towards your brand. Ma questioned the current business school model with the following: The business schools teach a lot of skills about how to make money and how to run a business. But I want to tell people that if you want to run a business, you have to run the value first, to serve the others, to help the others  thats the key.

Vision never follows money. The converse is true  money always follows vision. Let your vision be anchored on a foundation of values that concur with societys needs. Dominant brands learnt this secret and they build their brands on this and that is why they withstand time.
Lesson 3: Anchor your business on your dream

From his own narration of his entrepreneurship story, his dream was to enable Chinese businesses reach out to the world He wanted to open up the space for local Chinese firms to sell to the world. And there was no better way to do this by employing the power of the international World Wide Web also known as the internet. And thus, by creating passion on his passion, which was to pursue English language and employ it, he built his dream of opening up his closed country to the world and thus Alibaba was launched. 

Do you have a vision of where your business would be in a few years time?  What is your dream? Build your business on that!

Lesson 4: Be optimistic

He is known to be a failure, going by world standards. Sample this: he failed twice in his primary school exams. In his middle school exams, he failed thrice once again. When he applied for his admission into University to pursue a degree in English, his desire, he failed again, thrice! He later graduated with a degree and he unsuccessfully looked for a job as a teacher. His search for a job was equally punctuated by failure. He reckons he did a record thirty job unsuccessful applications in total. When KFC opened its franchise in China for instance, he and twenty-three others applied for jobs. The rest were accepted except his which was declined. He also applied for a job as a police officer with three of his friends. They were all taken and he was left out. The reason for his rejection was given that he was no good.

After getting frustrated in his quest for a job, he chose to entirely rely on his English skills to earn a living. And that is how he ended up in being an English translator and being absorbed by the government in its foreign missions. And that opened up doors for what we know him for today  Ecommerce.


They say tough times do not last but tough people do. Being pessimistic about a business situation does not help matters. Maintaining a positive attitude does. Successful entrepreneurs do not let setbacks get them down and they see both what’s impossible and possible, but the difference is that they focus only on the possible.

Lesson 5: Be crazy!

 He was christened Crazy Jack Ma by his fellow Chinese for his outlandish internet commerce idea when most could not believe in him. In contrast to his fellow Chinese corporates who are conservative in nature, Jack Ma loves to make fun of himself.

In the early 200s, Time magazine called him crazy for his out of the world ideas in a world that was conservative. He responded by saying the he may be crazy but not stupid. His ambitions would be seen to be too lofty but he was wise to always aim at achieving his life dream. 


His management style has been termed as unorthodox since he blends western and Chinese management philosophies to come up with a winning formula for entrepreneurship where he puts his customers first, followed by his employees and lastly, the shareholders interests last. To him, hiring a more talented employee than him is a bonus.

You need not get the approval of the world to make it in business. So long as you have a belief in an idea, and it can solve a world challenge or problem, go for it. Just be crazy about it and pursue it! 
The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How to maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. Both books are available on Amazon. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Coach with PBL Africa. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:

Email:                              pblogix@gmail.com

LinkedIn:                         https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-okinda-9652b210a

Telegram:                       @Mokinda

Telegram Community: https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ

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Monkey See, Monkey Do Syndrome

When i heard of this idiom, i never actually appreciated what it  implied. Actually it holds much water for us who are still growing and finding our footing in life.

So the story goes that a group of pupils organised for a trip to a zoo and on the way, they each bought hats. When they arrived at the zoo, they were amazed at the different animals on display. One stand fascinated them – monkeys upon a tree. And they were so engrossed at enjoying their presence with them that a slight wind came and blew away their hats which the monkeys grabbed. They wore them on their heads just as they saw the kids do!

The kids got mad. They beckoned to the monkeys to go to where they were and the monkeys did exactly that. Whenever they did anything in an attempt to get their hats, the monkeys did the same. They realized there was a way to trick the monkeys, by making them ape them: they took their scarfs and tied them on their heads to look like hats. The monkeys did not copy that since the way they looked was alike to them – as if they wore hats. Then in tandem, they removed the scarfs from their heads and threw them into the air. The foolish monkeys, as was their character, did the same and pulled the hats from their heads and threw them into the air. The hats flew down to the ground and the kids took them back and ran away, laughing in joy.
Funny as the story is, it holds great lessons for us and is a clear mirage of how most of us live. How many of us have a clear vision of what we want in life? It is said almost 92% of people in the world today die before realizing their potential in life. It is therefore not a surprise that the richest place in the world is the graveyard as in it lies ideas that were never fulfilled.

I know of friends who purpose to do stuff but along the way, out of external pressure, they bulge and start aping their fellow men’s ideas. Of particular instance is  a pal whose passion was doing marketing. When a fellow came into town and he held an event, he chose to shift to doing events management. Well, he organised his and it never went down well. He lost a lot of cash and when i met him, he chose to go into environmental consultancy, saying that that was his forte. Well, i just sat back and analysed his adventure at self discovery and i pitied him. I have never heard of him since.

Like the monkeys in our analogy above, many of us never have confidence in what we put our minds to do, and get derailed when challenges come in. We are uniquely created with individual and specific strengths that make us to be who we are. No two people can therefore do the same thing likewise. If i was to write down my speech, and gave it to you to go present at a conference, trust me you would not deliver it as perfectly as i would even without the write up. Because we are totally different. That is the reason why anyone who apes fails in execution.
I always admire Thomas Edison, the great  American inventor. He tried 999 times to invent the light bulb. And every time he failed, he said he learnt one way not to do it. Were he to start letting his eyes wander off his purpose, someone else would have come along and did exactly that and take all the glory, plus the rewards!

They say the grass is always greener across the fence. But then, if you water yours, it would also be green. It is just a matter of effort and skill. Or better still, be greener and more attractive than the one across the fence. So, why cross the fence? Tend to yours!

 It is time we stopped seeing what people do and ape and start living our lives as we were created to, in business and in the workplace. You can only be the best version of yourself and not the other person! If you want to have a fulfilling business or work quality, just choose to be the best you can be of yourself. Because it is your passion that would power your life dream!

The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How To maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Coach with PBL Africa. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:

Email:                             pblogix@gmail.com

LinkedIn:                        https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-okinda-9652b210a

Telegram Community: https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ

Facebook:                       https://www.facebook.com/maikol.okinda

SECRETS OF DOMINANT ENTERPRISES

This week, Facebook announced that they had hit 2 billion subscribers. Facebook is urguably the world’s biggest media content provider inasmuch as it does not create any content of its own! 

Uber, the world’s largest taxi hailing company, also does not own a single cab of its own. Neither is Alibaba, the biggest online retailer as far as business inventory is concerned. Airbnb follows the same fashion, with no real estate of its own, despite being the world’s largest accommodation provider. 

Coming closer home, Safaricom Kenya Limited is the biggest telco in East and Central Africa. With its profitability hitting Kes. 45 Billion ($ 442 Million) this year, the amount alone is enough to finance Kenya’s Health Ministry for an entire year, going by the country’s 2016/2017 budget. 

However, Safaricom is not known for being a communication company alone. Its flagship product is MPesa, a mobile wallet value addition which enables subscribers to undertake financial transactions. Banks have in effect, rode on the platform to offer lending products. So far, it is estimated that over 27 million Kenyans are subscribers of this mobile money service making Safaricom to be Kenya’s and East Africa’s biggest bank, quite literally! Mark you it does not own a single brick and mortar vault! 

Peter Drucker, the infamous management guru, said that the main function of business is marketing and innovation. This therefore implies that the main purpose of enterprise is to create customers. And hence, it follows that a successful business is only one if it creates and builds its customer base. It is therefore be logical to conclude that a business’ growth is only measured by the number of its clientele. 
This is the secret that has alluded many  businesses that exist in this day and age. Most startups are established to churn out revenues and monetary payouts to their owners. But then, it also explains why a huge percentage of startups fail – due to lack of focus on growing customers. Jim Collins, another guru in management, postulated the Hedgehog concept in which passion, ability to perform and cash cows are factored to create dominance by a firm in a sector. A firm can never generate sustainable cash flows unless it has the numbers in terms of customer numbers. If you study all dominating firms, they have invested heavily on acquiring and maintaining their customers to realise the returns they have.

It therefore calls for the entrepreneur to study his intended clientele well enough to keep up with their tastes and preferences and in addition, changes if any. Firms that withstand the test of time are those that are able to mutate in tandem with the changes in their market niches. This is exactly what cost Kodak and Nokia brands  – rigidity in their product innovation in conformity to customer tastes. New entities came, adopted to the client preferences and took over their markets. 

It again demands that the core corporate values of a business entity have to be in tandem with values of the populations they target. Safaricom Kenya Limited, as mentioned, was not the pioneer telco in Kenya. Kencell was. It later changed ownership and became Zain and currently is branded Airtel. However, despite being the pioneer mobile telecommunications company in the country, it is still struggling to capture the majority share of the available market. Safaricom commands slightly more than 70% market share thanks to its Mpesa value addition on its service. Mark you it is not the cheapest hence the price factor is out of question!

Now for one to understand Mpesa, one has to appreciate the culture of the Kenyan people. Kenyans are a closely knit society which values sharing and blood relationships. As such, more able members of the family travel out in search of job opportunities and whenever they land a job, they would remit some of their earnings to their homes as a way to assist others. This sharing philosophy is what Mpesa was built on – to remit funds, albeit in small quantities. At the time of its launch, most banks had locked out most of the population by their stringent account opening conditions. For one to subscribe to Mpesa, one just needed an ID and a Safaricom line. And that is how the revolution started in 2007 with the launch of the service. Through MPesa, Kenyans could send cash, buy airtime, pay for goods, even borrow on short term basis through the click of their button. And that is how Safaricom wormed its way into the hearts of Kenyans, and assured its place into the Kenyan culture. Its value tag was “Get connected”, in consonance with the social connectedness of the Kenyan people.

Well, do you desire your business to live beyond you and post better returns? Then you have to think about your value system and match it to your clients’. That way, like Safaricom, Facebook and all the others mentioned, you will be assured of longevity of business. 

Customers feel their needs are met by firms whose values fulfil their needs. It is upon the business to craft its strategies around values that will give the potential clients assurance that their needs and preferences would be fully met. That way, one is guaranteed long term loyalty and growth. 
The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How To maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Coach with PBL Africa. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:

Email:                             pblogix@gmail.com

LinkedIn:                        https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-okinda-9652b210a

Telegram Community: https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ

Facebook:                       https://www.facebook.com/maikol.okinda

Businessman or An Entrepreneur – Which One Are You?


There is no better way to command the market and payout than to command the demand for your products and services. An enterprise that has a firm hold of a market niche will always live true to the moniker β€œgoing concern” – its life will be unending into the future. Businesses that we admire today like Coca Cola, Nike, etc, have mastered the art of commanding the market by doing this.

Once you target a segment of the market you intend to capture, it would be important you undertake a need analysis and see what the consumer really wants and how best to satisfy that need. A business that satisfies no demand is not in business.
Many are the times we sell products to the market raw without any processing which in a way, creates a middle link between the producers and the end consumer. What it therefore means is there is some value we forego or transfer to the middle man which they exploit and maximize. Literally speaking, a producer the raw material is working to enrich the middle man. Take chicken for example.

Chicken farmers usually go into pains of raising their stock and input a lot of money to sell off their matured birds to middle men. The middle man would acquire the birds, slaughter and sell off as processed wings, or even fillet or maybe process chicken burgers. The offal is sold to pig farmers as food also. At the end of the day, if you undertake a cost benefit analysis of being the farmer vis a vis being the middle man, the value is higher for the middle man who buys the raw material from the farmer. All the middle man does is sit back and get down to the farmer at the bottom of the chain to negotiate for prices, buy the raw materials, process and sell it off. The actual increase in value that a business creates by undertaking the production process is what is referred to as value addition.
Value addition makes the processor command the market. He commands even the prices of the entire industry. Agricultural based industries that learnt this secret went full stream into value addition and have outlasted their competitors. An example is the Delamaire Dairies and Egerton University Dairies which are big milk producers. Rather than sell milk, they chose to dwell on value addition and over the years, despite turmoil in the dairy industries, they have been doing sustainable business producing their hallmark yoghurt brands. KCC initially was purely a milk reseller and went down since they could not command the market with the entry of new players. What happened afterwards? They now produce Yoghurt, ghee and cheese amongst other milk products.
As a small scale entrepreneur you can also choose to command your market. What uniqueness can you introduce into your product offering to hold onto your consumer? If you are that estate kales seller, do you sell your vegetables as you bought them from the farmer or do you add value to it by maybe cut them into pieces to be sold as buy-and-cook portions in smaller packages for the working community? Maybe you package your vegetables and sell them a bundle of kales, onions and tomatoes, etc? Maybe brand them exquisitely? As a service provider, what extra thing are you offering beyond the usual service that any other player in your industry is offering? I love going for a weekly shave at a local kinyozi where apart from doing my hair as I like it, they do massage and even do a facial for me for the price of a normal shave. And trust me I have never gone to any other kinyozi apart from that.
The beauty about value addition is the client is ready to pay for it even if its premium priced. Once one sees they are getting a benefit beyond what others normally offer, they would be ready to pay, alongside building product loyalty for your firm and establish your brand as a market player.
Smart enterprising demands that you look at the big picture rather than just concentrating on the immediate activity, which may be tilted with changes in the external environment. Value addition is a great way to hedge it from such shocks and guarantee business sustainability. To be smart, always look at your business from the big picture.
The writer is the author of β€œPassionpreneurship Demystified”, a practical book on how to exploit passion for actualizing dreams. He is also the convenor of ‘House of Passion‘, and online coaching platform for entrepreneurs and professionals.