Alibaba Group founder, Jack Ma, has retired. That is certainly not news. He had noted last year that he was going to do it. He began Alibaba, and in the process created about 11 billionaires (in dollars) including himself. But he is out – on his own terms, to possibly go and create value on something else in the world that may not be evaluated on monetary terms. Possibly, he may do more teaching; he was a former English teacher.
Jack Ma is giving up the reins of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. after presiding over one of the most spectacular creations of wealth the world has ever seen.
The former English teacher steps down as executive chairman of China’s largest company on his 55th birthday after amassing a $41.8 billion fortune — a trove surpassed only by India’s Mukesh Ambani in Asia, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His record-breaking rise from a bootstrapped entrepreneur working out of his apartment in 1999 to jet-setting e-commerce mogul is one for the history books, mirroring China’s own evolution from technological backwater to world’s No. 2 economy.
In technology management, we talk of continuity management and succession management. In Africa, we are not necessarily so lucky in that space. Empires have failed to transition from one generation to another. Except for a few pockets like First Bank of Nigeria and Union Bank, our records are terrible. We must change that record if we want to build durable economies. Yes, these entities are unable to move from one generation to another not because of creative destructive, rather most died because there was no plan beyond the founder: empires die once founders exit.
According to Schumpeter, the “gale of creative destruction” describes the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”.
As we celebrate Jack Ma going to play more golf and give money away, every African entrepreneur should learn something from him: right in his relative youth, he has already positioned Alibaba to be here after him. That is something to master in our playbooks. This retirement is an unprecedented move by Jack – capture it in your playbook.
Sure – you do not need to do it that early as Jack has done, leaving at relative youth of 55 years. My message is that you need to ensure that your company has a plan beyond the current players.