By Jim Tompkins
CEO, Tompkins International
I was fascinated this past week when it was reported by the The New York Times (among others) that "Doubt is Cast on Vetting of Deals by Alibaba."
As everyone knows, I am a keen student and researcher of Alibaba. In my recent video, The Alibaba Effect, I discuss not only the amazing story of the e-commerce giant —nearing its announced IPO in just a few weeks in the U.S. —but I also comment on the intelligence, entrepreneurship, foresight, and risk-taking of its renowned leader, Jack Ma.
The newspaper reported, essentially, that Alibaba has been on a buying spree since 2013, spending billions to acquire stakes in businesses such as department stores and mapping services in China, as well an array of technology start-ups in the U.S. In addition, the article indicates that its recent acquisition control of a Hong Kong film company just two months ago (now called Alibaba Pictures Group) might not have been "fully vetted," and that "possible non-compliant accounting issues" have since been discovered.
The article further asserts (via "experts") that "Alibaba has little expertise in many of the new businesses," which means that it has to rely on incumbent managers in business decisions; and, that "Alibaba, like most Chinese companies, does not have the ability to manage the increasing number of unfamiliar yet decentralized divisions and people."
I find these assertions fascinating because the so-called "experts" are most often those who do not take risks, do not experiment, and do not learn by doing. Jack Ma has been pushing the envelope, out-learning them, and moving forward with a speed unheard of by Western analysts. He has a great vision, is on a path to learn rapidly, and is following that with passion.
Whether or not a financial or accounting detail was missed by his highly qualified advisors is not the point, and it is certainly not any criticism to be considered in the soon to be conducted IPO.
Interestingly, the critics have also recently reported certain structural weaknesses or irregularities in Jack Ma's corporate organization. Amazingly, he acted within a week to adjust these to provide more clarity and transparency, as well as reorganize them to meet more "commonly accepted standards."
Jack Ma has publically discussed his goal of growing a major global business for the long term, while moving quickly to build his presence in the short term. As I discuss in some depth in The Alibaba Effect, he is doing just that. The ramifications for any business in the world are significant, and we are encouraging, and working with, many companies to prepare for and take full advantage of these effects.
As Alibaba's founder follows this rapid roadmap, he is quickly learning about different industries —e-commerce, Internet and store retail, banking, Internet video, mapping services, microblogging, web browsers, and now entertainment, as well as learning more and more about different countries and cultures.
I very much doubt this fast-paced "study, acquire, learn, and profit model" will slow down, either before or after the IPO. He is taking calculated risks to apply this model and turning it into a big advantage.
Others can criticize and use old-school criteria to find faults, but Alibaba and Jack Ma are changing the world while the debates persist. As some wise people have stated before, "Either get on the fast-moving train or get out of the way." And as the video conveys, smart companies will prepare now for the growth and profit ride.
What are your thoughts on Alibaba's fast track towards success? How are you preparing to compete?
Photo Credit: World Economic Forum