In the recently concluded Honour International Symposium 2016, Alibaba's founder, Mr. Jack Ma, gave a video message to Singapore businesses, recounting on honor and integrity in his business journey.
In the video, he attribute the success of Alibaba to a few critical business decisions that was made in the early days of the business that led to the meteoric rise of the eCommerce firm.
Common Sense Can Be Difficult to Implement
In the early days when Alibaba was still a fledgling b2b company that hardly turned a profit, the team wanted to make corporate websites for companies looking to export manufactured goods to earn revenue. Unfortunately, it is common practice to provide bribes / kickbacks to company executives in order to secure these business deals. Sandwiched between the prospect of having to shut down Alibaba vs accepting the status quo to give bribes in return for business revenue, the Alibaba team had a long discussion and concluded that they would rather have the business shut down if they aren't able to secure business sans corruption.
Saying No to A Slippery Slope
When Alibaba reviewed their revenue performance in 2009, they realized that 2 of their sales employees were giving kickbacks in return for business. These 2 sales staff account for over 60% of their sales for that year. Again, a difficult business decision had to be made : Were they willing to cut off the majority of their revenue to honor their corporate philosophy of being a corruption free organization, even if it entails a possible fate of winding up the business?
Again, the core management team had the grit (and guts!) to hold true to their core values, and the two employees were let go.
Success Written In The Stars Contract
Today, with the stellar success of Alibaba, many people asked if Jack was really lucky, smart (or both) - He attributes it to the organization having strong corporate values that is instilled in the DNA of the organization.
In every business contract, Alibaba insists on a non-typical clause that not only thanks the vendor for the business, but more importantly, reaffirms the organization's firm committment to not accept /give bribes in their business dealings. Alibaba's employees are not allowed to accept gifts, meals, rides or even a piece of candy from their vendors/clients, reiterating the firm's zero-tolerance attitude towards corruption.
As a result of this core value system that all Alibaba employees uphold strictly, all their employees enjoy a halo effect and are highly regarded and sought after by other companies looking to emulate the success of Alibaba.
Afterall, a company's success is driven by its people. Having a core business value / philosophy to govern business decisions and dealings, especially when the financial stakes are high, will help the business to prove its mettle in the long run.