Running your business the Alibaba Way (Panel Q&A)

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1. Take the essence of 9-9-6. (1:52-2:05, 2:16-2:40,1:05-1:11, 1:34-1:47)
Since 9-9-6 is very much influenced by Chinese culture, it might be difficult to incorporate it here since we’re used to a different system. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use it. Take what 9-9-6 is really built on, which is drive for and dedication to the company’s mission.

“Make sure that everyone in your team knows how important the mission of the company is. Because if it’s just, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this thing so that we can make one million, ’they won’t care,” said Bisnar. “You really need to find that deeper purpose… And that will create a better mentality than 9-9-6, I think.”

Reinforcing the company vision therefore allows you to make adjustments to your system. For instance, Bisnar, instead of 996, employs 183: employees are required to show up at the office for 3 days only, holding office hours from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

“Take all the traffic hours, you get happier people, but you also stretch efficiency,” he said. “You can incorporate that same mentality with the 9-9-6, giving them freedom and integrating responsibility. So what we do [is] we don’t count the hours, we look at the output of the people.”

2. A well-oiled team requires knowing your employees. (3:36-3:47, 3:51-4:07)
It’s been established that communication is important to your functions as a team. However, you may be limiting this within the professional space. Make sure that you ask your employees about their personal lives as well.




“It’s not all about work for me. I make sure that I ask about their families, how their day is, or what their challenges are,” said Chua-Magleo. “If one person’s a great employee and suddenly his performance is not leveling up, that means he might be facing some challenges, whether personal or at work.”

3. Utilize the benefits of a developing VC market. (5:33-5:54, 6:25-6:44)
At first glance, an immature VC market may be disadvantageous to startups. On the contrary, it actually allows small companies to grow at a healthy pace.

“I look at it as an opportunity, thinking… ‘I have the opportunity to grow my business to a size that [doesn’t] need to compete. Because… if there’s just one company that has so much money, they’ll just burn cash and you cannot compete,” said Sy.

By building a solid foundation at a steady speed, you gain a bargaining chip against VCs that may want to invest in the future.

“If you build your business right, you will have it in a position of strength so that you won’t be bullied by VCs. It’s like, ‘We’re giving [you] the opportunity that we’re growing so you have to invest in us now, or you’ll be left behind.”

4. Strengthen your revenue sustainability. (9:43-10:25)
Getting funding is arguably one of the biggest challenges for all startup founders. Aside from balancing the books to remain operational, there’s also the added tasks of courting possible investors.

To help ease the pressure of these endeavors, there are a couple of ways to squeeze out some extra revenue.

For example, Bisnar and his co-founders initially didn’t take salary as founders. He also recommends taking on sideline jobs such as business coaching. These steps may not bear profits by the millions, but it could be enough to make your sheets presentable to investors.

“At least when you talk to the VCs, you’re not in a negative position. Because if I were a VC and you’re bleeding one million per month, he’s just going to eat you up. He’s just going to say, ‘You’re going to die in six months, then I’m going to buy 50 percent of your company for just a few millions.’”

5. Explore alternative ways to get funding (12:02-12:19, 11:32-11:58)
If you feel that the traditional ways of getting funding aren’t quite working out, there are other ways that you can try out. The recently-passed Securities Regulation Code offers great opportunities for crowdfunding. You can even try approaching institutions who aren’t investing professionally but have the resources to do so.

“Find high net-worth individuals that can be moved by your cause, and they can have more negotiable terms. Because they care, they’re not doing it professionally,” said Bisnar. “And if he or she likes your mission, then that’s a potential opportunity.”

Those interested in applying for the Alibaba eFounders Program can find more information at this link. The upcoming program class will take place from Dec 2 to 12. The deadline for applications is on Oct 7.



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