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Successful succession: 3 things to learn from Alibaba’s evolution

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is one of the largest and most successful businesses of our time. This e-commerce giant has provided a number of lessons for entrepreneurs. One of the most recent: how to successfully execute a business sale or succession plan.

The company’s leader and founder, Jack Ma, has been slowly transitioning into retirement. Like many of his business decisions throughout his career, he has taken the transition into his retirement with precise execution. Although the specifics of his plan are best for his situation within his organization, some general lessons are present for any business owner.

Three examples include:

  • Slow transition. In 2013, Jack Ma officially stepped down as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Alibaba. Although no longer the CEO, he remained with the organization serving as an executive chairman.
  • Embrace successor. In addition to remaining present for the organization, Mr. Ma publicly announced and introduced his successor. The ceremony of an official announcement to accompany this passing of the business baton can help others within the organization embrace the change.
  • Transparency. Mr. Ma has also been transparent with his succession plans. Most recently, he announced that he will step down as the executive chairman of the organization in 12 months. He has clearly stated who will succeed him in this role and that he will continue to serve on Alibaba’s board through 2020.

Knowing what works well for a succession plan, as well as what does not, can help to better ensure the success of your business succession plan. Additional measures are also available to mitigate any risks that could jeopardize the plan. An attorney experienced in succession and business sales issues can review your plan and discuss these options.

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