E-commerce is an evolving space. Every company goes through an online learning curve and eventually benefits from it. Retail chieftains who lead from the front are the wise salesmen of our generation. Budding entrepreneurs and other professionals in the retail space can build a healthy and sustainable e-business of their own by picking up nuggets of gold from these people.

Read on!

Refresh Your Talent Pipeline

John Donahoe, President and CEO, eBay

According to John Donahue, his hires need to think like a consumer. They must be pro-active thinkers at that. They should be able to foresee consumer behaviour. There is great potential for talent that can assess what the customer thinks today and predict what he will be thinking tomorrow.

John believes in hiring them early. Ebay, therefore, is big on college recruitment.

“One of the things we look for in talent is: Can they think like a customer, and can they think like customers will think today and in the future? We have invested heavily in is college recruiting.”

Each generation absorbs knowledge differently. It therefore envisions the future differently. “A 30 year old engineer grew up with one set of technology and envisions how it can be used differently than the set of technology that a 22 year old engineer grew up with and their ability to envision how the future will be. And so it’s important for us to have an ongoing pipeline where we refresh with the younger generations who can imagine different and new things,” John adds.

This is a very good hiring strategy for businesses – young people who use and envision the future of technology differently from the older ones can then collaborate and help build future-ready systems, processes, products and services that will then help sustain the businesses.

Learn from Critics

Doug McMillon, CEO, Wal-Mart

Dealing with criticism is not easy. Entrepreneurs get bouquets and brickbats in equal measure. It is important to manage negativity positively. Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon believes in learning from critics and criticism alike.

“I have learned from (former Wal-Mart CEOs) Mike Duke and Lee Scott the value of listening to critics. We have ears and we care.”

It is important to note who is offering the criticism. Is the criticism justified? If yes, you need to take a look at the bigger picture and sort out the pain areas as soon as possible.

“Sometimes, you can learn more from criticism than you can from flattery. So we listen to all of it, but at the end of the day, we are doing what we need to do for our business,” Doug concludes.

Have a Business Philosophy

Jack Ma, CEO, Alibaba

Jack Ma, CEO of the biggest e-tailer in China is an inspiring leader. He believes in Tai Chi, an eastern philosophy based on martial arts. It teaches balance and harmony, and emphasizes the interplay of Yin and Yang – that opposites can exist in the same space harmoniously.

“When I compete with eBay, people say I hate eBay. No, I don’t hate eBay. It’s a great company.”

Tai Chi enforces the idea that we are all a part of the integrated whole and each one if us is a thread in the tapestry. There is place for everyone.

“I use Tai Chi philosophy in the business. There’s always a way out and keep yourself balanced. Business is not a battlefield where you die or I win. Even if you die, I may never win. It’s about fun,” Jack sagely reflects.

Learn As You Grow

Sachin Bansal, CEO, Flipkart

Flipkart is India’s largest ecommerce company. Its CEO, Sachin Bansal believes that building a successful company is a process. You cannot have a winner from Day 1.

“Lots will be revealed over time, as and when your experiences and learnings take place.”

Experiences teach us a lot. One needs to be patient and navigate the course with awareness. With time you get more skillful and you develop expertise.

Sachin also believes in building an organisation with strong core values. “In terms of how things operate, how one hires the right employees, how one builds the organisation, how one looks at various aspects of the company, including finance, human resources – these are areas that entrepreneurs should be conscious of at the outset,” he says. Businesses can then be built on the opportunities that come, without compromising on the core values.

Fear Failure

Nick Woodman, Founder, GoPro

Yes. You read that right. Nick Woodman fears failure. His two startups – empowerAll.com, which sold electronic goods, and Funbag, a gaming and marketing platform, weren’t really successful.

“Nobody likes to fail, but the worst thing was I lost my investors’ money and these were people that believed in this young guy that was passionate about this idea… [When you fail,] you start to question, are my ideas really good?”

Nick then went on to start GoPro. He feared failing. “I was so afraid that GoPro was going to go away like Funbug that I would work my ass off,” he adds. There were days he was the company’s only employee. He was the product designer, customer service support, truck driver, salesman and more for the company. He calls his fear constructive. “I was so scared that I would fail again that I was totally committed to succeed,” he says. Isn’t that the best excuse for commitment you’ve heard?

Don’t Be a Vending Machine

Hiroshi Mikitani, Co-founder and CEO, Rakuten

Hiroshi Mikitani believes in humanising e commerce efforts. He feels some etailers are like superstore. There is a lack of connect. “Our approach to e-commerce is quite different from that of Amazon and many other companies. I think of those competitors as vending machines: They are hyper-efficient supermarkets with standardized offerings. That’s not an approach that excites me.” Hiroshi says.

“I believe that human beings need communication and connection, and that shopping should be a rich experience. The personalized approach is really in my blood.”

Hiroshi feels, even if the customers shop online, a personal touch is needed. Personalized treatment and extra attention make the customer feel special and connected.

The Wrap

The entrepreneurial journey is different for everyone. Every Mohammad finds his mountain to climb. The lessons from these wise men act as pointers so that we are able to learn from their mistakes and experiences. Each day is a new opportunity to experiment and learn. Here’s to new opportunities and to new lessons – seize your days!

Which business leader inspires you the most and why? Let us know in the comments below!


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