Jack Ma’s lesson to entrepreneurs: keep replacing yourself!

Jack Ma announced today he will step down from the position of chairman of Alibaba. It’s a great lesson to entrepreneurs everywhere – the best leaders have to keep replacing themselves with people who can do specific tasks better. That’s the only way to build successful, enduring companies.

It’s hard to let go. Every entrepreneur knows the feeling of selling the first couple customers, and then wondering if anyone could truly sell their own product or service better than themselves. The feeling of managing 4 VPs and wondering how anyone could manage better without knowing the nuances of the company’s operations. Probability-wise, however, it is highly unlikely that the founder is the best person for nearly any role forever.

Indeed, companies are best served when founders are doing what only they can do. At various points in the journey that will often be inclusive of nearly every function required for the company to succeed. But if successful, the founder should be able to find someone better at that specific function and buy back the time to focus on other emerging priority areas. You need to get over yourself and empower yourself at the same time!

I struggle with these same challenges at Romulus. I’ve historically liked to own many different functions as I find it hard to trust others to do them as well. But I know rationally there are others who can in fact do these tasks better than can I, and we are gradually evolving as a firm accordingly. The good news is that it frees me up to focus on the highest-value tasks, most of which revolve around spending time with people.

Another feather in the cap for Jack Ma!