“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban is one of the most well-known entrepreneurs in today’s America. With a net worth of over $4.3 billion, he featured in the top 200 of 2019 Forbes 400 list. The 62-year-old is the chairman of AXS TV, co-owns Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures and owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. The entrepreneur is also known for his gender sensitivity. In 2018, following a probe by former New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram revealed widespread harassment of women employees of the Mavericks organization, Cuban donated $10 million to bodies that aid victims of domestic violence and promote recruitment of women in leadership roles. Cuban is also known for his social media arguments or courtside theatrics at Dallas Mavericks’ matches or NBA-related controversies or appearing as an investor on ‘Shark Tank’. The man gets a big publicity but most of that is because of the fact that he is a successful man.
Cuban’s life history in brief:
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 31 to Norton Cuban and Shirley, Cuban grew up in Mount Lebanon, a Pittsburgh suburb. His paternal grandfather changed the Jeiwsh family’s name from Chabenisky to Cuban after it immigrated from Russia. Cuban’s maternal grandparents, who were also Jewish, came from Romania. Cuban was only 12 when he made his first step into business. He sold milk and garbage bags to bear the price of a pair of expensive basketball shoes. He then sold stamps and coins and at the age of 16, a strike called by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gave him a profit opportunity as he ran newspapers from Cleveland to Pittsburgh. He also gave disco lessons to girls for $25 an hour. The entrepreneur in the man became evident at a young age as he made his way to the top. In 1981, as Cuban neared the conclusion of his bachelor’s degree in business, he opened a pub in Bloomington, Indiana, called Motley’s. Wayne Winston, who was Mark’s statistics teacher in Indiana, called it the “best bar in town” and even complimented his student saying he never had another student who started a business while studying.
“It was definitely the best bar in town,” said Wayne Winston, who taught Cuban a statistics course at Indiana. “I don’t think I’ve had a student since who’s started a business while they were in school.”
After completing his college, Cuban went to Dallas and started a computer consulting company MiroSolutions irrespective of the fact that he did not have formal training ever. In 1991, he sold the firm to CompuServe and it made him a millionaire. He was only 31 then. Five years later, Cuban set up Broadcast.com after he was disappointed with the fact that he could not listen to Hoosiers basketball games on the radio in Texas. He sold it to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion and made almost all of Broadcast.com’s employees millionaires overnight.
Cuban enrolled as a full-time student at the University of Pittsburgh where he joined the Pi Lambda Phi international fraternity. After a year at the university, Cuban went to Indiana University and graduated from the Kelley School of Business in the early 1980s with his bachelor’s degree. He chose that school without even visiting the campus because it offered the least expensive tuition among all the top-10 business schools. He also set up a chain letter, which paid for a semester’s tuition fees at Indiana University.
Cuban’s life story is an interesting one. He is someone who made his way to the pinnacle despite coming from a humble background. The man has a natural way of winning and he has always adhered to some basic life philosophies and ethics to become what he is today. For those who aspiring entrepreneurs who want to learn some key business lessons from Cuban but are wondering what those will be, here are six questions that Cuban would love to put before them:
Are you visualizing your success?
Cuban wrote in his 2011 book ‘How to Win at the Sport of Business’ that during his days of struggle in Dallas, he used to look at residences of affluent people and imagine how it would be like living in them and used it as a motivation for himself. In the early 1980s, when Cuban moved to Dallas and got a bartender’s job, he wanted to run his own business and retire at the age of 30. After losing his job as a salesperson at a company, he decided it was the right time to go after his dream and he started his own firm MicroSolutions. He sold it to become a millionaire and could afford to live in the big houses that he had admired earlier. For those trying to learn a thing or two from Cuban, fast-forwarding to see the future is a key aspect of any success.
Are you putting enough effort?
Being an experienced campaigner, Cuban knows life inside out. He preaches that the only thing which is truly in our control is our effort and only through a solid effort can we aim to see the results going in our favor. Cuban was on the way to make $60,000 three years after he started MicroSolutions and he was only 27 then. He could have turned complacent with the fortune but Cuban thought about more improvement. The industry of personal computers was not at its best then and Cuban wanted to put in more effort to see better outcomes. He came up with a solution that banked on an early start, staying up late and consuming everything that came his way. It makes little sense to feel frustrated with things that are not in your control, like the clients’ behavior, the market’s movements, the competitors’ plan but there is only one thing which is under your control and it is your own effort. Go on maximizing it and you will get the results.
Are you speaking up enough?
Cuban has said in the past that people once used to shut him up a bit, but it did not rattle his belief that it is important to express one’s opinion and leave the reaction for others. “If I’m wrong I’m wrong. People are afraid to put out their opinions and get push back,” he said. It is often said that actions speak more effectively than words, but Cuban’s story shows that there can be exceptions to the rule.
Cuban has done the speaking before thinking a number of times and the results have been less than favorable. He finds being pushed back and at odds with the media and the outside world but that hasn’t changed the person in him. It is always worthy to be forthright as Cuban’s life story has shown. It is only that one needs to be ready to be apologetic at times. A back step after taking two front ones is not entirely tactless for an ambitious entrepreneur, after all.
Are you planning to do something different?
For Cuban, it makes little sense for people to replicate what several others are doing. Being somebody who has tried so many things in his life, it is not surprising. As an angel investor, Cuban made it a point to look for companies that have a clear understanding of the market differentiation. Those who are not trying to make a distinct space for themselves do not generally feature high in Cuban’s list. He hates to see people following paths that have already been laid and loves as much those who are trying to discover the new. This is perhaps the best business lesson that any entrepreneur — fresh or old — can learn from Mark Cuban.
Are you taking enough care of yourself?
It is wrong to think that an entrepreneur only lives for innovation and profit. A successful businessman also has to take care of himself and Cuban is one among them. Cuban doesn’t only own a basketball team but is also an unofficial player who plays games and engages in workouts as part of his daily fitness program. It is so very important for a business leader to remain fit himself so that a hard-professional life doesn’t take a toll on a promising career. Getting enough sleep is as important. This is a rule which is applicable for all businesspersons out there. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of the world.
Are you the most knowledgeable person about your business?
If the answer is still ‘no’, then you have a lot of catching up to do. Cuban once said that one must be the smartest guy in the room when it comes to his/her product. More than a decade ago, Cuban told TechCrunch that when he gets into something, he never stops. “I need a break because I spend so much time reading. If there’s something I get into, I won’t stop. I read a lot of industry trade publications for cable now,” he said. This is a very basic advice that Cuban has for his fellow entrepreneurs. Knowledge is power and one must make full use of it to stay ahead of the rest. Are you still not making time to read up and exploring in-depth about your kind of business and product? Take a leaf out of Cuban’s book and get started. Time is short.
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