What I have learned from Mark Cuban

I am fascinated by Mark Cuban. I recently read a book including a collection of his blog posts and writings called, How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It.” The book describes Cuban’s story of rising from humble beginnings to becoming one of the most famous businessman in the world. Cuban touches on many important concepts in the book, below are a handful that I found to be most useful.

On Self Improvement

  • Getting paid to learn: Cuban considered every job as an educational experience. He viewed his early positions as better than college. Rather than paying to learn, he was being paid to learn. Cuban took learning seriously and became engrossed in technology. He describes reading product manuals like he did text books, this was critical for improving his ability to understand the market place and sell.
  • Simplify: Cuban lived an extremely modest life in the early stages. He believes in the power of simplicity, stating: “If you aren’t happy with where you are, simplify your life and go out and try as many things as it takes to find what you may be destined to be. If there is such a thing.”
  • On loving your work: “If it matters how much you get paid, you are not in a job you really love.”
  • Read: Cuban is a big advocate of reading and consuming information relevant to your business, he reads three hours a day. He attributes reading as a main source of competitive advantage because it gives him the confidence to act.
  • On making small decisions: “It’s always the little decisions that have the biggest impact.”
  • Effort: “Effort is measured by setting goals and getting results.”

On Business:

  • The Path of Least Resistance: Cuban lays out a critical concept for entrepreneurs to understand: “In every case, all things being equal, we choose the path of least resistance. Understanding this concept is key to making good business decisions.” He goes on, “The path of least resistance is why I think Amazon.com, Apple and Google have been so successful. I buy everything from books to electronics to toiletries on Amazon because it’s easier than schlepping to the store. They show up in the mail as quickly as I am willing to pay to have them show up.” Building a product or service that is easiest for customers to buy is a key source of competitive advantage.
  • No Money Down: “The best way to start a business is “no money down”. Cuban started his first business by collecting prepayments from customers. He is not an advocate of taking external investments to get started. In a later chapter Cuban builds on this idea: “There are only two reasonable sources of capital for startup entrepreneurs: your own pocket and your customers’ pockets.”
  • On Scale: Cuban writes, “Always run your business like you are going to be competing with biggest technology companies in your industry—Google, Facebook, Oracle, Microsoft, whomever.” This ensures you are prepared for whatever the future holds.
  • Focus on What’s Important: “If you are the main engine behind your company, taking on new challenges will only dilute your ability to win the wars you are in and increase the risk of injuring your primary business or core competencies…Win the battles you are in first, then worry about expansion internationally or into new businesses.” This idea similar to a Bill Gates rule of thumb that former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, uses to prioritize: spend 80% of your time on 80% of your revenue.
  • Innovation:  Cuban quotes Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
  • Easy Marketing Tactic: “Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them a message introducing yourself and the company.”
  • On Writing a Business Plan: Cuban in not a fan of large and in depth business plans. He describes something similar to a lean canvas as his go to way of planning a business: “In all of my businesses, I started by putting together spreadsheets of my expenses, which allowed me to calculate how much revenue I needed to break even and keep the lights on in my office and my apartment. I wrote overviews of what I was selling, why I thought the business made sense, an overview of my competition, why my product and/or service would be important to my customers and why they should buy or use it. All of it went down on a piece of yellow paper or in a word processing file, and none of it cost me more than the diet soda I was drinking while I was writing it up.”
  • Patience: “Business happens over years and years. Value is measured in the total upside of a business relationship, not by how much you squeezed out in any one deal.”

Mark Cuban is a polarizing character, but it is hard to argue his success. His tenacity and relentlessness for succeeding in business is second to none. “How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It” is a quick read with tangible advice and entertaining stories that are useful for any business person or entrepreneur.

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