For super entrepreneur Mark Cuban, it all started with a pair of basketball shoes—but not the ones you’re probably thinking of. This particular pair of footwear has nothing to do with the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA team he owns and passionately champions.
Instead, it was this really cool pair the 12-year-old Mark thought he desperately needed. When he asked his father for them, the answer was a definitive no. Mark already had a perfectly fine pair of shoes. “When you have a job, you can get whatever you want,” his dad said.
It was a lesson young Mark took to heart. If you want something, you have to work for it. And work he did. With the help of one of his dad’s friends, Mark began selling garbage bags door to door. He promptly fell in love with business.
“I’ll never forget, they were those thin blue things,” Mark says. “He charged me $3, I sold them for $6. . . Everybody needs garbage bags, so I learned to fill a need and I learned to problem solve.”
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Since that long-ago venture, Mark’s never looked back. In 1990, he sold his first company, MicroSolutions, for $6 million. His next undertaking, Broadcast.com was sold to Yahoo for $5.7 billion. In 2000, this maverick acquired the Mavericks, which is currently listed as one of Forbes’ most valuable franchises in sports. Today, he continues to be heavily involved with the team, along with many other business opportunities and ABC’s Shark Tank.
On an EntreLeadership Podcast episode, Dave spoke with Mark about his business smarts. Here are a few takeaways from their amazing conversation.
1. There’s no reason it can’t be you.
After completing college, Mark moved to Dallas, Texas, where he tended bar, sold software, and did whatever it took to learn and get ahead—even down to eating mustard and ketchup sandwiches when times were really lean. But no matter how tough, though, he never gave up. When he felt down and the odds were against him, he just worked harder.
“I say it to Maverick players and I say it to everybody in business,” Mark says. “The one thing in life you can control is your effort. If you are willing to put in the effort to start the business and you are willing to deal with the challenges and the fact you might starve or live like a student . . . If you are willing to fight through those via effort and brain power, anything is possible. There is no reason it can’t be you.”
2. Selling ultimately comes down to connecting and serving.
Through his hard work, Mark learned another valuable lesson. If you can sell, you can accomplish just about anything. And the key to selling is connecting with people while serving them.
“You are not trying to convince them of anything,” he says about potential customers. “You’re trying to show them how you are going to make their lives easier . . . There are no favors involved. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Success, though, takes more than just a connection with people. There is a lot of hustle involved too, whether it’s garbage bags or multi-billion-dollar tech deals. “Every no gets you closer to a yes,” Mark says. “It’s a numbers game . . . It’s just a question of making the calls.”
3. Don’t be a slave to the bank.
Like Dave, Mark is passionate about staying debt free, especially when it comes to beginning a business. In fact, he says, 99% of today’s companies can be started without capital.
“If you take a loan, you are no longer the boss,” Mark says. “And your customers are no longer the bosses. Your banker is the boss. And if you hit any adversity, like every startup does, the priority becomes taking care of your banker . . . You’re no longer in a position to do whatever it takes to survive.”
For Mark, life is pretty sweet. Besides his many successful companies, his beloved Mavericks and his gig on Shark Tank, he’s recently written a book on what it takes to become a thriving entrepreneur: How to Win at the Sport of Business. In it, he tries to spread his simple message of success that anyone can apply.
It’s like Mark’s father always taught him. Hard work pays rewards. “There are no shortcuts,” he says.
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