Learn From the Masters: Mark Cuban
Hopscotch, remember that game? A classic American playground pastime where school kids gather around a chalk written ladder on pavement tossing a stone to a certain tile and hopping to that spot through nimble choreography.
In my opinion, Mark Cuban must’ve killed it at Hopscotch. Cuban is a self-made business magnate and investor who has hopped from business to business in a variety of industries (tiles). Most know him as the owner of the champion basketball team Dallas Mavericks, but he also owns Landmark Theatres, Magnolia Pictures, and AXS TV and is a regular on VC reality show Shark Tank. But what did his career path look like? And how do we take a lesson from it?
Age 12 – Cuban sold garbage bags to raise funds for a pair of expensive basketball shoes.
Age 17 – Taught Disco lessons for a little extra spending cash
Age 18 – Raised college tuition by collecting and selling stamps, even netting $1100 from starting a chain letter.
Lesson: if you really want something, find out how to get it yourself. Don’t wait for a handout.
Age 25 – Fired from a PC sales job, he founded his first business, MicroSolutions, a software reselling company. Only a few years later he sold the firm to CompuServ for a cool $6 million.
Age 37 – founded Broadcast.com with college buddy and other sports enthusiast to put live sporting events online for anyone to listen to. Boosted $13.5M/year in revenue and acquired by Yahoo! for an even cooler $5.9 billion
Lesson: Recognize what is missing from the marketplace and capitalize.
Age 45 – after founding firm 2929 Entertainment with the proceeds from his latest deal, he acquired Landmark Theatres and entered into the actual production of films.
Ate 47 – he stayed competitive with the rise in P2P File Sharing programs he founded small companies that leveraged crowd produced content like video and software and weblogs, later selling to large media conglomerates.
Lesson: Adapt to a changing environment, or fall behind.
Personally, what stuck with me was a Cuban quote on passion. Cuban claims following your passion is the worst advice one could ever get. He claims:
“Because everyone is passionate about something. Usually more than one thing. We are born with it. There are always going to be things we love to do. That we dream about doing. That we really, really want to do with our lives. Those passions aren’t worth a nickel. Think about all the things you have been passionate about in your life. How many were or are there? Why did you bounce from one to another? I propose a different frame of reference: Forget about finding your passion. Instead, focus on finding big problems.”
Coming from one of the most famous serial entrepreneurs, I think we can find some truth in that. Don’t spend all your time waiting for the right opportunity, it is passing you by every day. Instead, recognize a problem and capitalize on it right then and there. Anyone can see if from Cuban’s entrepreneurial methodology: (1) don’t wait for someone to hand you what you’re looking for (2) recognize the gaps in the marketplace and fill them and (3) don’t get comfortable in a stable environment- change is inevitable and you’ve got to learn to adapt.
Although I’ve never had coffee with Mr. Cuban, I can imagine he would bring up these lessons from his personal life when asked about how to succeed.
Then again, I’d probably push for Hopscotch over coffee.
Oh yeah, and Cuban also made it in rapper Dorrough’s hit music video
Photo courtesy of www.sitcomsonline.com