Photo: Michael Seto
Mark Cuban started his working life as a bartender in Dallas. Then he took a job as a computer salesman.Then he was fired.
And only then did he start his first company, MicroSolutions. He did well, selling it for $6 million.
He did even better with his next company – about 1,000 times better. He created a company called Broadcast.com, and sold it to Yahoo for almost $6 billion.
Almost immediately, Cuban sold all of his Yahoo stock netting $2 billion in cash for himself. His timing was impeccable. Weeks later, the market crashed.
Since then, Cuban has continued to work and invest. He’s the champion owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He owns HDNet, too. He’s a reality TV regular – appearing on shows like Shark Tank and even Dancing With The Stars.
All the while, Cuban has had a lot to say. Due to his incredibly impressive career, it’s worth listening to him.
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. Think about all those passions that you considered making a career out of or building a company around. How many were or are there? Why did you bounce from one to another? Why were you not able to make a career or business out of any of those passions? Or if you have been able to have some success, what was the key to the success?
Today's 20-somethings were raised to find our dreams and follow them. But it's a different world. And as the jobless generation grows up, we realise the grand betrayal of the false idols of passion. This philosophy no longer works for us, or at most, feels incomplete. So what do we do? I propose a different frame of reference: Forget about finding your passion. Instead, focus on finding big problems.
'I'm a believer that you accomplish much, much more with direct relationships than by using an intermediary. And that cash you keep in the bank can be the difference between staying alive as a small business, or not.'
'If you've got $25,000, $50,000, $100,000, you're better off paying off any debt you have because that's a guaranteed return.'
It might just put the market back to the basics of what the stock and bond markets are supposed to be, a means of raising capital to support corporate growth. There used to be a time when Investment Bank Partnerships made their money scouting out small companies in need of capital and matching them with investors. They weren't as big as they are now, but they managed to create quite a few growth industries. Something we could use some of today. Making the stock market a launching pad for companies will have far greater value and impact employment far greater than making sure High Frequency Traders can get their trades in.
Say what ? Shoelaces. I said it.
I guarantee you that if you go to the parking lot of any high school or college football game with a bunch of shoelaces in team colours that you bought for 2 bucks a pop,and put up a sign and 2 chairs, you can make money. Not football season? . Go to where ever there are people in your community. Flea Market.Basketball Game. Dance recital. Wherever people who go to your school show up , you show up. You set up your sign and your chairs.
On the sign you put something like
'A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, it's OK to buy for your own employees, but if you really think people are going to wear your branded polo when they're out and about, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money.'
'Keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your people and reward them. My first company, MicroSolutions, when we had a record sales month, or someone did something special, I would walk around handing out $100 bills to salespeople. At Broadcast.com and MicroSolutions, we had a company shot. The Kamikaze. We would take people to a bar every now and then and buy one or 10 for everyone. At MicroSolutions, more often than not we had vendors cover the tab. Vendors always love a good party.'
'I love to challenge conventional wisdom. I'm a big believer that in business and in politics, when everyone is doing the same thing, none are probably as effective or successful as they could be. Typically it's not prudent for people within those industries, parties, or organisations to stand up and challenge the incumbents. It is usually a formula for losing a job, customer, or endorsement. My businesses are usually built around challenging conventional wisdom, so I tend to gain by taking the other side. It's been very profitable and entertaining for me.'