Cresset recently hosted legendary entrepreneur, Shark Tank host, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who shared advice for CEO founders on building, selling, and buying businesses. Below are Mark’s insights on the lessons he’s learned over his nearly 40-year career.
1. Know why you are an entrepreneur.
My dad taught me that the one asset you can never own or get back is time. I love being an entrepreneur, but my dad would always tell me, “Today is the youngest you are ever going to be. Live like it.” That has guided me all my life. I do what I do to live the life I want to live, not simply to amass wealth. When I’ve sold my businesses, my commission has been time. The freedom it provides is the ultimate reward for me.
2. Be the primary investor in your business.
I only have a “b” (billion) next to my name because I was financially successful enough to put my own money into my businesses. I’ve seen company after company take so much external money that the founders are diluted to less than 5 percent ownership. Even when they get a huge exit, they could have had so much more if they would have stayed away from the early investors. I tell people, “Raising money is not an accomplishment, it’s an obligation.” You have to ask yourself, “Why do I need the money and what am I going to use it for?” Just take that amount. The less you take the more you keep.
3. Don’t hire look-alikes.
Hire people who aren’t you, and who aren’t like you. Your hires should be different than you and hopefully smarter than you. Be open and honest and trustworthy enough so that you can work together. If you can’t trust your employees, you are going to have problems.
Also, being nice is the most underrated skill set in business. My parents taught me the value of treating everyone with respect. That needs to guide your leadership style always.
4. Understand when and why to exit.
For every entrepreneur, you have to know who you are. There are entrepreneurs who are self-aware and entrepreneurs who are clueless. Typically, we are all somewhere in the middle. For me, starting the streaming industry was exciting. But it wasn’t the most important thing to me. The most important thing to me again is my time. That’s what has guided my exits, asking, “What’s most important to me now?”
5. Appreciate business as the ultimate sport.
In business you don’t know where your new competition is coming from nine out of 10 times. It could be a 12-year-old kid who has come up with a better idea that disrupts your entire industry. That’s not the exception; that’s more the rule. Every single day there is somebody trying to kick your ass, looking at your company and saying, “What can I do better?” You have to be on your “A” game all the time. There is no off-season in business.
6. Shark Tank – the art of why and where to invest.
The reason I do Shark Tank is that it sends the message to potential entrepreneurs around the country that the American Dream is alive and well. Someone from the middle of nowhere can start a company in their garage and get to the point where they are presenting on Shark Tank. I believe that is critically important to this country and always will be.
The first thing I want to ask when I invest is, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Secondly, I look for an entrepreneur who I think with a little bit of juice I can turn into something special. That gets me excited and inspires me.
7. Final piece of advice.
You have to be the number one salesperson for your company. Not literally going out and getting the dotted line signed yourself, but if you don’t love your product or service so much that every minute of every day you are excited to tell people about it, it’s not going to work. It’s your baby, and you’ve got to love what you are doing or you have to question why you are doing it.