"If I could come out of nowhere and be successful at the age of 24, so can you!" In his book How to Win at the Sport of Business, Mark Cuban identifies the strategies he used to become a self-made billionaire entrepreneur, startup investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
Mark didn't build his brand with trust fund money or million-dollar backers. In fact, he began his career selling computer software for $18,000 per year and living on the floor of his friend's apartment.
Whether you love him or hate him, everyone can learn something valuable from his journey. Here are five lessons from Mark Cuban that can catalyze your business and help any serious entrepreneur succeed.
1. The one thing in life you can control is effort
Mark didn't grow up with computers -- he's the ripe old age of 58 (love ya Mark!). When he started selling software, he didn't know a damn thing about it. Every night he brought home a different software manual to familiarize himself with the product, which helped him build a foundation for the rest of his career.
"I could offer honest comparisons because I knew all the different software packages we offered, and customers respected that."
By putting in the effort early to understand your industry and your product or service, you'll realize where to focus your efforts to give your company a competitive advantage. Establish goals targeted at improving your key performance indexes (KPI's) and measure your success by accomplishing those goals.
2. Win the battles you're in before you take on new battles
Mark's biggest gripe as an NBA owner is the league's pursuit of international development. The CEO of the NBA is at the helm of all efforts domestically and abroad, and his results are being diluted on both fronts. The NBA isn't winning its battles at home, so why, Mark asks, is it moving its attention abroad?
"As an entrepreneur you have to know what the core competencies of your business are and make sure that your company focuses on being the absolute best it can be at executing them."
When running a business, you don't have unlimited time and attention. Trying to take advantage of every opportunity that arises will distract you from your goals. Stay focused on accomplishing the goals you set for yourself and delegate tasks that you've mastered along the way.
3. You have to re-earn your customers' business everyday
At Mavericks games, Mark only sits in seats that are for sale to the general public. He believes that the only way you can connect with your customers is to put yourself in their shoes.
"For me personally, if I can't be a customer of my own product, then I probably am not going to do a good job running the company."
As an entrepreneur, you must work tirelessly to understand your customer and make their buying experience as streamlined and enjoyable as possible. Proactively communicate with your users through social media, email or survey to make sure they are delighted.
4. Always ask how someone could put you out of business
Mark learned two important things from Bill Gates early in his career. One was a lesson in humility, after Gates stole Mark's girls at the Comdex trade show -- swag swag. The other lesson was that someone's always capable of taking what you've worked hard for.
"No product is perfect and if there are good competitors in your market, they will figure out how to abuse you. It's always better if you are honest with yourself and anticipate where the problems will come from."
You're a savvy entrepreneur and you've created an awesome product or service. Now it's time to protect your competitive advantage from the big guys. You never know when Facebook, Google or Microsoft will become a direct competitor to your brand, so always think of improvements to stay ahead.
5. The sport of business is the ultimate competition
Mark's always had a love for basketball but he's far better at the game of business -- it would be scary the other way around. Even though business isn't divided into games and defined by a specific set of rules, it takes the same kind of work ethic to succeed in the never ending competition.
"The edge is knowing that while everyone else is talking about nonsense like the 'will to win' and how they know they can be successful, you are preparing yourself to compete so that you will be successful."
This is the perfect culmination of the four previous lessons. It takes effort to build your company and dedication to stay focused on accomplishing your goals. You have to tirelessly work to understand your customers and improve their user experience. And you have to do all of this to maintain your competitive advantage and outperform your competition everyday. Loving the sport of business is what makes you an entrepreneur.