Mark Cuban: Confessions Of A Dallas Maverick

Getting Inside The Mind Of A Dallas Maverick

Mark Cuban, the Texas billionaire, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, started his successful enterpreneurial streak by founding MicroSolutions, a Dallas, Texas systems integrator, in 1983.

Cuban, who once wrote a column for CRN, has gone on to spearhead multiple successful technology-related ventures, returned to his reseller roots at the XChange Americas conference in Dallas on August 24 to share some of the secrets of his uniquely American business philosophy in a fireside chat with Everything Channel CEO Robert Faletra. Here are some of the takeaways from 45 minutes with one of this country's most colorful and outspoken entrepreneurs.

On His First Rule Of Business: How To Kick Your Own !@#$

I have this rule of business that I started when I was at MicroSolutions and I do it to this very minute in all of my businesses. It is: How do you kick your own ass? In this business there is always someone trying to kick your ass. I learned it minute by minute as a reseller. Always somebody trying to come in and just kill you. You have to figure out how you stay ahead. Another rule: if you are looking for the next big thing don't go where everybody else already is because it is probably not there.

On His Start As A Reseller

When I started back there were no local area networks. There was a company you might remember called Novell that was called Novell Shared Data Systems back then and we were like the third or fourth reseller nationally. So we took the initiative. Where everybody else was just getting used to PCs at the time, we said at some point they are going to have to hook them together. I wanted a way to differentiate us. So I figured no one else knew networking any better than I would if I taught myself.

On Being A Solution Provider Maverick

When I would go to all the PC and reseller functions I would raise hell. I was the guy saying you guys are wrong. Taking a stand and sticking to my guns until things changed. I was a lot crazier back then than I am now. You have got to know what you are good at and you've got to get long and get loud. Recognize what your core competencies are, recognize the value add you bring and then you've got to get out there and let people know! People aren't going to just find you.

On His Work Ethic And Drive To Be Successful

I started MicroSolutions in 1983 and I went seven years without a vacation. It was just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. I went through girlfriends (who threatened) -- 'It is your business or me.' And I was like -- 'What is your name again?' It was just non-stop. And CompuServe came along and made me an offer at the time that was $6 million for the company.

On Not Waiting For The Phone To Ring!

If you are waiting for the phone to ring, you are screwed. That is it. If your business is based on waiting for the phone to ring or waiting for an e-mail to come in, hoping to come visit you, you are screwed. Because someone like me is out there, calling on them, knocking on their door, e-mailing them, getting in touch with them.

On Anticipating Your Customer's Needs

You have to ask yourself: where do you have an edge? What are your core competencies? What are you good at? Where do you think you can walk up to your customers and give them a competitive and profit advantage? Technology goes through zigs and zags. The more you can anticipate the more of an edge you can get. Anticipation to me is always digging in and learning as much as I can.

On Founding

As a big basketball fan, we used to literally have somebody in Bloomington, Indiania where the school (Indiania University) was based and put a radio next to a speakerphone and then we would sit around (in Dallas) while we were working listening to the game via speakerphone. It was early 1995 and we thought now that the internet is starting to happen, there has got to be a way to do it (stream Indiania University basketball games via the internet). So I was like okay -- I'm a geek. I'll figure it out.

On Knowing When To Sell

When someone offers you $5.7 billion it is always the right time to sell. The right time to sell is A), When you think there is enough money to change your life. I took that money and I bought a lifetime pass on American Airlines. I was happy living like a student back then. Back then is the operative word. And I was living in the same house I did for years.

On Knowing What Business You Are In

When I got there (as owner of the Dallas Mavericks), when I asked what business we are in: everybody said we are in the basketball business. I said we are not in the basketball business. You go (to a sporting event) for fun. It is a unique experience. It is one of the few places where a CEO can stand up and scream next to an idiot like me. So what we sold was fun. At that time we had eight-dollar tickets. Now we even have $2, $5, and $8 tickets. But I said it is cost effective, inexpensive, value entertainment.

On Leading By Example In The Sales Bullpen

When I bought the team rather than taking the former owner's office, we had a sales bullpen that only had five salespeople and I put my desk right in the middle of the sales bullpen. Out of the five, I think we fired two people who just didn't want to work. And then we added like 25 more salespeople. We are talking about a list of former season ticket holders and names and numbers. And I got there and I started calling just like the next guy. Every No got you closer to a yes.

On Using Statistics/Business Intelligence In The NBA

Not long after (the book) Money Ball came out, I thought there has got to be a way we can use statistics to try to get a competitive edge in understanding line-ups and trends and all that kind of stuff. So we started then. It was just based off an Excel spreadsheet, something no one had ever done in the NBA taking the play by play output and importing it into a spreadsheet and just looking for correlations between variables. And it helped us.

On Whether LeBron James And The Miami Heat Are The Team To Beat!

I don't think so. They are going to be good. Don't get me wrong. But somebody has got to play defense. It will be interesting to see if they can develop any team chemistry. That is why they play the games. You never know.

On The Cloud Computing Goldmine Opportunity

With cloud computing there are so many different types of elements and opportunity, I think it is a gold-mine. It is harder to hit your revenue numbers. But at the same time, the real numbers are what you put in your pocket. What is your bottom line? I think there are a lot of unique opportunities with cloud computing. When is it going to happen? How is it going to happen? It is not a certainty in a lot of people's eyes. And where ever there is uncertainty that is opportunity for an integrator.

On Building A Customer's Trust In A Zig-Zag Technology World

As a reseller you have to ask yourself how you can build a customer's trust. Because you guys know better than anybody the bar is always moving. The technology is always changing. You go through lulls where everything seems to be static and kind of consistent for a while. Then all of a sudden something is going to zig. We all know it is going to zig. We don't know when. But customers want to know they can trust you when it zigs or zags.

On The New Investment Landscape

Things have changed. It is not seven percent a year if you just put your money in the (stock) market. That is actually bull-crap now. You can't count on anything. In my mind what has changed is: if you have power-dry, if you have capital available, just be ready and able to use that capital where you see an opportunity that you think is really going to work. That is what is going to propel you into a different tax-bracket or a different life-style.

The Social Gaming Revolution In Business

Right now across all my companies we are looking at how can we use social gaming to make our companies more profitable and integrate them with the consumer. All of us get bored and worn out and need a recharge every now and then. There is a reason why FarmVille and social gaming have become popular. It is because it is a diversion. It's takes my mind off of work and let me escape somewhere. Well how do you take that escapism and integrate it into your work?

On The Next Big Thing

I think the next big thing is personalized medicine. The idea that if any of us look at the back of an aspirin bottle it has all of these warnings that basically say some unlucky sucker is going to be that .001 percent that dies by taking this aspirin. That is ridiculous. Our kids or their kids are going to look up and say - you mean you all took the same aspirin? You all took the same penicillin? You all took the same medicine.

On His Advice For A Young VAR Getting Into The Business

If I was 22 years old again or younger or a little bit older and I was going to start from scratch I would be going door to door saying, 'Eexcuse me my name is Mark and I know that your wireless sucks. I know that someone set it up for you or you just bought a router and every day you go through a hassle.'

On Working Hard To Be An Overnight Success Story

You just bust your ass, bust your ass and it doesn't really matter how many times you fail. All you have got to do is be right one time and you are an overnight success. And that is all people remember and they call you lucky. And there is nothing better.