If you want to learn anything about becoming mega-successful, you don’t need to look further than Mark Cuban.
His life story has everything. It represents the epitome of the classic rags to riches narrative. But let`s be clear. This story is not your usual rags to riches cliché.
It`s truly a remarkable story of a man whose determination to achieve greatness began at a very young age.
Today, Mark Cuban is worth an estimated $3.7 billion.
Mark was born on July 31, 1958, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was brought up in a traditional middle class, blue-collar family in the Mount Lebanon suburb.
Mark`s constant eagerness to go against convention is the one trait that you will find throughout his life. And that began at an early age.
Mark said, in an interview with ABC, “People thought I might go work at a mill. My mom wanted me to learn how to lay carpet because she was concerned about my future,” Cuban explained.
But Mark had other ideas about his life and began taking control of his own destiny. He started developing his business skills and at age 10, launched his first business adventure – selling baseball cards.
Cuban repackaged baseball cards and held baseball cards trade show for in the local park. He also began selling garbage bags door to door. These first adventures gave Mark a taste of business, and the young man never looked back. But more importantly, he learned the basic dynamics of business.
At age 12 Mark began buying and selling stamps. He explained, “I first became interested in stamps when I was about 12 years old,” And, he had established the stamp business by the time he was 16 years old. He even paid for college with some of the profits from the stamp business.
Early Shifts – Skipping High School
Cuban attended Mount Lebanon high school in Pittsburgh. And his burning love for enterprise had not left him. So he decided to develop his business knowledge by attending business classes. Except there was one problem.
The school didn’t offer business classes. So what was he to do? Mark, therefore began taking night classes at Pittsburgh University while also attending Junior high. He enjoyed the business classes so much that he skipped the senior high year altogether.
Kelly School Of Business
Therefore, he searched for the top ten business schools in the US. And the cheapest was Indiana University – Kelly School of business. So he applied and was accepted. And so began another chapter in the intriguing story, of the making of a billionaire.
As with everything about Mark thus far, his time at Kelly business school was quite eventful. Not least because he decided to start attending MBA classes in his freshman year. Yes, you heard that right.
The billionaire explained to eWomenNetwork Inc;
“I like to create these funky challenges for myself and so I decided that in my first two years of college I was going to take the hard classes and not drink so that by the time I was a senior in college I would party like a mad man and take freshman English.
So I went to register for senior-level classes and realized that, okay, I could take graduate school MBA classes. They didn’t know that but I just stood in the line and registered for these MBA classes. Got in and did well”.
Now can you visualize this, an 18-year-old attending MBA classes and excelling? That`s truly the stuff that makes billionaires.
He was caught eventually and kicked out of the MBA classes. So he had to transfer all his MBA credits to his undergrad and used those to graduate.
But Mark had no regrets and actually learned something important from his MBA adventure. He pointed out,
“It`s not bad to take intellectual chances, what`s the downside? They put me back into freshman year English. And on the upside, I challenged myself and realized that I could compete with people who were older and smarter than me“.
Business Exploits At College
While still at College Mark took a $15, 000 loan and opened Motley`s bar in Bloomington. The bar quickly became the best bar in town. That`s according to his Graduate school statistics professor Dr. Wayne Winston.
“In my over 35 years of teaching I’ve never had a student really start a business while they were an undergrad or an MBA here on campus. And he started Motleys which became by far the best bar in town”. Dr. Winston Said.
However, despite its success, the bar was eventually shut down after a wet t-shirt competition scandal.
Mellon Bank And The Rookie Club
After graduating from Indiana University in 1980 Cuban briefly moved back to Pittsburgh. He joined Mellon Bank. But once again Mark quickly realized that he was not comfortable with jus being an ordinary employee. He wanted more, – much more. So Mark started taking some initiative maneuvers.
The Rookie Club
Mark started what they called the rookie club. The purpose of the club was to create a platform where a group of younger employees would meet senior executives for a chat. Then after that, he began circulating an internal newsletter.
It is not surprising that Mark quickly caught the eye of his boss. And he was not impressed. Just who was this brash ambitious young man and what was he trying to prove?
Inevitably Mark soon found himself being restricted and eventually shut down. But Mark did not despair.
He moved back to Indiana where he began working for a company called Tronics 2000.
Move to Dallas
Mark now aged 24 was invited to move to Dallas by his college buddies. There were good job prospects in Dallas and so Mark decided it would be a good idea to go. And so another chapter in the intriguing story of a billionaire began.
In Dallas, he moved into a small apartment with his friends at a place called the Village. There was five of them in a three bedroomed apartment. So someone had to sleep on the floor. Mark was the last to join the party and so he had to sleep on the floor.
First Jobs Dallas
Mark got a job as a bartender at a hot Dallas club called Elan. But he soon realized that bartending wasn’t his thing. His hunger for entrepreneurship was still there.
And he knew he needed to find a more suitable starting point. So he applied for and got a job in sales at a company called Your Business Software. The company sold software to businesses and consumers.
So Mark began selling and earning good commission. At the same time, he was also teaching himself some computer programming.
The job gave him some insight into the growing computing and software industry. It also gave him an opportunity to learn new skills. And he grabbed it and ran.
But his stay at Your Business Software was to be short-lived. He was soon fired having worked for them for 9 months.
Remember that common quote which says when life gives you lemons you make lemonade? Well, that describes exactly what Mark did after getting fired.
Firstly, Mark Cuban did not want to get fired. He needed that job and hadn’t planned to get fired so he could start his own company.
But being fired presented him with an opportunity. And a choice. He could either go out and look for another job, or he could start his own business. He chose the second and started micro-solutions with just one customer.
It is quite ironic because Mark was fired because of that particular customer. Mark explained, in an article in Forbes magazine;
“There was an opportunity to make a $15, 000 sale to a guy named Kevin. Then I asked a co-worker to cover me at the office. Also, I called the CEO, whose name was Micheal, and told him I was going to pick a check. I thought he would be thrilled. He wasn’t and he told me not to do it”
Well, $15, 000 proved too much of a temptation to pass and Mark went anyway. And so he was subsequently fired for disobeying orders.
After being fired, Mark went back to Kevin and asked if he could keep the money and do the work instead. Kevin agreed and that’s how Micro-Solutions was born.
What Did He Learn From Your Business Software?
Mark learnt some key valuable lesson from his experience at Your Business Software.
1. “Sales Cures All”
2.”Read Your Freaking Manual”
But the first lesson is the most important. Without sales, you have no business. It is as clear as day that a business whose manager fires a salesman for wanting to close a sale is not sales oriented.
For them, it was more important to man the office than to close sales. Is it any surprise therefore that the company soon collapsed for lack of sales?
This a super-valuable lesson that all aspiring and existing entrepreneurs must learn.
“Sales Cures All” and that statement couldn`t be more true.
Micro-Solutions was a consultancy service, that sold software, did training and configured computers. But mark quickly noticed a gap in the evolving computer revolution. Back then,
Computers used floppy discs and that were moved from pc to pc and that’s how they networked. Mark realized there had to be a better way of doing it.
And he was not wrong. There were a couple of companies TeleVideo and Novell that were in the networking market. So Micro solutions began reselling networking products from the two companies.
And Mark grew the company to annual revenues of 30 million dollars. The company was profitable every single month of its existence. Now that’s how you make lemonade when life gives you lemons.
Mark Cuban didn’t take a vacation for 7 years while working on micro solutions. And when he sold the company for $6 million and retired. Or so he thought. He bought a lifetime pass on American Airlines.
Mark Cuban sums up the keys to his success with Micro Solutions as follows;
“When I see something I always ask myself – Is that the best way to do it? Is that the only way to do it? What would make it more profitable? What would make it more efficient? Are they doing so wrong that there is an opportunity to do it better?
In 1995 Mark came out of retirement to reinvent radio. Once again he spotted a huge opportunity in the computing space. No one was using the internet to stream live events. And so he began teaching himself about online streaming.
Cuban soon partnered with close friend Todd Wagner and together formed Audionet. They set up shop in his upstairs bedroom and a new adventure began.
Chris Jaeb developed the live streaming software that was used by Audionet. He had pitched the idea to Cuban and asked for a million dollars. But Mark had Offered him $10 000 instead. Jaeb was later offered a $2500/month plus 10% shares in the company.
Both Mark and Todd acknowledge that they did not invent the software but simply developed, and took it to the next level.
Mark became the driving force of Audio net. Audionet put music, news, and sports online. With a PC and internet connection, people could listen to any sporting events anywhere in the world. They basically invented and pioneered the whole streaming industry.
In 1998, Cuban and Todd changed the name from audient to broadcast.com and took the company public. Things got even bigger with Broadcast.com and expanded into webcasting. Broadcast.com was the first sites to stream events live.
They were the first to scale live streaming and had become a broadcast network on the internet. They streamed over 500 radio stations, 100 TV stations, live football matches, basketball games, major league baseball, college football, and many other high profile live events.
A pivotal moment came when the company live-streamed the Victoria secret event webcast. It was a pinnacle event and it became the most watched event on the internet. The event cemented Broadcast.com as the go-to place if you wanted to something multi-media on the internet.
Soon the big players in the internet space began to notice. And Cuban capitalized on the attention and offered Broadcast.com to Yahoo. And yahoo took the bait and bought the company for $5.7 billion dollars.
But the thing is Mark knew with precision what his vision for the company was. Entrepreneur and friend Jeff Swaney once asked Cuban what he was planning to do with this broadcast thing.
He said Cuban told him that he was headed to the BBC- Billionaire Boys Club. Of course, Swaney disagreed. He believed maybe $100 million but never a billion dollars. And how wrong he was.
The Dallas Mavericks
January 2000, Mark bought majority ownership in the Dallas Mavericks. At the time, the franchise had the worst win/ loss ratio of any team in the NBA. In fact, the team was on the verge of becoming the worst NBA team ever. They were basically the laughing stock of the NBA, winning just 15 games per year.
However, Cuban immediately transformed the team`s fortunes with his unconventional hands-on approach. Soon after Cuban took over, attendance increased by more than 35%.
The estimated team value jumped $50 million dollars. And the Mavericks went to the playoffs in the following season for the first time in 10 years.
Under Mark Cuban` ownership, Mavericks`winning percentage became one of the best in the league.
And this was not Mark Cuban`s last adventure. In 2012, Mark guest appeared on the popular TV show the Shark Tank in its second.
The following year he became the main participant replacing Kevin Harrington. In the show, Cuban features alongside fellow business titans, Kevin O`Leary, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner and Barbra Corcoran.
Mark Cuban is truly a remarkable businessman. His advice to those looking for success in the business world is;
“Achieving positive cash flow and growing the company must be your number goal when starting a business.
“And sweat equity is the best equity”
I hope you will find inspiration from this amazing story. A story of a man who chose to wrestle control of his own destiny. And came out tops.
A man who pushed the boundaries, and discovered he was better than most. And a man who decided there was always a better way of doing things – and got paid for it.