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Is Mark Cuban Talking To Portland Baby Boomers?



When a software giant, a businessman, investor, and NBA owner whose name is not Paul Allen gives startup advise, why not listen?

Mark Cuban has been everywhere a startup wants to go. The tips come from his book, ‘How To Win At The Sport Of Business,’ and excerpted on

Too often Cuban reacts to life the same way you would, not like some over-exposed tycoon with an eye on his image.

For that he deserves a head’s up on

1. Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love.

Make sure your social circle is on board, too. You don’t want to hear, “You’re always working. We never do fun things. You remember fun? It’s what we used to do.”

2. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.

This is the back-up plan. Writers usually have the school teacher back up plan. Or they’re already college professors and writing is their dalliance. You’ll know your obsession is good when you hear the complaints from #1.

3. Hire people who you think will love working there.

It helps getting your startup off the ground where people like to live. Portland startups do that. Now the question is if they’ll find the right executives to move from startup to IPO.

4. Sales Cure All. Know how your company will make money and how you will actually make sales.

Everybody loves a winner. Sales are the mark of a winner. Get the right people to get over the hump with a great product. What was the problem?

5. Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them. Pay up for people in your core competencies. Get the best. Outside the core competencies, hire people who fit your culture but aren’t as expensive to pay.

What is your culture? It’s changing, but the idea is getting people who know how to work, that you don’t need to micro-manage. Find people committed to the startup who don’t back down.

6. An espresso machine? Are you kidding me? Coffee is for closers. Sodas are free. Lunch is a chance to get out of the office and talk. There are 24 hours in a day, and if people like their jobs, they will find ways to use as much of it as possible to do their jobs.

Mark Cuban has seen Glengarry Glen Ross. The culture is competition where each employee tries to fit more into their day than others.

7. No offices. Open offices keep everyone in tune with what is going on and keep the energy up. If an employee is about privacy, show him or her how to use the lock on the bathroom. There is nothing private in a startup. This is also a good way to keep from hiring executives who cannot operate successfully in a startup. My biggest fear was always hiring someone who wanted to build an empire. If the person demands to fly first class or to bring over a personal secretary, run away. If an exec won’t go on sales calls, run away. They are empire builders and will pollute your company.

Who is an empire builder? They want more control, a bigger budget, and work to add people in their department instead of working on the startup problems. Then they blame you for ‘Not getting them.’

You do.

8. As far as technology, go with what you know. That is always the most inexpensive way. If you know Apple, use it. If you know Vista, ask yourself why, then use it. It’s a startup so there are just a few employees. Let people use what they know.

You’re not bringing in salesmen who know what you need. You’re not sending staff to a week’s worth of classes to get up to speed. You are laying out the plan and getting out of the way.

9. Keep the organization flat. If you have managers reporting to managers in a startup, you will fail. Once you get beyond startup, if you have managers reporting to managers, you will create politics.

Either everyone’s a boss, or no one’s a boss. Focus on the goal means ignoring politics and empire builders. Besides, if you’re The Man, you don’t need others working on their Man-ness. Encourage them to find their own startup.

10. Never buy swag. 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 okay 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.

Mark Cuban knows how to spend money. He shows up at Dallas Maverics’ games in jeans and a black t-shirt. He’s a guy in the mold of, “If you have to ask who he is, you probably don’t need to know.”

11. Never hire a PR firm. A public relations firm will call or email people in the publications you already read, on the shows you already watch and at the websites you already surf. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them a message introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communication with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.

This is grass-roots marketing genius. A simple email and introduction to break the ice. Now you’re on the radar. You, not someone who interprets media for you.

12. Make the job fun for employees. 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 and MicroSolutions, we had a company shot. The Kamikaze. We would take people to a bar every now and then and buy one or ten for everyone. At MicroSolutions, more often than not we had vendors cover the tab. Vendors always love a good party.

Know what else loves a good party? Money. Your success creates more success. You may not feel like the genius others describe, but that’s the image you’ll get.

Besides, you know you’ve arrived once you have a line of people waiting to throw money your way.

Is Mark Cuban the smartest guy in every room he enters? He might be, but be sure he’s not afraid of the smart guys. He hires them.


About David Gillaspie
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