Billionaire Mark Cuban reveals how Shark Tank has shaped the way he does business, and why ‘sales cures all’
Billionaire Mark Cuban, who is back on the tenth season of the hit show Shark Tank, has many lessons to impart to aspiring entrepreneurs on how to build and run successful ventures.
But his decade-long experience of being a ‘Shark,’ or part of the panel of investors on the show, has taught the American businessman one valuable lesson: the value of being nice when doing business.
The entrepreneurship-focused show is currently in its tenth season and being aired every weekday at 9 pm on Colors Infinity.
In an interview during the promotions of the latest season, Mark Cuban reveals how the reality TV show has really changed the way he conducts business deals.
“I have learnt the value of nice. Nice is so undervalued. It makes doing business so much easier, and the result is so much better when you are just nice,” he adds.
In the interview, Mark Cuban also reveals the one key skill every entrepreneur must have to survive and succeed in his venture, the biggest sacrifices entrepreneurs must make when starting a business, and the top two things entrepreneurs need to keep in mind when pitching on Shark Tank or to potential investors.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
What’s the one business lesson you learned when you started out that you still use today?
Mark Cuban: The one lesson I have learnt that helped when I was 12 years old and when I was 16 till today is that sales cures all. There has never been a business that ever succeeded without sales, and as the CEO, as a founder, and as an entrepreneur, if I can sell, I am always going to have a shot to survive, and I am always going to have a really good shot to succeed.
What is the biggest sacrifice you have to make when first starting a business?
MC: When you are starting a business the biggest sacrifice that you probably don’t expect is that you don’t own your business; your customers own it, and you’ll be holding on to them 24X7. If you are not, you are not going to be in business for very long.
What’s the biggest misconception that new business owners have?
MC: I think the biggest misconception that new entrepreneurs and new business owners have is that they think it’s better than a 9-to-5 job because they can control their own hours and they are in control of what goes on. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When you start a company, all hours are business hours, and I think you tend to think very quickly that your 9-to-5 job was easy compared to the hours in your own startup.
Is your day now 9 to 5?
MC: My days are never 9 to 5 but I have always been very fortunate that even when I was broke and doing a startup, I loved what I was doing and the hours would go by so quickly because I was so consumed by it then, and now too. I may not be in the startup life from the perspective of, ‘okay, my back’s against the wall, I’m sleeping on the floor, or I am broke’, but I want to win. I am competitive, I am always in, and I am always trying to learn. Whether it’s one of my businesses, or a business that I have invested in, I am always trying to make it better.
Do you have a process of selecting a business?
MC: When it comes to selecting a business I don’t really have a process. I just try to be opportunistic, and look at the skills of the entrepreneur or the uniqueness of the business, and the competitive landscape. I will see how much I can help and what is going to take to get to the Promised Land to make a lot of money.
Can one have a good idea and a bad pitch?
MC: We see so many pitches and some people think that if it is a bad pitch, the idea, the opportunity, and the company have no chance, particularly on Shark Tank, but that’s just not the case.
We had one company, called Tower Paddle Boards, on Shark Tank. The Founder, Stephan Aarstol, was stuttering and could barely get his words out.
Everybody wanted to kick him out, but I started asking him questions, and his answers were amazing. He knew search engine optimization (SEO) and the internet, and had already run a successful business. He just wasn’t good at pitching a business, particularly under the pressure of Shark Tank. So six years ago, I invested in Tower Paddle Boards, and I have got 10x times my money back in returns.
Can you have a bad idea and a good pitch?
MC: Yes, the other side of the equation is where even if it’s a great pitch, it doesn’t make for a good business if you don’t know what you are doing. Even if you make it sound good, you still don’t know what you’re doing.
What are your top two tips for an entrepreneur about to give a pitch?
MC: The two things that an entrepreneur needs to know, whether pitching to Shark Tank or anywhere, is: one, what makes your company unique and differentiates it from potential competition, and two, what is it that you are going to do to take advantage of that unique differential to create a successful company.
Has being on Shark Tank changed the way you do business at all?
MC: The thing that I have learnt with Shark Tank and really has changed my method of doing business over the past 10 years is ‘nice pays off’. I don’t know if I was always the nicest guy when I did business, but I was never mean, I never tried to steal, or take advantage of anybody, and I have always tried to do win-win deals. But sometimes I would get angry or ornery if I didn’t think things were progressing the way I wanted them to. And just having seen all the entrepreneurs come through, and all the experience and the heartbreaks they have had, I have learnt the value of nice. Nice is so undervalued and it makes doing business so much easier. It makes the result so much better when you are just nice.
Does each season of Shark Tank have a different feel?
MC: Each season always has a different feel. We have different guests, and as time goes on all the entrepreneurs have a better feel for what we like or what we don’t like because they have watched the show so much. The deals get bigger and the companies get more advanced, so yes every season is just a little bit different and a little better.
Shark Tank is about to reach its 200th episode. How do you feel about that?
MC: It is crazy the show’s 10th season is about to air the 200th episode. I came on as a Guest Shark in Season 2. I thought, ‘I’d do my three episodes and the show will be gone. It will be a great experience and maybe I would pick up some interesting businesses’. So when I was a Guest Shark, I bought every single thing that came out. I didn’t think it would last, but here we are, in the 10th season and 200th episode. It has been a phenomenal ride. I hope it goes on forever.