Yesterday at the American Tobacco Campus LocalTechWire hosted a networking luncheon, panel discussion and Q&A headlined by non-other than Dallas Mavericks’ owner and dotcom billionaire Mark Cuban. The session was broken into two parts that included a keynote by Mark Cuban as well as a panel Q&A with Rich Lee (Founder, Hosted Solutions), Mike Doernberg (CEO, ReverbNation), Aaron Houghton (Co-Founder, iContact) and Mitch Mumma (Partner, InterSouth). The second session was a keynote by Mark Cuban followed by Q&A.
One of the more interesting parts of the gathering was @mcuban’s keynote that broke down his 7 rules of entrepreneurship. Insightful as it was entertaining, I wanted to share with you the highlights:
Rule #1 – The best equity is sweat equity
The biggest mistake that young companies make is trying to raise money too early. What they forget is that VCs – what Mark lovingly refers to as “Vulture Capitalists” – are in the business of making money for themselves, not to help their business. Mark suggests that you go out of your way to not to raise money early on. Live like a student, put as much of your personal time, energy and financial resources into the company as possible. You’ll end up with more control in the end.
Another interesting insight on this point is that Mark feels we live in a unique time where the technology tools available to us make it easier and less expensive to be an entrepreneur than ever before. Can’t say I disagree with him on that one.
Rule #2 – Sales Rule All
Now this is a guy after my own heart. Mark spoke at length about how no matter what you do in your company, as an entrepreneur you have to be the number one salesperson in your organization. You must also develop a culture of sales so that everyone who is involved in the organization is also selling. Because if you have sales coming in you can deal with whatever challenges arise. If they’re not coming in, than your company will disappear.
Rule #3 – Ideas are easy, execution is hard
There’s no shortage of ideas in the world, but how hard are you willing to work to bring them to life? It is those companies that work harder and put their all into their ideas that have the most success. If you have something holding you back, than you’ll loose. There’s always someone else out there ready to “kick your ass.”
Rule #4 – Don’t lie to yourself
Not everyone is in the right part of their life to be an entrepreneur. If you’re married, have kids or are in debt – not to be a bummer – but you’re at a disadvantage. Be honest with yourself about what you’re capable of and then live up to your fullest. That’s how you’ll succeed.
Rule #5 – Figure out how to “kick your own ass”
Right now, someone out there is trying to figure out how to be better than you at what you do. The best way to beat them is to put yourself in their shoes and figure out how to beat yourself. Every day you have to re-win your customers’ business and make them love working with you. Either you figure out how to do it or someone will eat you alive.
Rule #6 – You don’t own your business, your customers do
Don’t kid yourself. You’re nothing without your customers – and if you don’t put them first someone else will. The analogy that Mark used is that “customer service is like making love.” It goes something like this – first you ask your significant other if they want to. If they say yes, than you ask if you can. If they say yes, you ask if you can give it to them. And if they say yes, you do so and ask if it was good for them. If yes, you ask if you can give it to them again. Customer service is the same way. Keep making love to your customers and they’ll never leave your side.
Rule #7 – Sometimes, you’ll have setbacks
Even if you do everything right, you’ll face challenges and setbacks. You can’t let them freak you out. You just have to get back to work. To drive the point home Mark recounted a story of an early company he ran where he thought he had $84,000 in the bank. When he spoke with the bank one day he found out that his secretary had put White Out over his company’s name on the checks and typed in her own. The bank, stupidly, cashed them. This left his secretary, who had now disappeared, with $82,000 and his company with $2,000. The bank refused to help (I think the quote was “sorry son, you don’t have a pot to piss in”). Rather than freak out and sue the bank Mark did what he knew he had to. Get back into the office and start working with customers and vendors to get through the situation. Was it easy? No. Did he and his company make it through? Yes.
Interested in more from Mark Cuban? Visit his site, Blog Maverick, where he posts regularly. Also, do you have your own rules and lessons of entrepreneurship? If so, please share them in the comment section below. I know we have other readers who would love to hear your thoughts.
*1 Note: Photograph courtesy of LocalTechWire.com. Original photograph and article available at http://localtechwire.com/business/local_tech_wire/news/image/8128747/?ref_id=8128727