Book Summary:

How to Win At the Sport of Business is a powerful collection of Mark Cuban’s biggest ideas. It’s a book of blog posts outlining critical lessons learned. Each lesson is contained in three pages, they are concise and to the point. Although many of the lessons are entrepreneur related, these lessons can be applied to business and business people.

Favorite Quote:

“Being focused at 21 is way overrated. Now is the time to screw up, to try as many different things as you can and just maybe figure things out. The thing you do need to do is learn. Learn accounting, learn finance, learn statistics. Learn as much as you can about business. Read biographies about business people. You don’t have to focus on one thing, but you have to create a base of knowledge so you are ready when its time.”  ~ Mark Cuban


Part 1:  Living the Dream

Living the dream follows Mark from graduation at Indiana University through age 24.  Mark tells the story of couch surfing through Dallas, working random jobs, his foray into computer software, how getting fired encouraged the founding of MicroSolutions, Inc. and perhaps most importantly, his unrelenting perseverance and grit.  My biggest overall takeaway is that the path to success is often messy, the the neat, tidy perfectly executed career plans you hear about rarely if never are true, and, that’s very okay.

Advice for finding your dream job or career.  Experiment with work!

“We all want our dream job or to run our own companies.  The truth?  It’s a lot easier said than done.  We need jobs that pay the bills, and we can’t wait out the search for the perfect situation.  Which leads to the question:  What kind of job should you settle for when you can’t or don’t have the job you want? … You continue your education.

Go back to school?  No.  Get your MBA?  No.

For most recent college grads, you just spent the last four or so years paying tuition to get an education.  Now that you have graduated, it’s your chance to get paid to learn.”

p. 4-5

Bad things WILL happen in your career and life, learn how to recover, or better yet, turn them into positives.

Getting ripped off.

“[Martin] had just gone through the drive-through and one of the tellers, whom he would see every day when dropping off our deposits, asked him to wait a second.  She came back and showed him a check that had the payee of  vendor WHITED OUT and “Renee Hardy”, our secretary’s name typed over it.  Turns out that in the course of a couple days our secretary had pulled this same trick on $83K of our $85K in the bank.”
p.  14

Getting fired.

“Decision time.  It’s always the little decisions that have the biggest impact.  We all have to make that “make or break” call to follow orders or do what you know is right.  I followed my first instinct:  Close the sale. {After asking a co-worker to do his job of opening the store}.  I rationalized that you never turn your back on a deal.  Next day, I came into Your Business Software, smile on face, check-in-hand from a new customer, and Michael fired me.  Fired.”

p. 10

Persistence, Grit, Invest the time.

“Most people won’t put in the time to get a knowledge advantage.  Sure, there were folks that worked hard a picking up every bit of information that they could, but we were few and far between.  To this day, I feel like if I put in enough time consuming all the information available, particularly with the Internet making it so readily accessible, I can get an advantage in any technology business.”

p. 15

Part 2:  Lessons Learned

My First Business Rules

Lesson #1:  Always ask yourself how someone could preempt your products or service.  How could someone put you out of business?  Is it price, is it service, or is it ease of use?

Lesson #2:  Always run your business like your are going to be competing [sic] the biggest technology companies in your industry–Google, Facebook, Oracle, Microsoft, whomever.

The Sport of Business

Sports vs. Business.  Business is not like sports, its not divided into games, there are no set rules and there is no end.  Its 24x7x365xForever.

Finding “The Edge”.  Success in business is all about Edge.  Its grit, passion, expertise and perseverance.

The One Thing In Life You Can Control:  Effort

“I had to… recommit to getting up early, staying up late and consuming everything I possibly could to get an edge.  I had to commit to making the effort to be as productive as I possibly could.  It meant making sure that every hour of the day that I could contact a customer was selling time, and when customers were sleeping, I was doing things that prepared me to make more sales and make my company better.  And finally, I had to make sure I wasn’t lying to myself about how hard I as working.  It would have been easy to judge effort by how many hours a day passed while I was at work.  That’s the worst way to measure effort.  Effort is measured by setting goals and getting results.”

p. 25

Scatterbrained And In College – Being Focused at 21 is Overrated

“You don’t need to have all the answers or focus on one thing.  You should be trying a lot of things until you find the one thing you really love to do and are good at.  When that happens, you will be able to focus.

Being focused at 21 is way overrated.  Now is the time to screw up, to try as many different things as you can and just maybe figure things out.

The thing you do need to do is learn.  Learn accounting, learn finance, learn statistics.  Learn as much as you can about business.  Read biographies about business people.  You don’t have to focus on one thing, but you have to create a base of knowledge so you are ready when its time.”

p. 28

What are You Destined to Be?

“Do we know what we are destined to be or do we find out through experience?

If you are asking, I don’t think people “know” what they are destined to be until they try it for the first couple of times.”

p. 29

What I Learned from Bobby Knight

“Everyone has the will to win, its only those with the will to prepare that do win.   Words for every athlete and those of us who partake in the Sport of Business.”

p. 34

Don’t Lie to Yourself

Know your strengths and weaknesses.  Two frameworks you can use are Belbin Team Roles (to evaluate your Strengths & Allowable Weaknesses) and applying the JoHari Window (how you and others view yourself).  It is critical in business to know both.

“We [business people and entrepreneurs] tend to be less than honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses.

I had the choice between lying to myself and pretending that I could turn on a switch and become a details person, or accepting the fact that I’m no, and partnering with someone who is.  Continuing to lie meant I would probably lose my business.

What choice will you make?”

p. 40-41

The Best Equity is Sweat Equity

Having started two businesses with nothing but sweat equity I can completely relate to this chapter.  Although there is serious sex appeal in raising money from well known venture capitalists, the best way to finance your business is from your own pockets or from your customer pockets.  Yes, it can be done. 🙂

“There are only two reasonable sources of capital for startup entrepreneurs:  your own pocket and your customers’ pockets.  I personally would never even take money from a family member.  Could you imagine the eternal grief and guilt from your mom, dad, uncle or aunt because you blew your nephew’s college fund or the money for grandma’s last vacation?  I can’t.”

p. 45

Connecting to Your Customers

We’re all in the business of sales.  We all have customers.  One of the coolest lessons I learned was valet parking at L’Opera restaurant in Long Beach, CA.  The owner (who was very wealthy and drove an SL600 … so cool) would wait tables once a week to ensure he had a front row seat to the dining experience, wine list, menu items, direct feedback from patrons.  Its the only way to truly connect to your customers, directly.

“I personally think that the only way you can connect to your customers is to put yourself in their shoes.  For me personally, if I can’t be a customer of my own product, then I probably am ot going to do a good job running the company.  When I go to a Landmark Theater, I don’t call ahead and tell them I’m coming so I can get special treatment.  I stand in line and pay for my ticket like everyone else.  I get my popcorn and Diet Coke like everyone else.”

p. 48

Need A Job? – Learn to Sell

“I don’t remember who told me that selling was a job for a lifetime, but they were right.  If you can sell, you can find a job.  I will take a high school dropout who is caring, involved and can sell over an MBA almost every time.”


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