Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Work Half Days

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Mark wanted to be rich from a very young age.  When his family drove by big houses, he wondered who lived there and what they did for a living, telling himself that someday he would have a house like that too.

Mark’s father was the son of Russian immigrants, and worked as a car upholsterer.  It wasn’t a glamorous or high-paying job, but it kept his family fed and a roof over them.  He tried to instill in his son the same sense of having to work hard to get anywhere.  Once, when Mark was twelve years old, he approached his father during a poker game and asked for a new pair of sneakers.  His father told him if the ones he had weren’t good enough, then Mark could get a job and buy whatever shoes he wanted.  But one of his father’s poker buddies had a suggestion:  Mark should try going door-to-door selling garbage bags.

Mark decided to try, and sure enough, he was able to earn enough to buy the sneakers.  He moved to magazine subscriptions next, getting better as he got more comfortable selling to strangers. By high school, Mark was earning extra money re-selling stamps, coins and baseball cards.  He was a fast learner, reading constantly, and in his junior year, he began taking college classes on the side.  He was in such a rush that he skipped his senior year of high school entirely to enroll at the university.

Mark had chosen his school because it had the lowest tuition of America’s top ten business schools.  But he still needed to pay for it.  He made money giving dance lessons, and even paid for one semester with a chain letter that brought in over a thousand dollars.  He also bought a local college bar by selling shares to his friends, and when he wasn’t bartending or spinning records, he was schmoozing and entertaining the patrons.  People came to see him, and it was clear that the bar made more when he was there.

After graduating, Mark got a job at a bank, in the department responsible for converting its processes from paper to computer systems.  But Mark was always focused on the bigger picture.  He would send notes to the bank’s CEO with ideas on how they could make more money.  In an effort to improve morale, he started a “Rookie Club,” inviting senior bank executives to talk to the company’s younger employees.  He even started an in-office newsletter. 

His boss was livid, seeing Mark’s efforts as attempts to undermine his authority.  It was Mark’s first lesson about the type of leader he did not want to be.  It was also all the urging he needed to make a clean break from Pittsburgh and try his luck elsewhere.

Mark drove to Dallas and moved into a friend’s three-bedroom apartment.  The problem was, five people already lived there, so Mark had to sleep on the floor.  He got a job selling software and had no fear of hard work.  About nine months in, his dedication led to a $15,000 sale for the company, which would earn him a $1,500 commission.  But when his boss told him not to leave the office to collect the payment, Mark decided to go anyway, confident the large check would make the boss happy. 

He was wrong.  When he got back, his boss fired him on the spot, screaming about disobedience.  It was an even more important lesson for Mark, helping him decide then and there to avoid bosses altogether by starting his own software company.  He was twenty-five.

Seven years later, Mark sold his company, MicroSolutions, for six million dollars.  He went on to co-found, a multi-media company that was ultimately purchased by Yahoo! for nearly $6 billion.  Today, Mark Cuban is a billionaire businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, the Landmark movie theatre chain, and the Hollywood production company Magnolia Pictures.  His no-nonsense approach to business can also be seen in his role as a "shark" investor on the television series Shark Tank.

When asked how it’s possible that he accomplishes so much in any given day, his response is that he only works half days, and you just have to decide which half to work, the first twelve hours or the second.  Mark Cuban’s philosophy is simple:  “Love what you do or don’t do it, and remember, it’s not in the dreaming, it’s in the doing.”

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

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