Mark Cuban’s 12 hard-hitting rules for startups

Posted on September 17th, 2014
Business Skills & Planning

Mark Cuban's 12 hard-hitting rules for startups

Anyone who has started a business will have their own rules, but it is always a good idea to take advice from trailblazers who have already made mistakes, and are now wiser for it.

Mark Cuban is a billionaire/serial entrepreneur who is probably best known for launching Dropbox, and as the owner of American NBA basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban knows a thing or two about running a company, the man has more than 20 to his name.

“Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love”

In a post from his official blog, Cuban recaps advice taken from his book – How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It.
Delivered in his typical no-nonsense style, Cuban’s 12 startup rules cover everything from why you should only hire passionate employees, avoiding coffee breaks and everything in between.
1. “Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love”
Cuban is an example of this. As the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, he invested greatly in one his loves – basketball.
2. “If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession”.
The key message here is that starting a business should be like a marriage, you’re investing yourself fully into a venture, so looking for a way out shouldn’t be an option.
3. “Hire people who you think will love working there.”
The more enthusiastic the people who you work with are, the easier your job will be. Simple.
4. “Sales cure all”
Cuban urges entrepreneurs to know, in great detail, exactly how their company will make money, and how they will make the necessary sales.
5. “Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them”
Smart entrepreneurs bring people in whose main strengths (core competencies), complement theirs and are needed in the business. His other hiring advice is to hire people that fit within the company culture and aren’t expensive to pay.

“There is nothing private in a startup”

6. “An espresso machine? Are you kidding me? Coffee is for closers”
 Lunch is your chance to get out of the office and talk, says Cuban, not coffee breaks. To increase productivity he suggests  finding people who will put in the  necessary hours.
7. “No offices”
Cuban is a fan of open plan offices and says they 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” Cuban says. This is also a good way, according to him,  to avoid hiring executives who cannot often cannot operate successfully in a startup.
8. “As far as technology, go with what you know”
Cuban’s view on this is pretty straightforward:  “If you know Apple, use it”. His reasoning is, since startups typically have few employees, it’s best to allow people to use what they know.
9. “Keep the organisation flat”
Cuban warns against having managers reporting to managers in a startup, saying “you will create politics and fail.”

“Make the job fun for employees”

10. “Never buy swag”
In this quote Cuban explains why startups shouldn’t be spending money on branded products, especially if it is not necessary: “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,” Cuban says.
11. “Never hire a PR firm”
Cuban advice is that, instead of hiring a PR firm, entrepreneurs should go directly to the media source for publicity. He suggests contacting the publication related to their field directly, instead of hiring a firm to do it for you. “Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR person”, he says.
12. “Make the job fun for employees”
 It’s imperative to keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your employees, says Cuban, he even suggests offering rewards. “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.”
Check out the infographic below for a summary of Cuban’s rules: