Mark Cuban’s Lessons From ‘Shark Tank’

Mark Cuban reveals the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make and four things you can do to succeed in business.
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Find out what contestants on 'Shark Tank' are doing right — and wrong. (Photo: CBNC)

As the billionaire owner of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, chairman of AXS TV and the co-owner of the video and film production company 2929 Entertainment, which owns Landmark Theaters, Mark Cuban knows a thing or two about business and has the track record to prove it.

Although the majority of the 70-odd companies he’s invested in are winners, he’s had his share of disappointments, “most of them early on,” he said.

“In my first season when I was a guest Shark, I was saying yes to everything. That was back when I thought the show wouldn’t last. I get suckered in sometimes because I like to think that I can help any company.”

Related: How to Get on ‘Shark Tank’

Cuban has learned, however, that some companies are beyond help, mainly due to a few fatal errors many entrepreneurs make.

“Not knowing your numbers” has always been a fatal flaw, he said, “but it’s not so much that anymore.” The bigger problem is misplaced priorities.

“Contestants want to use ‘Shark Tank’ to promote themselves, but they’re not focused on running their company,” said Cuban. “They get excited. They get a lot of attention the night the show airs, and they think it’s easy. They want to keep doing TV to promote their product and jack up sales but there’s no substance there. It’s all about media for them, and those are the companies that get into the biggest trouble.”

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While promotions like ‘Shark Tank’ can bring a lot of excitement to your business, it is important not to forget to focus on the basics and run your company. (Photo: mavo/Shutterstock)

Cuban didn’t devalue the advantages of promotion and media attention, but he emphasized the importance of getting your priorities straight.

“It’s hard to operate a business and execute a business plan,” he pointed out. “Hype is great,” he said. But while a show like “Shark Tank” can “give you a nice bump … you’ve got to run your company.”

Related: How to Actually Use Your Business Plan to Run Your Business

Cuban, who officially joined the show in season 3, said working with entrepreneurs on “Shark Tank” for six seasons has taught him valuable lessons about what works and what doesn’t. He shared a few bits of practical advice that owners can apply to their businesses.

You matter more than your product in achieving success

“The ability to learn, the ability to sell and the ability to focus are critical.”

Being nice pays off

“The days of being a dastardly businessperson are long gone.”

Related: How to Create a Culture of Kindness in Your Small Business

It’s important to give back

“We see kids coming on, 25 to 28 years old, and even though they’re capitalists who want money to run a company, they want to give back. They also have a social component, something that’s important to them,” said Cuban. “People who are buying products are looking for that too.”

Related: Cheap, Easy Ways to Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility

But make sure your generosity is more than a marketing ploy

“Be authentic. It can’t just be, ‘We’re donating to the rhinos,’” Cuban cautions. “It has to be something you really care about.”

“Shark Tank” will return to the ABC fall 2017 lineup for season nine with a special, two-hour premiere on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. (8 p.m. ET).

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