Monday, November 22, 2010

Ten Questions For Mark Cuban

We all know him as the hot-headed and very hands-on owner of the Dallas Mavericks. What most of us don't know is that Mark Cuban is a self-made billionaire, being one of the lucky few who were able to ride the wave and luckier still for being able to cash out just before the bubble burst. Here is the Forbes interview that will teach us a few things about how to build and keep a fortune.

1. What personality trait was the key to your success?

I worked hard and smarter than most people in the businesses I have been in.

2. What financial advice do you have for someone who is newly rich?

Cash is king.

3. How do you choose a money manager or investment advisor?

Someone who I can trust, has an idea every now and then, but most importantly can efficiently research my ideas and make the investments I ask them to make.

4. Talk about the most offbeat advice you followed.
I create offbeat advice; I don't follow it. I rarely take third-party advice on my investments.

5. What do you think are the biggest obstacles to job creation in America?

Complexity. You can't just start a company. You can't just take an idea and run with it, like you used to be able to. You have to have lawyers and accountants to make sure you have lived up to all the local, regional, state and national "administrivia" that is required of you. And once you get started you have to keep up with the administrivia. All of which is a huge inhibitor to business formation and a huge capital drain for any entrepreneur who is starting with sweat equity. The first cities to create friction-free enterprise zones will get a lot of entrepreneurial traction.

To help fix the economy, I would require any public company laying off more than 1,000 employees at a time, or in aggregate for a single year, to put the details up for a shareholder vote.

I'm guessing that most shareholders realize that losing a penny a share or two in earnings is less expensive than the cost to them in taxes to cover the cost of more people joining the ranks of the unemployed.

6. Who is your hero, and why?

My dad. He made me believe in myself.

7. What are the unforeseen downsides to success? 

You become a target for extortionists who are looking for skins on the wall or easy money. I spend far too much time and money crushing all the nuisance suits that are filed. If you try to make me a skin on your wall or an easy payout, I will do everything in my power to bring justice to the situation. No matter how long it takes or how much it costs.

8. What book should every entrepreneur read?

The Fountainhead.

9. You have $100,000--where do you put it?

First I pay off all my credit card debt and evaluate paying off any other debt I have. What I have left I put in the bank.

Then I try to create as much transactional value as possible from that cash. I look at my annual budgets for everything and anything, and I look to see where I can save the most money on those items. Saving 30% to 50% buying in bulk--replenishable items from toothpaste to soup, or whatever I use a lot of--is the best guaranteed return on investment you can get anywhere. Then whatever I have left I keep in the bank and let it earn nothing. Why? Because then its available for when I get a good opportunity.

Every five years or so there is a bubble bursting or amazing deals available because of a change in the economy. Anyone who just kept their cash in the bank rather than in stocks over the past five to 10 years could be buying the home of their dreams for half price in most of the country. They earned good money in half the past 10 years on the cash, and even though they aren't making much now, they have the transactional value available to them. Plus they have cash to invest if the market craters and, most importantly, they sleep great at night. Cash is king--and works far better than Ambien when you want a good night's sleep every night.

10. Name one experience every entrepreneur-to-be must have.

Coming home and having the lights turned off because you couldn't afford to pay the bills. It's incredibly motivating and humbling.

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