Welcome to the “CEO Series”. Here, we talk about how entrepreneurs learn to become great CEOs, as the greatest technology companies in history, most often than not, are led by people like them.
For those who do not know who Mark Cuban is, he is the current owner of the Dallas Mavericks. But even for those who have seen Cuban on TV, you probably didn’t know that before he bought the team, he was also an internet startup entrepreneur.
Back in the day, Cuban started Broadcast.com, one of the most successful online media streaming platform at the time. It was the YouTube before YouTube; the Hulu before Hulu. At the peak of Web 1.0 in 1999, Cuban sold it out to Yahoo for $5.6 billion – 3.5 times the figure Google spent to purchase YouTube. He made a billion dollars from the deal, and that gave him the money to buy the team (He spent $285 million to purchase a majority stake in Dallas Mavericks in 2000).
Mark is also an active blogger who is not afraid to speak up. He started his own blog, Blog Maverick in year 2004 and has written more than 900 articles. In the latest one, “The 6 Things You Need to Know to be Great in Business”, he presented the six core qualities he thinks a “great entrepreneur” should possess. I think it is worth a read to every entrepreneur CEO. I will also share what I have learnt from it, with subheadings adopted from Cuban’s article.
1. Know how to sell
Selling is not hawking, selling is creating trades of actual value, through which you hope to establish long term win-win relationships. Knowing how to sell means being aware of the other’s needs and desires, budgets, and schedules; being able to inform the other why you are the right person using his/her language; and that you could guarantee a pleasant transaction.
2. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Almost all of us are independent beings, so before a customer made a decision, s/he has to consider the demands of all stakeholders, such as his/her spouse, parents, children, boss, co-workers, the Purchasing Department, the financial department, the Financial Supervisory Commission, and NCC. He also has to consider the chain reactions this decision would set off. A top sales representative would put him or herself in the shoes of the customer, and seek to truly understand the people, the pressures, office politics and government risks s/he has to face, and come up with the perfect plan for him/her. If you could help business partners and suppliers succeed, you would gain from it as well.
3. Know as much as you can about technology
Apple is a company that doesn’t have the resources that everyone else has. We choose what tech horses to ride, we look for tech that has a future and is headed up. Different pieces of tech go in cycles… they have summer and then they go to the grave. If you choose wisely, you save yourself an enormous amount of work. Sometimes you have to pick the right horses.
– Steve Jobs
In a time where technology changes rapidly, new rulers would be born with the rise of new paradigm shifts. The status of those who were cornerstones of the industry are constantly being overthrown by the introduction of new platforms. Even Microsoft and Intel, who were at the top of the game 10 years ago, no longer have the same prestige. Such is the power of technology to reverse fortunes.
Therefore, in this era, we have to understand the evolution of technology extensively, to keep ourselves updated from time to time. We have to experiment and to decide wisely when to invest time on researching new technologies and fields. Only then will you stand a chance to enable your organization to grasp the right technology at the right time, and join the few who take advantage of the potential and rise, instead of the majority that gets overthrown and drown.
4. Always ask yourself how you would design a new solution if no current solution exists
To come up with a well-rounded solution is an exceedingly difficult task – most of the time entrepreneurs manage to monitor their products, customers and experiences, but neglect the operations, costs, access, and promoting efficiency. This mind workout needs to be practiced regularly, and the way to do it is to ceaselessly study different products, services, and business models, and understand the merits and drawbacks of these designs in daily lives.
After that, think about which part of the design you should improve, and if there are any new technologies that you know which can be used to break the impasse. Like exercising muscles, as long as you use keep using the part of your brain that is in charge of design-thinking regularly and daily, it will get strengthened.
5. Is it the path of least resistance to something better?
Many entrepreneurs dream of educating the market and altering how people behave. The truth is, that takes great time, manpower, and financial investment. Ordinarily, it is not what a new company with limited resources is capable of doing. But an excellent entrepreneur is like a skillful craftsman – with great skills and experience, he would be able to find the path of least resistance, through Go-To-Market strategies such as penetrating cities from the countryside and approaching the centre from the periphery, achieving the same goal in the end.
How do we know which is the best solution? I am impressed by the simple and clear question Mark raises: “Is it the path of least resistance?”
6. Be nice
Lastly, even if you are right about something, it does not mean you have to be a jerk. Smartness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Only people who choose to be nice will be a leader beloved and respected by others.
Some food for thought for us all.
This article is originally written by Jamie Lin, a well-published author based in Taiwan. The article is translated from Chinese by Loh Sin Yee and is reproduced here with permission. Images were added into the article for visual purposes.