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Book Summary: How to Win at the Sport of Business – If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

Whether you’ve been running your business for decades or you’re embarking on a new venture, Mark Cuban has been in your shoes. As a legendary CEO and serial entrepreneur, he’s guided dozens of companies to new heights of profitability, and he knows what will make your business succeed. In this book summary, you’ll explore Cuban’s proven methods for leading a successful company, beating the competition, and creating an incredible business legacy. Get ready to play the sport of business and win.

Gain a wealth of knowledge about entrepreneurship and business management.


  • Want insider expertise on how to build your startup
  • Want to learn how to transition to your dream career
  • Need practical advice for the everyday challenges entrepreneurs face


Are you one of the many people who long to find their dream job or run their own company but are stuck working a job just to pay the bills? Believe it or not, Mark Cuban did just that for many years before achieving the enormous success that made him a billionaire. In fact, that’s how lots of highly accomplished business leaders start out: working jobs to support themselves and their families while they’re in school, training, or beginning to build their dreams from the ground up.

Book Summary: How to Win at the Sport of Business - If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

If you’re unemployed for any reason, the best thing you can do is to start working somewhere. Why? Because every job offers an education — either teaching you how to run your own future business or how not to. It’s time to start getting paid to learn.

No matter where you’re working, you can learn about different business structures, strategies for growth, and ways to handle employees and customers. Whatever you’re doing, you can learn skills on the job and take them with you wherever you go. You might even experience the happy accident of stumbling across a job you love or being given new responsibilities that help you see what’s possible down the road. Even the simple opportunity to build relationships with customers can set you up for long-term success.

Cuban tells of being a 23-year-old in Dallas working multiple jobs (bartender, salesman, repairman) and living on a friend’s couch for months until starting a job working with PCs and software technology. Much to his surprise, he discovered that he loved the work and began conducting private consultations and in-home installations for customers, bringing in far more than just his salary. When he was eventually fired (for closing a sale outside of business hours), he decided it was time to start his own software consulting company. One by one, he called each of his customers to ask if they’d still work with him, and a few major ones said yes. He made sure they all knew that he’d do whatever it took to get the job done — and his first business was launched.

If you’re in the midst of transitioning from working a job that pays the bills to building the career you’ve always imagined, don’t lose sight of your goals. You’re bound to experience some setbacks, but let them motivate you to work even harder. After all, there’s only one thing in life you can control: your effort. This is true in business and sports, both of which Cuban is passionate about. No matter what circumstances you’re dealt, remember that you control one powerful force — your effort. It gives you the will, stamina, and creativity to find ways to get an edge. You’re the master of your time, so use it to be as productive as possible. When you commit to setting goals, you’ll get results.

Mark Cuban’s Business Rules

Starting a new business provides an opportunity to learn important lessons that you never forget, but some are better learned on paper than in person. Here are Cuban’s first two business rules:

Lesson 1: Always think about how a competitor could preempt your products or services. Is your price reasonable? How’s your customer service? What about ease of use? Any of these areas could provide a weak spot that your competitor could exploit. It’s better to think on the offensive than the defensive when considering where the threats to your business might come from. Always anticipate how others could offer your customers something more useful or appealing.

Lesson 2: Always run your company as though you’re competing with the biggest names in your industry. Although these firms might not be your biggest competitors (yet), you must be ready to outmatch them. While you’re still smaller than those big names, take the time to study them. Learn from their huge victories and mistakes and invest your energy in understanding how they tick.

For Cuban, even TV is an opportunity to learn about things he can use in business. Instead of reading fiction, he scours websites, newspapers, and magazines for ideas that can generate fresh streams of income. In the same way, continual self-improvement, training, and learning will help set you apart from your competition. You must find out what product or service will sell and then be the first to offer it. Identify your problems and fix them before your competition even recognizes them.

If you’re anything like Cuban, you relish this kind of strategic competition. As with sports, running a company requires top effort to stay ahead. But unlike sports, business isn’t divided into specific time periods, defined by practices, or governed by set rules. Instead, it’s a game that’s always in flux. The game of business never ends, and there’s no time limit. It’s the ultimate competition.

Drowning in Opportunity

In basketball, you need to make your shots 50% of the time. In baseball, you need to get a hit 30% of the time. But in the business world, you only have to be right once. If you can create one successful business, you’re likely set for life. That’s all it takes. You might work a lot of different jobs and start down a variety of paths, but all it takes is one major success to change all your prospects. Keep this in mind during setbacks. No matter how many times you fail, no one is going to care about your failures once you’re successful — all that will matter is that you got it right once.

Everyone around you wants to win, but few people want to prepare to win. You must be the one who puts in time and effort to prepare for the opportunities that come your way. And once you do start enjoying new opportunities, keep in mind Cuban’s advice:

  1. Everyone is a genius in a bull market. When stocks are going up, anyone can pick a winner. In business, ask yourself if a period of success is truly due to your company’s efforts or if you’re just riding high on the same wave as everyone else. Make sure you look honestly at what’s causing your success.
  2. Win the battles you’re in before you take on new battles. Focus on the factors in your industry that you can control. Don’t take on anything new if it’s going to compromise the core of your primary business. Win whatever battles you’re in before expanding your enterprise.
  3. You can drown in opportunity. It’s normal for an entrepreneur to be pulled in a million different directions when faced with all the exciting possibilities for their company, but there’s a risk of drowning in these new opportunities. Don’t add anything new to your business until you perfect your key products and services.

Twelve Mantras for Success

In his book, Cuban offers 12 mantras for success. The following eight will help keep you on track as you build your business:

  1. Time is more valuable than money. Your time is a valuable resource. Use it carefully and design your schedule around your goals.
  2. Commit random acts of kindness. Getting along with people is a vital skill in business, so exercise compassion and generosity.
  3. Work hard; play hard. You might have to skip a vacation or two when building your business, but you should still make time to let off steam every now and then.
  4. Don’t let fear be a roadblock. Face your challenges head-on instead of being afraid of failure.
  5. Everyone gets down. The key is how soon you get back up. Fight the urge to disappear when you lose a deal, and you’ll come back stronger.
  6. It’s not whether the glass is half empty or half full; it’s who is pouring the water. Do your best to control your own destiny and don’t depend on outside forces.
  7. It’s not in the dreaming; it’s in the doing. Anyone can dream. Ask yourself what you can do.
  8. Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is being greedy.

In addition to these mantras, Cuban also shares business mistakes that you should try to avoid, especially in the early stages. First, it’s OK to take no for an answer after you’ve respectfully pitched your idea and responded to any misunderstandings or objections. Anything beyond that wastes everyone’s time. Second, the more you push someone who’s already said no, the more desperate you appear, and this impacts your brand. Finally, move on to the next customer. Do your homework, be prepared, and go find more prospects for your business.


As you invest time and energy in growing your business, it’s important to keep yourself focused on what you’re striving for. Your vision of what you want to accomplish may change as you learn from your experiences and discover new talents and aptitudes you didn’t know you had. Be flexible and pour your resources into these areas of strength. Learning is a lifelong endeavor, so stay open to new ideas and innovations that could contribute to your company’s profitability.

It can be tempting to pull out all the stops and take out loans to help your venture grow. Many entrepreneurs are so optimistic about their prospects that they believe taking on debt is no big deal. But debt is the ultimate dream killer. The more obligations you have, the more difficult it is to make headway when times are tough. Your dreams require sacrifice and hard work, and debt is just a shortcut to get what you want before you’ve really earned it. Never settle for taking on debt; find another way. Your future self will thank you.

And speaking of your future self, as you plan your priorities, keep in mind your future, 90-year-old self. Assuming you are lucky enough to live that long, think about what it would be like to look back and evaluate your life. What unique opportunities did you seize? What risks did you take? Every time you make a significant decision about your business, think about what its long-term implications might be and how that might change your future. This perspective can guide you through life’s difficult choices and help you decide which plays to make in the sport of business.

About the author

Mark Cuban is a billionaire businessman, entrepreneur, and featured “shark” on ABC’s popular television show Shark Tank.