Success and Motivation, Part 2

So my career in Dallas begins. I’m a software salesperson with Your Business Software in Dallas. $18k per year. The first retail software store in Dallas.

I have to sweep the floor and be there to open the store, but that’s not a bad thing. When I tell my future ex-girlfriends that I sell software and am in the computer biz, I’m not going to mention the sweeping the floor part. Plus, I had to wear a suit to work, and the 2-fer madness specials looked good at happy hour after work. Better yet, the store didn’t open till 9:30am, which meant if I had a fun night, I had at least a little time to sleep.

I bet right about now you are questioning where my focus was? Where was my commitment to being the future owner of the Dallas Mavericks? Please. I was stoked I had a good job. I was stoked it was in an industry that could turn into a career. At 24, I was just as stoked that the office was close to where the best happy hours were and that I might finally have more than 20 bucks to spend for a night on the town.

Since I’m talking about partying, I do have to say that my friends and I were very efficient in that area. Beyond living off bar food and happy hours, we literally would agree that none of us would bring more than 20 bucks for a weekend night out. This way we all could pace each other. At least that was the way it was supposed to work, and it did until we figured out the key to having a great night out on the cheap. They key was buying a bottle of cheap, cheap champagne. I can’t even spell the name, but it was a full bottle, and it cost 12 bucks. Tear the label off and as far as anyone knew it was Dom. Each of us would grab one, and sip on it all night. It was far cheaper than buying beers or mixed drinks all night, and we never had to buy a drink for a girl, we just gave them some champagne! Of course the next day was hell, but since when was I responsible enough to care about a hangover…

But I digress. Back to business. As fired up as I was about the job, I was scared. Why? Because I have never worked with an IBM PC in my life. Not a single time, and I’m going to be selling software for it. So what do I do? I do what everyone does: I rationalize. I tell myself that the people walking in the door know as little as I do, so if I just started doing what I told my boss I would do, read the manuals, I would be ahead of the curve. That’s what I did. Every night I would take home a different software manual, and I would read them. Of course the reading was captivating. Peachtree, PFS, DBase, Lotus, Accpac… I couldn’t put them down. Every night I would read some after getting home, no matter how late.

Of course it was easy on the weekends. After drinking that cheap champagne, I wasn’t getting out of bed till about 9pm, so I had tons of time to lie on the floor and read. It worked. Turns out not a lot of people ever bothered to RTFM (read the frickin’ manual), so people started really thinking I knew my stuff. As more people came in, because I knew all the different software packages we offered, I could offer honest comparisons and customers respected that.

Within about 6 months, I was building a clientele and because I had also spent time on the store’s computers learning how to install, configure and run the software, I started having customers ask me to install the software at their offices. That meant I got to charge for consulting help: 25 bucks an hour that I split with the store. That turned into a couple hundred extra bucks per month and growing. I was raking it in, enough that I could move from the Hotel (that was what we called our apartment) where the 6 of us lived, into a 3 bedroom apartment across the street, where instead of 6 of us, there were only 3. Finally, my own bedroom!

I was earning consulting fees. I was getting referrals. I was on the phone cold calling companies to get new business. I even worked out a deal with a local consultant who paid me referral fees, which lead to getting a $1500 check. It was the first time in my adult life that I was able to have more than 1k dollars in the bank.

That was a special moment believe or not, and what did I do to celebrate? Nope…I didn’t buy better champagne. I had these old ratty towels that had holes in them and could stand on their own in the corner, they were so nasty I needed a shower from drying off after a shower…I went out and bought 6 of the fluffiest, plushest towels I could find. I was moving on up in the world. I had the towels. Life was good. Business was good and getting better for me. I was building my customer base, really starting to understand all the technology, and really establishing myself as someone who understood the software. More importantly no, most importantly I realized that I loved working with PCs. I had never done it before. I didn’t know if this was going to be a job that worked for me, or that I would even like and it turns out I was lucky. I loved what I was doing. I was rolling so well, I was even partying less… during the week.

Then one day, about 9 months into my career as a salesperson/consultant, I had a prospect ask if I could come to his office to close a deal. 9am. No problem to me. Problem to my boss, Michael Humecki. Michael didn’t want me to go. I had to open the store. That was my job. We were a retail store, not an outbound sales company. It sounded stupid to me back then too, particularly since I had gone on outbound calls during the day before. I guess he thought I was at lunch.

Decision time. It’s always the little decisions that have the biggest impact. We all have to make that “make or break” call to follow orders or do what you know is right. I followed my first instinct: close the sale. I guess I could have rescheduled the appointment, but I rationalized that you never turn your back on a closed deal. So I called one of my coworkers to come in and open up, and closed the deal. Next day I came in check in hand from a new customer and Michael fired me.

51 thoughts on “Success and Motivation, Part 2

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  9. Well time is passing and I have not heard from The Benefactor and I would have LOVED to be part of the show. I just recently put my audition video on a link for all to see

    Comment by Brian Pocrass -

  10. Cuban,

    Don’t know if you read these comments, but maybe some of the audience might enjoy my anecdote. Your story reminds me of my first “real” job at your friend Michael’s company – Dell Computers.

    I was 23, and started there in January of 1994. The 2 weeks of paid training was nice, but barely adequate for the majority of my cohort. Hired as a TSE to answer the phones and dispense with technical support. My hiring coincided with sales of Dell systems through channels such as Walmart. Not so coincident, given the era and the target market, telephone support at Dell was growing out of control.

    I was young, but it didn’t take me long to realize how poorly the organization was run. Their metric for measuring individual performance was a combination of calls per hour, and time spent in good phone modes (on a call, wrapping up, awaiting a call) as opposed to bad (signed out, on idle), along with perhaps some measure of proper dispensation of field service and parts. The one metric that went unmeasured in all of this was proper resolution to a problem. Which led to all forms of abuse, such as getting a customer to dial their modem and thus disconnect you from that line or just giving bogus information. I suspect a fair bit of churn in the calls were callbacks after an erroneous resolution. I’m sure not much has changed to this day. One thing that galled me was that after a few months I was doing twice the “required” number of calls per hour. I asked my manager what my incentive was to perform at that level, and he said that if I fell below the minimum my job would be in danger. Granted he was an idiot, but the organization was full of them. I was actually incentivized to perform average work. So, I learned how to game the system. Take 2 calls at the end of an hour and 2 at the beginning of the next. I’d pump out 4 calls in 20 minutes or so, and then sit back and let the phone ring through and put it back in wait mode. From the management perspective I was doing my job on par. They gave me absolutely no reason to bust my ass.

    I was self-motivated. During my lunch hour I read up on TCP/IP, and at night I played around with this thing called linux, and with the pre-WWW Internet. I started to polish my skills at home in my spare hours, on the nights I didn’t go out drinking. By chance I purchased an item via USENET from a bloke in my building who was part of the nascent Online Services group at Dell. I do mean nascent. There were two people in the group at that time. Remember this predates websites. One of the guys programmed the phone system to route calls (press 1, press 2, etc). The other one was assembling a team. There was a mutual interest in my joining the team. However, I was locked into my term of commitment with tech support.

    The company required all TSEs to commit to 12 months (6 months at a bare minimum) before they could muster out to a different job within the organization. This rule was in place for two reasons: 1) because the work was so dreadful that nobody talented would stay otherwise 2) because the organization was run like the military by an ex-Colonel. I naively thought that an organization would want to maximize its human resources and identify capabilities and talents and draw from that pool. Despite being imminently talented, motivated and rapidly developing knowledge in an area in which it was far more difficult to staff than common phone support, I was stonewalled. Being young, I didn’t push as hard as I could have.

    Instead I burnt out, and developed further distaste for the organization every day. The department required attendance at a de facto pep rally one Saturday. Their attitude was “It’ll be fun,” and “You’re getting time and a half for not working.” My attitude was, fuck you and how can this be mandatory? I took the bus to work, and it sapped an extra 2 hours out of that Saturday. I was not happy when I arrived home. That BS, coupled with the clear cut case of institutional racism that I witnessed (a talented black co-worker who had actually been demoted due to a “reorganization” or some such BS) probably pushed me over the edge.

    When the thought of one more day at the phones was more than I could bear, I up and gave notice. Word had it that if you left to work for a competitor they’d walk you out and pay you for two weeks. So, I fibbed and said that I was heading off to Compaq. Sure enough I was stripped of my badge and walked to the door. Ahh the ceremony. On my way home I bought a nice 10BT cable crimper at Altex and a six pack of beer. Two weeks later the check arrived as hoped.

    If I had played by the rules and pushed a little harder, I have no doubt that I could have been in on the ground floor of the dell.com side of the company. I know what my capabilities are, and it blew my mind that the company was willing to let talent go unutilized like that. I have no regrets about my decision. In that alternate reality, I’m sure I’d be a lot wealthier for having been where I didn’t end up going. That organization sucked ass, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it as an employee. I never would have been happy there, even making bank. I do wish I could have taken them for more than 2 weeks of pay.

    Things turned out alright. I spent a couple of months exploring linux inside and out, and hitched on with a local ISP in Austin for a few years. Eventually found my way out to California where they were paying stupid money for Unix admins. Once the jobs dried up I hightailed it out of the industry, and I’m much happier for that decision to. Love the Unix still, but as a hobby not a job. There’s no reason to suffer fools in business, whether you’re at the bottom or the top. I think that’s what we both learned.

    Comment by radicimo -

  11. The first thing I did with my graduation money from high school was purchase big, fluffy towels for college. How cool is that; I wasn’t the only one!

    Comment by Kathleen -

  12. Great stories.Enjoy them much. I was a farm boy in 40,s and 50′s. college basketall in 60′s on a scholorship. Trained as a amateur boxer, had 9 pro fights (9-0) and retired. I was then 27. worked as a Industrial Chemical Sales Rep.and over-the-road semi-truck driver. Wife and 3 children, all married. I would buy your book, if you published one! dave weber.

    Comment by david weber -

  13. Well time is passing and I have not heard from The Benefactor and I would have LOVED to be part of the show. I just recently put my audition video on a link for all to see. I worked very hard on it and it was a little tough for me not to have gotten any sort of response. I still don’t get why they didn’t hold auditions in Los Angeles. This video took me 2 weeks to edit…oh well now it’s time for me to get a life. =)

    http://www.mtdesign.com/brian

    I’d love to hear feedback. Drop me an email.

    Brian

    Comment by Brian Pocrass -

  14. Mark, the first two parts of your story have been really great. Please continue with Part 3. The suspense is killing me. Thanks.

    Wanna Be Entrepreneur.

    Comment by Coder -

  15. It’s inspiring to see that you being the success that you are, we’re once struggling to make a good life for yourself. Thank you for sharing part of your life with us. Thanks for the burst of inspiration and motivation. I am looking forward to the continuation.

    Comment by Petra -

  16. Living in Dallas & loving the Mavericks, I naturally have to love you as well. The things you have done to turn the old monster around has been a sight to behold.

    I never thought we had anything in common – you are the mega-millionaire and I am the 26 year-old working class stiff. I have been reading this blog for the past few weeks (the only blog I have found interesting enough to keep coming back), but the past couple of entries have shown me that you started out the exact same way I have. They have helped motivate me to dream bigger. I don’t have to work for a billion dollar a year software reseller – I just need to pursue one of my hundreds of ideas that keep me up at night.

    I am looking forward to reading the continuation of this story – you can’t see this B.S. on Behind the Glory!

    Comment by Jason -

  17. As i read the postings by your FANS mark, I had to stop and wonder could 27 people agree with you and not one question your motives and your reason for your second posting to Donald? Talk about a bubble, a PONZI scheme. Listen, your a big promoter of yourself and I can respect that, it’s smart business. The problem I have is you try hide behind it with this I am the guy next door your pal routine. GIVE ME A BREAK MARK. Who cares what Trump said to you, why don’t you try to do somthing more meaningful with your life. I know that I will be rich one day, and I am sure you knew you would be too, it’s not all luck it’s a level of confidence and knowing your going to work harder then the next guy, but I tell you what when i get RICH I wont waste my time bullshiting on the Internet. i will try to make a difference in peoples lives not brag about myself all night. You worked had and I respect you for that, why not give back to some people who need it MARK. Whiffle ball in your huge house, come on man is that really necessary, give people jobs Mark, meaningful ones your in the position to do that now. Your show is as much as a joke as Trumps, your just promoting yourself and feeding on that gigantic head of yours!! Mark in the end when we die we can’t take our money with us, you will be remembered for what you did, and right now your not leaving a good memory for me. GROW UP!!

    Comment by roberto pedone -

  18. Stories of people’s real lives are so interesting and yours is quite fascinating. Thanks for sharing it!

    Comment by Jonathan -

  19. In reading through the posted commentary about the Sucess & Motivation, it is clear that money is still a motivating factor for young adults seeking success. “Priorities: A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” My favorite part of your continuing articles is that you stopped writing to go and play with your daughter.

    Comment by Suzi -

  20. Hi Mark:

    Thanks for posting these business related motivational epitaphs. I really enjoy learning how people take small experiences and apply and share them with the rest of the business community.

    Regards,
    Keith Knutsson

    Comment by keith knutsson -

  21. Hi Mark, I really admire your preseverance to succeed. I for one came to the US as an immigrant with about $1000 in my pocket, I’ve been working my ass off for 6 years in a software company in silicon valley and I find it hard to earn respect being an agreable person with broken english from my colleagues and thus opportunities here is quite scarse because of it… but like you I don’t care I know I will succeed too… as long as I believe in myself… I’m now in the process of opening my own business… if this one doesn’t work.. there’s always a next one… right? anyways, keep up the stories!

    Comment by harry -

  22. even as a die-hard laker fan, its hard not to root for you and your team. reading the story is awesome… as a person in the crossroads of my career (do i stay with my company xyz), or move on and attach the world, your story offers great underlying career advice…

    arnold

    Comment by Arnold Kim -

  23. I enjoyed your writings. I would guess that your sucess boils down to not working hard as much as it is working smart. When you have both one would imagine you will do well. :)

    Comment by Paul H Gehrke -

  24. This is great reading. I can’t wait for part three. As a late 20s IT person, I am fascinated by how different people break in to the industry.

    Comment by geektron -

  25. It feels like I’m going through the same things in my life at this time (job wise). Not only are these entries entertaining and interesting… but they’re actually pretty uplifting and inspiring.

    Can’t wait for the next entry, until then I have to prepare for work… managing the local pizza chain. *sigh*

    Comment by Ryan -

  26. Software Manuals as a Hangover cure. Brilliant.

    Keep the stories coming.

    Comment by Mark -

  27. Hi Mark,

    I have only been reading these for a few weeks, found them by accident… I love these stories, and whether it’s here or in a book I am there. I am 26 and recently left a sales supervisor job at Best Buy after 3 years. Living with a buddy, trying to figure out what to do with my life. Just these few stories alone have inspired me to get a better job than what I was planning on taking. Thanks…

    Comment by Jason Kiger -

  28. these are probably the most interesting and relevant entries i’ve read in a long time. thanks for the little bits of advice about life, business, and cheap ways to get drunk. seriously, thank you :P

    Comment by daniel -

  29. This is the stuff I love to read about. It’s great to hear stories of how the great Entrepreneurs started out. I can relate to the driving by the houses bit. I often find myself doing the same thing, wondering, “if someone else can do this, there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to.”

    Comment by Nickdigital -

  30. Mark, I hope everyone “gets” your key points of “making it,” especially the hard work part. Not many of us are willing to work hard enough to become a millionaire on our own, including me. My husband is an exception to that, but hard work hasn’t been enough for him to achieve that goal. He hasn’t given up though; at sixty-six, he’s still working toward that first million! He’s the hardest working person I have ever met; therefore, the most deserving of a million.
    For those who let hardships get in their way, they should take a lesson from him. After his third operation for thyroid cancer on a Thursday, he was back at work the following Monday, four days later. His department was being fazed out, so he wanted to be at work in case another department might want/need him. The first day back at work, he was asked to interview for another department the next day. Two days later he was hired by that department. If he had taken more time off work, which he could have with more than 30 days of vacation due him, he might have missed the job and been forced into retirement.
    Another point that you mentioned is to do work that you love. My husband has been a mechanical engineer for over 40 years, and he still loves it! I find that to be AMAZING!

    Comment by Louise Munio -

  31. Sounds like you learned the hard way of how to deal in the software business. Can’t wait for more of your stories!

    Btw, doing what you had to do to close the deal means a lot. Way to go. Most people would’ve done what they’ve been told.

    Comment by roy -

  32. Mark – Loved this excerpt as much as the first. Like Scoble, I’ve been blogging these posts too – just great observations from someone who’s seen a lot and is willing to share the good and the bad.

    Thanks for sharing, and please keep ‘em coming.

    –Rick
    http://www.rklau.com/tins/archives/2004/04/25/its_gotta_be_the_towels.php

    Comment by Rick Klau -

  33. Everyone talks about how much of an inspiration you are, but I suspect that “THE REAL LESSON” of your message gets missed amid the interesting storyline.

    That message (IMHO) is about hard work. It’s about always working to find more ways to learn more things. Reading manuals, not just feel-good weblogs.

    I’m graduating this weekend with my BBA, and going to work at my first job with General Mills. I love reading, and I was wondering if you (Mark) have a recommended reading list or some other ideas that could give your newly inspired weblog readers (like me) something specific and/or actionable to do.

    Thanks… keep writing.

    Comment by Steve -

  34. mark cuban, you’re an inspiration… you tell it like it is.. i like that… could you display your email so that ppl can email you?

    Comment by jon -

  35. Hey Mark, great inspiring reading. I’ve read Michael Dell’s auto. and Andy Groove’s. Yours is equally fun and inspiring. No, actually I think yours will be even more interesting once you get to the fun part (earning your first $1 mil and buying the Mavs). I look forward to your story!

    Comment by Billy -

  36. I just saw your interview on 60 Minutes, you came across as a funny and hardworking guy. I love these entries – they’re actually pretty inspiring.

    Also, when you talked about the businesses you had during high school I started laughing because I’m about to start my own little business myself. I was also involved in a program called Junior Achievement that’s run here in Canada. You basically build your own company and sell your product, hoping to make a profit. My company tanked, but I gained a lot of knowledge as VP of Human Resources and really loved the whole experience. I don’t know why I’m even writing this, maybe it’s just that after finding out you had your own little ventures in high school and became really successful, I have that chance too.

    Comment by Maggie -

  37. I really enjoyed your mini-series so far and I hope that it will continue. I think that the way you gained your success is the best way to do it, through hard work and dedication. As the great Vince Lombardi said “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” I think that this quote fits your life story perfectly. Hopefully it will describe mine as well as I go onto college. Keep up the good work Mark.

    Comment by Brian -

  38. I don’t know how many people read your blog. I found it quite by accident, from some external news link, and am very glad I did. It combines inspirational advice with stark, unashamed humanity, making for a very enjoyable read. More people should read your blog. Keep it coming.

    (Don’t worry, I’ll still buy the book when it comes out)

    Comment by Bryan Norrie -

  39. Your words do inspire!
    I’ve encouraged both of my sons (age 21 and 25) to read your entries…as they pursue their education and contemplate the direction for their future.
    Looking forward to part 3!!

    Comment by Sandi -

  40. Mr. Cuban- I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now, and it has become just as important to me as reading the Globe (boston). I am 19, going to study business in college next year, but I’d be surprised if anything I learn in a classroom is as valuable to me as your anecdotes. Keep it up + Thanks. -Mike

    Comment by Mike Greeley -

  41. You know you’re finally becoming a “grown-up” when what used to pass for a towel gets handed down to the dogs (and dryer sheets are no substitute for liquid softener) but I guess that’s not the point here. Excellent anecdote.

    Comment by Holli -

  42. I just wrote about you on my own weblog. I too was fired from my first job, and too lived in a house with a bunch of guys in a poor neighborhood.

    You’re an inspiration! Keep it up. I forward your blog to everyone at Microsoft (I work there). I bet you’re getting a few readers from Redmond.

    You’re one of the inspirations behind http://channel9.msdn.com by the way. Show a human face. Look to improve our customer’s lives. Have a conversation. Etc.

    Keep it up!

    Comment by Robert Scoble -

  43. MARK!!!! “Reality Reading” Man!!! Come on! This stuff is great and people are eating it up! We have got to do this book. If you can do this book, you will give myself the fairy tale story that I have always wanted. Let’s do this thing!

    Comment by Brad Williamson "Reality Reading" -

  44. Wow, Mark (Or Mr. Cuban), this is better than waiting for your book to come out a decade from now! Every day another couple pages. Well, it’s great until you decide to stop doing it. That isn’t the end of the story is it? There’s more right? right?

    Comment by Cory -

  45. I’m sure you have heard about Rich Jerk, the famous Internet Marketer. Now he wants to sell an Ebook promising to teach you how to make millions like him. I think you should get more information about him. Let me tell you what I think…

    Ryan

    Comment by Rich Jerk -

  46. The problem I have is you try hide behind it with this I am the guy next door your pal routine. GIVE ME A BREAK MARK. Who cares what Trump said to you, why don’t you try to do somthing more meaningful with your life. I know that I will be rich one day, and I am sure you knew you would be too, it’s not all luck it’s a level of confidence and knowing your going to work harder then the next guy, but I tell you what when i get RICH I wont waste my time bullshiting on the Internet. i will try to make a difference in peoples lives not brag about myself all night.

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  47. The company required all TSEs to commit to 12 months (6 months at a bare minimum) before they could muster out to a different job within the organization. This rule was in place for two reasons: 1) because the work was so dreadful that nobody talented would stay otherwise 2) because the organization was run like the military by an ex-Colonel.

    Comment by runescape money -

  48. hi!

    It feels like I’m going through the same things in my life at this time (job wise). Not only are these entries entertaining and interesting… but they’re actually pretty uplifting and inspiring.

    Can’t wait for the next entry, until then I have to prepare for work… managing the local pizza chain. *sigh*

    Comment by tadalafil -

  49. Hello

    Your words do inspire!
    I’ve encouraged both of my sons (age 21 and 25) to read your entries…as they pursue their education and contemplate the direction for their future.
    Looking forward to part 3!!

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