Success and Motivation P4

You never quite know in business if what you are doing is the right or wrong thing. Unfortunately, by the time you know the answer, someone has beaten you to it and you are out of business. I used to tell myself that it was ok to make little mistakes, just don’t make the big ones. I would continuously search for new ideas. I read every book and magazine I could. Heck, 3 bucks for a magazine, 20 bucks for a book. One good idea that lead to a customer or solution and it paid for itself many times over. Some of the ideas i read were good, some not. In doing all the reading I learned a valuable lesson.

Everything I read was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people didn’t want it.

I remember going into customers or talking to people in the industry and tossing out tidbits about software or hardware. Features that worked, bugs in the software. All things I had read. I expected the ongoing response of “Oh yeah, I read that too in such-and-such.” That’s not what happened. They hadn’t read it then, and they haven’t started reading yet.

Most people won’t put in the time to get a knowledge advantage. Sure, there were folks that worked hard at picking up every bit of information that they could, but we were few and far between. To this day, I feel like if I put in enough time consuming all the information available, particularly with the net making it so readily available, I can get an advantage in any technology business. Of course my wife hates that I read more than 3 hours almost every day, but it gives me a level of comfort and confidence in my businesses. AT MicroSolutions it gave me a huge advantage. A guy with little computer background could compete with far more experienced guys just because I put in the time to learn all I could.

I learned from magazines and books, but I also learned from watching what some of the up and coming technology companies of the day were doing. Its funny how the companies that I thought were brilliant then, are still racking it up today.

Every week a company called PCs Limited used to take a full-page ad in a weekly trade magazine called PC Week. The ad would feature PC peripherals that the company would sell. Hard Drives. Memory. Floppy Drives. Graphics Cards. Whatever could be added to a PC was there. What made the ad so special was that each and every week the prices got lower. If a drive was 2,000 dollars last week, it was $ 1940 this week. For the first time in any industry that I knew of, we were seeing vendors pass on price savings to customers.

The PC Limited ads became the “market price” for peripherals. I looked for the ad every week. In fact, I became a customer. I was in Dallas. They were in Austin.

I remember driving down to pick up some hard drives that I was going to put into my customers PCs. I had no idea up to that point, but it turns out that they had just moved from the owner’s dorm room into a little office/warehouse space. I was so impressed by this young kid (I was a wise old 25 at the time), that I actually wrote a letter thanking him for the great job he was doing, and…I’m embarassed to say now, I told him that if he kept up what he was doing he was destined for far bigger and better things.

I kept on doing business with PCs Limited, and Michael Dell kept on doing what he was doing. I dont think he really needed my encouragement, but i have since told him that I thought his weekly full page ads with ever declining prices, changed the PC industry and were the first of many genius moves on his part.

Michael wasn’t the only smart one in those days.

One of the PC industry’s annual rituals was the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas. Every November, it was the only 3 days I knew I would get away and get a break from the office. It was work during the day. Visiting all the new technology booths. Trying to get better pricing from vendors. Trying to find out where the best parties were. If you could believe it, back in those days, the number one party was the Microsoft party. I sold some Microsoft products, so I could get in.

One particular year, I was on my way to having a memorable night. I had met some very, very attractive women (I swear they were). Got them some tickets to come with me to the big party. All is good. I’m having fun. They are having fun. Then we see him. Bill G. As in Bill Gates dancing up a storm. I’m a Bill Gates fan, so I wont describe his dancing, but he was definitely having fun.

At that point in time, Microsoft had gone public and Bill Gates was Bill Gates. If you were in the business you knew him or knew of him. The girls I was with were in the business. Long story short, I went to the bar to get some drinks for all us, I come back, they aren’t there. Come to find out the next day, Bill stole my girls. As I would learn later in life, money does make you extremely handsome. :)

Bill G also taught me a few things about business. Put aside how he killed IBM at their own game by licensing PC DOS to anyone that wanted it. What MicroSoft did to knock Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect off their thrones was literally business at its best.

At that point in time, software was expensive. WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 both sold for $495 and their publishers were proud of that fact. In order to be able to sell Lotus 1-2-3, you had to go to special training to become authorized. How crazy does that sound now going to a special class to be able to sell a spreadsheet. WordPerfect wasn’t quite as bad, but they had their own idiosyncrasies as well. Meanwhile, Microsoft was on the outside looking in. Excel, Word, Powerpoint were all far down the list of top sellers until lightning struck.

Microsoft decided to go against industry protocol and package those 3 programs as a suite and offer them as an upgrade to competitors’ products for the low, low price of 99 dollars. Of course you needed to have and use Windows for it to work, but in a time when people were buying new PCs with every dramatic increase in power and decrease in price, it was a natural move for us at MicroSolutions to sell the bundle. It made the effective price of the PC and software together far, far lower. We loved it. It also taught me several big lessons.

Always ask yourself how someone could preempt your products or service. How can they put you out of business? Is it price? Is it service? Is it ease of use? No product is perfect and if there are good competitors in your market, they will figure out how to abuse you. It’s always better if you are honest with yourself and anticipate where the problems will come from.

The 2nd lesson is to always run your business like you are going to be competing with Microsoft. They may not be your direct competitor. They may be a vendor. They may be a direct competitor and a vendor. Whatever they may be to your business, if you are in the technology business, you have to anticipate that you will in some way have to compete with Microsoft at some point. I ask myself every week what I would do if they entered any of my businesses. If you are ready to compete with Microsoft, you are ready to compete with anyone else.

Watching the best taught me how to run my businesses. Along the way I taught myself a few things those come next blog.

56 thoughts on “Success and Motivation P4

  1. Mark,

    It\’s funny … I originally stumbled accross your blog (Part 1), I read your story and it interested me because it was similar to mine and just so you know where I\’m going with this here is my previous post:

    Your story begins a lot like mine … driving past the houses, reading the books and magazines … I\’ve done all that and more – one difference though … my apartment was smaller :)! At this point I don\’t know how your story unfolds …

    hopefully your strong desire and constant quest towards more paid off … I know for me it did, I now live in the houses, drive the cars, have the vacations and way more play time than work time and very few worries! I am happy to admit though that my fascination with money and success has never changed … I still like to know how other people with money made their money and there is always a bigger, more expensive house or car that you can keep your eye on and besides that is part of the fun!

    One other thing that I always have had an interest in is what is the difference between people … why is it that you can have 2 people from the same background, same race, same age and education level and one will be trading their time for $25,000 a year and the other can find a way to trade their time for a million plus a year … after a lot of research, asking a lot of questions and basically studying how people live on daily basis I found out some interesting facts …

    Most people spend their entire lives attempting to get more money than they already have … some are highly successful, but the vast majority of the population are never able to achieve financial freedom and this is because most people don\’t understand how it works. You must change how you think about yourself and about money to increase your income potential. You have to realize that the amount of money you make during your lifetime is determined by the way you think.

    Learning the truth will put you on the path to financial freedom!

    After posting I went on to find your other pages and was amazed to find out that your connection to the Mavericks! Yes I am embarrassed to admit I did not know … I am a huge football fan and a big boxing fan, but I have never really kept up with basketball names, owners or games. In any case I then told my Husband about the blog (he was born and raised in Dallas!) and he did know!

    I am always interested in other peoples success and I wanted to say that I was inspired by the outcome of your story and it\’s great that you take the time to share it with others because that is how success is passed along to others … through stories that inspire!

    http://www.incometoday.net

    Comment by Income Today -

  2. Thanks, great stuff,

    To your success,
    Tracy Ho
    wisdomgettingloaded

    Comment by tracyho -

  3. The passion was in there eyes as it is in you. Funny how they dropped out of college and followed there dream with passion and have everyone looking to see what there next move is. ts wrong thinks

    Comment by sam -

  4. Mark,

    I think information is almost always a good thing, but with the presence of the net it can be like a drinking water from a fire hydrant.
    As you are, I am like a sponge for informtion, but it can also be a bad thing. There is so much information so readily available that you must be able to filter only what you need, otherwise there can be information overload.
    The ability to use the available tools on the net to gather only the information you need is the key. I would think that this type of feature would only enhance a MAMA search engine in it’s battle with the pure search engines and portals.

    Comment by Ken -

  5. Love the article, not only informative but funny. How many of us are living the dream through your articles and actions on the basketball court? Keep them comming!

    Comment by Shannon Kennedy -

  6. Pam, I would add the word actionable to your post. I think that if you can find knowledge that is actionable to your business, then it gives you an advantage and helps you prepare.

    I have found it to be the key to my success, and I think it will continue to be.

    Comment by Jason -

  7. I helped start a high-tech telecom equipment company.
    I read EVERYTHING I could find. It wasn’t long before i knew more than my Engineers and PHD’s as far as the marketplace was concerned.
    To my surprise and disbelief I soon learned that virtually NOONE I mean NONE in Telcom knowswhat the F##% is going on in thier own networks.
    My question is ” How does one politely tell a customer they are wrong?” Incumbent Engineers will defend to the death and will almost never admit they arte wrong.
    Little help here?

    Comment by DeepT -

  8. It all goes back to that book, “Bill Gates Speaks”. Pg 92!.. “Even the giants of our time missed some great ideas.”..We’re all genius’s, we just have to figure out how to use that 90% of the brain we don’t use!..Har!..I love what you just wrote here, Mark!.. The key is to take the idea and smoke everyone before they nip you at the heels!..To hear you say it, makes sense that I need to have a strong utility patent.. My idea or invention is so simple, why nobody has thought it, beats me..Edison said it, “Genius is 99% perspiration, and 1% inspiration”. One of his work weeks was 111 hrs, saw one of his time cards on the learning channels.. Thanks again Mark, back to the grinding board!.. The River Kid..

    Comment by ShadNet -

  9. Knowledge is the key to success.
    Reading, seminars, conferences, networking,etc.
    Also remember, you never know it all. There will always be somthing new or someone coming up with somthing you never even thought of.
    Your right Mark, know your compitition, get into their mind, and use that info to your advantage.
    Thanks Mark,waiting for part 5.

    Comment by Pam -

  10. Very Good read I went hunting for part 1,2 and 3 will have to read them tonight looking forward to it :)

    Comment by Dotwind Solutions -

  11. I remember visiting Comdex. When I worked for Winnov I drove a van there and hand-carried in all of our booth to save $3000 in drayage charges.

    I love your blog. Keep it up!

    Comment by Robert Scoble -

  12. It would be nice to hear how you dealt with negative people? The people who you never wasted breath on probably.

    Comment by Private -

  13. Good reading. I understand Michael Dell has that letter framed in the Dell Hqts. executive lobby. First stop on the new hire tour.
    Looking forward to part 5.
    Mike

    Comment by Mike -

  14. The Success and Motivation series is FANTASTIC!!! For all those that keep asking when Mark is going to write a book…you have it right here. For all of us aspiring to be successful, remember you’re roots…this is the most important lesson I’ve personally taken from Mark. I look forward to P5 and beyond!!!
    As far as Bill Gates goes…maybe we should all start playing poker more often… ;-)

    Comment by jehrig -

  15. It’s funny how people just don’t read anymore. Especially when you’re in a small business or trying to get in business. Did you often reveal your source of knowledge for bugs or the such? Or did you just leave it to the client to make judgment.

    Comment by Corey -

  16. Just love the behind the scenes stuff you are dishing out Mark. Great reading. For somebody trying to start up something new (im in software and hardware biz) but looking to get out and start my own thing, the business insight is great. But please I WANT A CHAMPIONSHIP PLEASE!!!!!!

    Darren

    Comment by Darren Saul -

  17. Now maybe you can tell us how you got Yahoo to buy Broadcast.com for 5 billion before all hell broke loose on the dot.com industry

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  18. I was so wrong. This is relevant to everyone’s occupation and life in general and it makes me want to read those industry journals that I was convinced were a waste of time before. I really hate being wrong, but if I’m going to have it pointed out to me that I’m wrong, I’ll take it from you any day. Also, I’d love to hear your answers to some of the questions some of the other posters had.

    Comment by runescape money -

  19. Mark thanks for your words you inspire !!

    Comment by Luis Diaz -

  20. Hello!!! :D

    Love the article, not only informative but funny. How many of us are living the dream through your articles and actions on the basketball court? Keep them comming!

    Comment by tadalafil -

  21. Very Great Work

    Very Good read I went hunting for part 1,2 and 3 will have to read them tonight looking forward to it :)

    Comment by comprar proscar -

  22. interesting post

    Comment by partitions musique -

  23. Mark – Thanks for the post, great insight into what makes you tick. I will be working over the weekend, and these posts will be in my head… Thanks again… BTW, have you done a book yet?

    KD

    Comment by KD -

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    Comment by international phone card -

  27. Great article and excellent points about knowledge. Seems you really have to learn to read between the lines though. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of learning to look deeper than most people are willing to.

    Comment by Tom Busch -

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  29. I always believe a small success leads to bigger things if you act when you feel inspired and powerful in that peak moment – instead of easing up and getting complacent.

    Comment by Peter -

  30. Mark,
    I work in the PC industry and closely to the Microsoft world. I hear both sides of the story of MS being a world dominating software bully to MS helping the lives of many people and helping the economy. I see the benefits of free software and not so free software. I dabble in both worlds. I don’t intend to open up this can of worms of a monopoly debate but It’s pretty pain and simple. Someone is going to lead the industry and that someone is MS. Whoever you are and whatever you do, if your the leader of the pack there will be someone out to take your place, especially if your a competitor. Although my parents own a small mom and pop cafe I kind of don’t care much for Starbucks. At the same time, because my parents are business people, they find Starbucks weaknesses and institute that into their business. I totally agree with you, “run your business like you are going to be competing with Microsoft.” “If you are ready to compete with Microsoft, you are ready to compete with anyone else.” Beautiful baby, beautiful. Keep it comin.

    Comment by Jerry -

  31. Mark you are one of the best example of american dream.I have to admit that i am your huge fan.You are the proof ,that with right attitude,bold moves,relentless determination you can make it big.
    Thanks and god bless you

    Comment by Taipan -

  32. Great stuff!
    I have read your papers about stock market, and I have to say they are salo inspiring!
    Thanks!

    Comment by corerouter -

  33. Of course… both Dell and Microsoft are great examples of disruptive companies.

    Move into existing markets with a product that is either cheaper, more convenient, or both. Dell noticed that people weren’t willing to pay premium prices for what was becoming commodity hardware, and so his innovation was a direct sales business which disrupted the conventional retail market.

    Microsoft both disrupted the low end of existing markets, and created a new market for it’s software by selling a product at a lower price which contained fewer features, but only those features that really mattered to it’s customers.

    What’s the key? Identifying overserved customers and developing a business plan which serves those cumster’s needs at a lower price point.

    Where is it happening right now? Everywhere… notably the CRM/ERP software market.

    Comment by Dan Martin -

  34. Was it intentional that you included both Dell and Microsoft, and didn’t tell us what you found in both? In your example of Michael Dell, where he kept cutting the prices at every new ad cycle, the market became his price. He knew that price was his advantage, so he made the market move to price, not superior quality (how many sigmas before it’s perfect?), not brand (until after he established it with good quality at an incredible price), etc.

    Bill Gates did the same thing with his suite, that worked with everything, and kept enhancing faster than competition could, at an unbeatable price.

    Neither Dell nor Gates sacrificed product for price, but kept the price point below the competitor profit point. Their products were as good if not better, but cheaper, too!

    Microsoft did it quietly, but I think the results and the process were very similar. As you said, “I ask myself every week what I would do if they entered any of my businesses.” There is truth in the answers.

    Comment by Kevin -

  35. I have been following your Success and Motivation series for a few weeks now, and I just had to congratulate you on the great entries you have written thus far. I think that everyone stands to learn a considerable amount from your experiences. If only I could be a fly on the wall for a few weeks… Keep the entries coming!

    Comment by Raven Brooks -

  36. Thanks mark for you blog. You certainly share with us a world of knowledge, and most of all, your passion. Desire to succed certainly plays a major role, as well as having to pay bills and being hungry. But all this falls again under passion. Passion is what makes everyone successful, and if you look at bill gates, and michael dell. The passion was in there eyes as it is in you. Funny how they dropped out of college and followed there dream with passion and have everyone looking to see what there next move is.

    Comment by chris -

  37. Thanks mark for you blog. You certainly share with us a world of knowledge, and most of all, your passion. Desire to succed certainly plays a major role, as well as having to pay bills and being hungry. But all this falls again under passion. Passion is what makes everyone successful, and if you look at bill gates, and michael dell. The passion was in there eyes as it is in you. Funny how they dropped out of college and followed there dream with passion and have everyone looking to see what there next move is.

    Comment by chris pena -

  38. Mark,

    I’ve always been a fan of yours and the MAVS. I’m not in a typical business/corporate job, so at first I didn’t think the success & motivation series would be applicable to me. I was so wrong. This is relevant to everyone’s occupation and life in general and it makes me want to read those industry journals that I was convinced were a waste of time before. I really hate being wrong, but if I’m going to have it pointed out to me that I’m wrong, I’ll take it from you any day. Also, I’d love to hear your answers to some of the questions some of the other posters had.

    P.S. Can’t wait for the Benefactor! I heard we have to wait longer because it’s just too darn good for summer TV.

    Comment by Di -

  39. mark, thanks for the post! i also spend hours reading magazines and books and people wonder why the hell i’m reading business, marketing and retail books when i am a trained engineer. hey, i come up with business ideas every time i read something new and i’m gonna be taking all this knowledge along w/my skills to make something out of it. thanks for the tales, tips and inspiration! i hate working for da man and i’m gonna go out on my own very soon!

    Comment by J. Beltran -

  40. Corey, as I said, on http://www.gamematters.com you will find a list of several must-read biz bibles. These lay the foundation. The two most important are:

    Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

    and

    Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It.

    I credit these two books most for help make me a multi-deca-millionaire. I recommend all of the books by Jack Trout and Al Ries, there’s about 12 total, written as a team and written after they split apart. The latest, by Al Ries, is just out: The Origin of Brands.

    Best of luck.

    Comment by Scott Miller -

  41. I am so excited to find your blog. I recently read an article about you and what you did before founding BroadCast.com with MicroSolutions. It mentioned just as you did that you did not have the background as others with them, but you accomplished great things at MicroSolutions. It is great you are taking the time to share your business knowledge and experiences with others. I totally agree with you that knowledge is power.

    Comment by Gary Miller -

  42. Yo Mark, I just like to tell u that I harsh wasted my money (well my friends did, cuz they bought be the book) on TRUMP: HOW TO GET RICH, the things he says are pretty much superficial, but your posts here gave me examples on just how to be successful by using the skills u mentioned for business in general.

    And oh yeah, max out my boi Steveie Nash, we from the same province man!

    Laters
    Airick, Vancouver

    Comment by Airick -

  43. Never tell a customer they are wrong unless you have a solid relationship. Rather, it would be to lead them to the flaws in their own system through a series of questions designed to expose the flaw or weakness.

    The customer is always right. You just have to find the words that you want them to say sometimes.

    Comment by Private -

  44. Your energy and ambition are contagious. I only hope that you have obtained peace and happiness in addition to your success in business. I mean that sincerely and definitely not in a religious sense. Keep posting. I’m starting to feel good about the Mavericks although the Hornets have a special place.

    Comment by Craig -

  45. Thanks Mark for the Success and Motivation blogs. I absolutely love this blog series. They are didactic and I’ve learned so much from your entries. Please keep it UP!

    Comment by Ron W -

  46. You got an idea for a business. What would be the first thing you would do?

    Comment by Michael -

  47. “On the right side of my blog, I list several of the all-time best biz and marketing books I’ve read — the ones I consider “bibles.”

    Scott Miller, or anyone else who can help! What books would you recommend as must reads in order to start up my own business. I want to delve into them soon. Thanks Mark for the motivation.

    Comment by Corey Wilson -

  48. I read a book every two days, 80% non-fiction. Reading has given me a huge advantage in my business (I own a $100+ million computer entertainment company, in Dallas). Like Mark, I began in my early 20′s reading voraciously, books and magazines. For any entrepreneur, unless you read and build your knowledge, you have severely undercut your chances. School will only teach you a little — you must self-educate to have any chance.

    On the right side of my blog, I list several of the all-time best biz and marketing books I’ve read — the ones I consider “bibles.”

    Comment by Scott Miller -

  49. I love your Success and Motivation blogs. It has inspired me to read more and essentially do more to shape myself into a future business leader. I can’t wait till Part 5!

    I love the Dell-Cuban connection. Maybe we’ll see that take off w/ perhaps a business venture?

    Thanks Mark!
    Oh and a Championship would be sweet too.

    Comment by Prem Panchal -

  50. Hey Mark,

    I bought the number because you recommended it, and I plan on reading it soon. I was thinking maybe you should write a book or an autobiography so that everyone can learn from your mistakes and failures.

    D

    Comment by David Chen -

  51. Bill Gates definitely should let us in on what individuals helped him make those landmark decisions. When you think back at what he did to IBM and WordPerfect, it was like getting Shaq for a free agent. Amazing blog Mark. Now maybe you can tell us how you got Yahoo to buy Broadcast.com for 5 billion before all hell broke loose on the dot.com industry

    Comment by Maurice Riley -

  52. Mark,

    Robert Cringley wrote an article a couple months ago (http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20040415.html) about competing with Microsoft. His argument was that the only way to compete with Microsoft is to ignore them. The jist is, if you are always looking toward Microsoft as you competition, you’ve already lost to them. Your thoughts?

    Great blog keep it up.

    Comment by Ryan Anderson -

  53. I read all the time.

    Great stuff.

    Comment by Patrick O'Keefe -

  54. This is easily the best post yet. Like you, I constantly scour for information in any source I can find. RSS has been a lifesaver for me. I can consolidate and filter news and also look at huge lists of unfiltered feeds to get new data.
    Thanks so much for this great post and for making your blog available via RSS so I can integrate it into my daily information hunt.

    Comment by Joe Schueller -

  55. Perhaps it wasn’t your wealth that made you so attractive to the “good looking girls.” Maybe they had seen your work in the film industry and recognized you, hm?

    And yeah, the MFFL’s all want a ring. Grab Van Exel while you can. Don’t make me start a petition.

    Comment by Brett -

  56. “Most people wont put in the time to get a knowledge advantage”. This never ceases to amaze me when I walk into a casino. Knowing that the house holds an advantage (but loving to gamble), I’ve read many articles & books on blackjack & craps. Though I’m not (yet) disciplined to practice enough where I’m able to keep a consistent count, it wouldn’t take the average better very long to learn the basic strategy of blackjack. However, most people I encounter would rather play on a hunch and give me pointers or tell me what I’m doing wrong. Go figure.

    Comment by ku -

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