Shark Tank popped the champagne in a special February 2017 episode featuring millennial entrepreneurs. ABC’s hit business reality show is celebrating $100 million in deals made on air after eight seasons and 600 pitches.
Of course, viewers must take this vanity metric with the proverbial grain of salt. The show does not keep track of which deals go through because it’s considered “confidential to the Shark and the entrepreneur,” said one of the show’s representatives.
Nevertheless, in honor of the $100 million milestones, one of Mark Cuban’s business partners — Shaan Patel — is sharing the six greatest lessons he’s learned after a year of working with the self-made billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner. The 27-year-old scored a $250K investment from Cuban in a January 2016 episode for his test-preparation business, Prep Expert SAT & ACT Preparation. Since going on Shark Tank, it has raked in more than $7 million in sales from classes, books, and licensed video courses.
- “There is no replacement for hard work.”
The most common question people ask Patel is “How’s working with Mark Cuban?” Despite having a large staff and investments in dozens of companies, Cuban is very hands-on and works directly with his entrepreneurs. Cuban and Patel communicate weekly.
“Whether it is marketing, strategic partnerships, business development, or even responding to customers, Mark is uber-responsive,” said Patel. “Mark is not afraid of getting his hands dirty working — probably a result of his years of building successful businesses — and neither should other entrepreneurs.”
- “Always be humble.”
Cuban doesn’t let the fact that he’s a TV star, championship basketball team owner and tech icon worth $3.3 billion get to his head. He’s very modest. Patel recommends you always remain humble no matter how stratospheric your success.
“In all of my interactions with Mark, he has been nothing but gracious and down-to-earth,” said Patel. “I feel ashamed when I start feeling too proud of my small accomplishments when I think about how humble Mark is about his.
“In fact, a friend of mine recently ran into Mark Cuban at the American Music Awards and asked to take a picture with him. Mark’s response was, ‘Are you sure you want a picture with me? There are so many more famous people here.’”
- “Numbers don’t lie.”
You should use data to make business decisions — not your hunches.
Patel was inspired to write a personal-development book after Mark dubbed him “a young Tony Robbins” on Shark Tank. Patel initially wanted to call his book “SuperHuman.” But Cuban thought it sounded too arrogant and told him to come up with other titles.
So Patel used the same technique as Tim Ferriss, the best-selling author of The 4 Hour Work Week, to come up with the best title for his personal-development book. Like Ferriss, Patel spent $200 on Google Adwords to split test 10 different possible book titles to see which ones people clicked on the most. The results showed Patel he should title his book, Self-Made Success.
“Today, Self-Made Success: Ivy League Shark Tank Entrepreneur Reveals 48 Secret Strategies To Live Happier, Healthier, And Wealthier has sold thousands of copies in its first year of publication, and I have Mark to thank,” said Patel. “Use data-driven analytics to inform decision-making in your business. It takes the guesswork out.”
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- “Have a big vision.”
Cuban encourages Patel to see how Prep Expert can go beyond being a standardized-test prep school. Cuban challenges his mentee to visualize it being one of the world’s largest educational companies. They turned down a deal with a major publisher and decided to create their own publishing company. Their first self-published book, How Any Kid Can Start a Business, is set to debut later this year.
“I would not have had this belief myself if Mark had not encouraged me to think bigger than test-prep,” said Patel. “Most authors would be worried about losing a large publishing deal by going the self-publishing route. Not Mark. He has a bigger vision than most authors and entrepreneurs.”
“The only thing holding your business back is your self-limiting vision,” Patel added.
- “Relate to your audience.”
Cuban and Patel visited a low-income middle school in Las Vegas, where Prep Expert was working and filming a Shark Tank update. The students seemed to be as excited about Patel’s talk about college and scholarships as a Sunday sermon. Unlike Patel, Cuban managed to fire up the students by first talking about the video game Pokemon Go.
“Mark knew his audience. He immediately connected with the kids because he related to things they could relate to,” said Patel. “Always make sure to understand your audience, or in business, your customers.”
- “Give back.”
Cuban loves giving back and is an avid philanthropist with his foundation named for himself. He hooked Patel up with Dallas Mavericks player Charlie Villanueva, who suffers from alopecia universalis, to talk with kids at Camp Wonder. Patel thought it would be inspiring for kids who suffer from skin diseases to meet with a celebrity who has lost all of the hair on his head and body.
“Mark immediately put me in touch with Villanueva, and he is set to speak at Camp Wonder 2017,” said Patel. “As your success opens up doors for you, don’t forget to open up doors for others.”
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