(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
Unlike some of his Shark Tank colleagues, Mark Cuban is not out shilling corporate products, accepting sponsorship dollars or collecting appearance and speaking fees. Instead, when he’s not running an NBA team or overseeing a myriad of other investments, Cuban has been making a point of getting himself publicly involved in issues that affect small businesses around the US.
He is an entrepreneur and business person who has been vocal about things that affect other entrepreneurs and business persons like him. And he’s not afraid to share his opinions, which is what he did on a recent podcast discussion I had with him. Below are some of his thoughts on the big issues of today, from Covid-19 to the future of restaurants.
On the future, post-Covid
I don’t think we’re going to see any wholesale change in attitude whatsoever when we get to the other side of this, hopefully sooner rather than later. It won’t be business as usual, but I think the smart companies are realizing that trends – like the impact on traditional retail – that existed pre-Covid have been accelerated dramatically. Every business, no matter who runs it, faces ongoing change. The only constant of business is change. The only constant in life is change.
On stimulus payments
My personal preference is that we do another stimulus and that we expand the unemployment insurance premiums or Cares bonus, but not at $600. I want to see both on a more targeted basis. We need to make sure that if you don’t spend it within some period of time – 30 days, let’s say – that direct deposit gets reversed out and that check is canceled, because we need them to spend it.
On entrepreneurs taking money from the government
I think it was [NYU] Professor Scott Galloway who said that entrepreneurs are capitalists when business is good and socialists when business is bad. You want to survive first. So when you have such a unique situation like we’re facing now, it’s not surprising to me at all that we have entrepreneurs just asking for any help from anywhere just to survive.
On minority business owners
Most minority businesses don’t have traditional support systems in place, and they’re very much local. That’s not to say these companies don’t grow, and some excel and do incredible things, but the preponderance of businesses owned by people of color are the bootstrap startups that sell locally and they don’t have the CPAs, lawyers or relationships with bankers to help guide them. Many also don’t have relationships with bankers, which really showed when it came to the paycheck protection program (PPP).
Hopefully a lot of these community banks will learn from that and a lot of people of color who are starting businesses will see these things surface online and guide them to working with smaller banks rather than larger banks.
Hell yes, they dropped the ball (when giving out PPP loans), but now I understand why, because they were concerned that we could see a repeat of what happened in 2008 and 2009. When the PPP was announced, I said to some of the bigger banks I work with, “You do realize this is the first time in the history of mankind where you’re allowed to go out and acquire customers, small businesses, and tell them you want to give them money and if they do A, B and C, they don’t have to pay it back! Why are you not out there recruiting every business possible to increase your customer base?”
No big business, no big bank undertook that. Small banks did, community banks did, but the big banks didn’t care and that says everything.
On forgiving PPP loans
Yeah, I think these should be forgiven, whether it’s $150k or $200k, whatever that number is, because from an efficiency and a productivity standpoint, for the banking industry, you reduce the agita for all those small businesses who don’t know what to do, because they don’t know if their loans are going to be forgiven.
On the future of restaurants
Do we want to be in a position where you protect these legacy businesses when they’re still going to have to redesign themselves, even when we get to the other side of the vaccine, or do you just let them declare bankruptcy and start again with whatever, wherever they need to be. I talked to one of my friends in Chicago that owns a local restaurant and he said he took out his in-room dining and just went takeout and delivery. He’s making more money.
On limiting business liability
I would be pro-limited liability, where you (the small business owner) just have to have really made some mistakes that you knew you were making and you just ignored them, in order to be liable.
On mandated paid time off and minimum wage
I think it ends up being a net positive for small business, even though you may have three employees and you’re dependent on all three of them and one of them gets pregnant, male or female, is becoming a dad and they want to take that time off. That’s just the price of poker these days, right? You know, it’s really what it’s going to take to have a productive society because the flip side is when people can’t work and don’t have income it diminishes the whole community, and so my attitude on all these things is as long as everybody’s playing by the same rules, whether it’s a minimum wage amount, whether it’s extended leave, whatever it may be, then I’m good to go.
On working from home
I’ve been working at home for 15 years and I said it over and over again: I’m not doing a meeting unless someone’s writing me a check. Is that going to mean that localized businesses particularly in urban areas and office buildings are going to get hurt? Unfortunately yes, but again, we used to be an agrarian economy and all that ecosystem with support for an agrarian system, that’s gone. Localization is gone and when you have creative destruction like this, this is part of what happens.
The upcoming elections
Ignore politics. I mean, go vote. Yeah, go vote, but run your business. Every minute you spend focusing, getting upset or getting amped up about what’s happening with this election is non-productive time. Just go out there and do what you do, do what makes you successful and try to do as much of it as you can so while everybody else is, all caught up.
This conversation was edited for clarity