Owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, star of the long-running ABC reality show Shark Tank, co-owner of a media and entertainment company producing multiple critically-acclaimed and award-winning films, and one of the most exemplary and successful entrepreneurs in the world – on paper, Mark Cuban appears to live in a different world. Even considering his unparalleled generosity, mensch-like business models, and general palpable empathy, it would be easy to feel that Cuban must breathe different air, drink different water, and walk secret streets. But in the midst of a global pandemic, his day-to-day life doesn’t look entirely different from those of the rest of us with non-essential jobs. We may not have to respond to murmurs of potential presidential plans, or be in the fortunate position of compensating and supporting our quarantined employees without a second thought, but Cuban has mostly been at home, in Dallas, Texas, struggling to come up with at-home family fun night ideas. (Also, Shark Tank has recently headed back to production after a coronavirus-related shutdown.)
As we’ve heard time after time from our heroes on the frontlines of COVID-19, nobody is above this virus. Unless you’ve already fought it, or have been asymptomatic (and therefore may put others at risk if not practicing social distancing), you are susceptible to a very dangerous illness. The fear, uneasiness, and sadness have been universal. The numbers have been stacked, so it is likely that you have known someone or have heard of someone within your circle suffering. “That part of it has been the toughest of all – watching friends and their families suffer through it,” says Cuban, who also confirms that status, fame, or fortune has nothing to do with personal preparedness for a crisis like this. “No one can ever be prepared for this. We can talk all we want about ‘planning for the worst and hoping for the best,’ but the worst we planned for was never as bad as this.”
Cuban’s character truly shines when asked for advice and reassurance regarding the post-COVID future of vulnerable businesses. He shares wisdom with an unflappable but genuine kind of confidence. His spirit of fully supporting business owners in need is rooted in personal experience. “I know what it’s like to be an entrepreneur who is on the verge of losing everything, or who has lost everything. Having been through the tough times, I hope my experiences can help others,” he says. According to Cuban, the most effective way to help people is “paying them.” What may seem almost comically simple couldn’t be more legitimate and true. “As an employee, it’s about trying to pay your bills and keep yourself and family safe,” he adds. For business owners and entrepreneurs who have employees relying on them and are not in the fortunate position of having excess funds, his advice is equally as simple and sound. “First and foremost is the truth. Business is all about trying to anticipate the future, so you can best innovate for and serve your customers, no matter what your business does. Right now, we are working with imperfect information. No one knows exactly what will happen. The best thing we can do is to communicate, be transparent, and be truthful about what is going on,” he says.
Cuban is not only paying attention to entrepreneurs and business owners, but is also considering independent and gig-economy workers. He feels that, for artists and their communities, who have been heavily hit, the CARES Act has not been perfect, but it’s been better than nothing. “Hopefully, there will be more stimulus measures for all independent workers. Beyond stimulus measures, we need people who can afford it to buy works of art and music,” says Cuban. “There are also people who work in direct contact with others – masseuses, stylists, barbers, music teachers, etc. I’ve reached out to those that our family works with and pre-purchased future services as a way of helping, and have encouraged others to do the same.”
While Cuban asks himself a lot of questions that nobody knows the answers to yet (“How will America 2.0 do business? What will be the same? What will be different? What new kind of businesses will emerge? How will employees feel about going to work? Will they want to return to their former jobs? What happens if those jobs are gone?”), he is absolutely optimistic: “Where there is change, there is opportunity. There is a new generation who will see this and remix what they learned from the past with their vision for the future. I see my and other kids ready to take the lead on what comes next. I trust them and am excited for what they can do. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘We don’t live in the world we were born into.’ Our kids will look back and marvel at how they were able to change the world for the better,” he affirms.
Writer: Mia Fitzgibbon
Photographer & Videographer: Ron Contarsy (for Highmark Studios)
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)