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Lessons from Mark Cuban: Building Trust and Transparency in Business

shark tank-small business-cost plus drugs
shark tank-small business-cost plus drugs
Mark Cuban | Photo courtesy of Mark Cuban

Entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban shares his tips for standing out in a competitive marketplace as a small business owner.

Can you share a bit about your journey in entrepreneurship and what inspired you to start your first business?

My first real company was called Microsolutions. We were a PC and software systems integrator. We connected your PCs to a network and wrote software to improve your office productivity. 

I started the company out of necessity.  I had just gotten fired from my software job. I was broke living with five other guys in a three-bedroom apartment. I decided I was a lousy employee and pushed to find a customer to help me get started. I found one, and the rest was history.

Over the next seven years, we grew to 80 employees and $35 million in sales. We sold to H&R Block after seven years. I was 30 and took a well-deserved vacation that I hadn’t taken in seven years.

What are the technologies that new small business owners should invest in to better run their businesses?

It really depends on the company. You have to do your homework to determine what mix of mobile and cloud-based apps works best for your company. Particularly with so much changing with AI large language models like ChatGPT and Gemini, it’s worth it to take your time, do your homework, and find the right solution that you can afford.

Can you share a memorable experience or lesson from your journey in entrepreneurship that has shaped your approach to business?

I’m a big believer in solution selling. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the customer. I can’t tell you how many times and how many hours I spent trying to learn as much as I could about the pharmaceutical industry for Cost Plus Drugs. I dug in and realized that the missing ingredient wasn’t technology. What was missing was trust. No one trusts anyone in the drug business. 

With Cost Plus Drugs, we decided to be the first truly transparent company in the industry. When you go to and put in the name of your medication, we first show you our cost — our actual cost. Then we show you that our markup is only 15%. Next, we show you our actual pharmacy and shipping costs. The total is what you pay, and more often than not, it’s the cheapest price available. It may even be cheaper than your insurance copay or coinsurance.

The transparency led customers to trust us.  The low markups showed customers that we were much cheaper than others. Being far less expensive was an incentive for customers to tell their peers how much they saved with Cost Plus Drugs. The lesson learned is that when your customers trust you, they tell others. As a result, Cost Plus Dugs has never spent a nickel on marketing.

How can small business owners leverage their strengths and unique selling points to stand out in a competitive market?

As above, all businesses need the trust of their customers to stand apart. In this day and age, we trust fewer and fewer businesses and organizations. Transparency and honesty are the keys to keeping your customers happy.

What motivates you to continue supporting and investing in small businesses?

I love helping startups. It’s the whole reason I do “Shark Tank.” I’m still a huge believer in the American dream. I want to see more and more entrepreneurs succeed!

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