Mark Cuban Q&A: How to help small businesses survive coronavirus

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Businessman Mark Cuban has never been the guy to hold back whenever he sees something unfair, flawed, and shady or, if he’s sitting courtside, a foul.

The Dallas Mavericks owner and Pittsburgh native was one of the first owners of a professional sports team to pledge to support hourly arena workers after the NBA was suspended indefinitely. Not only that, but the Mavericks organization and some of the players are now paying for child care for the healthcare workers who are on the front lines fighting against the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday morning, he didn’t hesitate to call out Congress for their shameless politics in failing to provide relief for a frightened country, tweet-shaming both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican: “BOTH OF YOU NEED TO DO YOUR F—ING JOB!”

His tweet voiced the same frustrations many feel about what seemed to be a bipartisan package that swiftly became a wish list of ideological prizes.

In times of crisis, businessmen have not just spoken out. Like Cuban, they’ve stepped up and put their fortunes where their mouths are. For example, during the Great Panic of 1907, when the Dow saw a 50% decline in the stock market over three weeks, the business community responded by pulling together to brainstorm how to help keep weaker financial institutions afloat.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Cuban discussed his deep concerns for small businesses, solutions that business leaders can provide, and his optimistic vision that the great connector in this country, sports, will once again pull us together when this crisis is over.

Washington Examiner: You tweeted: “There is only [one] way we are going to get money into the hands of small businesses immediately so they can retain employees, pay them and pay ALL their bills and that’s for the [Treasury Department] to guarantee all overdrafts. Let [small businesses] write checks as they always have, but they won’t bounce.” Explain just how critically important the lives and livelihoods are that you are talking about protecting in the tweet?

Mark Cuban: The business of this country is small business and innovation, and those companies don’t run without employees that bust their asses.

Washington Examiner: More than half of the businesses in this country are small businesses, some of them that have been around since the Great Depression, even as far back as the Civil War. Many of them will be wiped out, and the same goes with these brand new companies that only have 10 or 12 years under their belt. Some of these small companies are thinking about refitting their product manufacturing to making needed items like face masks and surgical gowns. Are you worried companies like that won’t even make it long enough to be able to do that?

Cuban: No. I’m worried small companies are jumping into a new business because companies like 3M are not being forthcoming about why masks are in short supply. I worry that the economy isn’t strong enough to support their main business, and they will lose their employees.

Washington Examiner: I want to take a look at what you have done in your community, beginning with the initial announcement that you are going to pay hourly game day employees at American Airlines Center who are forced to miss work due to the NBA season being suspended. Detail how quickly you came to that decision?

Cuban: It all happened in real time. Going into the game, I had gone through all the potential options for the NBA season. One, which I thought was minimal, was that the season could be postponed or canceled.

As someone who has been voluntarily pushing up hourly wages to get to $15, I’ve always tried to recognize that our games aren’t the experience they are without those workings making every customer experience amazing.

When I got the word on the season, not only was I stunned, it was obvious to me that those same workers would be challenged and without income. I knew what I would do, but it just happened to cross my mind while I was being interviewed on ESPN.

Washington Examiner: You and I grew up in Pittsburgh, when the very working people you are protecting were left behind when companies folded up. How has that impacted not just who you are, but how did those experiences guide you as a business owner?

Cuban: My dad did upholstery work on cars. It was back-breaking work. In fact, he lost an eye in an accident. He would bring me down to sweep the floors and clean up so that I could appreciate just how hard everyone worked. Their business went up and down, and it creates stress in our family. So, I saw it firsthand.

Washington Examiner: Part of good mental health in this crisis is having peace of mind, especially for those people at the front lines of this. You are also a father/parent. You know what it is like to be responsible for what you do in business and then come home to be with your family. Please elaborate as to how these things also guided you in your decision to set up a program to pay for day care for the children of healthcare workers?

Cuban: That actually wasn’t my idea. We were brainstorming on ways we could help the healthcare workers on the front line. One of our folks put it out there. I loved it. Dwight Powell and Luka Doncic [two Dallas Mavericks players] loved it. So, we made it happen. But we realize it’s a start, not an endpoint. There is a lot more we can do.

Washington Examiner: Explain how this also creates new jobs for the day care workers who will care for these children.

Cuban: Obviously, a lot of businesses, including day care centers and schools, are closed. There are no shortage of people qualified to staff and provide care. We were glad to be able to bring people back to work.

Washington Examiner: Where does this drive to give back to your community come from? It is clear you are very rooted to the people and place where you live. Explain your love/affection/ties to Dallas?

Cuban: There are places in my life that have given me so much. Indiana University. Pittsburgh. Dallas. They all have blessed me with opportunities that have put me in a position that I never imagined. I never want to take those gifts for granted.

I have reached the point in my life where the next dollar I earn can do far more for someone else than it can for me. So, I try to be the person that, when the shit hits the fan, you can count on for help.

I’m not the type to put my name on a building or make huge donations to big charities and get honored at a gala. I think the Pittsburgh in me, the blue-collar side of me, has turned me into my dad.

I want to help people when they need it most, when they can’t pay their bills and the consequences are dire. Or, like now, when we are in a situation that is inconceivable. I want to be there helping where I can.

Washington Examiner: Sports is the great connector for all of us. It holds us together in the worst of times. Think about the relationship of the people of Pittsburgh with the Steelers in the 1970s, where the team was our hope, our only place where things were going well. They helped hold our spirit together as economic uncertainty brought us to a 19% unemployment rate.

It is why there are 4,000-plus Steelers bars across the world, because so many fans relocated to other areas but retained their identification with the Steelers as a reflection of their former hometown’s steel industrial base. As the owner of an NBA team, you obviously get this. Can you speak to this loss, not as an owner, but as a fan, across all sports?

Cuban: I don’t look at teams not playing as a loss. What we are going through with the virus has hurt us all. But, in many ways, it has brought us together. We all are sharing the same challenges. We all know we need to support and help each other. We all must practice social distancing. Stay home, probably not see our parents or grandparents.

Now, we all are on the same team. That said, when we get to the other side, our love for sports will bring us all even closer together.

When we play the first Mavs game, even if it’s in front of no fans, everyone will be watching because it will be the release and fun and excitement we all need.

And when we can a play game with fans? Watch out. The emotions, the joy, the excitement of all of us finally being able to come together in public will be incredible.

My goodness, that first Steelers game in Pittsburgh with fans. Wow. Pirates. Pens. We all will finally be smiling ear to ear no matter what the final scores are.

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