Small Business Owners Are Not Morons, Mark Cuban

mark cuban

In a recent interview with Trish Regan on Bloomberg Television’s Street Smart (video is below), Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban said if you start a business by taking out a small business loan, you are a moron:

The one certainty is paying back the loan.  The bank does not care about your business.  99% of small business you can start with next to no capital. It’s more about effort.  Small businesses don’t fail from a lack of capital, they fail for a lack of brains, a lack of effort.

While a lack of savvy and insufficient effort doom many businesses, Cuban’s theory is simply incorrect.

Not everyone has personal savings or wealthy relatives to call upon for startup funding.  That leaves two other sources: debt or equity financing.  Cuban advocates equity financing (raising money by selling shares of common stock to individual or institutional investors).  In return for the money they invest, shareholders receive ownership interest.

However, if a shareholder provides enough capital, the investor can take a controlling interest in the company.  In this way, the entrepreneur may be hindered in his vision and, at some point, could even be removed from his own firm.  Only about one percent of startup companies are funded by venture capitalists (VCs).

The more common way of raising money is through debt financing, meaning that the entrepreneur takes loans out to start the business.  Admittedly, capital is not flowing as it did during the halcyon days of the mid 2,000’s, when big banks approved about half of the small business funding requests they received.  However, the so-called credit crunch — when many of the big banks hunkered down and reclined an overwhelming percentage of funding requests — is not as severe as it once was.  In fact, according to the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index for May 2013, big banks are approving small business loan applications at the highest rates since the Great Recession of 2009-2011.

In the past few years, the big banks ceded their dominance of the small business lending space.  When they closed the door others — including smaller, regional banks, credit unions, microlenders, and cash advance companies — filled the void.  Now that they are reentering the marketplace, the competition has become more intense.  Thus, interest rates are quite attractive at the moment.

Cash advance companies, accounts receivable financiers used to charge rates at near loan shark levels.  They have come down quite a bit over the past year or two.  American Express, which offers merchant cash advance services to its customers, helped drop the rates to as low as 6.5 percent.  Microlenders are willing to give people — even those with spotty credit histories — smaller amounts of startup cash to launch their firms.  Small banks and credit unions, both of which are local in nature, are good sources of capital because they know the local economy and can make informed decisions.  Big banks use their size, brand equity, and their ability to lend at attractive interest rates to their advantage.

The intense competition occurring right now between different types of lenders is good for entrepreneurs.

Debt financing provides entrepreneurs with the ability to run their companies as they see fit and maintain control.  Banks generally do not want to be involved in the running of companies; they leave that in the hands of the entrepreneurs who are investing the skill set and sweat equity in their companies.  If the business becomes successful, the entrepreneur does not have to share the riches with investors; he or she can reap the profits while paying back the agreed upon amount of money to the bank each month.

Another benefit of debt financing is that the interest paid on the loan is tax-deductible.

In the past few years, Small Business Administration backed loans have become vital to the growth of small businesses.  They generally offer more favorable interest rates than traditional bank loans.  Indeed, debt financing has help countless successful small businesses get off the ground.

Yes, there are some disadvantages of debt financing.  If you borrow too much money, the interest payments will be substantial.  On the other hand, if you do not borrow enough, you have to go back to the bank and ask for more money.  This is never good; the loan officer begins to wonder if you wasted the money, misappropriated funds or did not plan properly.  None of these scenarios makes it likely that the bank would be willing to give more money.

Mark Cuban says that:

Most people aren’t willing to put in the time to work smart; they don’t recognize how much work is involved.  If you start a business, you’d better know your industry and your company better than anyone in the whole wide world because you are competing.

If Cuban truly believes this, he has little faith in our capitalist system that supports the start and the growth of small businesses.  Further, an entrepreneur will not receive money from funders if he or she cannot articulate the startup’s competitive advantages in the local market place.  This information should be outlined in the business plan.

I disagree with his assertion that companies “fail from lack of brains and a lack of effort, but not for a lack of capital.”  I know first-hand how challenging it can be to secure a small business loan because I speak with numerous entrepreneurs and potential funders every week.  They are dedicated and hard working.  Many times the reason why they cannot get off the ground is because they do not know how to go about applying for a small business loan.

Fortunately, nowadays, there are services that match potential borrowers with small business lenders.


Rohit Arora

Rohit Arora Rohit Arora, CEO and Co-founder of Biz2Credit, is one of the country's leading experts in small business finance. Since its founding in 2007, Biz2Credit has arranged $800M in small business loans and has helped thousands of entrepreneurs. Rohit was named Crain's NY Business "Entrepreneur of the Year 2011."

9 Reactions

  1. There’s another option: Crowdfunding. Sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are a great way to test your concept to see if there is any interest from potential customers.

    If the business doesn’t meet the criteria for these sites, there are WordPress plugins that allow people to create their own crowdfunding campaigns on their own website.

    Then, there is no money to pay back at all. It’s my favorite method for funding a startup.

  2. Kip Marlow

    Thank you. There are lots of options for start-up capital, but borrowing money may not be one of them. Mr. Cuban is an iconic entrepreneur, but sometimes shoots from the hip a little too much.

  3. Crystal L Brooks

    Although “moron” is a little strong, I do agree with his assessment regarding why businesses fail. I’m in SBA Workout collections. Given what I see, he’s right on. Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. While folks can be passionate about starting a business, they may not always know how to run it. More thought should be given to why they need the funds. No one can foresee downturns in the economy, but your business model needs to withstand those times. Bootstrapping your business is a viable option until you need to pursue funding due to growth.

  4. It all depends what kind of a business you would like to open, if there is a small capitalization a small business loan with a Bank and the SBA it most be initial approach, I’ve seen in 36 years in the business, small businesses that started through this route that today are well into the millions, I assisted over 45 SBCs that began like that!!!!!

  5. Obviously Mark is not a dummy but his statement bums me out. Capital can be sourced from all over and most businesses need three years before there is really any measurable and consistent growth numbers. Capital has to come from somewhere and let me tell you…I went the investor route. Within 10-months they had over-ridden any good decisions that I made and by the end of the first year they pulled out like they weren’t wearing any contraception. I had to borrow against my credit cards almost $50,000 (insert Dave Ramsey quote here) and I am slowly paying them off. Now that I am in my fourth year of business, things are getting very good but to say that borrowing to start a business makes you a moron is simply painting with too broad of a brush stroke. I hope that my biz continues to grow and eventually I will have no debt, a solid income stream and no investors to pacify.

  6. It entirely depends on the industry of the start up. Some industries, like semiconductors, banks, pharmaceutical companies and biotech require capital. When Cuban starts those without capital, he will be legitimate

  7. Aira Bongco

    It seems like the trend is now moving towards small businesses. As more of those big businesses fail, small businesses prosper. It is not surprising that banks are now favoring small business loans. Right now, they’ll take anything that lets them increase the money that they have. At least, the banks are now more smallbiz-friendly.

  8. Very nice breakdown of the various funding options. Mark Cuban can be harsh and rude, but much of what he says is unfortunately accurate. I see many entrepreneurs standing around with their palms up asking for handouts to start businesses they are ill equipped to start or run. They have the mistaken notion that the government is handing out free grants to anybody with an idea. Of course that is not even remotely close to the truth.

    Some people just are not willing to put in the work needed to start and run a business.

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