Microsoft's former CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion this summer after the NBA ousted his predecessor, Donald Sterling, for life. Ballmer has taken on a big job, so Dallas Mavericks chief Mark Cuban offered his six biggest pieces of advice:
1. Prepare for a never-ending media storm.
Having dealt with the media with Microsoft, you might think you are prepared for any and all media interactions. You aren't. Apple fan boys were bad. But NBA bloggers are worse. And whatever you do, do not look at Twitter after you lose a game.
2. You don't own the Clippers, the community does.
No matter how much money you made for your shareholders, no matter how many millionaires you made at Microsoft, no matter how many people you hired in Seattle and around the world, leading Microsoft is nothing like owning a major sports team. You don't own the team; Clippers fans everywhere do.
3. You will be asked things that have never been asked of you before.
You'll be asked to meet with sick kids. To spend time with struggling people who find solace in your team. To provide jerseys for the burials of children who got joy from watching Clippers games. It's like nothing you have ever experienced. It's amazing and heartbreaking at the same time.
Remember this: No city ever threw a ticker-tape parade for Microsoft. All cities throw parades for NBA champions.
4. You will be all smiles when you win and find it hard to leave the house when you lose.
The pain of losing is far worse than the joy of winning. You will watch every move from every player in every game and think of it as a variable in an equation that connects you to winning or losing, not just that game, but also that season. Knowing the importance of each of those variables will increase the intensity and magnitude of every possession in ways no one else can understand. When it's all said and done, you are responsible for the success and failures of your team, and you will live and die with every possession, knowing what is at stake more than anyone.
5. Don't try to make every penny you can off the team.
When I bought the Mavs (for $285 million in 2000), it was the highest price ever paid for a sports team. Sound familiar? I had everyone asking me how I could justify the price, and at the time I had every intention of getting a maximum return on my investment. I quickly realized winning was more important. I also realized that motivating people in the building to cheer for the team and be excited for a game was critically important to winning. Knowing kids and families can afford to come to our games is important. I know our team will go through ups and downs. When we aren't as good a team as we have been, I never want anyone to think coming to a game is unaffordable or not fun. Make sure to spend money on in-game entertainment. Not every game is going to be great, but you can still make it a great, affordable experience.
6. Be yourself.
No explanation needed. Everyone needs some Ballmer in their life.
As told to David Cummings.