Media Moguls’ Advice: Take Some Risks

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Risk-taking is the key to success for people looking to start their own business or move up the ranks within their current workplace, three media-industry entrepreneurs told cable executives last week.

“You’ve got to be willing to take chances with the company,” College Sports Television founder and CEO Brian Bedol told attendees at a breakfast meeting here last Thursday, which was held by the New York chapter of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing.

Bedol, who founded Classic Sports Network in 1994 — and sold it to ESPN three years later for $185 million — was joined on stage by HDNet founder Mark Cuban and XM Satellite president and CEO Hugh Panero.

CUBAN GOES ALONE

Cuban — who sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in stock in 1999 — said he rarely puts money into ventures with a group of investors, telling attendees that he prefers to do things on his own.

“Most people chase money. I chase advantage,” Cuban said. “I’ll only do things myself, where I think I have an advantage.”

Entrepreneurs are also best off hiring employees who are driven in similar ways, and are willing to take on more responsibilities, panelists said. Bedol told attendees he is attracted to the type of person who “wakes up in the middle of the night to scribble stuff down on a note pad.”

Added Cuban: “You’ve got to bring in great people that complement you.”

Cuban also said that he valued the advice of his father, who reupholstered cars for a living. He said his father once told him, “In business, you can fail as many times as you take, but you only have to be right once.”

The panelists also discussed the feeling they get when seeing the first products from a startup company hit the market.

ANTENNA ON ROOF

Panero told the story of how soon after XM Satellite Radio launched, he saw a car with an XM antenna on its roof while driving in Washington, D.C.

Panero said he knocked on the driver’s window, and asked him what he had on his roof. The driver explained that it was satellite radio, and gushed about the number of channels available.

“All my talking points came back to me,” Panero said, noting how the new XM customer had recited the pitch from the company’s marketing materials.

As usual, Cuban, who also owns the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks and is the star of ABC’s new reality series, The Benefactor, had some good one-liners.

“I’ve been fired from more jobs than most people have had,” Cuban told the audience.

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