For Mark Cuban, minimalism is the best healthcare disruptor

Molly Gamble (Twitter) – Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban has made his ambition to improve healthcare known since the launch of his generic pharmacy in January 2021. His preferred methods to do so may not resemble those of other healthcare executives.

Mr. Cuban, known for owning the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and starring on ABC’s Shark Tank, co-founded Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co. in May 2020 with Alex Oshmyansky, MD, PhD. The online pharmacy launched eight months later and today offers people more than 1,000 of the most highly utilized and/or high-cost generic medications. The drugs are sold with a 15 percent markup for price, a $3 pharmacy fee to pay the pharmacists it works with and a $5 fee for shipping.

The company is also opening an $11 million Dallas manufacturing plant with robotics, which will allow it to be nimble in manufacturing simple drugs hospitals need but are in shortage, turning around numerous injectables daily to boost hospitals’ supply.

Behind these initiatives into a highly regulated industry is an entrepreneur who prefers unconventional ways of working.

For one, healthcare stakeholders with hopes to partner or work with him and Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co. should be aware that it takes rather high stakes to secure a meeting with the investor. Negotiation expert and author Chris Voss asked Mr. Cuban during a recent conversation on Fireside what bad habit he hates seeing people do that kills time and brainpower. Mr. Cuban had a one-word and eight-word answer at the same time.

“Meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings.”

“People over-meet and over-call. You kill so much time. I try to only do meetings if I have to come to a conclusion or there’s no other way. Same with phone calls. Every meeting is, ‘Who got the donuts? What do you got going on? How are the kids?’ If it were up to me, if I had to have a meeting — and I tried this early on in my career, and wasn’t established enough to get away with it — I’d take away all the chairs from the meeting room. It’s amazing how quickly meetings get over with if no one has a chair or some place to sit.”

While the practice may be unconventional, the sentiment may be shared among workers and executives. In a 2017 poll of 182 senior managers from a range of industries, 62 percent said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together, 64 percent said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking, 65 percent said meetings keep them from completing their own work, and 71 percent said meetings are unproductive and inefficient, according to Harvard Business Review. The pandemic and rise of remote work increased meeting cadence for many. More recently, 2023 data from Microsoft examining the activity of millions of workers who use its applications found the 25 percent most active users spent an average of 7.5 hours per week logging meetings.

To get things done, Mr. Cuban said he tends to push things toward email. “I can respond to those in the middle of the night or I can respond to those on my schedule as opposed to having to arrange everything around all the meetings I’d otherwise have. I’m not a big fan of meetings at all.”

The minimalist approach to meetings is aligned with Mr. Cuban’s other simple but strategic ways of working. For instance, Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co. started with a cold email. He has completely circumvented traditional marketing and advertising campaigns to promote the pharmacy, saving budget to keep drug prices low and instead relying on press and customers’ word of mouth (or Twitter feeds).

He tends to operate with high efficiency, low ornamentation. The uniform that he wears most days of the week is a t-shirt, jeans or workout pants with sneakers. He’ll don a blazer and button-down for Shark Tank, ditching the tie. Local lifestyle magazine Texas Monthly reported that he is often seen around Dallas ordering a hot dog at 7-11, an omelet at IHOP, or a salad at an inexpensive Italian restaurant, balancing it out with Zumba classes at Life Time Fitness.

And in healthcare, he is quick to say “no” to any decisions or offers that — while exciting — could detract from his singular goal.

“The one industry where people say every minute of every day, ‘we need lower prices’ — this is it,” he said last year. “We’ll just have that very singular mission. You’re not going to see us add bells and whistles. You’re not going to see us get into telemedicine or telehealth. None of that. Just one singular mission: The lowest cost price for drugs — period end of story.”