May 4, 2011 Leave a comment
May 4, 2011 Leave a comment
When you hear the name Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr., the first thing that comes to mind is basketball. Yes Johnson is a former point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers with five NBA championships, three MVP awards, and an Olympic gold medal. But the basketball hall of famer is also a philanthropist and savvy businessman.
After retiring from the NBA in 1996, he focused his attention on the Magic Johnson Foundation and Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE), which includes a portfolio of funds to finance revitalization projects in underserved communities. He is notorious in business for having owned over 70 franchises of Starbucks and the only franchisee to own a 50 percent share. Although he recently sold his Starbucks in 2010, as well as his share of the Lakers, his name and brand is still associated with AMC Magic Johnson Theaters and 24 Hour Fitness Magic Sport centers. Johnson recently became chairman of VIBE Holdings, a multi-cultural media company that includes Vibe magazine, Uptown magazine and Soul Train brands. He is also leading the charge in bringing a football team back to Los Angeles.
Taking a break from March Madness, Johnson talked to Inc.com’s Tiffany Black about managing multiple businesses, the keys to a great comeback, advice for start-ups and minority businesses, and his love of music.
In one of your Dove Men’s Care commericals that started running during the NCAA tournament, you talked about how the statement “I can’t” motivates you. How do you motivate others?
I tell people to look at me and understand that everybody first told me that I couldn’t be a 6-foot, 9-inch point guard and I proved them wrong. Then they told me I couldn’t be a businessman and make money in urban America and I proved them wrong. And they thought I couldn’t win all these championships and I proved them wrong there as well. I motivate others by making sure that they understand to go after their dreams and don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t. If you are motivated enough and put the work in that you can achieve anything in life that you set your mind too.
You also talk about the importance of a team when it comes to winning. How can those concepts be applied for some of our readers who are one-man start-ups?
They may be a one man operation in terms of them starting their own business, but at some point they will have a team of people. When you are a successful business person, you are only as good as your team. No one can do every deal alone. I make sure that I have people who want to win, who are about winning, who are competitors, and that understand the brand and how to grow the brand. Other entrepreneurs should define what winning is to them and then tell their management team or their company what they expect and what he or she wants to see happen—and that everybody has to work as one. In most of the corporations I know that’s what happens.
You have multiple businesses and you are the personality or spokesperson for so many of them, how do you manage it all?
Again, it’s putting together a great executive team and great people who work to manage the businesses. That’s No. 1. No. 2, I do very few deals. I turn down more deals than I actually do. They have to be the right deals. They have to be the right corporations. Like this campaign I’m doing with Dove, I was already using the product before they called me. So this was a no-brainer for me to use Dove Men + Care products because I was using the body wash and the deodarant already. That made it easier for me to go ahead and do the campaign because I was already excited about the products.
Why did you sell your franchises of Starbucks?
People didn’t understand I had a contract with them to sell at that time. So it wasn’t that I did it randomly. It was an agreed upon exit at that particular time. I had a great, great time with Howard Schultz and Starbucks. We made a lot of money. We put a lot of people to work. And I want to thank Howard Schultz for that opportunity. But it was an exit that was already agreed upon.
Drew Lawrence from Facebook and @AaronMazor from Twitter asked about how your bid to bring the NFL back to LA is coming along given the current NFL lockout.
We are still working on it but we have to wait until the labor agreement is finalized by the players and the owners. So we are at a standstill, on the outside looking in, just as everyone else is to see when they reach an agreement. Nothing can happen until that happens. But I’m excited, very excited about the possibility. LA deserves a team. And everybody that lives here in Los Angeles is very, very excited about the NFL coming back to Los Angeles. It will be a great day if it happens. We already cheer for all the other teams. It’s a shame that on Sundays now we gotta go to sports bars and peoples homes and cheer for somebody else, not a team of our own.
Paul Shively, one of Inc.’s Facebook fans, asked what are the key factors to a great business comeback because you came back big time?
I think reinventing myself was really key for me. I have reinvented myself several times. I’m a guy who really understands who I am and what I want to accomplish. I think the comeback is just about staying the course and then also never getting down. Because a lot of people, when they fall down, they stay down. I’m a guy who gets right back up and says, ‘Okay, there is more I can do. There is more that I can achieve and I’m gonna go after it.’ And then you gotta have a plan. What’s your plan to comeback? You probably have to work harder than you have ever worked in your life to come back. Just look at Donald Trump, who was down and managed a come back—look at him now! So there’s a lot of people who have been down, but they came back and they came back strong because they had a plan. And because they didn’t let their prior situation keep them down.
What advice do you have for minorites who have a passion for something and want to start their own business?
We have got to, first of all, start owning our own businesses. It’s what makes Harlem go or Chicago go or any community go. It’s not enough to be passionate about it—the No. 1 thing you have to do is research to make sure there is a business there. No. 2, make sure there is demand for what you are going to have your business in. I was able to build my company because demand was already there. You also have to understand the competition and what they are doing. Make sure that you don’t have a ‘good’ staff or a ‘good’ management team, but a great one. I would encourage all minorities to start their own business. Especially because we have so many talented young people out here today. It’s really crucial for the growth of our communities. And when we own our own business then that dollar touches a lot of hands in our community because that money stays in Harlem, for example, instead of somebody owning a business and taking it out of Harlem. That’s why it’s importantto keep it in your neighborhood because you can give people jobs in your commuity. It also sends a great message to young people that they can dream to one day own their own businesses in their community as well.
Is there an opportunity for small business owners to utilize the Magic Workforce Solutions?
Yes, small business owners and small businesses [use the program for staffing]. They tell us what they are looking for and we train the people to do that job. We also manage those people on site if they need us to do that. It’s worked out very well for us. It’s in seven or eight states including Ohio, Texas, Georgia, and Michigan. It’s a business that we look forward to growing. Any businesses interested can go to the website to contact us.
I live in Harlem, New York and we have a Magic Johnson theater. Any chance you will open a 24 Hour Fitness Magic Sport center in Harlem?
I would love to do that. As you know I love Harlem. What I love is that the people are so great and they really support your businesses. Harlem is definitely one place that I hope to expand because of the theater and Starbucks that I built there. We have a community empowerment center there. So yes, Harlem is a place that I will be looking to do a lot of business.
You already have movie theaters. Have you ever considered owning a movie studio or distribution company like Tyler Perry? John Riddick, through Facebook, noted that minorities have so few outlets for our films.
Great question. First I congratulate and salute Tyler, he’s doing a great job. Would I think about it? Of course, I’ve been thinking about it. But right now as you know and I know the studios are cutting back on producing movies. They are not doing as many movies as they used to do. I’m doing my research and homework but I don’t know if I will ever get in to it or not. If I do, hopefully the timing will be right. But if I don’t, we have Tyler. I agree that we need more because we need more minority-based movies. Tyler does a wonderful job but the problem is he may give us two movies a year and we need more than that. Minorities are underserved when it comes to family entertainment and movies.
Continuing with entertainment, you’re now involved with Vibe Holdings LLC. I told my Mom and she was so excited that you might bring Soul Train back. What are your plans with Vibe and Soul Train, in particular?
Tell your Mom that’s a great question and tell her yes we are working to bring Soul Train back. That’s No. 1 because we all grew up and learned how to dance every Saturday morning watching Soul Train. And that’s not just people of all colors. I have had people of all colors approach me about this and it’s really amazing. I didn’t really know until I bought it how people love Soul Train. Then when you think about the library, it is truly amazing the content that we have. And we have already talked to a lot of companies who want to license the content and the library and we are going to start that soon. When you think about over 300,000 photos and I wouldn’t tell you how many shows, it’s unbelievable. Soul Train has a really unique and special library. And then Vibe has always been for the young people. I’m excited about Vibe as well, and Uptown is for the wealthy and affluent African Americans. My company is going to start buying other companies as well so this is just the beginning.
Here’s a question from Kirsten Peck and Mark Myrick from the Inc. Facebook page. They love your New York Times Bestseller 32 Ways to be a Champion in Business. They want to know when are you going to do a book tour?
I will probably go back out pretty soon. Maybe in the fall or so. We have to look at it because after the NCAA Tournament then of course is the NBA Playoffs and then you never want to do a summer tour for a book or anything. So it would probably have to be in the fall.
@MusickEd asked from Twitter if you ever played an instrument or if you could play an instrument what would it be?
No, I haven’t played an instrument. And I think it would be the bass because that’s how you dance, to the bass. I’m the biggest music lover in the world. I mean I have seen everybody. I went on tour with Michael Jackson and the Jacksons four or five times. You name them, I’ve seen them and probably a hundred times too. So when you think about Magic Johnson and the thing that relaxes me or gets me going or gets me on that dance floor, it is just some good music. I still love to dance even though I can’t do it as long as I used too. But that’s one thing I’m really passionate about, good music.
By Tiffany Black (Inc. Magazine)
May 2, 2011 Leave a comment
As the world absorbs the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, government warnings of counter strikes show that the death of one man won’t kill al Qaeda. One reason: the terrorist group doesn’t need bin Laden for money.
“There are two things a brother must always have for jihad, the self and money.” — An al Qaeda operative
This truism is cited by none other than the 9/11 Commission in the detailed report that it published in 2004. One of the first and most important chapters in that document looks at how al Qaeda raises cash and moves it to its operatives around the world, weaving a financial web that the Commission said “allows the organization to support itself, its operations, and its people.”
“You can’t run a terror network without funding because it takes money to train operatives, transport them, and buy equipment,” Thomas Kean, the former New Jersey governor who chaired the Commission, tells Fortune. “When you cut off those supplies, it becomes very difficult to operate.”
Contrary to popular opinion, the death of bin Laden does not strike a blow to the organization’s financial health. “[Osama bin Laden] Does not support al Qaeda through a personal fortune or a network of businesses,” the Commission wrote in its report.
“Al Qaeda relied on fund-raising before 9/11 to a greater extent than thought at the time,” the Commission wrote. “Bin Laden did not have large sums of inherited money or extensive business resources. Rather, it appears that al Qaeda lived essentially hand to mouth.”
And yet the myth has persisted that bin Laden has been the organization’s financial pillar. This is likely because he was the son of a billionaire who used a portion of his inheritance to start al Qaeda in the 1980s and he nurtured it to become, in the words of the New York Times, “a multinational enterprise to export terror around the globe.”
But by 2004, al Qaeda financed itself by raising money from “witting and unwitting donors, mosques and sympathetic imams, and nongovernment organizations such as charities,” says the report. Intelligence reports reveal a financial web that is nearly impossible to track, as the money is distributed as fast as it is raised by a network of couriers. Each strand in the web is taken down and distributed as fast as it is woven. There is no war chest to discover and no bank from which al Qaeda draws funds.
The reality of how al Qaeda actually survives has kept intelligence officials and operatives in other countries fighting to stay one step ahead of the organization. “One lesson of 9/11 was that you can’t fight the last war,” says Kean. “We talk about a failure of imagination on 9/11 because the terrorists did something we never imagined they would do. The way they raise money is no different.”
This game of whack-a-mole has changed global finance. Banks now must take responsibility for knowing who their customers are and for sussing out unusual behavior.
Kean says the Treasury has used its powers to disrupt the flow of money to al Qaeda, including tracking down individual financial deals.
But it hasn’t stopped terrorism.
“A lot of what al Qaeda is doing now doesn’t require a lot of money, like recruiting people over the Internet,” says Kean, who notes that the amounts seem to have gotten smaller since 9/11. “That huge 9/11 operation only took $500,000 maximum.”
Bin Laden’s death is an important moral blow to al Qaeda, but it is less of a blow to the organization’s lifeline.
By Katie Benner (CNN MONEY)
May 2, 2011 Leave a comment
President Barack Obama announced late Sunday night that U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, during a Sunday morning raid against his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The al Qaeda leader was killed during a firefight and his body was retrieved by U.S. troops, who suffered no casualties, Obama reported. “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda,” the President said in his 10 minute televised address.
The successful raid took place almost a decade after the 2001 attacks, which took nearly 3,000 lives in New York City’s World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, and aboard four hijacked U.S. commercial flights. “We can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done,” Obama said.
Even before the President made his official announcement at 11:35 EST, word of bin Laden’s death had spread through Washington, to foreign capitals and around the Internet. U.S. bases were put on high alert against possible reprisal attacks, while a cheering, chanting crowd began gathering outside the White House.
In a briefing after the President’s announcement, senior administration officials said that Obama authorized the raid Friday morning after months of planning and after five National Security Council meetings, beginning on March 14th, held to discuss the operation. The high risk raid was carried out by a small U.S. team that landed in helicopters, with no advance notice to the Pakistani or any other government. One helicopter had unspecified problems and was destroyed on the ground by the U.S. forces, they said. (The officials declined to identify the forces, but the mission was reportedly carried out by two dozen Navy Seals.)
In addition to bin Laden, three other men, including one of bin Laden’s sons, and one woman who was “used as a shield by a male combatant,” were killed, they said. Two other women in the compound were injured during the operation which lasted “under 40 minutes” and was completed without local police authorities noticing, the officials reported. One official added that the body of the 54-year-old bin Laden would be “handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.” (Update: CNN reported at 3 A.M. Monday morning that bin Laden had been buried at sea.)
According to the officials, U.S. intelligence agents had been following the trail that ultimately led to bin Laden for four years, after learning from detainees that there was one courier whom the al Qaeda leader particularly trusted. Two years ago, they identified areas where that courier was operating and last August located the compound where he was living with his family, his brother’s family and a third, unidentified family. (The two brothers were the third and fourth men killed, the official said.)
As the U.S. investigated that compound, “we were shocked by what we saw,” one official said. The property, located in an affluent suburb “with lots of retired military’’ 35 miles north of Islamabad, was roughly eight times larger than other homes in the area and was secured by 12 to 18 foot walls, topped by barbed wired. While valued at $1 million, the compound had no telephone or Internet service. The compound’s residents burned their trash, rather than putting it out to be collected, as neighbors did. Although the compound was built at the end of a dirt road in 2005, the area has since become more developed, they said. It is unclear how long bin Laden himself had been hiding there.
“It was custom built to hide someone of significance,’’ one official said. The third family living in the compound appeared to match bin Laden’s family, with a woman believed to be his youngest wife and some other family members. The compound “was perfectly consistent with what we expected” his hideout to be like, the official added. “The bottom line,’’ he said, was “we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high value target and there was a strong possibility that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden.’’ After intelligence operatives concluded in February that this was most likely bin Laden’s compound, U.S. forces began planning and practicing the operation.
During the briefing, one administration official observed that while “al Qaeda may not fragment immediately,” the death of bin Laden “puts the group on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.”
In his address, Obama said that “shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.”
While the raid was carried out without advance notice to the Pakistanis, in his statement, Obama credited “our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan” with helping “lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.” But the fact that bin Laden was hiding in a densely populated suburb, and not a remote tribal area or cave, will likely feed speculation that some elements within the Pakistani intelligence service or military were aware of his presence there.
It is unclear what the reaction to the operation will be within Pakistan, although some Pakistanis will no doubt be unhappy about U.S. military action on their soil. “Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was,” Obama said. He added: “Tonight I called (Pakistani) President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.” Obama also called former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before making his announcement.
The death of bin Laden, Obama said, “does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.” He added that as the the U.S. pursues terrorists, “we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”
April 29, 2011 Leave a comment
“Where there’s a Will, there’s a day off.” That was the clever slogan on a t-shirt worn today by a woman in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during one of the 5,000 street parties taking place across Britain to celebrate the Royal Wedding. It perfectly encapsulated how most people in this country had been feeling in the run-up to this grand occasion. A mixture of irreverence and grudging appreciation: “Don’t really care about the wedding, or the royals, but I’ll take two extra public holidays, thanks.”
For the past week, journalists on Twitter and friends on Facebook had all been feigning indifference to the biggest Royal Wedding Britain had seen in 30 years because, well, we’re past all that pomp and circumstance aren’t we?
But then Friday morning came, and it became a different story. Thousands of people got early cabs to the Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace, to try and catch a glimpse of Will and Kate. More descended on Hyde Park to watch the wedding on big screens. After all, when they had a day off work there wasn’t anything better to do. Except maybe watch the whole thing on TV.
I had been determined through the week to not to care about the Royal Wedding, I even told an anti-royalist friend to check out the anti-Royal wedding party on Red Lion Square, because I might be going for the irony of it all. Yet for some inexplicable reason my eyes at 7am this morning found their way to the television, and a colorful array of random wedding guests shuffling into Westminster Abbey. For the next four hours there was a valiant running commentary from the BBC’s Huw Edwards on stuff that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t look away.
My anti-royalist friend also ended up snubbing Red Lion Square, for the party in Hyde Park instead. Such is Britain. We spend 95% of the time rolling our eyes at the royal family and insisting we could do without them, the other 5% peeking through tear-stained hankies at wedding proceedings like today’s.
Kate and Will were for years nothing more than fodder for the tabloids, especially during their temporary split in 2007. Today, the pomp and circumstance, the global media attention, with millions watching on YouTube and the adoring, colourful crowds of people dressed in union jack flags and wedding attire, suddenly elevated them to a celestial status.
You got the feeling, for instance, that it didn’t matter what Kate ended up choosing for her wedding dress. A mumu would have sufficed. I personally didn’t know what to think of all the lacy bits when I saw her emerge from London’s Goring Hotel this morning – perhaps it was a little demure? But there was no question for the news commentators and members of the crowd, who praised the thing for its classic simplicity and elegance. I found I suddenly rather liked it. It was becoming increasingly hard not to like everything about Will and Kate.
Then the newlywed’s balcony appearance dashed any of the country’s remaining cynicism to smithereens. “We might just get a kiss!” the BBC’s Edwards cried in the nail-biting minutes before they emerged from the front facade of Buckingham Palace. And then, the country’s heart collectively leapt – there it was! A one and a half second smooch between the two (not that I counted), marginally longer than the one-second peck between Charles and Diana in 1981 (not that I’m comparing). Will blushed and the nation blushed with him. A few moments later, as if we hadn’t had enough, the pair treated us all to a second kiss. Two kisses! The crowds from Buckingham Palace, to Hyde Park, to Belfast, roared with delight.
Wait, was this the Britain that didn’t care about the Royal Wedding? The one that was only in it for the day off? Now people were tweeting things like “Marriage, FTW!” I headed over to Hyde Park to see the last of the revellers and get a feel for the atmosphere, maybe catch an anti-royalist or two with placards.
Instead, there were union jack flags everywhere, flowing behind toddlers as capes, hanging from a dog’s neck, pinned into the ground to surround a picnic. Among the buttercups and pink cherry blossoms, there were neat rows of porta potties. At 3pm, well after the balcony appearance, thousands of people were still lounging around the park drinking wine and eating cupcakes. Every so often they would erupt into cheers. I soon realized they were watching re-runs of the wedding ceremony on two big screens. One girl skipped across to her friends shaking a flag and tunelessly sing the chorus to God Save the Queen. No one really seemed annoyed with the royal family anymore.
I stumbled across three huge plastic bins with a few cupcakes inside – the cupcakes’ source. A few entrepreneurial young women had been selling them for £1.50 each and managed to get rid of nearly all 350. Aside from making money, people were here because they had the day off, because there was a fleeting chance they might catch some sun and because, well, they wanted to celebrate the occasion. While the Brits feel mostly irreverent towards the royal family, there’s a quiet, genuine regard simmering underneath. The Royal Wedding stirred up those nascent feelings along with dare I say, a bit of pride and even romance. I noticed a few more couples than usual canoodling in Hyde Park afterwards.
The anti-royalist party will no doubt have been good fun. Somehow though, I’m satisfied at having got swept up in today’s royal romantic reverie, and rather glad I didn’t go.