Johnson Says There’s No ‘Magic’ to Business Success

The basketball legend-turned-entrepreneur answers Inc. Twitter followers’ and Facebook fans’ questions about life on and off the court.

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’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)


Celebrity Fashion Lines

Madonna is known for constantly reinventing herself, but her latest incarnation–fashion designer–might be the riskiest one yet. On June 22 the musician (along with her daughter, Lourdes) debuted sketches of a glam ’80s-inspired line of juniors clothing called Material Girl, which will go on sale at Macy’s this August. But celebrity fashion lines (like many celebrity recording careers) often have the lifespan of a gnat, no matter how well-promoted or designed.

Celebrity clothing brands are particularly volatile, because their success is closely tied to one person whose popularity can fluctuate violently. “There’s a lot of coming and going, because as their popularity wanes it affects everything else,” says independent brand consultant Alycia de Mesa. “Sometimes it’s a flash in a pan.”

Endorsement deals in the health and beauty industry are rarely more than two or three years, says Rick Dunaj, creator of Dunaj Agency LLC, which brokers deals between stars and the fashion industry. Popularity tends to evaporate at that point. “We know the life of being tied to a celebrity,” he says, “and it’s not long.”

Still, some Hollywood-born labels have managed to survive, including Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Sean Jean label, launched in 1998, which has annual sales hovering around $500 million. Jessica Simpson’s self-titled shoe and accessories line draws $500 million per year in annual sales. The key to success, experts say, is playing to the “celebrity” factor, while letting the brand breathe on its own.

“Certain brands have managed to do well because they’ve come back and supported the sub brand, not just their name,” says Alycia de Mesa. In short, Rocawear may be a brainchild of Jay-Z, but the business can stand alone without him. Rocawear first appeared in 1999, and its average annual sales are around $700 million.

The most successful celebrity lines tend to have lower price points, mass market appeal and are sold at mainstream chains like Kohl’s, Target and Macy’s. Higher end clothing, sold exclusively in boutiques and shops like Bloomingdale’s, tend to make less overall.

Low prices are no guarantee of success, though–Sarah Jessica Parker’s brand, Bitten, was sold exclusively at casual clothing chain Steve & Barry’s, and featured only items priced at less than $20. It disappeared in 2008 when the retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“You can’t say today, in this economy, ‘We’re going to take the money and develop a private label,'” says Bruce Ross, president and CEO of marketing and branding consultancy Celebrity Fashion Group. ‘The problem is that they can’t take the risk and time to develop something out of nothing.”

Lauren Conrad, star of MTV’s The Hills, saw her fashion career nearly end after a poor run with high-end items sold at Bloomingdale’s. After the label was refashioned into a low-cost line for Kohl’s, its popularity rose.

“Lauren is a perfect fit for Kohl’s,” says Ross, whose company worked with Conrad. “Her fan base is younger girls, so Kohl’s is the right retailer.”

Meanwhile, celebrities must manage their personal image if they hope to see a line succeed: Bad press for a star can mean bad sales for a fledgling brand. Heidi Montag’s Heidiwood line for Anchor Blue was discontinued after only one fitful year on the shelves.

“Just because you’re a celebrity doesn’t mean you should have a line,” Ross says. “But if you have the right celebrity and the right business model, it can work.”

By: Sara Peck (Forbes)

Kanye West Makes Great Business Moves With Kim Khardashian

Kanye West has been annoying at times, but no one can say this man is stupid, in fact his newest move is quite brilliant. Kayne West is collaborating with Kim Kardashian on a video for her first pop single. West knows anything this girl touches is gold, so he is making a great business move appearing with Kim Kardashian on her video.

Kim Kardashian, who up until now has not demonstrated any talents of her own, is recording an entire album. The first released single off her new album will have Kim and Kanye West in the video.

Will Kim Kardashian make it to pop stardom? If she really wants to she might have a good chance at it. If Kim shows this is not just something she wants to try on for size and starts touring, she may be as sought after as Lady Gaga. Oh, this is providing she has a half way decent voice. If she comes out sounding like Tiny Tim, then Kim has a “novelty album” for her fans!

Kim Kardashian appears enthusiastic about her new walk in life. She tweets some innuendos about what she is doing, without giving away anything to hold onto.

Will Kim be singing love songs, sexy songs, or girl power songs? We will have to wait and see.

Last time Kim Kardashian was in Connecticut she was the celebrity hostess for the grand opening of a classy bowling lane inside the Foxwoods Casino compound. Next time she appears at Foxwoods, she may be filling the arena and singing her tunes. There is no telling what this diva will be doing next?

By: iVillage

Business Talk with Warren Buffett

Part 1

Part 2

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones talks about the Sports Biz

Dallas Cowboys Owner  Jerry Jones speaks with 60 Minutes on life as a the owner of one of the most valuable teams in the NFL. He also speaks on his life growing up and what he fears the most.

Click Here to Watch Interview

How a Gen-Y’er Launched a Personal Branding Firm

The 27-year-old founder of Millennial Branding talks about managing a growing stable of products and services.

Name: Dan Schawbel, 27

Founded: Millennial Branding LLC, 2010
Business: Personal branding / online marketing
Location: Boston

While some 20-somethings were spending their free time playing sports or watching movies Dan Schawbel was head-down focused on personal branding with a blog he started in 2007. Having studied marketing at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., Schawbel, now 27, thought it would be fun to explore the intersection of personal branding and digital media.

He launched Personal Branding Magazine six months later, while he was holding down a full-time marketing job. The quarterly online publication was built on a subscription- and advertising-based revenue model. His writing caught the attention of a prominent business publication, which features Schawbel as an up-and-coming personal branding expert. It referred to him as a “personal branding force of nature.”

The attention caught the eyes of Schawbel’s bosses at Hopkinton, Mass.-based data-storage technology company EMC Corp. and he was promoted to social media specialist. For Schawbel, the press coverage and promotion validated his theory that a person can leverage the internet and social media platforms to build a powerful personal brand. He was living proof. From there, he published his first book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan, 2009).

In 2010, Schawbel decided to make personal branding his full-time business. He formed Millennial Branding LLC, which includes event hosting and consulting services for small businesses and corporate brands. His client roster includes large companies and his former employer EMC.

Schawbel shares his three toughest obstacles in launching his startup and how he overcame them.

Challenge No. 1: Taking a side business full-time.

I was trying to start a business while employed at a major company, performing duties loosely aligned with what my company was going to be offering. My challenge was to break away from that job while managing to afford to start my business. I also had to maintain the quality of my work at my full-time job while creating demand for my own company.

Solution: Using only my personal funds, I couldn’t afford to hire employees and pay my own salary without having a full-time job. So, I decided to remain at EMC until just before the launch. There was enough demand that I projected revenue of about $100,000 for the first year. Since I had built my employer’s social media communications strategy, it ended up becoming one of my first clients. That was a big help.

Challenge No. 2: Clarifying the product offerings.

Between 2007 and 2009, I developed seven websites, including Personal Branding Magazine and the Personal Branding blog. My brand was growing stronger, but my audience was confused about what I was offering. I had to find a way to create one “face” to the customer.

Solution: I hired a freelance web developer to design a portal with all of Millennial Branding’s offerings on a single website. The topics were separated into categories: community, consulting, media and education. It took about six months, but it simplified the way we communicated our value and services to potential clients.

Challenge No. 3: Working efficiently and effectively.

With two blogs, a magazine, an events business and a consulting business, the challenge was to get the right people in place to scale the company.

Solution: Through word-of-mouth, searching online and recruiting some of my peers, I created a strong team of freelance writers, editors and web developers who have helped the company grow. In March 2010, I also hired three full-time employees to manage event planning, which handles events for up to 300 attendees. Since we enlist the help of other successful entrepreneurs as keynote speakers, we’re able to reach more people at once.

By: Young Entrepreneur Council

50 Cent Inks Movie Deal worth 200 Million

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Randall Emmett’s Cheetah Vision and George Furla’s Hedge Fund Film Partners are teaming on a 10-picture deal that’s backed by a $200 million fund. Grindstone Entertainment/Lionsgate will release the films.

Healthcare magnate Richard Jackson, real estate developer Gary Sakwa and Daniel Ret will provide the equity. Remainder of the fund will be made up of debt and tax credits.

First film under the deal is the Curtis Jackson-toplined “Set Up,” written and directed by Mike Gunther. Paul Walker is in talks to star opposite Jackson in the heist actioner, which begins shooting next month and is budgeted at $20 million.

“Set Up” revolves around a group of friends who are catapulted into the middle of a diamond heist turned deadly. Casting is under way for the other roles. Hannibal Pictures is handling international sales.

Jackson’s previous acting credits include “Righteous Kill,” which cumed $40.1 million at the domestic B.O., and “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” which cumed $31 million.

The $200 million fund expands the existing relationship between Curtis Jackson and Emmett, who last year launched Cheetah Vision. Richard Jackson financed the first film from the banner, “Gun.”

Curtis Jackson and Richard Jackson also teamed with Emmett and Furla — who have a separate banner, Emmett/Furla Films — to produce actioner “Catch .44,” starring Malin Ackerman, Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker. They produced “Catch .44” in association with Megan Ellison.

“The thing about ’50 Cent’ is that, just like in his music career, he isn’t someone who sits around and waits for things to get done. He came to me and said, ‘How do we move quicker on projects?’ With this new fund, we are able to do that,” Emmett said.

Fund will finance four to five pictures a year, with moderately priced budgets in the $20 million range. Partners are hoping for the second film, which hasn’t been announced, to begin lensing in February.

“It’s very hard to raise equity today and we are lucky to have such great partners, including the amazing team of Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb of Grindstone and Joe Drake and Helen Kim at Lionsgate,” Emmett said.

City National Bank will handle banking, while ITS Capital will handle tax credits. Grindstone is owned by Lionsgate.

Richard Jackson owns Jackson Healthcare, while Sakwa owns the largest real estate firm in Michigan.

Emmett/Furla Films have produced dozens of films, including “Righteous Kill,” “16 Blocks” and “Street Kings.”

Cheetah Vision has named Brandon Grimes to handle productions coming out of the new fund.Jackson and Cheetah Vision are repped by CAA and Violator.

By: Pamela McClintock (Variety)

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