6 More Magic Learning Moments from Magic Johnson’s EO Powerhouse Speakers Interview (Part II)

EO’s purpose is to help entrepreneurs achieve their full potential. One way EO facilitates that is through programmes such as the EO Powerhouse Series, designed to give exclusive access to thought leaders and changemakers across various industries.

In May, EO member and Global Learning Committee Chair David Nilssen moderated a virtual interview with Earvin “Magic” Johnson, an American National Basketball Association (NBA) legend, entrepreneur, philanthropist and motivational speaker. EO members heard first-hand about Magic’s challenges and the journey to propel his company to the status of No. 1 urban brand in America. Johnson has developed the skills and tenacity to excel as an athlete, business leader and changemaker.

The EO Powerhouse Series interview with Magic Johnson is available exclusively to EO members until 26 August 2021. Part 1 of our interview recap detailed seven Magic Learning Moments from the programme.

In case you missed it, here are six additional “Magic learning moments” that this inspiring entrepreneur shared during the interview:

  1. When you’re going through something, you need your support system. Three decades ago, Magic retired from basketball because he learned he was HIV positive, shocking the sports world. “When the doctor told me I had HIV, I went down to my knees in disbelief,” Magic shared. Then he had to go home and tell his wife, Cookie, who was pregnant with their first child. “When you make mistakes, not only do you hurt yourself, you hurt your family members, and everybody who loves you,” Magic shared. “It hurt me to see her crying.” (Fortunately, they would find out a week later that neither Cookie nor the baby were HIV positive.) The same night Magic told his wife he was HIV positive, she told him that she was staying and they would “beat this thing together.” Magic said, “If she had left, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I needed my best friend, I needed my wife to be there for me—and she was.”
  2. You’re going to get knocked down, but just keep going. When he first started in business, people did not believe that Magic could be a good CEO. He used his own money, but when he wanted to scale and achieve growth and sustainability, he needed to borrow more. “I went to seven banks—they all turned me down. I had a strong business strategy and a track record of success. They still all said no. They all wanted my autograph, but they wouldn’t lend me any money,” Magic remembered. “It wasn’t until I went to the eighth bank that they said yes.”
  3. Always overdeliver. Once he got the loan, Magic knew he had to deliver. He bought a shopping center that was 40% occupied for US$22 million then worked his tail off to grow it to 100% occupancy. He sold it for $48 million and took that US$26 million profit to the same bank; they loaned him US$50 million. “Overdeliver. When you overdeliver, then you can go back to that bank and get more capital. Now I can get as much capital as I need and want because of my track record of success.”
  4. Bring people to the deal. Sometimes you have to physically show potential partners where the opportunities are. When Magic was making a deal to bring Starbucks coffee locations to urban America, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz flew to Los Angeles to see how Magic ran his theaters. I took him to South Central and drove him around to see the beautiful, well-kept homes in that community. Whitney Houston’s hit movie, Waiting to Exhale, was premiering that night, so people were lined up down the block, every theater was sold out, there were a thousand women in the lobby, and the concession stand was making a lot of money.” After the movie, Schultz said, “Magic, I’ve seen everything I needed to see. You’ve got the deal. Thank you for having me come down to see these communities for myself. Let’s go build 125 Starbucks in the inner cities.”
  5. Know your target customer. When Magic opened his inner city Starbucks coffee locations, he wanted to appeal to his target consumer. “Starbucks coffee is great, but their desserts did not resonate with the urban consumer. I took scones out of my Starbucks and put in peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, and sock-it-to-me cake.” As a result, the profit per caps in his store were $5.59 while other Starbucks locations were $5.51. “I was outperforming suburban stores because we made that little tweak.”
  6. You can do well and do good at the same time. When asked what he wants his legacy to be, Magic didn’t mention anything about his epic basketball career. What he’s most proud of are the jobs he has created in urban America for minorities across the US and the 10,000 scholarships provided through the Magic Johnson Foundation for “minority kids who had the grace to go to college but not the financial means.” He also mentioned the technology centers his enterprise built that provides inner city kids with access to technology. “Inner cities kids are way behind suburban kids because they don’t have access to technology. I’m really proud of the 20 technology centers we’ve built around the country.”

In addition, during the pandemic, Magic put up US$325 million so small black, Latino and women business owners could keep their businesses open. “We’ve saved over 15,000, going on 20,000 companies across America. I’m really proud of that.” You can do well and do good at the same time.

“I want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. I want to help people be successful. Make sure that these same 10,000 kids who got those scholarships through the Magic Johnson Foundation can reach their goals and dreams like I reached my goals and dreams. I don’t care about the championships—what I want to do is change communities across this country. Make an impact, and make a difference.”

Don’t miss Part 1 of this interview, where Magic discusses seven additional lessons he’s learned throughout his entrepreneurial journey!

And, get ready for upcoming installments of EO Powerhouse Series—including Jay Shetty on 13 July 2021, Trevor Noah on 31 August 2021 and Jane Goodall on 23 September 2021. EO members can register here to enjoy this exclusive, free speakers series.

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