Earvin "Magic" Johnson: Understand Your Customers and Over-Deliver | Summary and Q&A

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October 6, 2015
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Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Earvin "Magic" Johnson: Understand Your Customers and Over-Deliver

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Summary

In this video, Magic Johnson discusses his transition from being a basketball player to a successful CEO and businessman. He shares how his competitive spirit and principles as a basketball player prepared him for the business world. Johnson also talks about his early business ventures, including partnering with Starbucks and opening theaters in low-income neighborhoods. He emphasizes the importance of overdelivering to customers and understanding the needs of the community. Johnson also speaks about his experience as an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and education. He shares the difficulties he faced when he was diagnosed with HIV and how he and his wife decided to publicly address the issue. Johnson discusses the importance of diversity in the tech industry and the need for more opportunities for minorities. He also talks about the challenges he faced in transitioning from basketball to business and how he overcame them. Johnson concludes by discussing his current ventures, including his ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his commitment to giving back to the community through his foundation.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Magic Johnson prepare for his career in business while still playing basketball?

Magic Johnson explains that he applied the same principles of focus, strategy, and discipline from being a basketball player to being a CEO. He was a perfectionist as a basketball player and carried that mindset into his business career. He shares how he sought out mentors, like Dr. Jerry Buss, owner of the Lakers, who taught him about the business side of the team. Johnson also reached out to successful businesspeople and picked their brains to learn from their experiences. He emphasizes the importance of preparation and dedication in both basketball and business.

Q: What advice does Magic Johnson have for people looking to pivot into a new career?

Johnson advises people to take their ego out of the equation and be open to learning. He explains that what made him successful as a basketball player does not automatically make him successful as a CEO. He emphasizes the importance of finding mentors and asking questions to gain knowledge. Johnson also encourages individuals to believe in their business ideas and find the right people to surround themselves with for support and guidance.

Q: Can Magic Johnson talk about his early partnership with Starbucks and its significance in his career?

Johnson recounts how he noticed a long line outside a Starbucks in Seattle and decided to investigate. After tasting their products, he saw the potential for success in urban areas. He reached out to Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, and proposed a partnership to bring Starbucks to urban America. Johnson explains that he took the time to understand the preferences of the urban consumer and tailored the offerings to better suit them. The success of this partnership not only changed Starbucks’ approach to diversity, but also opened doors for Johnson in the business world.

Q: How does Magic Johnson view the lack of diversity within Silicon Valley and the tech industry?

Johnson acknowledges the lack of diversity within Silicon Valley and the low representation of minorities, particularly African Americans and Latinos. He points out that while some companies may use the excuse of not finding enough minority engineers, there are other areas, such as law, finance, and human resources, where minorities can be hired. Johnson believes that diversity starts at the top and that companies need to have diversity as a part of their DNA. He encourages companies to hire minorities, not only for a more representative workforce but also to better understand and serve minority consumer markets.

Q: How does Magic Johnson think about recruiting and retaining diverse talent in his own organization?

Johnson emphasizes the importance of training employees and creating a work environment where they feel valued and enjoy what they do. He believes in hiring smart and young people who not only have the skills but also the people skills to represent the brand. Johnson shares that his brand is everything to him, and he protects it by hiring the right people. He mentions his own experiences with hiring diverse talent, highlighting the achievements of employees who have contributed to his success.

Q: Can Magic Johnson talk about his experience as an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and education?

Johnson shares his personal journey of being diagnosed with HIV and the emotional impact it had on him and his wife. He discusses the importance of having a strong support system and credits his wife's support for his ability to navigate through the challenges he faced. Johnson explains that he made the decision with his wife to go public with his diagnosis and become the face of HIV/AIDS. He talks about his work in educating people, advocating for prevention, and providing support to those affected by the disease through his foundation. Johnson stresses the need for more awareness and testing, particularly in minority communities.

Q: How does Magic Johnson view the impact of minority-owned financial institutions in changing the way American business is done?

Johnson believes that minority-owned financial institutions can have a significant impact by providing opportunities for other minorities. He emphasizes the importance of success in driving change and opening doors for others. Johnson shares his own experiences of creating opportunities for minority communities through businesses such as Starbucks and TGI Fridays. He believes that successful minority-owned businesses can have a positive influence on the community and the economy by creating jobs and driving economic growth.

Q: How does Magic Johnson balance helping the community he came from and wanting to make money for himself?

Johnson explains that there is no conflict between making money and helping the community. He emphasizes that when he is successful, it benefits the community because it provides jobs and brings economic growth. He uses his businesses to provide products and services that were previously lacking in urban areas, thus improving the quality of life for the community. Johnson also mentions his commitment to giving back through his foundation, which focuses on education, healthcare, and HIV/AIDS awareness. He believes that his success contributes to the success of the community as a whole.

Q: How did Magic Johnson overcome the challenges he faced in transitioning from basketball to business?

Johnson shares that he faced difficulties in transitioning from basketball to business, particularly in securing financing from banks. He recalls being turned down by ten banks before finally finding one that believed in him. Johnson advises perseverance, emphasizing the importance of not giving up when faced with rejection. He encourages individuals to believe in their business plans and strategies and to keep going despite obstacles. He shares his own experiences of resilience, determination, and believing in his ideas, which ultimately led to his success in the business world.

Q: How does Magic Johnson view the future of diversity within the tech industry?

Johnson believes that the tech industry needs to embrace diversity and recognize the potential of hiring minorities in various roles, not just as engineers. He states that the demographic shift in America and the growing purchasing power of minorities make it crucial for companies to understand and cater to these markets. He encourages companies to hire minorities at all levels and ensure diversity is part of their DNA. Johnson emphasizes the importance of representation in business and believes that companies that prioritize diversity will have a competitive advantage in the future.

Takeaways (in one paragraph)

In this video, Magic Johnson shares insights on his transition from basketball player to successful CEO and businessman. He emphasizes the importance of applying the same principles of focus, strategy, and discipline in both basketball and business. Johnson talks about his early partnerships with Starbucks and the importance of overdelivering to customers and understanding their needs. He also discusses his advocacy for HIV/AIDS awareness and education, sharing his personal experiences and the impact he has made through his foundation. Johnson believes in the power of minority-owned businesses to create opportunities and drive change. He encourages individuals to persevere in the face of challenges and to believe in their business ideas. Johnson stresses the importance of diversity in the tech industry and the need for companies to embrace it in order to understand and cater to diverse markets. Overall, he highlights the value of giving back to the community and the benefits of both personal and community success.

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