Top 10: How to Start a Dynasty, Starring Magic Johnson

Originally published April 2011

Magic Johnson in Dove Campaign

If you were to list some of the most admired athletes of all time, Magic Johnson would no doubt appear toward the top of the list. After all, he is a 12-time All Star and was instrumental in leading the Lakers to five memorable NBA championships. 

Perhaps even more impressive is how Magic, the entrepreneur, has established quite the dynasty since leaving the court. He’s rebuilt urban communities, battled disease, invested in education — and continues to come out on top. AskMen checked in with Magic to get his tips on how to create a dynasty of your own.

10 - Do your homework.

“If you want to own your own business, just make sure there’s a business there. Make sure there’s demand for your business there. Never open a business just because you like it. There has to be demand for it — the consumer is asking for it or they want it. So I think it’s about doing your research and your homework. It’s about making sure that you’re financially secure, that you can make sure that you can open the doors, and — because we know first-year businesses very rarely make money so you have to understand that — be able to withstand that first year. These are the things that you have to think about. But, also, don’t be afraid of the economy, because a lot of times there’s opportunity there, too, when the economy is like this.”

9 - Engage your community.

“Think about the $2 trillion-dollar spending power of urban communities…and you think about, there are no retailers, no quality retailers in our communities. We love going to the movies, that’s why I started Magic Johnson Theaters. We want the best cup of coffee just like everybody else, that’s why I approached Starbucks. So [the CEO] Howard Schultz believed in the business plan and business strategy. We knew that there was a demand there for Starbucks and it showed. We still are underserved when it comes to quality retailers coming into our communities. We want shopping options just like everybody else.”

8 - Strive for perfection.

“I think [my success] is first of all about my work ethic, my focus, my preparation, my discipline. And I think you definitely learn by doing. You know, my dad was definitely a worker, a hard worker. He showed me that every day, and he instilled that in me every single day. And he was a perfectionist, doing things the right way, and so that helped me become a perfectionist. And then playing for Pat Riley for the Lakers, he was a perfectionist, and so that rubbed off on me as well.”

7 - Have a good mentor.

“You have to have mentors, no question about it, because those people can get you started, show you the ropes, you know, teach you how to do things the right way. You can use them for sounding boards, ’cause I did that a lot. I was very fortunate to have Michael Ovitz — he created CAA — I had guys like that who really helped me out a lot. Even today, a guy like Howard Schultz at Starbucks…it’s just good to have great mentors. That’s what it’s all about.”

6 - Be comfortable with who you are.

Magic recently became a spokesperson for Dove. We asked him how that came about. “Yeah, I was already the Dove man before Dove actually called me, because I was already using the Dove Men+Care products. I think that when they told me what the campaign was gonna be about — men feeling comfortable in their own skin — I was like, 'Oh, wow, that’s me all the way!' So it was a natural for me.” As for if he thinks other men will follow suit, Magic says, “I think that Dove is making it cool for men to talk about beauty products, and of being conscious of what they put on their body.” But what Magic values more is the message of the ad campaign and the facets of his life he shares in it. “Yeah, it’s just who you are, and who I am as a man, as a husband, as a father, who I was as a basketball player, who I was as a son — the campaign covers every part of my life, and what made me comfortable as a man today, and that’s what I appreciate.”

5 - Laugh at obstacles.

"I didn’t let HIV keep me down. I decided, okay, I know I have to deal with HIV, but I still have dreams and goals and I’m gonna go after these dreams and goals. And, oh yeah, there were a lot of people who had doubts that my business could be successful. But I didn’t worry about them. I knew the numbers, I knew information, I did my homework. I knew what I was getting into and I’m happy that I decided to invest in urban America . . . way before it was fashionable like it is now!”

“Stay focused, stay on the journey, don’t get discouraged, don’t let nobody tell you you can’t do it. Don’t wait on somebody else to motivate yourself, motivate yourself. Believe in yourself because that’s what made me the man I am, because I believe in me."

4 - Enjoy every moment of the climb.

Of course, many things Magic learned as player, both in college and the NBA, can be applied to business ventures as well. “When you think about the NCAA tournament, every game is a pressure game. But I would tell players to enjoy this moment because very few teams get to get into the NCAA tournament and have a chance to win an NCAA championship. And play like it’s your last game ever. But don’t tighten up, don’t be scared, just enjoy the moment and go forth.”

3 - Make friends, not enemies.

Not all business leaders get rich by playing nice guy. But for Magic, being admired has definitely been a good thing. “I think it’s important for me [laughing]. I enjoy being liked. I enjoy what we built on the court with the Lakers and then what I built off the court in my company. And I think because I did things the right way, and the people of Los Angeles know who Magic is, what he stands for, that’s why I think they like me.”

2 - Surround yourself with people smarter than you.

“You know, our dynasty was built because we had some unbelievable players. When you think about Kareem, you think about James Worthy, you think about Michael Cooper, and Byron Scott, and Kurt Rambis and Michael Thompson, Norm Nixon —  all the guys I played with -- they were all about one thing, and that’s winning. And then when you have a flamboyant coach like Pat Riley -- a guy who really knows his Xs and Os, like Pat Riley — that really made us a team to watch. Because our style was different from everybody else. ’Cause we loved to run and so that 'Showtime' basketball was contagious to all the fans. And, yep, the same model [carried off the court]. You hire great executives, you hire smarter people than yourself, and you hire people who believe in you and in the brand. You hire people who have high integrity, values, and you go out and really go and build something unbelievable and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

1 - Love where you live.

Magic is Los Angeles. “I love the people, I love the city, I love the palm trees, the water. I love that we have so many different options to dine. I love Sunset, I love what they’ve done downtown with the Staples Center and LA LIVE. I think L.A. is about all the options. It’s a place that you can be successful in, it’s a place that if you want to just relax you can get away and do that. If you want the action, that’s available for you. It gives you anything in life that you want, and that’s what I love about L.A.”



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