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“Never Fear, Magic is Here!”: 3 Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned from Earvin “Magic” Johnson

Wednesday, January 31, 2024 12:03 PM | Vanessa Khan

In November 2020, I attended a virtual conference which featured Earvin “Magic” Johnson as a keynote speaker. Magic began his career as a pivotal force on the basketball court, playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Upon his retirement from the sport, he traded his jersey for a suit and tie when he embraced becoming a businessman. Presently, Magic is a successful Entrepreneur & Philanthropist, and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises. How did he make the successful transition from the basketball court to the boardroom? Over his career, Magic built a professional and recognizable brand as a dedicated and passionate athlete whose influence is still felt on the game. After retiring, he took a risk and applied his recognizable brand to the business world by becoming an Entrepreneur. Here are 3 lessons that Entrepreneurs can learn from Magic Johnson.

A) Mentorship & Coaching

Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s multi-faceted career is exemplified by his two passions, basketball and business. Already a prominent force on the court, Magic pondered his career post basketball and accepted opportunities off the court to nurture and expand his knowledge in business leveraging career coaches and mentors. His determination and passion in entrepreneurialism has allowed him to build a successful company known as Magic Johnson Enterprises.

The value of mentorship and career coaching has been a proven factor for entrepreneurs and corporate employees alike. Similar to a professional coach of a team, a career coach will push their clients to challenge themselves by expanding their comfort zone. Coaches understand the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the potential and value that their clients have to offer. They provide the necessary clarity and focus for their clients on how to achieve their goals. Most importantly, as we tend to be our worst critics, coaches are there to help us refocus and reiterate the power of our potential and presence when we fail.

B) Understand Your Customer

A key piece of advice that Magic Johnson shares is to understand your customer. It is this defining characteristic that helped him build an empire. Learning from his own experiences while growing up, he was able to find success by identifying gaps in markets. For example, watching movies was a favourite past time for him and his friends, however the neighbourhood where he grew up did not have a movie theatre. As the owner of Magic Johnson Enterprises, he opened the first movie theater in that community. Following this move, he opened multiple movie theaters in communities where none previously existed. This successful endeavour allowed his theaters to be acquired by AMC theatres.

With the success of Magic Johnson Theatres, Magic applied a similar strategy of identifying underserved markets and partnered with Starbucks to open additional locations in communities that were previously overlooked. In understanding his customers and key demographic, he also contributed and changed the Starbucks menu to appeal to his customers.

A successful business venture starts with identifying potential markets and understanding your customer. In meeting your customers’ needs, those same customers become your brand ambassadors.

C) The Importance of Diversity in Strategy

Diversity in opinion, experience, and perspectives are key factors of a strategy for any business to thrive. In demonstrating his philosophy of “understanding your customer”, Magic took a risk in opening theatres and partnering with Starbucks to open locations in market demographics that were previously overlooked. Magic challenged businesses to change their definitions of success and embrace a new business model by tapping into underserved communities. Ultimately, in forming partnerships with businesses he was able to provide a voice to communities that did not have one, and in turn allow companies an opportunity to gain market share in overlooked areas. Businesses need to evolve to thrive, and part of that evolution is welcoming fresh perspectives that challenge and disrupt the status quo.

The success of Earvin “Magic” Johnson off the court has been a captivating journey. His strong brand recognition as a professional athlete is a defining characteristic that allows him to provide a voice for equity and inclusion for undervalued communities. With his powerful brand and strategic market savvy, he generated opportunities for investments into communities that were underserved. Another defining characteristic is his ability to take calculated risks. In partnering with businesses, Magic demonstrated success through risk taking and identifying new opportunities for market expansion that benefitted communities. Thank you, Magic, for challenging and disrupting the status quo.

Vanessa Khan is Management Consultant with a focus on IT and a Business Advisor to small enterprises. She is passionate about creating and implementing strategic frameworks to solve complex problems. 

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