Magic Johnson’s Tough Retail Lesson

NBA veteran and business owner Magic Johnson’s first foray into retail taught him what happens to entrepreneurs who don’t listen to their customers. In 1990, he launched a chain of retail sporting goods stores called Magic 32. In anticipation of the launch, he attended a major sporting goods convention to negotiate for products he’d sell at the store.

But he never asked what his customers wanted. He simply purchased goods that he’d be interested in, such as a $1,500 leather jacket. A year later, when the store closed its doors, those same jackets were still hanging on the racks untouched. From this and more initial hurdles, Magic gathered these tips for his book, 32 Ways to Be a Champion in Business:

Have a Mission. Too often, an entrepreneur’s mission is to make money. To be successful, your mission must take you and your customers to someplace special. “Developing businesses in urban neighborhoods is a mission with deep meaning for me,” Johnson writes.

Have a Pre-Game Plan. Johnson said he worked hard to understand the customers who would be served through his mission so he could find “something that had value to the community, something that had been lost.” That led to the opening of his first multiscreen theater in urban Los Angeles, just blocks from some of the nation’s most famous riots.

Be Humble. When you ask for advice, heed it. “If you already know it all, don’t take someone’s time,” he says. “But if you do ask, make sure to listen!”

Handle Your Weaknesses. But don’t believe you have to turn them into strengths. “Greatness is achieved by building on strengths and managing your weaknesses so they do not matter,” Johnson writes.

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