Penn State

Hoop dreams gave ‘Magic’ Johnson an assist

Kevin Montminy welcomes the audience to hear Earvin “Magic” Johnson spoke at the Penn State Eisenhower Auditorium as part of the Schreyer Honors College Shaping the Future Summit on Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
Kevin Montminy welcomes the audience to hear Earvin “Magic” Johnson spoke at the Penn State Eisenhower Auditorium as part of the Schreyer Honors College Shaping the Future Summit on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. CDT photo

Adjustment, reputation and over delivery are three components Earvin “Magic” Johnson used to become a successful businessman.

On Wednesday evening, NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson held a seminar for aspiring entrepreneurs at Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium.

Johnson, who grew up poor but wanted more out of life, and saw the chance through playing basketball.

“Always make the right decisions for yourself, nobody else,” he said. “I had the chance to change my life and my family’s life through basketball, and I took it.”

When Johnson started making money from playing professional basketball he wanted to make a difference in disadvantaged life and communities.

Johnson said he wanted to make a difference in urban America, so he started Magic Johnson Enterprises, which provides products and services to diverse and disadvantaged communities in America. Johnson said that a good way to get ahead in business is to hire a good team of people, like he did when hiring the right people to help him make the best financial decisions.

Johnson has built many successful businesses to bring economic strengths to poor communities. Johnson said he has built businesses such as movie theaters, fast food chains, health clinics and Starbucks.

Johnson attributed his business success to adjustment. Johnson said you have to know your customers and location, and provide to them with what they want. When Johnson convinced Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, to let him build some Starbucks in urban areas, Johnson made the changes he needed to succeed. Johnson joked that black people didn’t eat scones, and he changed the food options to include pound cake and sweet potato pie.

For Johnson these adjustments worked, as he built 125 Starbucks in more than 40 cities, and then sold his portion of Starbucks back to Schultz.

Johnson reminded people to have a clear understanding of what you need when you get into business, and to make sure you always have an exit plan if you don’t want to stay committed for life. He also says to be open to learning, and when you have a weakness to find someone who is strong to make up for it.

“I grew up poor, but never had poor dreams,” said Johnson. “Take advantage of your education while you’re here at Penn State, like I took advantage of my education at Michigan State.

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