What does it take to be successful in business?
Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal — it is the courage to continue that counts.” And Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
My guest today is serial entrepreneur, billionaire, and philanthropist John DeJoria, who is best known as a co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and The Patrón Spirits Company. Today, he’s one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world with billions in profits. But he wasn’t always a fabulously wealthy businessman. Once upon a time, he was literally sleeping in his car and selling shampoo bottles door-to-door.
John knows what it takes to build a successful business from the ground-up. He knows what it means to have a billionaire mindset, overcome the fear of rejection, and make wise investments that will allow you to grow the kind of business you’ve only dreamed of.
In 2011, John signed the “Giving Pledge” created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. Today, the commitment includes more than 200 of the world’s wealthiest individuals who will “give the majority of their wealth to address some of society’s most pressing problems.” John’s using the wealth that he’s earned to give back in a big way.
We had an incredible conversation about how John came from nothing and how he was able to create multiple globally successful businesses by facing rejection head-on. This conversation was so inspiring to me, and I think it will inspire you too. Let’s get started!
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and residing in Austin, Texas, John DeJoria is best known for co-founding two iconic global multi-billion-dollar-valued brands: Paul Mitchell and Patrón.
In 1980, John connected with hairstylist Paul Mitchell, and together they used a partially borrowed $700 to co-found their California- based company, John Mitchell Systems (JPMS). That black and white bottle they’re so famous for today? They invented it because they didn’t have enough money for printing. Today, JPMS has approximately 325 full-time employees and a global network of hundreds of educators to teach advanced artistic and technical training classes, and John remains as chairman of the company.
Kline & Company ranks JPMS first in Care & Style sales in the United States, and Euromonitor International, the leading independent provider of market research, ranks JPMS second in global sales of professional beauty products. JPMS professional and salon sales-at-retail are approximately $2.7 billion.
In 1989, John invested $400,000 to co-found (and eventually have a 70% shareholding of) Patrón Spirits International. In 2018, Bermuda-based Bacardi Limited purchased the company for $5.1 billion. The return on investment (ROI) was 1,275,000%. John is chairman emeritus of the company.
Established in 2011 and with assets exceeding $55 million, John’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation channels the DeJoria family’s commitment to contributing to a sustainable planet through investing in people, protecting animals, and conserving the environment. I truly respect John’s commitment to giving back. His foundation is making incredible investments in the future of our planet and species, and that’s in addition to the wonderful work he’s doing with Mrs. and Mrs. Gates and Warren Buffet.
It’s hard to deny that John DeJoria is one of the most successful people out there. But through it all, he’s remained wise, grounded, and committed to using his profits to help others. This interview was insightful and informative, and I know you’re going to get a lot of value out of it. Let’s dive in!
This year has been a challenge for many of us. Many people have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while there is hope for a vaccine on the horizon, we’re not out of the woods yet. Many of us are still experiencing extreme challenges — if that’s you, I want to offer you some encouragement: It will get better!
In fact, you have the power to make it better. If you’ve lost your job — or even if you haven’t — have you considered using this time as an opportunity to make a pivot in your career? Maybe you have a side hustle you’ve been working on, or maybe you’ve been dreaming of starting your own business for a while now. This could be the time to get that started! If you — like so many of us — are finding yourself with a lot more free time during this time, you might have a really beautiful opportunity to start creating the business of your dreams.
John didn’t launch John Paul Mitchell Systems in the midst of a pandemic, but he definitely experienced a fair amount of adversity when he was getting started:
“Money never came in, and I left all the money [I had] with [my ex-wife] to take care of … my daughter for many, many months [with] a few hundred bucks in my pocket. It’s a true story. … I lived in my car. … Inflation was 12.5% in the United States, [and] unemployment was 10.5%. … If you wanted a loan, … prime rate was 17%, [and] most loans were 25% or 30% if you [could] qualify for it. … Our whole office was an answering machine because that’s all we [could] afford … So today, yeah, it’d be a lot easier.” – John Paul DeJoria
John was up against a lot of obstacles when we set out to start his company — both personally and economically. At that time in the United States, it was incredibly difficult for someone like him to get a business loan. On top of that, John wasn’t in a position to invest a lot of money in his company. He was literally living in an old Rolls Royce that often broke down.
But did John let that stop him? Nope! He stepped out and confidently put his time and energy into building a business and making it successful, and you can do the same! Don’t be afraid of using this time as an opportunity to start something new — this could be the moment when you start building the life of your dreams.
For those of you looking to launch a new business — John Paul DeJoria has plenty of wise advice! Here’s the absolute number one thing he tells new entrepreneurs:
“Whether you have a service or whether you have a physical product, don’t go into [the] selling business. … You’re selling … the existing service, however, that is a one-time sale. If, in your mind, it is, ‘I’m not going into the selling business; I’m going into the reorder business,’ … it’s, ‘here’s how it’s going to affect me and you,’ but long-term. So all the products were developed to be so good and so easy to use that people want to reorder them. … Sell the reorder, not just the order.” – John Paul DeJoria
If you have a product or service you want to sell, you have to think one step ahead. Don’t just plan to have people purchase your product or service once — sell them on the reorder. Provide so much value that your clients will want to come back for more.
That’s John’s most important business tip, but he had plenty more to share! Here are the top three pieces of advice he had for any business owner:
“The first thing I want to do, and I would suggest to everybody [is] … pay off your house … because if everything goes wrong, you have a place to live.” – John Paul DeJoria
John knows what it’s like to live in his car, and he doesn’t recommend it. If you’re a business owner and you’re starting to turn bigger profits and make some real money, John recommends using that money to pay off your house before you make any other investments. That way, no matter what, you’ll have a roof over your head.
“Now your next thing to do is to put enough money aside. Don’t raise your standard of living much at all, raise it very little, okay? … [If you have] extra money — invest it somehow where if everything went wrong, you have that six months now for the rest of your life.” – John Paul DeJoria
Once you’ve paid off your house and you have a secure place to live, you might find yourself with extra money. You may be tempted to spend it all on fun things, but John recommends saving at least enough money to cover your expenses for six months. It doesn’t take too much money to do it, but if anything goes wrong, you’ll be glad you had enough money in savings to cover you.
“Invest in your business before you invest in anyone else’s business … because you have control of it and you know what comes out of it.” – John Paul DeJoria
When it comes to investing, invest in yourself first. If you’ve paid off your house and set aside six months of living expenses, start putting money back into your business! Keep building and investing in yourself. If you get to a point where you still have extra money, you can invest in someone else’s business, but don’t bank on receiving a return on those investments. Place your money where you can control where it goes, and continue to make your business bigger and better!
Those were some great practical tips for building a business and maintaining good financial standing, but I also wanted to know a little bit more about John’s mindset. What kind of mindset do you need to become a billionaire? And is the billionaire mindset different from the millionaire mindset?
According to John, the key to a billionaire mindset — contrary to what you might think — is giving, not getting:
“I would say the mindset — I could give you my case — was how to keep what I have and what I give away. I’m part of the Giving Pledge. … All of my companies give — We give personally, and I have a foundation — JP’s Peace, Love, and Happiness Foundation. … We put money not to give away but invest money not ever wanting in return. … I’m a firm believer that on this planet we come with absolutely nothing. … And whatever we get, we’re blessed with. It’s like paying a rent a little bit for our time on earth.” – John Paul DeJoria
That’s the difference between millionaires and billionaires — billionaires are passionate about giving back. Take John, for example. John’s foundation is doing incredible work around the world to combat homelessness. He’s built hundreds of homes for homeless people in Texas, and he has plans to build hundreds more. He contributes to relief for children in Africa whose parents have died of AIDS. And, as I mentioned earlier, he’s part of the Giving Pledge created by the Gates and Warren Buffet.
John is dedicated to investing his money so as to help the maximum number of people. He wants to make the world a better place, and he makes giving a priority. That’s what sets him apart from other financially successful people and makes him a true billionaire.
So how do we step into that billionaire mindset? How do we get to a place in our minds where we’re more focused on helping others instead of helping ourselves? John recommends taking a little time each day to focus on “being.”
“Whether it’s meditating, whether it’s the middle of the day and you’re just stopping for ten minutes, … just try and clear your mind. Look around you, maybe go outside [and look at] the trees, the sky — just be. … All of a sudden, … you’re not just being through your eyes. There’s something more around you. … And just give love.” – John Paul DeJoria
I think that’s such good advice. Do you have a meditation practice? Do you ever take the time to stop and just be? If you haven’t walked outside today, take a minute so go out, see the sky, and just breathe for a few minutes. Recognize that there’s a big world out there, and give love — to those around you and to those not so close by, if you can afford it. That’s how you truly get into the billionaire mindset.
I want to share one more powerful lesson John taught me today. We talked a lot in our conversation about business and about how to become a billionaire, but I also wanted to talk about how some of this wisdom translates into personal relationships. What has John learned over the years?
If there’s one major lesson John’s learned about how to live in relationships with other people, it’s this: Forgive others.
“Learn to forgive in your life. Everyone you hate, you’re unhappy with, you want revenge with, you don’t like, you’re jealous of, … anyone that’s hurt you or screwed you over in your life … forgive them. … Because what happens is we build on our shoulders and in our minds hate [and] resentment. … You suffer more than they will ever suffer.” – John Paul DeJoria
I think that’s so true. If you hold onto anger, resentment, and hate, those feelings will build up in you, and you’ll suffer so much for something someone else did to you. But if you forgive that person, you can let all those negative feelings go. You don’t have to suffer from them — you can be free.
In our society, it’s become a little too easy to become angry. We have differing opinions over almost everything you can think of — you just have to check the comments on almost any YouTube video or Instagram post to see that. In a world where it’s this easy to get into an argument, how can we diffuse the tension and treat others with love and respect?
John learned how to do just that in a place you may not expect — the United States Navy. While he was enlisted in the Navy, John learned the magic words to use in any conversation where you might not agree with someone: “I could appreciate that. However …”
“I learned the magical words: ‘I could appreciate that. However. …’ So you could tell me that, ‘Oh, this is white.’ … We’re not going to go back and forth. I’m going to say, ‘You know, I can appreciate that. … However, from my viewpoint, with my lens, it turns out to be black, … but we all see things a little differently here, and here’s why.’” – John Paul DeJoria
This is such a good tactic to use when someone disagrees with you. If you get into an argument, you’re only going to end up building resentment and frustration. But if you acknowledge the other person’s perspective and politely offer your own, you’re much more likely to have a productive and polite conversation. Who knows? You might learn to see something in a new way!
This conversation was amazing. I learned so much from John, and I’m grateful to him for coming on the podcast and sharing his wisdom. He’s learned a lot over his four decades of being in business — way more than I had time to share in this post — and I’m glad he got to share that wisdom with you all today. I hope that you learned as much as I did!
I also want to take a minute to acknowledge John for the way he keeps showing up for himself, his employees, and the people who benefit from his consistent and generous giving. He’s been showing up for himself his whole life, and he’s constantly giving back to the world with joy, peace, and true happiness. He acts with love and forgiveness — simple principles we forget all too often — and he’s doing a tremendous amount of good work in the world.
Before I go, I want to share John’s definition of greatness:
“Greatness is when you do something for somebody else and ask absolutely nothing in return — not even a thank you or an acknowledgment. Man, not only do you get high as a kite … you’re just great within yourself. … You feel good about yourself and your presence.” – John Paul DeJoria
John definitely lives up to that definition. He gives so much without asking for anything in return — and that’s what makes him truly successful in life.
Thank you so much for joining me on this incredible episode of The School of Greatness! If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your friends on Instagram! And don’t forget to tag me, @lewishowes, on Instagram, and tag John, @johnpauldejoria, on Twitter, and tell us what your biggest takeaways from the episode were.
And if you’re interested in learning more about John’s foundation and how you can get involved in the incredible work they’re doing, make sure to check out their website!
Until next time — take a minute to just “be” today. Find ways to give back and share love with the people around you — you might be surprised at how good — great — it makes you feel.
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