Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Knocking for Opportunity

John was born to immigrant parents and grew up in Los Angeles. His parents divorced when he was two years old, and his mom struggled to make sure John and his brother never felt that they had less than anyone else.  Once, when the boys were young, she gave them a dime to put into a donation bucket.  They thought it was a lot of money to give away, but she said, “That’s to help people who really need it badly.  No matter what you have or don't have in your life, there's always somebody in more need than you are.”  The lesson made a lasting impression on John.

At 9 years old, his first job was selling Christmas cards door-to-door.  At 10, he had a paper route.  Each day, he got up at 4:00 AM to roll newspapers and deliver them before school started.  Unfortunately, when John’s mother became unable to support her sons, they were placed in a foster home.  John was angry and joined a street gang to gain a sense of belonging.  However, after one of his teachers told him that he would never succeed at anything, John decided to change his life and prove the teacher wrong. 

John spent two years in the Navy, then worked a variety of jobs ranging from janitor to insurance salesman.  At one point, he found himself homeless with a young son to care for.  He did everything he could to make ends meet, even collecting Coke bottles to turn in for a few cents each.  His most influential experience, though, was selling encyclopedias door-to-door.  Every day, dozens of people would close the door in his face as he tried to start his pitch.  But it made him a pro at pushing through difficulty.  On average, people stick with encyclopedia sales for just 3 days, but John stayed for 3 years.

One day, John was invited to have his long hair cut at a professional salon so the stylist could practice.  John accepted, and enjoyed the atmosphere so much that he decided to pursue a career in the world of hair care so he could spend more time in upscale salons.

He got a job working for a national hair care company, and quickly became one of their top sales people. After several years, he moved to a large shampoo manufacturer, and once again rose rapidly to the top of their sales and marketing team, but was fired when he ended up making more money than the company’s president.

At the age of 37, John decided to begin working for himself.  He and a new friend he’d made at a beauty convention developed an idea for a high quality shampoo that would save hair stylists lots of time.  The two formed a business partnership, and John found an investor willing to put in $500,000.  John thought he had everything ready to go, but on the day the money was supposed to come in, it never arrived.

Rather than giving up, John and his partner scrambled.  They pooled every dollar they could to get things off the ground – which, after a loan from John’s mother, totaled $700.  On top of this, John and his wife split up that week.  With no money left and nowhere to live, John found himself sleeping in his car as he and his partner launched their business.

John convinced a manufacturer to make a small batch of their shampoo and bill them two weeks after completion.  The $700 paid for the artwork, simple black print on white bottles because they couldn’t afford a color logo.  When the product was ready, John did what he did best:  he went door to door, selling the new shampoo to hair salons in person.

It took two years of financial struggle to get their business off the ground, but it certainly paid off.  Today, John Paul Mitchell Systems has over $900 million a year in sales and is sold to more than 150,000 hair salons in 87 countries.  That’s a lot of door knocking! John himself is worth more than $4 billion personally, after having the vision to also start the world’s first ultra-premium tequila brand, PatrĂ³n.  

It’s important to recognize that John Paul DeJoria found his success in the face of continuous adversity, rejection, and disappointment.  Far too often, people give up too soon.  When 10 doors get slammed in your face, remember that opportunity may be just one more knock away. When others are giving up, you need to get fired up.  Real failure only occurs when you stop trying.

Until next week…

Live Your Dreams!

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