Daymond John — Business & Life Lessons FUBU
If there’s anyone on this planet who knows what it takes to build a successful business from the ground up, it’s Shark Tank’s very own Daymond John. Today I’m about to unlock for you the business and life lessons from the unbelievable — yet undisputed — success story of Daymond John.
As both a Shark and the founder and CEO of $6 billion-dollar apparel brand FUBU, Daymond John has learned a lot about what it takes to launch and grow a business.
What Daymond John learned as he gradually built a billion-dollar clothing line is that sometimes your best work comes when your back is against the wall, a lesson he distilled into his 2016 book, The Power of Broke. In this case, sometimes literally being broke can be the jump-start an entrepreneur needs.
What unites entrepreneurs like Daymond John is that they don’t let obstacles stop them.
It’s so easy to have excuses not to get something done. Entrepreneurship is about how you think, not what you have. Daymond John thinks on his feet. We know this because he’s honest about the problems he’s overcome. And it still took him many years to become successful. There are no rags-to-riches stories.
Daymond John didn’t strike it rich by accident. He started out with a plan.
As a teen, his plan was to become a millionaire by 22 years old, by selling crash-cars. This is someone who has actually walked the walk. Daymond John has done it all, from selling his goods on the street to managing a global $6 billion brand. Through his actions and his words, he demonstrates what being an entrepreneur is truly all about.
At the end of the day, running a business comes down to this: what can you do today, right now, so you have no excuses tomorrow?
As John will tell you, the key elements of any successful venture haven’t changed since the 1990’s, even if times have. Here are seven pieces of advice Daymond John has accumulated along the way; seven of our top life lessons and business takeaways you can learn from his success story.
Lesson #1: Hit The Books
You don’t necessarily need a college degree or an MBA to be successful. I believe that there’s no substitute for experience. Every day, you’re getting better, stronger and smarter just by hustling and making things happen. When it comes to learning and educating yourself, your antenna should always be up, searching for ways to make yourself sharper and more well informed about the business you’re in.
If you look at all successful readers around the world, you will see one trait they all have in common.
They all dedicate at least a few minutes to a few hours every day towards learning a new skill or reading a new book. If you know the same things you did a week, a month or a year ago, and have not grown or transformed in any way, you have wasted your precious and limited time.
Learning isn’t confined to the essential skills and accumulated know-how of doing your job.
The world is constantly turning, and the pace of change and development is accelerating all the time. Added to that are the continually shifting social and economic events and political backgrounds under which you are working. If you don’t keep an eye on what is happening in your industry and with the world in general, you won’t be able to keep pace with change. You could lose out on new contracts or important clients; you might fail to implement key new technologies that improve your productivity and transform your work processes.
Educating yourself, whether formally or informally, will improve your business and those around you.
It will prepare you to face new challenges and embrace novel ideas. You will also gain useful contacts along the way. Investing in yourself is the ultimate investment, and you can achieve that feat by learning. Don’t you want to be better? Haven’t you always wanted to master more than one industry? Well, you can’t achieve any of those goals if you shut off learning. Continue to invest in yourself — you won’t regret it.
Investing in yourself is game-changing for you and your business.
When you continue to educate yourself, you stay inspired, maintain your passion, keep up with the trends, and ultimately, become a better leader. And, that my friends is so valuable. What will you start incorporating into your daily routine to help further your education? Will it be listening to motivational podcasts, reading inspirational books, or taking online courses?
Another thing that makes entrepreneurs happy to learn is because it inspires them to achieve their goals.
Because basically, inspiration will be difficult for us to get if we continue to do the same things every day, starting from selling or interacting with the same types of customers. Everyone needs changes in their daily lives so they can be creative, face various challenges, and get new information. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture if you’re stuck in a daily routine doing the same old thing.
Forget what you think about ‘natural born entrepreneurs.’ No innate talent gives people the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
It’s hard work and learning that separates the wheat from the chaff, and if you want to enjoy even a tenth of the success of the wealthiest entrepreneurs on the planet, you need to engage your education. Ask any entrepreneur that has enjoyed considerable success, and they will all tell you the same thing: keep learning.
Lesson #2: Don't Dwell On Your Failures
Before founding FUBU, Daymond John had 2 other ventures. The first was buying, fixing, and selling cars. But after 6 months, Daymond John was broke and came to the realization that he didn’t love the work. So he quickly pivoted to his second venture: a transportation company.
In every failed attempt, learn from what didn’t work and use these insights to fuel your strategies moving forward. This will make you more resilient and better at what you do.
With his carpool business, Daymond John faced a major challenge: he didn’t have the necessary taxi license from the Department of Transportation (DOT). So he continued to run his business without one until DOT issued him a $3k ticket. He said the ticket cost made him sick for weeks because another one would put him out of business. So while both businesses were, on paper, failures, Daymond John looks at these experiences as some of his greatest lessons. Because these mistakes gave him invaluable insights that made him a smarter businessman and contributed to his overall success.
Daymond John himself has fumbled on his own path to success.
The fact that you’ve made mistakes in the course of building your business isn’t problematic, John explains, as long as you’re prepared to talk about your failures and how you overcame them. Proving that you’ve learned from your mistakes is a sign of emotional and professional maturity.
If you don’t investigate the root of your failures, you miss the point.
Daymond John admitted that he still finds himself reevaluating missteps he’s made over his career. This honest self-reflection has helped him realize that his failures typically happened for one of three different reasons. In the beginning, his lack of financial intelligence was mostly to blame. But then once he remedied that shortcoming, he threw his money at too many businesses without really peeling back the layers to understand them.
Typically people don’t fail, the business model fails.
It’s important to separate yourself from your mistakes. You are a mistake maker, but you are also a mistake breaker. In other words, just because you made a mistake today, doesn’t mean that you will make a mistake tomorrow or the next day. You have a chance to change or fix your errors.
One of the ways to learn from your failures is by embracing change. Some people absolutely despise change, and it’s easy to see why.
People get caught up in their ways, they get used to seeing the same people at the office, they like the routine. When you fail, sometimes you have to change things drastically. If things are not going your way and you have to start over, sometimes you have to sit back and look at the changes that need to be made and embrace them. When you embrace change after a failure, you’re encouraging healthy mental growth and development. If you want to be a healthy entrepreneur, you have to be a mentally healthy human being.
Think of failure as an asset.
Because of their curiosity, one of the biggest regrets entrepreneurs will have is not trying and hence wondering “what if.” This longing for knowledge and answers provides us with the tools to not only understand how to run businesses better, but also what to avoid. As long as we are learning, entrepreneurs become more valuable with each and every failure.
Lesson #3: Commit For The Long-haul
You don’t need the five-year lease and the $20,000 website. Short-term goals for new businesses should be building a very small community that understands who you are and selling to them and improving the trust you have. Once you know your customer really well, then you’ll be able to duplicate that on a much larger scale.
Staying motivated for the long haul is both challenging and necessary.
We live in a fast-paced society where instant gratification is the norm. We may discover that we need skills and attributes to help us stay positive and on course as we deal with the ups and downs of business. We come to learn that growing a business is a process that requires patience, flexibility, trust, and the ability to deal with uncertainty, among other things.
Many people have big ambitions but lack of commitment.
They want to start a company, get a promotion, or gain new skills to advance their careers. What sets entrepreneurs apart from everyone else is their commitment. They stick to it, whatever it is. It’s not a short-term journey; they’re in it for the long haul and work to be their best every day. Commit to your role, your organization, your idea, even when it’s hard, and that consistency will pay off.
Building a successful business is like climbing a mountain: it’s an uphill battle most of the way, but the view from the top is pretty spectacular.
The harsh reality is that the world is full of “could’ve beens” — people who have wonderful ideas and aspirations, but didn’t have the stamina, desire or knowhow to make it happen. Many of them gave up too fast because it seemed too hard, too daunting or too scary. The bleak truth is, if you aren’t willing to see your dream through, someone else probably is. Someone else will succeed where you gave up.
That said, being an entrepreneur can be a lonely and isolating journey.
You can’t always share your challenges and struggles with the team that relies on you for their livelihood, so Daymond John recommends surrounding yourself with a strong, external support system — a network of people who genuinely care about you and your business. That’s extremely important, because if you’re not good, you can’t take care of anybody else. You have to take inventory of yourself.
Showing up, day in and day out, is the single most important thing you can do to set yourself on a path to becoming the best entrepreneur you can be.
Consistency is how you establish your reputation and show people what you are about through your actions and not just your words. It’s how you get your message out there, and how people come to believe in you and your vision. It instills accountability and demonstrates that you’re able to deliver the goods on your promises. When you are in it for the long haul and are consistently moving forward on your stated goals, you begin to build a community around you based on trust and respect.
Lesson #4: The Power of Broke
The pressure placed on a business owner from investors can be extremely tough to handle. Investors, usually focused on returns, seek growth and often like to have control over various aspects of a company. If a business owner isn’t ready for those steps, that kind of leap can actually hurt a company.
The best mentors tell you not to take in finance too soon. Beware of early money.
It is your job to convince an investor you are a future success story and your product will help them return their money. If you come to the investor super early, with no validation or traction, the risk for that investor is significantly higher. That means that if you do convince them to take out their check book despite the high risk, they have the leverage to write the check on their terms. In other words, you need that investor more than he needs you.
With a good idea, passion and a committed work ethic, you can succeed even without financial resources.
Hence the title of his best-selling book, “The Power of Broke.” This book shows that being broke can be one of the greatest assets one can have. It shows that being hungry for success and broke can help tackle the adversities of the market like a lioness who is trying to provide for her cubs. It can help us in finding creative ways to solve our problems in our businesses.
Even if you just sold your brilliant startup for a billion dollars, or you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you have to continue to summon the power of broke.
You have to remember the hunger which fueled you in your early years. Because when you’ve got nothing to lose, you’ve got everything to gain. Sometimes it takes having your back against the wall, leveraging your last dollar, and having no place to go but up, up, up if you expect something to happen. Because if you’ve got to succeed to survive, you will.
Ironically, even well-financed businesses are drained of capital because they fail to get new customers.
That is the leveling field between all businesses. Whether your business has millions or a dollar in assets, every business needs new customers. In the search for the next customer, businesses can become complacent (“We’ve got that market”) or overtly negative (“We can’t enter that market”). This is less of a problem for the money-strapped entrepreneur with a product that has been “market-tested” in the real world. To Daymond John, that is where the potential lies.
Being at a disadvantage and having few resources is actually a proven a recipe for success.
Some people are born with certain advantages while others start out at a disadvantage — but even if you have to work harder than others just to get on equal footing, don’t let it get you down. When trying to start FUBU, several banks rejected Daymond John’s loan request. That must’ve been frustrating, but instead of giving up he did something that showed how much he believed in his plan of creating an apparel company: he mortgaged his house and converted part of it into a factory.
Lesson #5: Be Who You Are
To me, Daymond John seems like the same person in real life that he is on TV. He’s effectively maintaining his personal brand, and the fact that he hasn’t let fame change him bolsters his reputation. Keep your reputation as an entrepreneur in top shape by remembering who you are, and your success will only grow.
Be yourself no matter how successful you become.
Treat people well no matter your impressions of them. Not only is it the right thing to do, but doing so keeps the door open for more opportunities because people do business with people they like, and people that are liked are genuine. As a talented brand guru, Daymond John understands the importance of word-of-mouth marketing and knows that it applies to his personal brand as well.
Rather than obsess or focus on what he lacks, he taps into the skills at his disposal.
Once, before he was about to speak in front of an audience that included Steve Wozniak and Tim Draper, he remembers thinking, “What the hell am I going to teach these people? They have changed the planet! I could remind them of what got them there, I realized, by sharing my story. No one can outtalk me on me. If I’m here, you definitely can be too.”
These days it’s easy to manufacture a personality using social media.
But building a business is as much about how you carry yourself as it is about meeting quarterly sales figures or developing new products. Be transparent and honest about what you want from the business and your employees will follow your example.
Naturally not everyone will agree with you or resonate with your offerings, but do you really want to work with someone who doesn’t?
Quality connections are worth a lot more than a bunch of mediocre ones. And I’m pretty sure we didn’t start our own businesses to become mediocre. You’re an entrepreneur because you want to make a change, to have a positive effect on the world and have more freedom in your own life. That starts with being true to yourself.
Be authentic. You can be real by building a purpose for your business instead of just making money.
Apply your principal ethics, aims and theories to the way you approach to every trait of your business. Also give time to listening and understanding to your colleagues or co-owners; and don’t put things on others forcefully, because that will develop a really negative effect.
You will say NO when something is just NOT in line with your vision and your truth. And you’re absolutely okay with that!
This requires a lot of guts and ultimately means that you cannot be bought. People, investors, clients, will all recognize this and the right ones will value it for exactly what it’s worth. The level of quality you bring to the table is undeniable and that means that people can trust you and your product without any doubt. This is simply priceless.
Lesson #6: Give Back
There’s a reason Daymond John tends to align himself with companies that give back: It makes customers feel good to know that their money is contributing to a better world. If you want your business to succeed, give back to a cause you believe in.
That said, you don’t have to be a big company to be impactful.
Daymond John points to sock company Bombas, which donates a pair of socks for each pair purchased, as an example. “They’re not changing the world; they’re making socks,” he says. “But they still have a great story.” It was for that reason that Daymond John chose to invest in Bombas, and it’s been one of his greatest Shark Tank success stories.
When you are just getting started as an entrepreneur, things like; mentorship, advice, feedback, and strategies all have value to you.
However, once you begin to grow and become successful (for those that are motivated enough), this part of your life really determines what you stand for. Are you going to sit on your success and enjoy the rest of your life? Are you going to donate money, give it to charity, invest, keep working and so on? The options are endless!
Daymond John is a known billionaire that is vastly successful and hardworking. Yet, he continues to give back to the entrepreneur community even after making billions.
He could easily just sit on his money and enjoy life as a billionaire, but instead, he continues to invest in others. Investing in others is what drives the entrepreneur community! It also gives others hope! Daymond John is not the only one who gives back, but he is a prime example of an entrepreneur that is trying to invest some time into others.
There are many ways businesses give back to the community.
It is a social responsibility that needs to be fulfilled and can in return provide many benefits to your business itself. Always keep in mind that you don’t need money to give back, and there are many ways that you, your employees, and your community can have fun supporting each other!
If you think you don’t have time to give back to your community, reexamine your priorities.
Making a positive change in your local community or aligning with any charitable initiative means that you are making a positive global impact for the betterment of society. This also enables you to connect with like-minded people from around the world, and these collaborations can lead to mutually beneficial business. When you share the same vision, you can be a part of a bigger movement encouraging changes around the world.
Lesson #7: Follow Your Passion
A true entrepreneur must love what they’re doing, a seemingly trite lesson that Daymond John says is crucial for any successful entrepreneur. It’s passion for a project that will allow a person to push past failures and feeling burned out.
Money’s more likely to follow when you’re doing something you love, because you’ll do it for 10 years or 20 years.
Being passionate about your idea or business is key to finding success. More businesses fail than succeed because the owner or owners are not passionate or lose their passion for the product or service they offer. This is why it is so important to brainstorm business ideas that don’t just put a dollar sign in your mind. Dollar signs are good, but if you are not passionate about the idea you will eventually get burned out and will most likely become a statistic in the failed business column in another textbook.
If you want to spend your life doing something that you love, the best way to start is to treat any financial concerns that you might have as secondary concerns.
If the practicality of what you want to do and how much money you can earn is a primary criterion for you, you will quickly limit your options to what is predictable, making it tough for you to do what you really love. By allowing yourself to follow your curiosity without worrying about money, you will find yourself in a position of power that will ultimately put you in the position of earning money on your terms.
There is an old saying that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.
While that mantra could be argued, the sentiment behind the phrase is definitely worth pursuing. If you want to start doing what you love, pursuing your passion should be at the heart of that decision. Entrepreneurs who focus on their passions tend to be more successful than their less passionate peers, and there are plenty of ways to find your passion and turn it into a thriving business.
Passion effects how customers, investors and employees view the entrepreneur and their product.
When they can feel the entrepreneur’s passion, they may be more persuaded by it; and for good reason. It was Daymond John’s love of his new company that helped him persevere when he was just starting his business. But after three months of running FUBU, he had sold $30 million worth of clothing.
Nonetheless, if you follow drive first, chances are your ventures are a means to an end.
Drive could mean that you are hell bent on being successful now, so you can pursue your passions in life. I must say, I think that is misguided. Drive should be an effect of passion. Don’t follow a project because you have to, follow a project because you feel it. No matter what, you feel something that few others, if anyone, will ever understand. Follow a venture because you’re passionate about it. Success and failure is part of the game, but your passion won’t waver based on the highs and lows. Rather, your passion will keep you looking forward to not only succeed, but to embrace and love every second of it.
Overcoming obstacles builds character. In his books and lengthy interviews, Daymond John is clear about the fact that no one will save you but yourself. In his own experience as a lifelong entrepreneur who has brought dozens of product ideas to market, that is 100 percent true.
Daymond John has always been kind enough to share some words of wisdom for entrepreneurs who are grappling with all sorts of challenges.
Not only has Daymond John made a name for himself as a savvy businessman, but he’s known as someone who’s extremely generous with his time, especially when it comes to lending a hand to budding entrepreneurs. In fact, for years, Daymond John has partnered with Bob Evans Farms in its “Heroes to CEOs” contest, which offers military veterans a chance to secure valuable business grants.
If you’re truly committed, nothing will stop you.
There’s nothing like putting your place to live on the line after being repeatedly rejected by people who could fund your future. But this is the kind of sacrifice that entrepreneurs have to be prepared to make to see their dreams come to pass. Conviction and persistence drive entrepreneurs to take risks and bring their visions to life no matter what the obstacles.
In his own words, success is waking up every day and doing what you want to do. What are you waiting for?
We can’t all be lucky enough to have a mentor like Daymond John. But you can still learn from his expertise — whether you’re new to the business world or have owned a company for years. What do you think about how Daymond John built his empire? Share your thoughts in the comments below with our fellow leaders!