The film about John Paul DeJoria
John Paul DeJoria, who was once homeless but has since become a multibillionaire best known as the co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron Spirits as well as an investor in Fort Worth’s RIDE TV, headlined the Accelerate DFW’s inaugural gala and fundraising event earlier this month.
“DeJoria is an amazing friend, partner and human being, a truly one-of-a-kind individual who cares about people and the businesses he invests in,” said Michael Fletcher, RIDE TV’s cofounder and CEO, as well as a board member at Accelerate DFW, a 501c(3) organization that focuses on building entrepreneurs and supporting the entrepreneurial DNA in North Texas.
Accelerate DFW is anchored by the IDEA Works program in Fort Worth.
DeJoria was in Fort Worth to be honored for his long history of philanthropy as well as to share his thoughts on entrepreneurship.
The once homeless DeJoria struggled against the odds to launch multiple global enterprises while always following his motto: “Success unshared is failure.” DeJoria has invested in hundreds of businesses, many in Texas.
DeJoria’s story is told in a recent documentary, titled Good Fortune. The film documents how the one-time door-to-door shampoo and encyclopedia salesman met and partnered with Paul Mitchell in 1980.
They then invested $700 into what became John Paul Mitchell Systems, which has since become one of the most profitable hair care companies in the world.
In 1989 DeJoria and partner Martin Crowley took a well-timed stake in boutique tequila maker Patrón, which now has sales of more than $800 million, according to Forbes. DeJoria’s net worth is estimated by the magazine at $3.2 billion.
RIDE Television Network Inc., a privately held corporation based in Fort Worth and founded by Michael Fletcher, Craig Morris and Tony Ford, is one of DeJoria’s investments. Other shareholders include Alice Walton, Duke Thorson, Gary McKinney, R.D. Hubbard, Kenneth and Ann Jones, and many other Fort Worth area residents.
DeJoria spoke with Fort Worth Business Press Editor Robert Francis prior to speaking at the sold out Accelerate DFW event.
RF: Tell me a bit about your journey from when you started out to where you are now.
DeJoria: Well, I started as an entrepreneur at 7 years old selling flower boxes that my brother and I made in a local neighborhood. And then at 11, my brother and I had a paper route. He was 13, I was 11. Every morning we would fold our papers, go out there, and deliver them. And every time in our neighborhood we’d get a new customer we’d get an extra dollar.
So, we didn’t have much money growing up at all. Single parent, deadbeat dad, so we helped provide for my mom and give us a little better life. So, I’ve always been involved in working and doing something.
RF: Can you give me some examples of what people really need to be successful in the business world or in other ventures?
DeJoria: There’s two secrets to success in business. One is, whatever your service, or product is, make sure it’s the very best because you don’t want to be in the selling business. Now the next sentence is going to explain it all. You don’t want to be in the selling business – dot, dot, dot, pause. You want to be in the reorder business.
So, when you make your product or your service, it’s got to be so good that you know the person will want to either reorder or if it’s a one-time sale they want to tell people about it. That’s a whole different way of doing things. Most people say, “Here’s my product, now I’m just going to go out and sell it.” You don’t want to do that. You want it so good that it’s going to be reordered or mentioned.
The second thing is, be prepared for a lot of rejection. You’re going to get it.
And I’ll give you an example of that. When I sold encyclopedias in my early 20s after I got out of the U.S. Navy, I was selling books. It was door-to-door sales. No appointments, no leads, commission only.
I believe what they told me when I was in training and that is that you’ve got to be just as enthusiastic at door number 101 if 100 doors were closed in your face. I believed them, right? I just keep on going till I finally [sold something.] Then, as you do it, now maybe you need to only knock on 20 doors to get through. You learn what to do and say, but be prepared for a lot of rejection.
And the example is, again, if 50 doors are closed in your face, number 51, be just as enthusiastic as you were on the very first door … because if you are ready, and you know rejection is going to come, it’s not going to get you down.
Most people don’t know that. So, all of a sudden three or four people see you’re not going to do it, “No, I don’t want to talk to you,” slam, or whatever the case may be, and they give up, “Well, this isn’t going to work.”
Those that stick to it and, again, are just as enthusiastic on door number 50, 100, 180, whatever, as they were on the first one, are eventually going to get it right. Especially if they have a product or service that is great, and they know people are going to love it and reorder it.
Now, we can take the same exact thing into your family. I would put one word in there. That’s be a darn good listener. Instead of a talker, be a listener. When you’re talking you learn nothing. A lot of families that have challenges, somebody says, “Do this” but don’t listen to the other person’s side. Now the mom and dad don’t get along anymore. “My God, my kid’s got three pierces on their ear and one through their nose!” Well, they wanted to talk to you about why they’re doing it, but you never listen, you just put them down. Be a good listener.
RF: What have you learned from the mistakes you’ve made?
DeJoria: You’re going to have mistakes. You’re going to have mistakes, you’re going to have disappointments. You either go out of that saying, “My God, it was that person’s fault,” or, “That’s the situation’s fault, that’s why it happened.” Or you say, “Hey, I’ve made that mistake because I didn’t know this.”
Well, it’s not going to happen again, hopefully. I’ve had people out there who were my best buddies in business and a couple of years down the way found them stealing. Stealing from me! You go, “Wow, you do that to me, I wouldn’t do something like this for you.” But you learn, you learn some of those lessons where you check your own books and not have everybody else to check them for you.
RF: So what mistakes do you typically see business leaders out there making today?
DeJoria: When I started Patrón Tequila in 1989, there was no big distributor that would take us on. They all said no. They said, “It’s the best tequila we’ve ever had,” but this is 1989, but, it’s too expensive. Patrón was very expensive to make, so we sold it for $37 a bottle. The average bottle of tequila in 1989 was about $5.
Nobody would take us on. So, what I ended up doing was, along the same philosophy, is we went to a company that sold wine but not spirits and talked them into at least give this a try. The first year they didn’t do that good. They only did about 1,200 cases which is very, very little. But we had an inertia going. So, I went to people like Wolfgang Puck at Spago’s and other places, with a bottle of Patrón. And I said, “Taste this.” And they go, “That’s pretty good.” I said, “It’s the new future of tequila.”
So, we went door-to-door starting it out. Pretty soon, after a few years, Patrón started catching on and now it’s, obviously, the No, 1 ultra-premium tequila in the world. And it is the largest tequila company in the world by dollar volume. I just sold it to Bacardi several months ago.
It was the biggest sale ever. The biggest sale to date in the spirits business was Grey Goose. I think it was sold for about $2.1 billion. We were valued at $5.1 billion.