Overcoming Challenges With Your Business Partner

Recognizing the signs of a good partnership



What are the elements that make partnerships powerful and successful? In this episode, I chat with Author and Entrepreneur, Cookie Johnson, and her husband, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, about the recipe to their successful partnership. Support, mutual respect, overcoming obstacles and more, these powerhouse partners spill all the tea on how they make it work!



Tune in as I discuss the Magic of Power Partnerships with Author and Entrepreneur, Cookie Johnson, and her husband, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Notes from this episode:

Kwanza Jones 00:01
Well, I personally believe the fuel for the power of this next person who's going to be coming out is this woman right here. She is the fuel for the power, the fueling of the power of someone that a lot of us know as a basketball legend, a man who is about and in the worlds of lots of different industries and businesses. But this is not a man who is alone. This is a man who has a powerful woman beside him. So I'm not even going to introduce who's coming out. I'm going to let this woman Mrs. Cookie Johnson decided to bring out who she wants to bring out how she wants to bring him out, and he's coming out right now. So let's go on up, Cookie what do you have to tell them?

Cookie Johnson 00:46
Welcome Mr. Earvin Magic Johnson, how about that?

Kwanza Jones 00:49
Yeah. Why, there you are Mr. Earvin Magic Johnson. We were joking backstage. I said, What do you want me to call you? Oh, well, you know, you can call me Earvin. You can call me Magic. I said, What about Cookie's husband? You can call me that. I get called that a lot.

Earvin Magic Johnson 01:15
I have no problem with that.

Kwanza Jones 01:17
That's it, that is it.

Earvin Magic Johnson 01:19
See a real man understand who really runs the house.

Kwanza Jones 01:22

Earvin Magic Johnson 01:24
I'm good with that, I know.

Kwanza Jones 01:26
That is it

Earvin Magic Johnson 01:27
I got two bosses at home, my wife and my daughter, so I’m good.

Kwanza Jones 01:31
All right. Well, when we talk about the panel that you all are on today, in this fireside chat, I named it the magic of partnerships. Because I really think it embodies what a powerful partnership you all have. What has created that magic and the partnership that has enabled you all to be together as strong, empowered people in the worlds of business in the worlds of philanthropy. In the worlds of sports, in the worlds of parenting. What is that magic?

Earvin Magic Johnson 01:59
Well, I think first it starts with strong love. Not only for each other, but as Cookie said earlier, and God and then incredible communication.

Cookie Johnson 02:11
Oh, yes.

Earvin Magic Johnson 02:12
Between the two of us. And then mutual respect. And when you think about Cookie and I we've been together now for about 40 years. So you know, is it's even when we had kids, we still dated.

Kwanza Jones 02:32

Earvin Magic Johnson 02:33
We date now, every weekend, we go to a movie or something. And so it's been, like you said, a magical partnership. But you know, when she has something she wants to get into, like her Jean line or her book, then I get fully behind her. I show up and I support her. She'd been supporting me for since I was in college, and then on with the Lakers, and now in business. And it takes a true partnership, when you build in something right? See the power is understanding self. See, without understanding self, you really can't have power. Once you understand who you are, your strengths, your weaknesses, then you can understand, okay, I have power to do this, this and this. Everybody should do a SWOT everything, probably twice a year, strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And if you do that, then you understand what you have to do to keep climbing, keep moving forward. And we just continue to do things together, we make decisions together. And then also too, we understand our lanes, you know, when we have two homes, and she was like, these are the swatches and I was like, swatches? That's gonna be a couch, I don't know nothing about that. Baby, you handle that I stay. I don't get into that, right. And then you know, there's things that I handle, and you must understand that right and not try to cross over me into her lane. And then vice versa.

Kwanza Jones 04:05
Well, it's interesting, because the panel we had earlier it was called power partnerships deconstructed. And it was about really trying to break down and understand what makes it. Yours is the magic of it, because I think you can deconstruct, but you have to have that special ingredient, that special sauce, you have to have something more, not only individually, but knowing that when those things come together

Earvin Magic Johnson 04:28

Kwanza Jones 04:28
That magic that occurs there, it is magic, and it is magical. So what I'd love to know is how, as partners in business and in life, how do you overcome challenges when you don't see eye to eye on things?

Cookie Johnson 04:45
I want to start just really quickly. For me, I think a good marriage starts with understanding that it is a partnership. And I think a lot of people don't get that right away. And you know, we've always been respectful of one another. And there's times believing when we weren't. But we always came back to it, because we realize that that's the thing that makes it work. But when there are a lot of marriages out there, where they might they think that the one person, you know, is the dominant one, and they will lead everything and you know, the other one just follows or, you know, then you have two that want to lead and they butt heads all the time. That is not a partnership. A partnership are two people who want to work together, they learn to work together, you know. I'm always there to support him for his work. But then when I came along and said, Okay, now I'm ready to go work, you need to support the kids a little bit, you know, give me a little room. He was able to do that for me. And the last thing I want to say sometimes marriages get into situations where there's a, say a financial problem. And you know, you have to think, Okay, well, you're the breadwinner, it’s your fault. No, it's both of you, it’s not anyone's fault. Let's say there's a problem. Let's sit down and figure out how to fix it.

Kwanza Jones 06:03

Cookie Johnson 06:04
And we need to move through this to get through this, partnership.

Earvin Magic Johnson 06:09

Well now you can see why I married her.

Kwanza Jones 06:11
I mean, move through this to get through this. I'm just a yes, yes. Yeah, I do see, you are very, very fortunate man and you know it, yes indeed.

Earvin Magic Johnson 06:20
Oh, I know I'm blessed. I talk about that all the time, you know, hey, listen, I'm not stupid

Kwanza Jones 06:25

Earvin Magic Johnson 06:25
You know, listen you gonna have disagreements.

Kwanza Jones 06:28

Earvin Magic Johnson 06:29
And you just have to also understand, is this the real battle I want to pick, right? So, honey, you are right. No, no, no, for real. You, right. Let's just roll with it. And we good, because you're going to you hash it out, go back and forth. And then somebody's got to give sometimes

Kwanza Jones 06:48

Earvin Magic Johnson 06:48
Right to just move forward. And then what we decided to do was not go to bed, upset at each other. So let's just, okay, whatever it is, or we disagree to disagree. And then we move forward. Because when we wake up, and it's another day

Kwanza Jones 07:06

Earvin Magic Johnson 07:05
And it's another problem that we have to come up with a solution for.

Kwanza Jones 07:09
And that in any type of partnership is what I think makes a lot of successful partnerships work. Is an understanding about solutions, and you have to get beyond

Earvin Magic Johnson 07:21

Cookie Johnson 07:21

Kwanza Jones 07:21
You have to have a way to do that. Because if not, you're never going to move forward, you're never going to be able to do that. So when you are thinking in life, or in business, about taking on a new endeavor, do you ever go into it thinking about what the goal is that you want? Or do you go into it thinking about what the risks are that you're going to have?

Earvin Magic Johnson 07:42
Well, first of all, when we vet a deal is very important that we understand the history of this company, or this deal, or if it has a history. And so we'll go three to five years back to see how it's been performing.

Kwanza Jones 07:56

Earvin Magic Johnson 07:58
If I'm buying a company, then we'll look for the next five to ten years, can we add value to this deal in this company. You're gonna have risk, no question about it. Anytime you write a check, right, there's risk involved, trust me, there's no deal that don't have risk, but you want to mitigate those risks. Look at the Dodgers when we bought the Dodgers, we were not. We're in the middle of pack in attendance now, we've been since we've owned it, we've, it's been number one in attendance for six straight years in MLB. Yeah. And we've been performing very well, and we won our division six straight years, and then win a World Series back to back year. So it's really good. So. So I think that sometimes the numbers may not look good, but the brand is outstanding. And so with that brand, you can that can turn into currency. And you can turn that around, If it's a struggling company, because of the strength of the brand, you can now put in place a new management team or add different things to, to make it really cash flowing instead of underperformance.

Kwanza Jones 09:09
So, I'm going to pivot a little and talk about one of the most challenging things you have had to go through as a partnership as a personal partnership and business partnerships.

Earvin Magic Johnson 09:20
I'm a focused, and I'm a driven guy, right. So I was focused on making money for my family, putting us in a real healthy position. And, and I got to be a knucklehead because I forgot, you know, I have kids, I have a beautiful wife. So you know, she was like, come here. You got to have some balance in your life. Yes, make the money but also you have to spend time with the kids. So then I started spending every weekend I would take them to a movie or my daughter love Coldstone. So we was doing all those type of things. And so I'm doing good. I'm doing I thought I'm doing good, you know, three months in a row. I'm doing good every Saturday. So then she says, come here.

Kwanza Jones 10:04
Oh yes

Earvin Magic Johnson 10:05
You know, you women got that one look and that one, like, come here, I'm in trouble again, okay. So I go up to her, and she said you were doing an excellent job with the kids. But you forgot about me. So now every weekend

Kwanza Jones 10:19

Earvin Magic Johnson 10:20
Is date night for us. Friday night, Saturday movie dinner, then we both

Cookie Johnson 10:25
Move whenever we can

Earvin Magic Johnson 10:25
Go to church together, oh, or whenever we can, if I'm on the road, or she on the road, because also, the trick is this, you really get some power when you sitting there at home when she she's used to taking care of me. Laying everything out, you know, I got the remote. I'm watching football or basketball. So she goes on the road. Now I'm like, wait a minute, where my food at, you know.

Cookie Johnson 10:52
The kids are independent, or they have their cars, they are gone.

Earvin Magic Johnson 10:57
I'm sitting here now, wait a minute, I gotta take care of myself, oh man. You talk about a wake up call.

Kwanza Jones 11:04
There it is.

Earvin Magic Johnson 11:08
I said man! Then you understand the value that your wife brings in. And I said, Wow, now, every decision she you know, she used to, she got that house moving. And now I gotta make decision I got, what happens, you know, we got dogs, what am I supposed to do. You know, so all these things, I gotta lean on her. So I understand, you know, how hard she works around the house, but also in our own business. And also, with our foundation.

Cookie Johnson 11:40
But he also was so great in supporting my dream. So he even though he was going through that, he still encouraged me to continue. And to pursue that dream. And I gained so much more respect for him, always had it

Earvin Magic Johnson 11:53
Oh man

Cookie Johnson 11:53
But, but even more, because he really cared about what I was doing. He really cared about what I was doing. It's one thing to just say, Okay, go ahead and do it, you know, but you're gonna fail or whatever. You know, he wasn't like that he was very encouraging. And he he's always saying, what can I do to help? Is there anything I can do to help. So when I had my little jean events, he would come, he would take a million pictures for me. So again, and that's, that's a good sign of a good partnership. Even though he was getting a little frustrated, you know, he had to make an adjustment. But it didn't stop him from being supportive of me and what I was doing.

Kwanza Jones 12:31
I just hit a keynote and it was called step up or shut up. When you describe what it is a Cookie did. She could have silenced herself. But instead, she stepped up. And Cookie, you ended up saying, here are the things that I need, here are the things that we as a family need. And this is what has to happen. And that is when as a partnership, it makes such a big difference. Because you understand that your voice is equal. Your voice is not diminished.

Cookie Johnson 13:04

Kwanza Jones 13:05
Because this voice seems bigger, and louder and more well known, your voice is equal. How did you come to that to be able to even say, look, because that could have been a very challenging thing to do.

Cookie Johnson 13:17
Yeah, it would, yeah, it was it was scary. Because he could have chose the other the other way and went and went out the door. But I knew it had to happen. And so just again, praying about it first praying about it, and having faith that God was gonna help work things out for me, and then having the faith to step out and say something,

Earvin Magic Johnson 13:38
You know, a man sometimes we struggle with those type of things, you know, because we want to, you know, be macho, we want to, you know, but a lot of times we have to listen to our wives to understand how we can do better. And then then also don't take it like it's bad, you know, we had to take it that it's good because I want to be with Cookie for the rest of my life, so I had to make those adjustments. And I was I was happy to do so. I love going home. I love going home. And it's great for me that when I do come home, I can relax and because, the business that I am in the people business, that's the hardest business to be in.

Kwanza Jones 14:20

Earvin Magic Johnson 14:21
Because I have to be Magic Johnson every single day. When I walk, I got to. I'm kissing all the babies

Kwanza Jones 14:29

Earvin Magic Johnson 14:29
Shaking all the hand cuz that's who I am

Kwanza Jones 14:31

Earvin Magic Johnson 14:33
I'm making it happen.

Kwanza Jones 14:33

Earvin Magic Johnson 14:37
You know, I gotta make it happen. And so, so the hardest business is the people business and you you're in the people business, that's the hardest business to be in. So when I get home, I just want to huh.

Kwanza Jones 14:49

Earvin Magic Johnson 14:51
And Cookie she does a great job of giving me like an hour or so just. Baby I just can't hear nothing. Give me one hour because I've been dealing with situations and people all day. She does that, then we get to talking and now I can solve, okay, the problems or give her the answer she's looking for. And again, that's partnership.

Kwanza Jones 15:14
Exactly. So even this event that we're having here we have our production crew, and hey, everybody doing our audio and our cameras and everything. Boy, oh boy, you had them very concerned. They were very, very concerned. Because I'm not gonna say which one of them said. They were like oh! I did a panel. And Magic was on that panel last week. And he was just up and he was around, and he was down in the audience. And he was there and he was walking, he was doing all these things. And we couldn't follow him. It was just so hard to follow him. But maybe if Cookie is here, he may just be right there. Because he's like, I'm not leaving this woman. This is my power partner. And guess what, we have gone through this. He has not left his seat, the camera people are like we've been able to get him up on the screen, haven't been able to have him to follow him around

Earvin Magic Johnson 16:03
You know, what is that, that's called.

Kwanza Jones 16:05
What's that called?

Earvin Magic Johnson 16:05
Adapt and adjust,

Kwanza Jones 16:06

Earvin Magic Johnson 16:08
And so listen, I protect this woman, this is my job on earth is protect her and I normally I am working the crowd, I am out because I love the walk and talk. But when she's here, this is our first event that we've done together. So I'm happy, because you know, it's great to sit here and talk about, you know, the growing pains of our relationship, as well as the power of our relationship.

Kwanza Jones 16:39

Earvin Magic Johnson 16:39
And so that's what it's all about, because I can't do anything without this woman and the grace of God too

Kwanza Jones 16:44

Earvin Magic Johnson 16:44
So, you know, and that's what it's truly all about.

Kwanza Jones 16:48
That is a perfect, perfect way for us to take some questions. Anyone? Any questions, you can go up to the mic, or else one will be taken over to you.

Earvin Magic Johnson 16:57

Unknown person 16:57
Hi. Thanks for coming and sharing. You mentioned you're a man about strategy and execution. I've spoken with loads of people today, myself included, who have many ideas and plans and all these great things in their head. But not sure how to execute these plans to accomplish their goals. What ways can we go about doing that?

Earvin Magic Johnson 17:22
Well, you got to write everything first down on paper.

Unknown person 17:25
Make the vision clear.

Earvin Magic Johnson 17:26
Yeah, exactly. And then you have to do your homework and research after you put it down. So because it's one thing to have a vision, and it's another thing to understand, can I make it a business, right? When I met her, I was a big dreamer. And I kept telling her all these plans. I want to be a businessman one day, she kept looking at me like, are you crazy, you play basketball. I said, oh, I'm gonna own my own business one day. But I had to come up with a plan. And I didn't turn into a businessman right away. It took me years, but I was getting ready, four or five years in the making, then start researching, whether that's, I want my own salon, I want this, I want that. If you want your own salon, go into 10 salons and see what they're doing, right? Understand not only what's going on today, but what the future in hair. See, so you will be ready for when it turns into something new. And then last but not least, we as minorities, really hurt ourselves, because we are smart. But we never think we could actually do it. We don't believe in ourselves. And sometimes that happens with our best friend or our friends. They said girl you can't be a doctor or you can't, I have more of my own people telling me I couldn't be a businessman than other people. If I tell you anything, you got to really do a lot of homework and research. And if you do that, then you can understand if this can really work or not. Okay?

Kwanza Jones 19:08
And that well, there are two there was one in the center. And then there's one in the front.

Unknown person: 19:12
Thank you. Thank you guys for being here.

Kwanza Jones 19:16

Earvin Magic Johnson 19:16
Thank you.

Cookie Johnson 19:17
Thank you for having us.

Unknown person 19:18
So what are some characteristics in yourself and in each other, that make your family, your business partnerships and marriage so strong? This question is for both of you guys.

Earvin Magic Johnson 19:28
I think for me, it's just I'm discipline. You gave me a task. I'm gonna get it done. And then those who work for me got to be the same way, right? And then I'm best in class. So Imma look the part and Imma be the part, right? So I'm always come like this. I'm always be on time. They say hey, you're going on at 12, well I was here early. I've been doing this for almost 40 years. I've never been late and I speak probably 100-200 times a year, right? Never been late in over 30 years, that's who I am. I'm a professional, this is what you get from me. So you want some, you want magic, this is what, you know, he got to be discipline, he coming, he a winner, you know, I'm trying to win, I don't care if I'm playing my wife. Now I'm gonna let her get, we go to ten, I'm gonna let her get to nine. That's hard for me, I'm gonna let her do it. But then I'm gonna crush her after that, you know. But we still love each other. I'm gonna kiss her.

Cookie Johnson 20:31
And he will.

Earvin Magic Johnson 20:33
She hates playing any game.

Cookie Johnson 20:34
He did that to his little daughter.

Earvin Magic Johnson 20:37
I crushed her, yeah, I'm gonna crush my daughter too. I'll must still be dad. But I'm a winner. I love to win. I don't apologize for that either. I'm just this is who I am. And so go ahead. That's magic.

Kwanza Jones 20:52

Cookie Johnson 20:53
I guess for me, I didn't start working again until my kids got a little older. They were like in high school and junior high school, they were more independent. So then I started doing more and more outside of the home, and he was supportive with it. And I discussed it with him beforehand. And that's the thing, learning to communicate is so important. And we that grew over the years, we didn't always have great communication, it grows with you, especially if you respect one another. So the key to that was to share my vision with him first.

Earvin Magic Johnson 21:29
Listen, everything we own, we own it together. And now we're incorporating our kids into it as well. So I've been blessed. So I know we got to go.

Kwanza Jones 21:39
Yeah I was just gonna say the time.

Earvin Magic Johnson 21:39
But let me just say this for you. Because I think it's so important that you have panels like this and situations like this, because I learned from so many incredible people back in the day. And still I learned today, even today, from everybody out there and yourself. I was able to learn something. So thank you for having us. Thank you for having this

Kwanza Jones 22:01

Earvin Magic Johnson 22:00
To educate people, bringing people together. But last but not least, to give people power.

Kwanza Jones 22:07
That's it.

Cookie Johnson 22:07

Earvin Magic Johnson 22:09
God bless everybody. Thank you.

Cookie Johnson 22:10
Thank you.

Kwanza Jones 22:11
Magic said he was hard charging, Magic and Cookie are SUPERCHARGED for real. Thank you so much. Everyone, thank you

[00:01] Introducing Earvin Magic Johnson

[01:31] What has created that magic and the partnership?

[04:40] How do you overcome challenges when you don't see eye to eye on things

[07:21] When thinking about taking on a new endeavor, do you ever go into it thinking about your goals or the risks?

[09:09] What is one of the most challenging things you have had to go through as partners?

[16:48] Taking questions from the audience

[19:18] What are some characteristics in both of you, that make your family, your business partnerships and marriage so strong?


  • Discover the magic that happens in a powerful partnership
  • The elements that make partnerships powerful and successful
  • How to overcome challenges with your partner when you don't see eye to eye on things
  • How to recognize the signs of a good partnership



Got Q's? I've got answers. Leave me a voice note to get it answered in an upcoming episode.


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