Portrait of a Great Entrepreneur: John Paul Dejoria

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On July 29, 2013

John Paul Dejoria may not look like your typical billionaire entrepreneur. But what makes the successful business mogul different goes far beyond his bearded, ponytailed look. It’s hard to argue with someone who went from living in is car along the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles to presiding over the John Paul Mitchell Systems hair care empire as well as tequila giant Patron Spirits. And while he and co-founder Paul Mitchell launched their hair care business with a $700 investment, Forbes now estimates Dejoria’s net worth at $4 billion.

How Dejoria works doesn’t fit the profile for most entrepreneurs and successful leaders today, either. We all know how important it is to manage all the details of our companies. And we’ve surrounded ourselves with the tools that enable us to do that. Dejoria’s office looks a little different than most of ours. He has a phone, a fax machine, and an exercise ball that he uses as his office chair. What he doesn’t have is a computer or an inbox full of email messages. He doesn’t do email—for a very specific reason: He knows that if he did, he’d be so inundated that he wouldn’t be able to get any work done. Instead, he does everything in person or on the phone.

He also doesn’t obsess over every little detail in all of his companies (he has several besides Paul Mitchell and Patron Spirits)—choosing instead to live by the philosophy of, “pay attention to the vital few and ignore the trivial many.” He doesn’t ignore all details, but he’s selective about his focus. He pays attention to things such as how the Paul Mitchell schools are doing, how the manufacturing is going, how sales are doing, what new products are launching, what the main advertising campaign is, and if his people are happy.

He doesn’t micromanage, but he does care deeply about every product being made. If he doesn’t like it, it’s not coming out. And that part about making sure his people are happy? One way he ensures that is by providing free lunches to employees. Everyone who works at Paul Mitchell and Patrón gets a free lunch., because he believes that a leader should treat his or her people well, and providing good food is part of that.

So what’s the take-away for you? Should you pitch your computer, your smart phone, your tablet and your email list? Not necessarily. But it might be good to remember that those are just tools. They’re intended to help you do your job better—not to dictate how to do it. And you don’t have to control everything. Focus on what’s really important. And if you think you can’t live without all your gadgets that keep you informed about every detail of your business—you could ask John Paul Dejoria what he thinks about that.

Just don’t bother sending an email!