Growing up in a family of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, John Henry learned the value of a strong work ethic at a young age.
At Propelify’s 2017 Innovation Festival, he took the stage to explain where value lies.
His mom was a custodian and his dad was a presser in a sweatshop–nobly dewrinkling garments at 25 cents a pop to make ends meet.
His dad was tactfully ironing a shirt when a young John Henry came into the shop, asking for a dollar. Pausing for a moment John’s dad opened the blazer he was working on.
“Son, do you see this?” he asked. “It’s wrinkled right here. I could send this off to the customer, and they would never know it’s there. But I know. I know it’s there.”
He steamed it out and said, “Son, the way you do anything is the way you do everything.”
The way you do anything is the way you do everything.
Taking Pride in What You Do
This is the lesson that transformed John Henry, a proud young doorman, into a million dollar entrepreneurial business owner at only 21-years-old.
Let me explain.
John’s first job out of highschool was as a doorman. Thanks to the guidance of his parents, John already understood that he had the ability to turn any job into an opportunity for greatness.
So, he became the best doorman you could have. He knew his tenant’s names, their kids’ names, their dogs’ names, their preferences, and, in turn, was able to anticipate their every need.
The real value in his job was not in his $14 an hour paycheck, but in the relationships he was making.
Whether he knew it or not, he was practicing one of the pillars of any successful businessman: networking.
“Entrepreneurs don’t make good doormen.”
His hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Although his employer didn’t appreciate his constant thirst for innovation, and he was ultimately fired from his door-duties, one of his tenants took notice, and offered him a business proposition.
This tenant made good money; it was obvious by his watch, his car, his suits and his demeanor. He owned chain of 15 dry cleaners, so he offered John the opportunity to get into business with him. If John could bring in new customers, the tenant would charge him the wholesale rate, John could charge the market rate, and he could pocket the difference.
John was lugging garment bags through the subway from Bushwick to Harlem, and making great money doing it.
In an interview with Forbes John explained how he continued to utilize his network to make a living:
“I connected with the people I knew best, other doormen. I’d slip them $20 for every customer they’d give me.”
His Big Break
Another resident of John’s happened to be in the film and TV business, and he couldn’t find a dry cleaner who could keep up with the industry’s demands: high volume of clothes, odd hours, and excellent work. At 18-years-old John was working with the wardrobe department of huge projects like The Wolf of Wall Street, Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order, Ninja Turtles, and more.
He built a small team of hard workers, and started making about $100,000 in revenue with excellent margins. In December of 2014, at 21-years-old, he sold the company he built for $1M.
The Origins of Value
Value stems from two hard working immigrant parents, who are determined to give their son a better life. It is rooted in the pride you take in your work–whether that’s cleaning toilets, ironing blazers, or working on Hollywood blockbusters.
Value comes from the consistent quality of service you provide. It exists within the relationships you nurture, and can only start with willingness, hustle, and drive.
Overall, value lies in the space between where you come from and where you are determined to go.