RV industry executive Marcus Lemonis last night (July 30) offered a primer on how to run a business in CNBC’s new business-based reality show “The Profit.”
Lemonis, the 39-year-old chairman and CEO of Camping World Inc. and sister division Good Sam Enterprises LLC, wasted little time in the show’s season premiere in throwing his weight – and money – around in helping to fix a struggling Manhattan used car buyer called Car Cash.
Run by brothers Jon and Andrew Baron, whose father, Bruce, founded the business in 1977, Car Cash was near bankruptcy when Lemonis entered the picture with bold new ideas for how to turn it around. The brothers grossed $13 million in sales in 2012 but posted a loss of $200,000 and are $200,000 in debt.
“I’m here to fix this business,” said Lemonis, who’s shown driving his red Jaguar at one point in the episode along a picturesque stretch of oceanfront. “If you want people to listen, you put money on the table.”
And that he did, writing a check for $200,000 and providing a line of credit for up to $300,000 at 7.5% interest – a rate that represents a compromise between the 5% offer from overbearing brother Jon Baron and the 10% Lemonis initially requested.
Lemonis, a well-known figure in the recreational vehicle business, noted early on in “The Profit” that he was selling cars by the time he was a teenager, and he takes an instant liking to the concept of buying used cars at the West 55th Street location and then turning around and selling them to car dealers. But the brothers’ policy of selling them through car wholesalers doesn’t sit well with Lemonis who wants to eliminate the middle man and improve on the average margin of $500 per sale.
When Jon Baron ignores Lemonis’ directive to change the company’s traditional way of doing business and get rid of the wholesalers, Lemonis, who has now taken over the company, declares, “You’ve got to the end of the day: they go or I go!”
Much to Jon’s chagrin, he reluctantly ends his relationship with the wholesalers.
Lemonis, who oversees the $2.5 billion CW/GS operations from his Lincolnshire, Ill., headquarters, then instructs him on how to make the customer feel satisfied with his offer for their car by remaining with the customer and talking him through the deal during the appraisal process.
Lemonis spends another $350,000 for 40 contractors to gut and refurbish the tired old building and bring it up to modern-day standards. To underscore his determination to clean house, Lemonis in one scene throws a chair Bobby-Knight-style across the showroom floor. He’s also seen cleaning a toilet.
Viewers do see a warmer side of Lemonis, who takes an instant liking to brother Andrew Baron. Andrew has allowed his controlling older brother to walk over him on numerous day-to-day decisions and is brought to tears when explaining to Lemonis the brothers’ less-than-ideal relationship. As part of the turnaround, Lemonis urges Andrew to write his own TV commercials, and he arranges with a recording studio to tape them. Andrew surprises Jon with a slick 15-second spot that depicts a bolder version of Andrew trumpeting the merits of Car Cash.
Lemonis’ intervention seems to spark a genuine turnaround in the brothers’ relationship with each other, as well as their business. Viewers soon see Lemonis coaching Jon on negotiating the sale of their newly purchased cars to car dealers and stands by, beaming, when Jon successfully flips a BMW he bought from a couple for $14,000 to a dealer for $17,200.
In the show’s finale, filmed three months after Lemonis entered the fray, the brothers’ reconciliation is complete with sales up 30% and the business profitable – complete with a new mobile site and a fledgling nationwide franchise operation based out of the same West 55th Street location.
The franchise was Lemonis’ idea, and while the brothers realize a return on each new franchise sold, the inference is there that Lemonis’ upfront investment will be recouped several times over through the franchise initiative.
So, while there’s a happy ending for this — the first of the season’s six episodes – various promotional trailers for subsequent episodes suggest their endings may be less copacetic.
Next week, Lemonis, who offers business advice in a staged studio setting throughout the segments and invites businesses that are in over their heads to visit www.theprofitcasting.com, enters the flower shop business.
“I hope anyone who has a small business will learn things from this show,” says Lemonis. “So many small businesses fail when they don’t have to.”
Entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis is willing to share his business knowledge, evident with his new CNBC series “The Profit” that debuts at 10 p.m. EDT tonight (July 30).
As reported by the Fresno Bee, when the businessman, whose companies include Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, needs some help with a deal, he thinks of only one person — his mother.
“I do have this very simple philosophy. I do business with one thing in mind. I always think about what my mother would say about how I did business,” Lemonis says during an interview this week at the TV Critics tour in Los Angeles. “It seems overly simplistic, but if my mother would be OK with how I did the deal, I’m good. If she would kind of raise her eyebrows and think it was a little shady, then I would know I’m not doing it the right way.”
His mother died two weeks ago, but her influence lives on in the man who went from living in a Beirut orphanage when he was 9 months old to owning his own lawn business by age 12. Now at 39, he is involved with several companies.
Network and cable channels are filled with programs where an “expert” comes into a business — restaurant, hotel, bar, beauty parlor, etc. — and tries to help fix the problems. In the end, there’s not that much tension because the experts aren’t invested in the business. Even the business sharks on “Shark Tank” can pass on a deal if they see any problems.
Lemonis has a different plan. The self-made millionaire is putting up his own money. It works like this: If the changes he makes to a struggling business work, he gets his money back and possible profit. Failure means he’s out the investment.
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Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC announced their forecast for expansion and future development to “meet customer needs for product and service in new markets,” according to a press release.
The new markets will raise the total number of supercenters, just shy of 115 nationwide. Additionally, the company is in discussions with land owners and existing dealerships actively pursuing new markets and acquisitions that will be announced over the next six months.
Plans are under way to expand the company footprint with additional locations in high traffic, outdoor-centric markets within the following timeframe and markets:
• August 2013: Panama City, Fla.
• September 2013: Ocala, Fla., relocation; Tucson, Ariz., relocation; Cedar Falls, Iowa.
• November 2013: Berkeley (Boston area), Mass.
• January 2014: Coburg (Junction City area), Ore.; Fresno, Calif.; Harrisburg, Pa., retail store expansion; Lake Park, Ga.; February 2014 – Saukville (Milwaukee area), Wis.; Olive Branch (Memphis area), Miss.
• April 2014: Rossford (Toledo area), Ohio; Rapid City, S.D.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Jackson, Miss.
“We are proud to continue our commitment to the U.S. market with the opening of these new supercenters and look forward to having customers in these regions visit their new one-stop location for everything outdoor and RV,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World. “As part of Camping World and Good Sam’s growth strategy, the brand is making major investments in the quality of its dealer network. From facility upgrades to new store openings, the company’s network will continue to expand and evolve while serving our customers’ outdoor, RV and camping needs.”
He continued, “These recent acquisitions increase our presence in existing markets and new territories and are in alignment with the strategic growth plans we have for the company. We are constantly reviewing our footprint and evaluating where we can strengthen our position within each of our markets.”
Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises Inc. announced the signing of an agreement to acquire Ace Fogdall RV, an existing RV dealership in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in the next 30 to 45 days.
According to a press release, plans are for the location to undergo a massive expansion to renovate into a larger facility including additional service bays, a new Camping World retail store and a state of the art collision center. Camping World currently has nearby Midwest area supercenters in Madison, Wis., Chicago, Council Bluffs, Iowa, and three locations in Missouri.
“We are pleased to begin the acquisition of Ace Fogdall RV and expand our market share throughout Iowa and the greater Midwest area,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam. “For over 50 years, the Fogdall family has proudly served the Cedar Falls area with top-notch service and the best products. Jim Fogdall is a pioneer in the RV industry and has been chairman of the board of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association and inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame. The Fogdall family’s achievements speak volumes of the legacy they have made in the community that we are proud to continue.”
The supercenter, officially named Camping World of Cedar Falls, is the second full-service location in Iowa and will offer a wide array of RV sales, service, collision, parts and accessories for the outdoor enthusiast. It will also feature motorhomes and towables from high profile manufacturers along with an array of products and accessories. Camping World also carries and creates its own private label lines of exclusive products for the RV, outdoor and home markets.
Lemonis continued, “We expect the Midwest market to allow us to broaden our customer reach, build upon our market leadership position in recreational vehicle sales, and make Camping World the leading retailer in the growing outdoor market.”
The new store in the Cedar Falls market will add to Camping World’s future growth plans and the company expects to soon announce several additional markets of expansion throughout the country. Camping World of Cedar Falls will also be adding additional positions for seasoned and professional RV sales associates, technicians, and retail support as the facility expands and is pleased to have the current employees at the Fogdall RV location join the Camping World staff.
After a 17-day whirlwind transformation by local contractors, Camping World RV Sales’ new SuperCenter — Camping World of Lubbock, Texas — is open for business, according to General Manager Charlie Minnick.
According to a report in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, the store increases Camping World’s presence in the state for Camping World, which has close to 100 other locations across the nation and three full-service locations already established in Texas.
The national chain bought out Camper Coaches, but the newspaper reported the company focused on keeping the previous local employees working.
“We are excited to be in Lubbock selling RVs and serving the community,” said Rod Andersen, senior regional vice president for Camping World. “One of our commitments to our local communities is to retain employees, when able, and hire within the community. Here we wanted to keep people intact with this dealership — they have been well known and respected within the Lubbock community.”
Several Camping World customers were among the 50 people on hand for the ribbon cutting performed by the Lubbock Chamber Ambassadors on July 19, and they were glad to be greeted by familiar faces.
“We’ve been doing business with Charlie for about 10 years,” said Billy Grandon, who — along with his wife, Kay — made the drive from Denver City just for the ribbon cutting and opening of the new store. “We knew everybody that worked here before, so it’s great to walk in and see everyone.”
Customer service and service after the sale through the company’s Good Sam membership are what Camping World is known for, Minnick said.
“To the RV buyer, we are able to obtain better pricing due to the large volume we purchase,” he said. “That carries through to our Good Sam members, which is everyone who purchases an RV from us, as well as others who purchase annual club memberships. They get discounts at campgrounds across the country, in all of our Camping World locations, fuel discounts at Flying J Travel Centers and many other perks. Plus, the membership offers roadside assistance, which offers our customers peace of mind wherever they travel in their RV.”
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Hundreds of couples lined up early at the New York State Fairgrounds last week to get hitched, again.
The Post-Standard, Syracuse, reported that the people who crowded into Chevy Court with the goal of setting a new world record for largest wedding vow renewal were camped out at the fairgrounds for the Camping World/Good Sam Rally, which bills itself as the biggest and best RV event in North America.
As couples filed through turnstiles and volunteers collected signatures from each couple renewing their vows, video cameras on stage recorded every moment of the event.
The cameras, turnstiles and signatures were necessary for Guinness World Records, Mark Boggess, an event organizer said. The current record for most couples renewing their vows at once is 1,087, he said.
While it won’t be known for some time if a new record was set, that fact hardly seemed to weigh on the minds of the thousands of people drove and towed nearly 3,000 RVs and campers to the fairgrounds for the four-day event.
“It’s just about having fun,” Boggess said. “They came here to have a good time.”
RVs and campers of all shapes and sizes packed into every corner of the fairgrounds, ranging from small popups and tow-behind campers, to travel trailers and monster RVs.
Punishing rainfall over the last few weeks made several RV parking areas into little more than ponds, forcing organizers to send about 400 RVs to a parking lot nearby at Destiny USA.
“But it hasn’t stopped people from having a good time,” Boggess said.
The weather didn’t stop salesmen from hawking their wares: RVs, campers and accessories.
Accessories for RVs and campers run the gamut from practical to novel. Lawn furniture, satellite dishes, and fireplaces are options, as are flagpoles, on-board generators and built-in exterior grills.
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After a soggy start to the largest RV rally in the Northeast, things are finally starting to clear up for the RV enthusiasts split between the New York State Fairgrounds and the parking lots of Destiny USA.
WSYR TV reported that “The Rally,” hosted by Camping World/Good Sam Rally, brings together thousands of RV owners, opened earlier this week to heavy rain, forcing rally organizers to turn RV drivers away from the Fairgrounds and detour them to the parking lots at Destiny.
Within a matter of hours, the mall and rally organizers coordinated to provide shuttles, port-a-potties and trash pick-up for the hundreds rerouted to Destiny.
Jim McParland and Robyn Currie, who traveled all the way from Ontario, Canada are impressed with the way organizers and mall officials handled the situation.
“They’ve made a great situation from what could have been a disaster,” McParland said. “I think the fact that they’ve adopted or adapted so well to the conditions speaks volumes of Syracuse and for the person that runs that mall coordinating with the rally people.”
“It’s been fine – slightly inconvenient not to be over there [at the Fairgrounds] but it’s been safe here and there are a lot of people to talk to,” Currie added.
Destiny USA called in extra security to help secure the entire perimeter surrounding the RV’s.
“We have the guard towers we put in place as the parking lot project a few years ago. Whatever they need, we’ll do it,” said Destiny USA General Manager Rob Schoeneck.
The weekend will go as planned with an RV show and concerts featuring Wayne Newton Friday night and Reba McEntire Saturday evening.
For rally attendees such as Barb Heibein, some bad weather isn’t going to spoil their fun.
“We come for a good time and this is a good place to have it,” said Heibein.
People all over Syracuse are celebrating because the rally is expected to bring in millions of dollars as vendors and event attendees visit restaurants, stores, and stay in area hotels.
The Rally, hosted by Camping World/Good Sam, pulls into Syracuse at the New York State Fairgrounds June 13-16, a first for the Northeast.
According to a press release, the event will bring thousands of RVers and enthusiasts together to experience world-class evening entertainment, tour area landmarks, participate in breaking a world record and shop for hundreds of new RVs, outdoor products, and camping accessories.
While celebrating the RV lifestyle, attendees will also enjoy great food and win fun prizes, as well as spend quality time with family and friends.
“We are excited about the first Northeast rally in which novice and experienced RVers get a chance to meet industry experts, find great bargains on RV products and enjoy camaraderie with fellow RV enthusiasts,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Good Sam Enterprises. “The attendees should look forward to fun days filled with activities and entertainment and of course great bargains on RVs and RV related products.”
Activities start early for campers arriving onsite June 12 for setup, as attendees get a sneak peek at all the new rigs on early-bird day with factory representatives on hand to answer questions. Rallygoers can enjoy an optional tour of various interesting sites surrounding Syracuse, take a morning walk with their buddies, and go to seminars on various topics including RV care and maintenance, driving and safety, trip navigation, pet care and adoption, as well as fantasy RV tours, to name a few. The children and teen centers will be open throughout the weekend, giving kids the opportunity to make new friends, play games and do crafts, allowing adults the freedom to browse the exhibit hall or attend a seminar.
Afternoon entertainment on Thursday and Friday includes Sean Phillips, a veteran of the music business. Sean has been a studio singer and musician in New York and California, and has toured as a vocalist and bass and guitar player for many well-known acts.
Back by popular demand, Bob Blumer, host of “Surreal Gourmet” and “Glutton for Punishment,” and producer and host of “World’s Weirdest Restaurants” on the Food Network, will be performing each day in the Art & Home Center – Demo Kitchen Room. Bob shares his extraordinary culinary skills by transforming ordinary ingredients into wow-inspiring dishes through simple cooking methods and whimsical presentations, sponsored by Camping World.
Other activities include the “Empire State Dogs” show, sponsored by Camping World and Good Sam Pet Insurance, an ice cream and ladies social and a book and DVD exchange.
This weekend beginning at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Darrell Wallace Jr. will welcome Camping World and Good Sam to his No. 54 Toyota Tundra as the primary sponsor for 11 races this season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
The 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contender will be making his sixth career start in the series and his fifth career start at the one-mile oval track. He has three K&N Series starts (2010-2012), with one win in 2011, and one NASCAR Nationwide Series start (2012). His last three starts at the “Monster Mile” have been from the pole position.
“Dover is my favorite track to go to and I’m looking forward to getting there with Camping World and Good Sam on board the No. 54 Toyota Tundra this weekend,” said Wallace. “It’s very exciting to know we have a sponsor on board to help us through the rest of the races this year and support our program. Now we have to continue to make our program better from behind the scenes and go out there ready to win.”
“We are very excited to be the primary sponsor of Darrell’s team for the upcoming races,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam. “He is a great young driver and we look for continued success from him during the 2013 racing season.”
Both founded in 1966, Camping World and Good Sam are the world’s largest retailer of recreational vehicles and the world’s largest RV owner’s organization. Camping World offers every outdoor enthusiasts with a one-stop-shop for all needs to support the RV lifestyle from tailgating at a local sporting event to camping in the great outdoors. To add to the camping experience, Good Sam members receive a variety of services including roadside assistance, financing, insurance, discounts at parks, campgrounds and events, as well as 30% off at Camping World supercenters nationwide and online.
Taking the next step to reach sport and outdoor enthusiasts, Camping World joined NASCAR as the Truck Series title sponsor in 2009 and also became the official RV and Outdoor Retailer of NASCAR. Race fans can also find Camping World mobile stores at select race tracks throughout the season for all their camping and tailgating needs.
Following this weekend’s Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway, Camping World and Good Sam will appear on the No. 54 Toyota Tundra for 10 additional races this season as the primary sponsor.
The upturn in wholesale and retail sales of RVs has carried over to the service side with Good Sam Enterprises LLC reporting surges in a number of company metrics.
During an investors’ conference call today (May 16) that followed up Good Sam’s first quarter results announced on Tuesday, Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis said the company is seeing upticks from sales of roadside assistance and membership in the Good Sam Club right through to registrations for the upcoming Good Sam Rally in Syracuse, N.Y.
Good Sam reported revenues for the quarter, ending March 31, totaled $114 million, up 3.6% from a year earlier. Lemonis said the positive gains were a reflection of the public’s overall acceptance of Good Sam’s products and services.
Among the improvements:
• Sales from all Camping World stores rose 8.4%, with same-store sales up 4%.
• Retail transaction counts rose 7%.
• Good Sam Club memberships grew by 6.8%.
Perhaps the most surprising positive development came in the firm’s RV rally sector. Lemonis reported that advance reservations for the Syracuse Camping World/Good Sam Rally June 13-16 at the New York State Fairgrounds has already outpaced the company’s best rally in the past five years with “a shocking number of reservations.”
The figures are shocking in part because Good Sam “significantly” raised the cost of vendor booth space, but has not felt the downward pressure in bookings he expected, Lemonis said. It will be the company’s first RV rally in the Northeast.
Lemonis called the rally business “a form of advertising that should pay for itself and not cost us $400,000, which it cost us last year.” The final rally for 2013 is Oct. 17-20 in Atlanta.
On a year-over-year basis, Lemonis noted further growth metrics:
• Roadside assistance policies grew to 427,350 compared to 368,439 a year ago with a renewal rate of 91%. Lemonis hopes to hit the 500,000 mark within the next year.
• Extended warranty policyholders totaled 51,829 compared to 49,700 a year ago.
• Good Sam Club membership now stands at 1,357,110, compared to 1,274,079 a year ago.
Lemonis further noted that Good Sam opened three Camping World stores in the quarter, with eight others scheduled for the remainder of the year, bringing the total by year-end to 104. The company will reach the $7.8 million cap on capital expenditures mandated by its indenture agreement, but the Good Sam corporate owner has pledged another $2 million to $2.5 million to make up the difference to fund the expansion effort, Lemonis said.
Lemonis revealed a few disappointing results. One of them, a branding effort with NASCAR, is off to “a slow start” and Lemonis took the blame for the slow pace giving himself a grade of “C-minus” thus far.
He also said Good Sam is tweaking the fuel purchase program in tandem with Flying J. Almost 90,000 customers have signed on with “a nice uptick in retention” but the requirement for a separate card has been seen as a drawback. Good Sam plans to modify its Good Sam membership cards with a magnetic strip so members won’t have to carry an additional card, he said.