The Wall Street Journal reported that Lemonis, 40, is the chairman and CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, a recreational-vehicle and lifestyle company worth more than $2 billion. He is also the star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” a reality show in which he invests his own money into foundering businesses and attempts to them around.
Sound familiar? “The Profit” is a mash-up of reality-TV genres: one part Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, one part Shark Tank and one part Suze Orman Show. Lemonis’s “People, process and product” catchphrase may be the entrepreneur’s riff on Orman’s “people first, then money, then things.”
The show’s second season, which wrapped on Tuesday (April 15), doubled the viewership of the first, according to Nielsen figures. A recent episode was the most-watched original series telecast in CNBC history, the network said.
Unlike the stars of most makeover shows, Lemonis has skin the game. And unlike the investors of “Shark Tank,” who strike deals with entrepreneurs in need of funds to get on their feet, “The Profit” doesn’t intervene until a business is in on its last leg.
“Distressed companies, if fixed, will yield a much higher rate of return than a well-functioning company,” Lemonis says. “Higher risk, but higher reward.”
Lemonis says he has spent $7 million on nine deals over 14 episodes. It’s too early to tell how much return most of them will yield, but Car Cash, a vehicle-buying service he bought in the series’ first episode, has made him $1 million so far, he says.
The ultimate goal, he says, is to roll up all of the “Profit” companies into a holding business—some to franchise, some to sell, others to keep. But it’s Camping World and Good Sam, with nearly 6,000 employees and billions in revenue, that “define me,” Lemonis says.
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Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises CEO Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s “The Profit” previewed the show’s next episode on the network’s Squawk Box program Tuesday (March 4) morning.
Benzinga reported that the episode revolves around a striving meat packing company in serious debt, and its outcome reveals some of the strategy behind Lemonis’ process.
“Hey, guys. We gotta talk. We got a problem,” Lemonis said in a clip from the episode.
There’s a $3 million hole that the business owners can’t explain with just $30,000 in the bank; and Lemonis originally planned on investing his own money to help them dig their way out.
“Are you guys aware of that?” he continued.
They answer: “No.”
“The deal that we made was based on $2 million in payables. Not $4 [million]. Right?…Guys, this is bad…This business is two weeks away from closing,” Lemonis announced.
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In the first episode of the second season of The Profit, which aired Tuesday night (Feb. 25) on CNBC, Marcus Lemonis worked with Athans Motors, a former Morton Grove, Ill., luxury pre-owned car dealership, and developed a new business model called AutoMatch USA. Lemonis is chairman and CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC.
According to a press release, the new auto dealership model will specialize in foreign and domestic pre-owned cars of all makes and models; parts, accessories, service and collision. Customers will receive customized Good Sam services such as extended service warranty, financing, insurance and roadside assistance.
Former real estate investor and car enthusiast, Pete Athans, sunk his entire life savings into building a high-end pre-owned car dealership, but financing a fantasy dealership left him short on cash and he struggled to fill his lot with cars.
Lemonis, the new owner, stated, “We’re open for business and our first objective is to change the way customers shop for quality, pre-owned cars by offering a full service auto buying experience with sales, service and accessories.”
Lemonis began his career in the automotive industry and eventually became vice president of several auto dealerships in the Miami area. Over the past 10 years, Lemonis has acquired more than 100 RV dealerships across the country, turning them into Camping World RV SuperCenters.
At the end of the episode, with a new management team in place, the dealership had converted to the first of many AutoMatch USA locations, specializing in cars for every budget and lifestyle.
To read the full release click here.
CNBC has greenlit a second season of the original reality series, “The Profit,” ordering eight new episodes. The popular entrepreneurial series features Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, who saves struggling businesses while investing his own cash in the process. Broadway World reported that season two of “The Profit” premieres Jan. 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
“The Profit is deeply rooted in entrepreneurship, a hallmark of CNBC Prime,” said CNBC President and CEO Mark Hoffman. “The Profit quickly proved to not only entertain viewers but Marcus Lemonis became a go-to for America’s small business owners looking for expert advice.”
When Lemonis isn’t running his multi-billion dollar company, Camping World, he goes on the hunt for struggling businesses that are desperate for cash and ripe for a deal. In the past 10 years, he’s successfully turned around over 100 companies, according to CNBC. Now he’s bringing those skills to CNBC and doing something no one has ever done on TV before … he’s putting millions of his own money on the line.
In season two, Lemonis continues to make offers impossible to refuse; his cash for a piece of the business and a percentage of the profits. And once inside these companies, he’ll do almost anything to save the business and make himself a profit; even if it means firing the president, promoting the secretary or doing the work himself.
Marcus Lemonis, president and CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, will risk $2 million of his own money in the CNBC show “The Profit” during this week’s episode, and invested a company called Eco-Me that’s in debt, poorly marketed and inefficient.
According to a report by the Mother Nature Network, Lemonis “found a void in the marketplace for all natural cleaning products” and believed in the company’s founder, Robin Levine. “But what needed to change was their broken sales and distribution process, and the supply side of the business—manufacturing and distribution,” Lemonis said. “I changed the packaging and branding, creating an identifiable brand. And I cleaned up the balance sheet, which ultimately changed the way they operate.”
The environmentally friendly aspects of Eco-Me appealed to Lemonis. “Green products work for everyone whether you are truly green or not. Who wants chemicals in their products? These products aren’t as niche as the original packaging made it out to be,” he said, noting that he uses them at home. “Sales are up tremendously since the episode taped, “but I do see small tweaks that could make it even better.”
Not all of his “Profit” deals work out as well. “I don’t invest in every company featured, but I wish all the companies well whether I invested in them or not,” Lemonis said. “My biggest success actually with this series is meeting new people and helping them change their process and business for the better.”
Looking ahead beyond the two remaining “Profit” episodes this season, he adds, “While I am not specifically looking for green companies, if a company meets my criteria then I would definitely consider for Season 2.” He has already invested in natural manufacturers like organic snacks and gluten-free products.
In an effort to expedite delivery of some 30,000 units a year from RV manufacturers to Camping World Inc.’s 90-plus rolling stock stores, CW Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis says his Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company has decided to enter the RV transportation business — in a big way.
And although there are still plenty of details to be publicly fleshed out, CWRV Transport – in the planning stages for nine months now – has already done a wave of driver surveys in preparation for launching a billboard campaign this week (Aug. 12-16) around the RV-building center of Elkhart, Ind., to begin recruiting drivers in anticipation of a “game-changing” Sept. 1 launch.
The new transport operation is exclusive right now to CW dealerships, but, Lemonis says, could include other independent retailers at a later date.
“We are getting into the transportation side of the business, the logistics business, for the single purpose of improving our inventory turns,” Lemonis, also CEO of Good Sam Enterprises LLC, told by RVBUSINESS.com. “So, today, it’s not anybody’s fault, but the process of getting inventory from the manufacturer to the dealer has really slowed up. And there’s a shortage of drivers, and there’s an increase in shipments.
“And when you have that confluence of issues, you know, we’re seeing delays that could be 10 to 15 days from the time the manufacturer actually has the unit ready to the time we get it.
“What that means for us is we’ll buy over the course of the year almost $800 million dollars of inventory, and when we look at missing one week, that’s an appreciable cost. What we hope to do is cut the lead time from 14 days to seven or eight, and pick up that inventory, those dollars, and redeploy them at our new stores. We’re opening 11 new stores in the next eight months. And as we look at ways to better manage our company, we know that we have to cut down on the lead times between the manufacturer and us.”
In the final analysis, Lemonis claims CW’s bold move into RV transportation ought to relieve pressure on manufacturers, his dealers and the other transportation companies who are “being yelled at and harassed to get stuff delivered.”
A real key to the whole gameplan, meanwhile, is CW’s plan to recruit drivers all over the country through its 1.5 million Good Sam Club members as well as four million Camping World RV and parts & accessories customers to whom CW will offer decent remuneration, fuel discounts and memberships.
The end result, Lemonis added, should be a greater pool of drivers for the entire industry, including other transporters.
“It’s really a logistics business,” he said, “and what we’re doing is we’re providing a pool of people from the Good Sam Club and current customers of ours who are looking for work. Retirees are looking for work; they like to get out on their own. And we’re using our existing database to populate additional drivers for the industry.
“We think that Good Sam members and Camping World customers are perfect candidates for part-time transport work because they live the lifestyle – they understand it – and they’re always looking for something to do. So, we really thought it made sense to kind of bring the RV consumer and the RV transport company together.”
Although there will be an Elkhart office, Lemonis says Camping World is not setting up an entire infrastructure to facilitate its new transport initiative, but instead is “partnering with a number of people to kind of facilitate it.” He declined to discuss further details about how this whole thing might work from an operational standpoint.
“This whole process is being run by people who understand the transportation business, not by Lincolnshire or Bowling Green (where CW runs its parts and accessories business),” said Lemonis. “This is a process that’s being administered by people who know the space – out of Elkhart – people who know the transportation business and have really been recruited and positioned to help because shipments, in my view, are going to continue to go up.”
After a decent premiere a week ago, CNBC’s new weekly primetime business-makeover reality show “The Profit” took a tumble in the ratings Tuesday (Aug. 6).
Variety reported that Nielsen estimates that “The Profit,” in which entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis pumps his own cash into a struggling business in a bid to turn it around, averaged 56,000 viewers in the adults 25-54 demo in its second episode — down a steep 64% from the 157,000 it pulled for its premiere. It held up better in total viewers, but the show’s overall audience of 173,000 still represented a 32% decline from the premiere’s 254,000.
By comparison, in the month of July, stripped weeknight series “American Greed” averaged 112,000 adults 25-54 and 252,000 viewers overall in the same 10 o’clock hour for CNBC. And in the 11 p.m. hour during July, “Mad Money” averaged 41,000 adults 25-54 and 103,000 viewers overall.
“The Profit” is CNBC’s latest attempt at finding an unscripted hit, having yanked “Crowd Rules” in May after just two low-rated outings. “Crowd Rules” premiered to a mere 47,000 viewers, though, so by that low bar, “The Profit” is still looking OK.
The Joffrey Ballet announced that Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” has made a substantial leadership gift to support and enhance the ongoing work of the Joffrey’s Bridge Program, a dance education residency in Chicago Public Schools.
In recognition of this gift, the program will now be known as The Joffrey Ballet Lemonis Bridge Program, according to a press release. The Joffrey Ballet is led by Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.
The Bridge Program provides Chicago Public School students in grades 1 and 2 with a highly structured dance experience where they develop life skills such as listening, following directions and respect; engage in creative expression; and practice physical awareness and healthy lifestyle choices. This program serves primarily African American and Latino children with more than 90% of the young students coming from low income households. It is designed to introduce children, who normally would not have any opportunity to explore classical dance, to the basic elements of classical ballet and may ultimately identify and train the next generation of dancers.
Lemonis’ gift will guarantee that the Bridge Program – which currently reaches over 400 students each year – will continue to engage Chicago’s children for the next decade while at the same time expanding the number of teaching artists, schools and students served annually.
“In light of the recent school closings and budget cuts in the Chicago Public School system, so much of the basic structure that the children need in their lives has been altered. Giving our youths a solid beginning can make a huge impact in his or her life and it has been proven that the arts positively impact our young people’s physical health, discipline, focus and social skills,” said Lemonis. “As a child, I was given an opportunity that enabled me to pursue my passions and I am honored to offer assistance to the Joffrey’s Bridge Program as it is undeniable how valuable – how crucial – programs like this are to maintaining a balanced education and having a long-lasting positive impact for the children, who are truly our future. I encourage the community members and businesses to embrace and support this program.”
Editor’s Note: Most small businesses start with a dream, but getting rich off an idea isn’t easy. As CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, Marcus Lemonis, the host of CNBC Prime’s “The Profit,” shares how he made millions by taking the phrase “go get it yourself” to heart. The following store is courtesy of CNBC.com, which also ran a full-page ad in USA Today (seen above) promoting the show. Click here to watch a video.
As the CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, Marcus Lemonis became a multimillionaire and a trailblazer in the recreational vehicle (RV) industry.
Born in Beirut and adopted by a family that owned two car dealerships in Florida,Lemonis, who hosts CNBC Prime’s new reality series “The Profit,” says he definitely did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth.
“I would say that my parents, they’re very generous,” he said. “They gave me an education. They took me on vacations. But they were very matter-of-fact that if you want something, don’t come asking us for it, go get it yourself.”
And so he did. Lemonis always knew he wanted to be in business because he likes cash, and after graduating from college, he began working at a car dealership. But it was a conversation with family friend Lee Iacocca that set him on his current path.
Lemonis recalls Iacocca telling him, “Look, you can be in the car business forever; you’re just going to be a number.”
Then Iacocca pointed Lemonis toward the RV industry.
Find a great opportunity and seize it
When Lemonis dove into the RV business in the early 2000s, it was ripe for the picking.
“At the time, the RV business was very fragmented. And … the actual brand Camping World [was] started in 1966 by somebody else. And it started as a catalog business with very few stores,” Lemonis said.
With few barriers for entry, and operating with the thought that people will always want to enjoy the outdoors and camping, Lemonis began buying private RV dealerships, eventually rolling them into the Camping World brand, which had only 30 stores at the time.
In 2010, he combined Camping World with the travel club Good Sam Enterprises. The consolidated company is expected to earn $3 billion in 2013. Under his leadership as chairman and CEO, Camping World is set to expand to 115 locations.
“Today, what we have is the single-largest RV and camping company that the world has ever known. Bigger than any manufacturer, bigger than anything,” Lemonis said.
Remaining successful by being accessible
Lemonis intentionally makes himself accessible to his customers and employees, including his email on posters in stores and in catalogs and magazines.
“It’s been a secret recipe of ours. If the customer feels they can access you, they feel closer to you, and they have an affinity to do business with you,” he said.
Congruently, if employees know customers can easily reach the boss, the associates perform better because they’re being held accountable, he said.
“It’s a very dangerous marketing plan, but it’s one that I’ve had for years and I’ll never get away from it,” Lemonis said. “It’s just the secret.”
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.”