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.”
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.
To read the entire article click here.
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.”
Marcus Lemonis receives 150 e-mails an hour and personally answers them all. For that alone, he deserves to be rich. And he is. Way-rich. In part due to the Camping World empire he oversees, in part because of dozens of other businesses he dabbles in.
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, reported that the dabbling is at the heart of “The Profit,” a new reality series debuting at 9 p.m. Tuesday (July 30) on CNBC. In the series, Lemonis, described by the network as a serial entrepreneur, pumps his own cash into a struggling business and personally takes over the turnaround task.
Which he somehow fits in between returning every e-mail he gets.
“As bizarre as it sounds, I do,” Lemonis said during the Summer TV Tour. “My love life is terrible. I have no friends to speak of, and I do spend a lot of time at night literally answering e-mails. If you e-mail me and you get a reply at 3 a.m., it’s me. One of the things I like to tell customers is that if you e-mail me, it is not going to some random box, it’s not an auto-reply. People, I think, are impressed with the fact that you’re listening to their gripe.
“I don’t think anyone else can do it, really. I’m definitely not the richest person, but I will outwork anybody.”
He’s only partly joshing about that love-life thing. He’s rich. Of course he has a girlfriend. And an ever-growing roster of business associates.
“The Profit” joins the list of shows in which an expert goes into a broken business and tries to fix it. Some of the reality TV experts are as well-known for their vocal volume as they are for their turnaround acumen. The term they teach in business school for that is “Good TV.”
“I’m not a screamer,” Lemonis said. “But when things don’t go my way because somebody is unethical or dishonest, you’ll get a sense of my passion.
“This is not a show about drama. This is a show about business. Unfortunately, in any business, there are going to be people who scream at each other. We’ve seen companies that have a great infrastructure but not a good process. We see some companies that have a great product and no infrastructure. You see over the course of a season it is really a wide gamut. “
Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC today (June 25) announced plans to open a new facility in Rossford, Ohio, slated for the spring of 2014.
According to a press release, the new supercenter will be located in the Toledo area near the intersection of Interstate 75 and the Ohio Turnpike and is near numerous rapidly growing businesses, including a Bass Pro Shop. Development plans call for a 10- to 12-acre facility including an RV dealership, service bays, a Camping World retail store and a state-of-the-art collision center. The new store will join over 100 other national locations along with two other supercenters near Rossford in Akron, Ohio, and Belleville, Mich.
Camping World said it was approached by several developers and ended up choosing the Toledo area because of the national and state parks, fishing, camping and other recreational points of interest that are key for the RV lifestyle. With expected support of city officials, Camping World is in final stages of planning the new location while discussing generating tax revenue and new employment opportunities to the community. Early discussions have shown strong support and interest from multiple manufacturers, suppliers and vendors looking for additional expansion in to this growing market.
“Our growth plans across the country are consistent with Camping World’s philosophy of commitment to enhance our customers’ total RV experience,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World. “By increasing the growth of both the retail and dealership locations in our network, Camping World is getting closer to achieving our goal of truly being the one-stop shopping location for the RV and outdoor enthusiast across the country and to continue to bring the best RV makes and models to the RV community.”
The company expects to open the new Supercenter in the Toledo area in early 2014 with plans to hire about 25 to 30 new employees to reinforce their sales, service and support needs for the dealership and accessory store.
“Camping World is dedicated to providing its customers with the best experience and value in the industry. Our goal is to expand our business into new areas, and we are very excited about serving the greater Toledo community,” said Lemonis. “Camping World has a strong history of unparalleled value, selection and personal customer service and we look forward to serving the Toledo area in the near future.”
All details, including launch timing, specific address, RV manufacturers and product lines will be announced at a later date.
CNBC Prime has announced that “The Profit,” featuring Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, will join the network’s primetime reality lineup on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) beginning July 23.
“If you have a business that’s in trouble and think your management team can survive America’s turnaround king,” the CNBC Prime release states, “then you’re ready for ‘The Profit.’
“When Marcus Lemonis isn’t running his multi-billion dollar company, Camping World Inc., he goes on the hunt for struggling businesses that are desperate for cash and ripe for a deal,” the news network reports. “In the past 10 years, he’s successfully turned around over 100 companies. Now he’s bringing those skills to CNBC and doing something no one has ever done on TV before … he’s putting over $2 million of his own money on the line.
“In each episode, Lemonis makes an offer that’s 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.”
To learn more about “The Profit” and meet the man who calls the shots, visit www.cnbc.com/the-profit.
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.
Good Sam Enterprises LLC reported improved sales and earnings results for the first quarter, ended March 31.
Revenue totaled $114 million for the period, representing an increase of $3.9 million, or 3.6%, from the comparable period in 2012. Net income in the quarter was $4.4 million versus $0 for the first quarter of 2012. Good Sam’s financials do not reflect rolling stock sales from the company’s Camping World Inc. unit.
A breakdown by segment showed:
• Membership services, which now include Good Sam’s media segment, posted revenue of $48.5 million for the first quarter of 2013, a decrease of $0.5 million, or 1.1%, from the comparable period in 2012. This revenue decrease was largely attributable to a $2 million decline in member events revenue due to the timing of the company’s first annual member rally that occurred in the first quarter of 2012 and is scheduled to occur in the second quarter of 2013. There was also a $1.1 million reduction resulting from 10 fewer issues published and four fewer shows produced primarily resulting from the sale of the outdoor powersports magazine titles and shows to EPG Media LLC that occurred in March 2013, and a $0.2 million revenue reduction from other ancillary products. EPG Media, LLC is controlled by Mark Adams, the son of the Chairman Stephen Adams. These decreases were partially offset by a $2.3 million revenue increase from the extended vehicle warranty programs due to an increase in average revenue per contract and increased contracts in force, and a $0.5 million increase from the roadside assistance programs primarily due to increased contracts in force.
• Retail revenues of $65.5 million for the first quarter of 2013 increased by $4.5 million, or 7.3%, from the comparable period in 2012. Store merchandise sales increased $5 million from the first quarter of 2012 due to a same store sales increase of $1.7 million, or 4.0%, and a $4.4 million increase from the opening of 17 new stores over the last 15 months, which were partially offset by decreased revenue from discontinued stores of $1.1 million. Five stores were closed in the last fifteen months in order to consolidate operations within specific geographic areas. Mail order and internet sales increased $0.2 million, supplies and other revenue increased $0.4 million, and installation and service fees decreased $1.1 million.
Selling, general and administrative expenses of $30.9 million for the first quarter of 2013 decreased $0.2 million compared to the first quarter of 2012. This decrease was primarily due to reduction of legal and club branding expenses of $0.5 million, reduced facility expenses of $0.3 million and other reductions of $0.1 million, partially offset by a $0.7 million increase in retail selling, general and administrative expenses, mainly related to increased labor.
Income from operations for the first quarter of 2013 totaled $12.2 million compared to approximately $10.1 million for the first quarter of 2012. This increase of $2.1 million was primarily the result of an increase in gross profit for the Retail and Membership Services segments of $0.9 million and $0.7 million, respectively, and a $0.5 million decrease in operating expenses for the first quarter of 2013.
To view the entire report click here.
Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC today (March 14) announced the signing of an agreement to acquire Camper Coaches, an existing RV dealership in Lubbock, Texas, in the next 30 to 60 days. According to a press release, plans are for the location to undergo 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.
“We are pleased to begin the acquisition of Camper Coaches and expand our market share throughout Texas as well as nearby New Mexico and Oklahoma,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam. “We expect the Lubbock market to allow us to broaden our customer reach, build upon our market leadership position in recreational sales, and make Camping World the leading retailer in the growing outdoor market.”
He added, “I always look for three things – people, process and product – in relation to enhancing our Camping World and Good Sam presence. Our goal is to add more quality manufacturers and brands, increase our presence in the market, and grow the work force.”
Camping World of Lubbock, with easy access off Interstate 27, will offer a wide array of RV sales, service, collision, parts and accessories for the outdoor enthusiast. It represents the fourth full-service location in Texas for Camping World along with outlets in the San Antonio, El Paso and Houston markets as well as two stand-alone retail stores in the state.
Lemonis said the new supercenter will add to Camping World’s future growth plans and the company expects to soon announce several additional markets of expansion in the state of Texas. Camping World of Lubbock will also be creating additional positions for seasoned and professional RV sales associates, technicians and retail support as the facility expands, joining the current employees at the Camper Coaches location.