CNBC business whiz Marcus Lemonis says mother knows best

The Fresno BeeJuly 29, 2013 

"The Profit" debuts on CNBC tonight.


LOS ANGELES — Entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis is willing to share his business knowledge, evident with his new CNBC series "The Profit" that debuts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 30.

When the businessman, whose companies include Camping World, 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.

In one show, Lemonis was so determined to make one change that he was willing to walk away from a company where he had invested big bucks.

"The thing that makes me different, and the thing that makes this show different, is that I put up $2 million of my own money, not someone else's money, not a bank's money, and in some cases I make money, and in some cases I lose it. I don't plan on it, but it's real and it's raw. And what makes this show different is we take you behind the curtain so you can see what actually happens."

Lemonis shares his knowledge with a variety of companies. But you'll never see him help a company associated with alcohol. He prefers to be involved with more family-oriented companies. Lemonis has raised millions of dollars for charities, such as St. Jude's Children's Hospital and New Journeys.

His business formula is rather simple: people, process and product. He says if two of those are missing, he won't do the deal. Most of time the deal is killed by people, the one area Lemonis finds the hardest to fix. To make sure that he never has a people problem with any business, Lemonis has a strict business ethic. He gets 150 emails every hour and the business tycoon, who has no assistant, answers each himself.

He laughs and says that because many of those electronic responses are made late at night, his "love life is terrible."


"The Profit": 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 30, on CNBC


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at

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