There’s no business that Marcus Lemonis can’t fix. On The Profit, Lemonis aides ailing businesses with a combination of tough love and a can do attitude that lets would-be-entrepreneurs know they can succeed. We asked the money-magnate how early he got started in business and what small businesses should be doing now.
What would you consider your first business venture?
You may laugh at my answer but at age 12, I had my first business venture, which was a lawn mowing service that I did for a few years in order to generate money to open a candy business. In the lawn mowing business, I had 10 kids working for me servicing our community until I was able to save enough funds to become a “candy dealer” around age 13 or 14. I was young, but I knew I liked money, enjoyed making a profit, and it was apparent that I was great at math but what excited me most was actually making the deal, the fun of it and the excitement.
What is your favorite part of being a part of hosting The Profit?
My favorite part of being the host of The Profit is assisting businesses with having a second chance at success. All the companies we have featured on the show have great potential, but are failing for various reasons. Knowing that my guidance, resources, and experience can help them make a change in their business, in their lives, in their families, in their communities, is an awesome responsibility to take on but extremely rewarding for me.
What drove you to want to help other small businesses?
My passion of being an entrepreneur is what fuels my drive to help other businesses be prosperous. It makes me happy to know that I can assist others to get on a path of success and experience the American dream, because entrepreneurship fuels our countries economic advancement and success. I wanted to make a difference, share my business knowledge, and live a life of giving back that would make my mom proud.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever heard someone give a business person? And why?
The worst piece of advice I have heard people say is to “hire family and friends in their business.” I believe that specific positions should be filled based on skill, perspective, experience, and potential, rather than hiring for a role because you have a cousin that needs a job or you were college roommates with this gentleman so he will be a good fit as a director. We tend to overlook issues and have a harder time correcting problems, or ultimately terminating employment, when we have a personal relationship or family ties with the employee.
What’s the biggest business mistake you see people making?
Not having a plan and not starting with enough capital in the bank. People open their business and they forget that they’re going to lose money for a while. They don’t have money and then they end up having to go borrow money from people and usually it’s their mom. And that doesn’t work out.
What would you tell someone to do first if they want to start a business?
Get a job and work for somebody else so that you know what it feels like to be accountable, to have the fear of being fired, all the things you have as an employee so that when you are on the other side of the table, you have a respect for that person and you remember that.
What’s the best lesson you’ve ever learned in business?
That it’s OK to make business decisions with emotion. This notion that it’s all about the numbers and not about the people is a mistake because people will surprise you in a good way.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever personally made?
Lacking self-confidence as a child and developing an eating disorder and not getting help for it.
Are you itching to help McDonald’s turn around?
No, but I think it would be easy to fix. I think I could be effective as a board member with the sole responsibility of building franchise relations.
Is there a blindspot in the business world that you see right now?
People thinking the economy is great when it’s really not. Consumers continuing to rack up debt instead of deleveraging in a good time. And the fact that people aren’t running their lives as if it’s always a downturn. People are becoming materialistic again.
When you have time, what TV shows do you watch?
I enjoy a lot of stuff on Netflix. I enjoy Mr. Selfridge on PBS because its mimicked after Marshall Fields which is a Chicago based business and it’s about retail.
Don’t miss The Profit on Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on CNBC (Ch. 355).