Marcus Lemonis, star of HBO’s ‘The Profit’, was once upon a time an orphan in Beirut.
Lemonis has come a long way from his adoption in war-torn Lebanon. His holding company, Marcus Lemonis Enterprises LLC, encompasses his roles as chairman and CEO of Camping World, Good Sam Enterprises, Gander Outdoors, and The House Boardshop.
From rags to riches, Lemonis learned from the successes of his adoptive family, without relying on nepotism. His desire to reach further than the family business, in addition to years of hard work and charisma helped build his fortune.
The Family Business
While the Lemonis family business was crucial to his overall success, nothing was just handed to him. His father and grandfather owned one of the largest Chevy dealerships in Miami and Tampa.
From an early age, he was involved in the world of automotive sales, as he grew up working in the dealerships. Lemonis himself described his family as ruling with an iron fist, as he was always expected to contribute in some way to the family business.
With the merit of hard work deeply ingrained in his formative years, Lemonis took an entrepreneurial air very early on. An excerpt from his own website recounts an early awareness of his eventual success:
In his early 20’s, he left the family’s dealerships, having secured a job at AutoNation.
His rationale for leaving the business was one of determination: “I decided that if I wanted to be successful, I had to get beat up, learn from others rather than from my family,”
His familial ties put him in close contact with Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler, who advised Lemonis to get into the RV business. Iacocca saw the RV market as fragmented, and in need of a transformation.
FreedomRoads & Beyond
With this good advice and a solid background in the automotive business, Lemonis founded FreedomRoads LLC in 2003. Within a matter of years, it grew into the nation’s largest RV retailer.
This led to acquisitions as well as awards for Lemonis. Soon after his founding of FreedomRoads, he would go on to be awarded for his instant success in the automotive industry.
Although Lemonis does speak about his hardships in the industry through the Great Depression of 2007-2009, he does credit these hardships for making him a more shrewd businessman. In Vault’s Q&A with Lemonis he reflected on the situation:
“I learned survival. I learned how to make things work. I really believe I picked up a skill. I learned how to cut things out. I learned how to have the hard conversations. I learned how to save a business.
In 2006, FreedomRoads merged with Camping World; which in 2011, merged with Good Sam Enterprises. After much success in these consolidations, Lemonis started getting invitations to be a guest on TV shows such as ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘Secret Millionaire’.
After appearing on TV, he was contacted by CNBC in an effort to sign him on to a more permanent program. At first, he was not keen on the idea, initially saying that in order to make any real change in a business, it had to be for the long term.
The Profit aired in July of 2013 and features Lemonis assisting struggling small businesses. In the show, he offers to buy a portion of the business and therefore has a stake in its success.
Then, after becoming a partner, Lemonis rehabilitates the business, utilizing his keen entrepreneurial eye. The series became a hit and spun out into seven seasons.
Perhaps as a testament to his expertise, many of the businesses that were featured and invested in by Lemonis are still open today.