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Marcus Lemonis

It is OK in business, no matter what anybody tells you, to be yourself

As an impressionable youth, Marcus Lemonis read the definition of Entrepreneur to his mother from the dictionary while working on a school project. Then, he knew that would be his future. His humble beginnings and journey represent the heart and soul of true entrepreneurism. Although he was not born in America, he is proud to be living the American Dream through hard work, determination, and believing. Those who have had the chance to hear his story would say that he is unpretentious, down to earth, and 100 percent brutally honest.

Marcus Anthony Lemonis (born November 16, 1973) is a Lebanese-born American businessman, television personality, philanthropist, and politician. He is currently the chairman and CEO of Camping World, Good Sam Enterprises, Gander Outdoors, The House Boardshop, and is the star of The Profit, a CNBC reality show about saving small businesses.

Lemonis was born in Beirut, Lebanon, during the chaos of civil war and foreign invasions and was adopted during his infancy by Leo and Sophia Lemonis, a Greek couple living in Miami, Florida.

Lemonis was exposed to the automotive industry throughout his upbringing. His grandfather Anthony Abraham owned two of the largest Chevrolet dealerships in the United States and Lee Iacocca served as a family friend, later mentor, and financial investor to Marcus, loaning him millions to start a recreational vehicle business. Lemonis earned a bachelor's degree with a major in political science and a minor in criminology from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1995, and unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives shortly after his graduation, whereupon he refocused his career on the automotive industry.

Lemonis, appearing on the ballot as Marc Anthony Lemonis, lost to two-term Republican incumbent Bruno Barreiro, 42.44 percent to 57.56 percent, despite being endorsed by the Miami Herald. The Miami Herald called Lemonis, a Democrat, a "political neophyte" but endorsed him because "he exudes energy and ideas."

Lemonis worked for his grandfather's car dealership in South Florida, Anthony Abraham Chevrolet. The dealership was acquired by AutoNation in 1997, and Lemonis subsequently held several sales and managerial roles under the new ownership. Family friend Lee Iaccoca approached Lemonis and told him he wanted to "Create the largest RV chain" as the RV business model in the United States was "fractured". Iaccoca helped Lemonis start and acquire Holiday RV Superstores. From June 2001 to February 2003 he served as CEO of Holiday RV Superstores Inc. Following that, he co-founded a company called FreedomRoads and began acquiring RV dealerships. In 2006, the company merged with Camping World with Lemonis as CEO, and then in 2011, merged with Good Sam Enterprises with Lemonis again at the helm.

As the CEO of Camping World, Lemonis teamed up with NASCAR for the first time in 2004 when the company sponsored driver John Andretti. In 2007 Lemonis and Camping World announced they were taking over sponsorship of the NASCAR East Series from Busch Beer for the 2008-09 seasons, rebranding it the NASCAR Camping World Series. Later that same year they also announced sponsorship of the then Craftsman Truck Series, rebranding it the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series making the company one of the sport's top three sponsors. In 2014, Lemonis teamed up with NASCAR to renew Camping World's sponsorship of the Truck Series through 2022

In 2007, RV Business Magazine named Lemonis "Newsmaker of the Year" for having "more impact on the industry than any [other] single individual or company in recent memory as an agent of change and retail consolidation." Crain's Chicago Business featured him in their 2005 edition of "40 under 40" and in 2008, Ernst & Young named him "Entrepreneur of the Year".

Under his direction Camping World and Good Sam launched Project Good Samaritan as part of their 2013 goal to foster corporate responsibility, which requires a team of nearly 7,000 employees to volunteer 32 hours per year (eight per quarter) to causes that are meaningful to them

In October 2016, Camping World went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: CWH) at $22 a share, giving the company a market value of approximately $2 billion. As of December 18, 2018, Camping World was trading at $14.46 per share.

In April 2017, Camping World announced the acquisition of the assets of Gander Mountain, a camping, fishing, and hunting gear retailer, including Gander Mountain’s intellectual property and trademarks, GanderMountain.com and boating and watersports lifestyle retailer Overton's.

In July 2017 Camping World announced the acquisition of The House Boardshop, an online retailer specializing in bikes, sailboards, skateboards, wakeboards, snowboards, and outdoor gear. This includes The House Boardshop intellectual property and trademarks including the domains "thehouse.com" and "the-house.com"

Lemonis' philanthropic efforts have included support for the Joffrey Ballet, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Ravinia FestivalLincoln Park Zoo, RV/MH Hall of Fame,Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, and through his time on Secret Millionaire, he contributed his time and money to National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment, New Journey's Transitional Home, and Neat Stuff.

Rose's Bakery & Wheat Free Café was set to close its doors on Christmas Eve of 2012 when Lemonis stepped in with an investment that allowed the bakery to remain open. He wrote an initial check for $200,000 to become the majority owner of the business with a commitment of an additional $150,000 investment over the next 18 months. Not only did he save the existing bakery, but in March 2014 a second location in Highland Park, Illinois, was opened under his direction. Lemonis added Rose's and several other businesses, including Amazing Grapes, Betty Lou's, Crumbs Bake Shop, Dapper Classics, E-Net IT Group, Key West Key Lime Pie Co., Little Miss Baker, Tonnie's Minis, Mr. Green Tea, ProFit Protein Bars, and Sweet Pete's to his holding company Marcus Lemonis Enterprises LLC. He also expanded his portfolio in the automotive industry with two businesses from The Profit: 1-800-Car-Cash, an automobile buying service, and AutoMatch USA, which specializes in pre-owned automobiles and accessories.

Lemonis was featured on two episodes of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice, hosting marketing-related challenges. In 2011 he gave each team two Camping World RVs and challenged them to stage an experience in midtown Manhattan. In 2012, Lemonis challenged the contestants to write a 90-second jingle for Good Sam's Roadside Assistance program. In 2012, Lemonis appeared on an episode of ABC's Secret Millionaire, returning to his hometown of Miami to help local charities.

In 2013, Lemonis became the star of the CNBC reality show The Profit, which features Lemonis on the hunt for promising yet faltering small businesses. In the show, Lemonis invests his own money for part ownership in the businesses to make them profitable. After the third season, Lemonis had invested $35 million in businesses featured in the program.

In 2017, Lemonis starred in the CNBC program The Partner, in which he searches for a business manager to assist in running businesses Lemonis invests in on The Profit. Lemonis will also co-produce.

Marcus Lemonis married in 2018, and lives in Lake Forest, Illinois

BITS OF ADVICE

Regardless of the size of your company, every business owner needs to know three numbers: Your annual sales revenue.

Your gross profit margins.

Your expenses as a percentage of your gross profit.

Focus on People, Process, Product:

It’s not just critical to have the right people—you have to have them in the right roles as well. Create a positive atmosphere where your employees can play to their strengths. It’s your job as a manager to give people the chance to succeed and get them out if they can’t deliver.

At the end of the day, big companies share the same issues as small companies. Focusing on a streamlined and effective process will improve outcomes for any business.

Many times small-business owners assume that consumers will view their product the same way they do, but that isn’t always the case. Consider what's being sold and key marketing characteristics like pricing, packaging, sizing, and targeting.

“At the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie.”

“The best deals are when both parties come to an agreement and feel just a little uncomfortable.”

“If you don’t love what you do, then you shouldn’t do it.” “Control your cash, stick to your core business, and know your numbers.”


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