Marcus Lemonis: The Man, The Myth... The Marriage Counselor?

06/08/2016 04:21 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2017

The Profit's Marcus Lemonis Reveals His True Self & Counsels A Married Couple!

Have you ever attended a business event expecting a rehearsed, yet inspiring speech, by a renown keynote speaker, but instead you were shocked by a completely immersive, intimate, and engaging experience? In less than 35 seconds, the celebrity keynote speaker at this event became distracted by a colorfully-dressed woman in the front row, invited her to come onto the stage, and appeared to be going in an improvisational direction!

Marcus Lemonis, made famous by the CNBC television show, The Profit, was the featured guest speaker at Entrepreneur's Thought Leaders live event in May 2016 in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. The event was hosted at The Phoenician , and the day began with a delicious array of breakfast foods and beverages spread across several tables, buffet style. Although the event didn't officially commence until 9 am, many attendees arrived early to enjoy the food and network. It was surprising to discover that many people had traveled from different parts of the country to attend the function.

Executive Editor of Entrepreneur magazine, Jason Feifer, hosted and emceed the event, and started the day with a mysterious narrative regarding his quest to purchase a waterproof speaker for his shower, as he apparently enjoys listening to podcasts during his daily hygiene routine.

It was rather intriguing, as he regaled us with his journey of searching Amazon extensively, only to find one vendor that offered an "inexpensive, waterproof, Bluetooth-enabled, rechargeable speaker." After doing some basic research, Jason could not find any information about the Amazon seller, which only piqued his interest and curiosity!

However, Jason's journalistic intuition whispered there was an interesting story to be told, and he was not to be denied. Upon further investigation, several mysterious calls and meetings, Jason was escorted to a private room which revealed a secular group of entrepreneurs. Their leader, a man named, Chaim Pikarski, divulged that their team's sole mission was to scour Amazon for consumer comments, requests, and reviews, collate them, then import products from other companies to sell them on Amazon. It's arbitrage at its finest! So fine, that's the company generates 9-figures in revenue annually.

Jason concluded the tale with the premise that it's never been easier to become an entrepreneur in today's world, and used the story as an example to find a way to solve a problem at scale, and profit greatly from it. Entrepreneur's Executive Editor then smoothly proceeded to introduce Marcus Lemonis, aka The Profit.

Marcus Lemonis Reveals The Man

During most speeches from the stage, it is quite typical to have the speaker deliver a rehearsed discourse. However, this was NOT the case here... not...at... all.

What made this event very unique was that Marcus Lemonis engaged the audience very intimately and repeatedly. In fact, Marcus invited several attendees to come on stage and reveal personal stories about themselves, myself included. Those invited were fortunate to be seated upon the stage, while listening to Marcus share his story over the course of his 90-minute segment.

While many successful entrepreneurs will boast about their accomplishments and their business prowess, Marcus did nearly the exact opposite. In fact, he barely mentioned his wildly popular show, The Profit, or how he came to star in the show.

Instead, Marcus Lemonis shared very personal experiences and feelings that would make most people extremely uncomfortable. As his story unfolded, Marcus revealed that he:

  • Was adopted.
  • Was molested.
  • Was homeless as a teenager.
  • Battled with his body image.
  • Attempted suicide.
  • Completely lacked confidence throughout his childhood and into college.

He transitioned to his personal epiphany when we was attending Marquette University and shared his story about how he tried to manipulate his college teacher to let him skip Spanish class and still give him a passing grade. You can listen to that part of the story here:

Do you remember a time in your life where you felt your confidence, self-esteem, and purpose shift in a positive way as a result of a singular event or experience?

As he continued, Marcus Lemonis also revealed what he believes is the "SECRET to business":

"In business, you don't have to be the smartest...you don't have to be the best looking, you don't have to be the wealthiest, but you have to be real." - Marcus Lemonis

His fundamental point was that in order for entrepreneurs to be successful, they need to establish and develop personal relationships with people. When this occurs, the ability for entrepreneurs to grow their business can dramatically increase.

He then invited several attendees to reveal their personal stories of vulnerability to the entire audience, as an exercise in making real connections with people:

  • [Editorial note: I volunteered to go first and shared a story about a sad prom experience.]
  • Daniel Barnes introduced himself as the founder of Second Chance Candy Company. His story of vulnerability was about how he went to prison for drugs, couldn't find work afterwards, so he started his own business. He is now offering other ex-offenders the opportunity to have a second chance in life by working at his company. The Second Chance Candy Company sells gourmet vegan chocolates, fudge, and dessert sauces. Additionally, 5% of their company profits go to animal rescue and rehabilitation organizations.
  • Marcus reiterated and reminded everyone that by sharing these stories of vulnerability, it creates a connection with people that encourages people to want to do business with you.

    On his popular show, The Profit, Marcus stresses the 3 critical components of growing a successful business: People, Process, and Product. During the Entrepreneur.com Thought Leaders event, he emphasized that developing People is the "cornerstone" principle, over Process and Product.

    Additionally, Marcus revealed why he chose to invest his personal time and money into empowering the small business community, and how he feels that the small business owner is treated as a "Special Needs" child by American society. He claims that small businesses don't need charity or favors, they just need to be better.

    "No one is going to cut you a break. No one is going to help you but yourself." - Marcus Lemonis

    Marcus proclaimed that the only way for small business owners to succeed, is to create a business movement by developing connections and relationships with other like-minded people.

    Marcus Lemonis Exposes The Myth


    To illustrate his point, let's ask you the same question that Marcus asked the audience:

    Do you have somebody that works for you or with you, and you wish they didn't work there?

    Everyone who had the courage to publicly admit "Yes, I don't like someone at my work", was invited to stand up.

    Are you standing up now? Do you have the courage to admit there's someone you don't like at your job or business?

    Congratulations, because Marcus just tricked you... just like he tricked the audience. Those who stood up were embarrassed to discover that Marcus said that no one should be standing, and that everyone standing should be ashamed of themselves. He explained that entrepreneurs need to take responsibility and ownership of these types of problems and be proactive in resolving them.

    Marcus continued by challenging everyone to return to work and apologize to the person they dislike and seek to resolve any differences. He even illustrated his point by giving an example how a parent would ask their child to handle another kid at school that their child didn't like.

    He then invited those people who were brave and courageous enough to still be standing to explain their situation and circumstances as to why they worked with someone they wish they didn't.

    One lady, Ashley Lanham, revealed that the person she wished she didn't work with was her husband Luke. They own a painting company in Queen Creek, AZ called Brush & Ladder Specialty Painting. She explained the challenges of being an understanding wife, and being sympathetic when things go wrong in the business, but then being tough and accountable as a business partner.

    Marcus challenged her as why there should be a distinction between the roles of wife and business partner, and requested that Ashley furnish her cell phone to him. He promptly called her husband Luke, and here's what transpired on the call:

    The audience exploded with uproarious laughter and applause. Can you imagine getting that phone call? (The conclusion of the conversion between the two of them is forthcoming later in the article.)

    Other entrepreneurs were also invited to share their stories and experiences of being vulnerable:

    • Julie, a Human Resources Manager, shared her challenge of being vulnerable and personal in business, as a result of being stereotyped by her job description, and that as an HR Manager, she can't "be a real person" or laugh at jokes.

  • Peter Ezugwu, a former professional basketball player for 13 years overseas, revealed how his role as a teamplayer led to his current success in business today, while former "stars" struggled after their basketball careers, and are now seeking his advice today. He is currently CEO of Future Stars Global Foundation and a motivational speaker.
  • The first lady invited on stage, described by Marcus as the coolest-dressed person in the room, shared her experience as the owner of a retail-clothing business with 15 employees. She asked Marcus about why she keeps making the same mistake of not knowing when to let employees go or when to keep them. In humorous fashion, Marcus shared how to properly fire employees and encourage people to move on, much the same you would in a personal relationship, but in a totally different way.
  • Phong Huynh was volunteered by his wife to share his story at the front of the room. This gentleman revealed his story of vulnerability by sharing his journey from being homeless to a very successful entrepreneur today. Here's his inspiring story:
  • As the opening session concluded, Marcus Lemonis shared this insight,

    "If you cannot be vulnerable... and honest, and communicate, and tell your story in a very honest way... not in some manipulative way that makes you seem bigger or better than you are... then you may struggle to be as successful as you could be."

    After a short break, the CEO of The UPS Store, Tim Davis, articulated their mission of empowering entrepreneurs and small businesses to be successful with The UPS Store's comprehensive array of small business services, tools, and resources. The UPS Store was the primary sponsor of the event, and Tim Davis made a shocking announcement during the final segment of the event, which is described later in this article.

    Marcus Lemonis Moves Into The Profit Mode!

    Another brief intermission occurred, and the final portion of the event was dedicated to 3 small business owners who were fortunate enough to be selected by Marcus Lemonis to participate in a "hotseat" session. During these sessions, Marcus consulted each entrepreneur about their business challenges, successes and future. Marcus generously offer his insights and wisdom to each business in a heartfelt manner, but was also very honest and candid with each business' strengths and shortcomings.

    The 3 businesses were:

    SelectHospitality: SelectHospitality is Collegiate Sports Travel Agency that specializes in Collegiate team hotel accommodations and currently works with over 130 college programs nationwide. Their services include recruiting, tranportation, flights, and hotel accommodations.

    The owner, Ron Littlefield, had this to say about being in the hotseat and his experience at the event, "It was a great experience to meet Marcus and have him ask questions about my business. Right away I felt like I knew him and felt comfortable asking him questions and listening to his answers. It was an experience I won't soon forget."

    Stowey Joey: Stowey Joey is a modern toy bag, rug, baby mat, nap mat, and baby blanket all in one. It is an eco-friendly, multi-use baby product that is simple and convenient to use and is designed for ergonomic home organization.

    The founders of Stowey Joey, Marcella Dominguez and Timothy Johns, shared their struggles to grow their business and the challenge of raising the capital needed to scale their business and lower their production costs.

    In a very generous and shocking gesture, CEO Tim Davis stood to his feet and offered to invest $5,000 of The UPS Store's money to help Stowey Joey succeed, if Marcus Lemonis was willing to match his offer. Marcus cordially agreed, with the contingency that the owners would provide an updated business plan to account for his investment.

    When asked about Tim and Marcus's investment offers, here's what Marcella Dominguez had to say, "I didn't know what I said or did to evoke such generosity in them. I was just a mom telling her story. I'm incredibly grateful that their financial contribution will get me out of a vicious hamster wheel in terms of scraping by with high costs and small volume. The end goal, however, has and will always be sustainability. I'm still a student with high hopes of learning much more under a really great teacher, Marcus Lemonis."

    Loud Rumor: Loud Rumor is an online marketing company dedicated to help personal trainers and independent gym owners generate new leads and customers for their local fitness studios.

    Mike Arce had this to say about his experience being on stage with Marcus Lemonis, "I'm such a big fan of Marcus and his show. Being able to sit with him for a few minutes and hear his perspective on my company and his suggestions was an incredible experience. His talk was great and I'm glad I invited key members of my team to hear what he had to say. It was extremely valuable."

    Marcus Lemonis: The Marriage Counselor??

    During this final session, can you guess who called? Luke finally called Ashley back, without having listened to his voicemail. Without any sharing any context with Luke, Ashley quickly brought the phone to Marcus at the front of the room. Here's how the conversation went...

    Afterwards, when Ashley Lanham was asked about whether Marcus calling her husband unexpectedly would cause more harm than good, she replied, "No way - a call from Marcus is like an ice breaker. We know the importance of keeping our marriage and business separate. Now I can make the joke that he better play nice or I'm calling Marcus!"

    The final session concluded with Marcus Lemonis giving his authentic words of wisdom, after an attendee claimed that they wanted to be just like him...

    As the audience stood to their feet for a standing ovation, Marcus quickly left the stage, but was kind enough to take a few photos with people, while Jason Feifer graciously thanked everyone for attending and The UPS Store for sponsoring the event. The day ended with another delicious buffet of lunch food, salads, and desserts served by The Phoenician staff.

    In a world where perfection is expected in many areas of business, it's great to see a business Thought Leader voice their authentic message of being real and true, not only to ourselves as entrepreneurs, but to our employees, vendors, and customers as well.

    Some claim that true leadership is a process of serving others and shining the light upon them, and based on how Marcus engaged the audience at this event, it appears that he is a bonafide leader.

    Marcus Lemonis is a truly authentic and caring entrepreneur, and anyone fortunate enough to hear him speak or partner with him will be impressed. How can you not be, when someone has the courage to lead by example, be vulnerable, and share the truth about themselves in an effort to really connect with others? If you are presented the opportunity to attend an Entrepreneur.com Thought Leaders event, or hear Marcus speak, you should take advantage of your gift.

    Special thanks to Wendy English for the use of your phone charger and to Karen Cummings at Radiant Marketing for lending your iPhone for some photos!

    All Photos taken by Diego Texera Photography