CNBC’s “The Profit” returns for its seventh season Tuesday (10 p.m.) as billionaire Marcus Lemonis invests in struggling businesses and helps their owners recognize emotional roadblocks hindering their economic success.
(Tuesday night’s season premiere focuses on a local eatery, Dante’s Italian Cuisine in Rockaway, NJ.)
Lemonis, 45 — the CEO of Camping World — spoke to The Post about the new season of “The Profit” and about some changes to the show and to his philosophical approach to businesses and their owners.
When we spoke in 2016, you described “The Profit” as “a show about the human mind and emotions, using business as a backdrop.” Has that changed?
It’s my mantra in general and the way I pursue things in life, good or bad. One of the things I decided to do this season is to let that philosophy flourish a little more. We’re all living in a time where people’s mindsets — the way they approach things and are thinking about things — seems to be materially different than it was four years ago. The general vibe in the world is different.
I think it’s several things. One, I’ve changed. I’m a different person than I was four years ago. We do evolve as people. That’s the baseline for that comment. The substance behind that comment is that the economy and the political environment is different today. People definitely have stronger opinions regardless of their philosophical perspective. People are more comfortable being on the other side of a discussion … and, in some cases, the tone and tenor in that opposition happens to be a little heightened.
Are there any surprises left after seven seasons?
It doesn’t surprise me that people still struggle to make good decisions. I try not to go into a situation with a critical mind but more of, “How do I get these folks to change the way they think?” What does surprise me … is that people say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve watched the show since the beginning,” and then I get there and ask them for financial statements or certain questions and they say, “Oh, I didn’t think you were going to want to know anything.” What did you think we were going to talk about? It still surprises me that people don’t realize they’re going to have to produce something, not just “Yeah, I think we took in some cash and spent some cash.”
Any new format changes this season?
We’re going to be showing you two deals that didn’t move forward after the first day. I thought it’s important to understand why sometimes [the deal] just doesn’t continue. Later in the season you’ll see two businesses that had big deals on the table and I decided not to pull the trigger for multiple reasons — I didn’t feel the business was stable or someone that worked there wasn’t going to be open to any new ideas.
We’re also doing two different things. We now have a showcast, allowing people to listen to the show. We had requests from schoolteachers around the country asking for the show to be available on audio; sometimes people want to drive in their car and listen. And we’re working on two different podcasts that are not greenlit yet. One focuses on what I always call “Pint-Sized Profit” for kids — I continue to have a mandate of creating a curriculum for teachers and kids. The second podcast is understanding how personal business is and doing pseudo “Profit” episodes but on a podcast. We want to take a shot at it and the network [CNBC] is very focused on delivering solid content to people in different ways.
Once you invest in a business is it a lifelong commitment?
If you look at all the seasons, maybe there are two handfuls [of businesses] that have been around from the beginning and that I anticipate will be around for a long time. There are others that were around, the show ended, then six months or a year later they either self-destructed or I elected not to move forward with them because I felt they were trying to self-destruct. I’ve gotten a little more disciplined in not chasing the fish down the barrel … of not letting myself get sucked down this black hole. If I go into a business and it turns out there’s a personality or financial conflict, I either sell the business back or just exit stage left and take my losses. I don’t do it in a way that’s embarrassing to anybody — it’s a good old-fashioned Irish goodbye.
Do you consider that a failure on your part?
In all cases it becomes a bit introspective for me. I look at it as a failure but also an opportunity for me to learn. One thing nobody ever talks about on the show is that people think the business owners are the ones learning — when, in fact, it’s like I’m taking a giant master class in my own behavior and other people’s behavior. I never think of them failing me but of me failing — that maybe I misjudged them or maybe I shouldn’t have done the deal to begin with.