Marcus Lemonis

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Marcus Lemonis spoke with James Altucher about his show television show The Profit and what he’s learned after four season. Here are my notes.

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Photo by Andy Rusch.

10,000 hours and youth soccer? 10,000 hours or youth soccer.

“To be a business owner it’s not a glamorous job. It requires you to make a lot of personal sacrifices. If you want to meet a business owner with a great home life and a great life balance — they’re probably BS-ing you a little bit. It’s very difficult to be a business owner and have balance. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have good work-life balance.”

“In fairness to most people, I don’t have kids and I don’t want to minimize that because I have business associates who have kids.”

“If you’re young and single you can be reckless. As you get older and you have a family and children and responsibilities it has to be more calculated.”

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea of 10,000 hours as the staircase to the balcony of expertise – but he clarified to Stephen Dubner why:

Gladwell wasn’t promoting so much as pointing out. Ken Grossman wrote that when he was starting the Sierra Nevada beer company he felt guilty for not being home as often. Gene Kranz an early NASA engineer wrote, “Behind every great man is a woman – and behind her is the plumber, the electrician, the Maytag repairman, and one or more sick kids. And the car needs to go into the shop.”

For Lemonis this is an advantage. He can take bigger swings. He can handle more volatility. If things don’t work out he can go back to selling cars.

Know thyself, and thy soft spots.

“The ones with the dysfunctional people are the ones that are the most challenging for me and the ones I get burned the most because I have this notion that I can fix everybody and everything and it’s just not true.”

Soft spots are biases articulated. Daryl Morey had a soft spot for one type of player. Meb Faber has a soft spot for certain investments. Gregg Popovich has a soft spot for a style of play.

Knowing these preferences leads to better decisions.

Relationship debts.

“Put a heart with a face, not just a name with a face.”

“When you take care of your people as best as you can, you really will find out when shit goes bad who’s going to be there.”

Debts and surpluses compound accordingly. Richard Jefferson saw how physical debts (body fat, weight) negatively compounded. NBA players eat like kings but don’t want to work out too hard before games. That leads to weight gain.

There’s code debt, financial debt, relationship debt, turnover debt (loss of institutional memory. Less debt is better. As Peter Lynch said, “it’s very hard to go bankrupt if you don’t have any debt.”

Getting lost in the weeds.

“You knew it was going to be a problem, I didn’t know it was going to be a problem. When you’re in it it’s very difficult.”

“When you are a business owner it’s very easy to get lost in the weeds.”

Alton Brown said this happened to him while making Good Eats. His crew had a code word they used when talking to his wife about when he went too deep.

Aziz Ansari said much the same:

“When we do Masters of None we screen the episodes for people as we’re editing because it helps. You’re the craziest person to watch and judge this thing because you’ve been living in it, you’re in too deep.”

It’s why people like Daniel Kahneman and Michael Mauboussin advocate for the outside view. Be conscious of ‘what typically happens’ – or include someone who is.

Humility + Curiosity = Ideas. When he talks to business owners, Lemonis asks a lot of questions, “they’ll tell you if you keep pushing.”

“Thinking I had all the answers was the mistake.”

“It was like I turned into an infant again…I just kept asking questions of everybody all the time.”

“I have no trouble admitting when I don’t know something and need help.”

“Everyday you should be asking questions.”

“I think what happens to people is their pride gets in the way and they don’t want to say ‘I don’t know’ And that may be the single biggest mistake.”

Success comes from enough ego to believe you can, but not so much you expect to. This manifests as curiosity. Thomas DeLong put it this way to Ted Seides:

“If you live a more curious life, you’re going to listen more, you’re going to be more interesting, you’re going to learn a lot more. You need to move your life from certainty to curiosity.”

More inspiration is in Brian Grazer‘s book, A Curious Mind.

Change your POV.

“I have a little trick. I always turn my mind into a consumer and not a business owner. I think ‘Would I buy that? Would I pay for that?’ and I really work hard at it.”

Businesses exist to serve customers so knowing what they want helps. Grant Oliphant works in the non-profit area but has a saying that applies here too – nothing about me without me. Ask, ‘what do people want’ rather than ‘what do I want’.

Businesses who fail to do this are a – according to Scott Fearon – Dead Company Walking.


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13 thoughts on “Marcus Lemonis”

  1. […] Marcus Lemonis said that part of his advantage is a lack of kids. Morgan Housel commented, “If you want to be an Elon Musk type character you need to work one hundred hour weeks for years, maybe decades, on end. There’s no way around it. There are no part-time founder jobs.” Stephanie Linnartz, Chief Communication Officer at Marriott said, “My family first, my job second and that doesn’t leave a lot of roomful hobbies and book clubs.” […]


  2. […] Marcus Lemonis noted this too, “To be a business owner it’s not a glamorous job. It requires you to make a lot of personal sacrifices. If you want to meet a business owner with a great home life and a great life balance — they’re probably bs-ing you a little bit.” […]


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