Marcus Lemonis wants to make a deal. That’s just the way he rolls.
Over three seasons of his CNBC show The Profit, the Miami-raised, Chicago-based entrepreneur has already invested almost $30 million in the struggling companies featured on the series.
The money is all his — and as real as it gets, usually in the low six figures for a stake of up to 51 percent.
At 10 p.m. Tuesday night, Lemonis — who amassed his fortune as CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises — brings his famous “three Ps” principle (People, Process, Product) back home when he visits Grafton Furniture.
Lemonis, who graduated from Christopher Columbus High School, said it was good to be back in his old stomping grounds.
“If you watch the show, you see how immersed I get in companies where I have no ties so you can imagine how it was for me to be there,” said Lemonis, who was born in Lebanon and adopted as a baby. “You can multiply that feeling kind of exponentially.”
This episode marks the first time The Profit was filmed in the star’s hometown. Though he was in South Florida on last week’s show — up in West Palm Beach at Fuel Foods, a healthy home delivery company. OK, so that one didn’t go too well. As in: he pulled out his dough and left.
In his signature blunt way, Lemonis describes his experience as “not good.”
“There are episodes when you learn how to run a business and there are episodes when you learn how to not run a business,” he says with a laugh. “Viewers probably wanted to throw their remote.”
Luckily, family-owned Grafton was a whole different story.
“It’s been around since the ’60s,” the 41-year-old explains. “What’s beautiful is the grandfather Esteban is a Cuban immigrant, his son Steve and grandson Steven (III) are also there.”
He sees Grafton as a typical Miami story.
“There are like 30 employees, and they really were from all over the world. I did a little roll call — plenty of Cubans, plus also people from Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic. It was literally like going to a festival.
“It reminded me why I love that city so much. I grew up in my family’s [car dealership] on Southwest Eighth Street so I’m used to the culture of hardworking people. There’s something special there.”
Though Grafton, which specializes in high-end custom pieces, was doing fairly well financially, the clientele needed to expand.
“While I was impressed by the fact that they made stuff for people who live on Star Island, in Bal Harbour and have yachts, there’s a whole world out there,” explained Lemonis. “We had to change the product.”
They ended up finding a warehouse space on the border of Hialeah, and turning it into a state of the art factory, reports Lemonis, who invested a total of $1.5 million. Grafton will also be coming out with a new line of price-accessible, non-custom furniture called The American Dream.
Eagle eye watchers, check out where Lemonis held his negotiation meeting: Joe’s Stone Crab.
“I had been coming to eat there since I was a kid,” said Lemonis of the 102-year-old storied restaurant. “There’s history plus it’s just a great place for lunch.”
Though he has stepped on a few landmines during his three seasons on The Profit, Lemonis loves the thrill of assisting people. Since he has no kids, The Profit is his baby.
“I genuinely like it,” he explains. “I don’t have the kind of obligation parents have — taking their kids to school, to soccer practice. I don’t have any real hobbies.”
Yes, Lemonis is in it for the money, but he also enjoys building relationships along the way.
“It’s a balance — being tough and being reasonable. The key for me is if you can forge a connection with people and be vulnerable yourself and a good listener it becomes deeper than business. Then the number crunching is the easy part.”