Many know him as the “business turnaround king” and star of CNBC’s prime time reality series The Profit, but his rise to stardom is no Hollywood construction. Marcus Lemonis’ biggest success is as the chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam, the nation’s largest RV/outdoor retailer and owner organization, respectively. While at the helm of America’s one-stop shop for all-things RV, Lemonis’ unique vision and large ambition keep him looking forward.
Lemonis was born in war-torn Beirut, Lebanon in 1973; and, at nine months old, was adopted by a Lebanese couple living in Miami, FL. As a young child, he was exposed to positive and prosperous business values at his family-owned Anthony Abraham Chevrolet, the largest Chevrolet dealership in Florida. His entrepreneurial spirit bloomed at age 12, when he started a lawn mowing service in order to generate money to open a candy business. Upon graduating from Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Lemonis moved to Milwaukee, WI to attend Marquette University to study Political Science, Criminology and Economics.
He returned to Florida after graduation and ran for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives. At 22, with no political experience, he gained the endorsement of the Miami Herald. Though he lost the campaign, Lemonis refocused and held several automotive sales and managerial roles. It was a conversation with family friend and former Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacocca, who advised Lemonis to get into the camping and RV business, which put him on the path to eventual chairmanship.
Lemonis streamlined the RV industry, buying more than 100 RV companies from dealerships across the country and turning them into Camping World RV SuperCenters. After combining Camping World with Good Sam Enterprises in 2010, Lemonis now leads nearly 7,500 employees in over 125 US cities, and recorded close to $3 billion in sales in 2013. In 2014, Lemonis teamed up with NASCAR to renew Camping World’s sponsorship of the Truck Series through 2022. The extension affirms the RV and camping company’s commitment, continuing a relationship as title sponsor that dates back to 2009.
With the growing success of Camping World and Good Sam, business publications started taking notice. Lemonis landed on Crain’s Chicago Business’ “40 under 40” list in 2005 and just two years later, was named RV Business Magazine’s “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2007. In 2008, Ernst and Young dubbed Lemonis “Entrepreneur of the Year.”
While determined to achieve his own success, Lemonis consistently looks for ways to help those around him. These philanthropic habits started in college, where he served as the president of Marquette’s Student Athletic Committee and planned a citywide clothing drive to help the homeless of Milwaukee. Over the years, he has also contributed time and money to various organizations including: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, NVEEE (National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment), New Journey’s Transitional Home, Neat Stuff, Ravinia Festival Association, RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Photocharity and the Joffrey Ballet Bridge Program.
Lemonis’ desire to give back has recently led to the company-wide adoption of an employee volunteer program, Project Good Samaritan. In 2013, Camping World and Good Sam made it a condition of employment that every associate dedicates eight hours per quarter of company-paid time to volunteer for causes that are meaningful to them.
Lemonis’ passion for personal and professional growth paved the way to a fruitful television career where his philanthropic outreach continues to thrive. Prior to The Profit, he appeared on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice in 2011 and 2012 and was featured on ABC television’s Secret Millionaire in 2012. He continues his quest to help small businesses with new episodes of The Profit airing August 2016.
Lemonis’ ever-growing business portfolio remains concentrated on efficient, creative and relevant practice of his “Three P” principle: “People/Process/Product”. Lemonis charges his employees, business partners and himself to strive for the absolute best in all three arenas.
Marcus Lemonis drives results through collaborations and continuous improvement. His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs mirrors that for his Camping World and Good Sam employees; it’s simple: stay focused, work hard, know your numbers, and be disciplined. Both a growing employee population and television viewership means Lemonis’ business acumen now reaches more than ever before. With tire tracks firmly planted in the RV industry and an extensive automotive background to draw upon, Marcus Lemonis is challenging himself and those he works with to consistently raise the bar and stand out as employees and businesses of choice!