I have spent a lot of time trying to find out more about Marcus Lemonis’ personal story. Finally I found a speech he gave to an Inc 5000 conference. They titled it…
The key question I wanted answered was how did he even start Camping World. The usual snippet story is that he was an orphan from Lebanon who became the son of someone who was in the car business. His extended family owned a rather big car business, and that Lee Iaccoca was a family friend. Presumably this story makes it sound like his family helped him out a ton.
Listening to him tell his story you quickly realize that his family only indirectly was responsible for his success. The real story is that he ran for a Democratic office when he came back from college and his grandfather was a Republican so for embarrassing the family he fired him and wished him luck.
He eventually did lose the election but someone told him that if he ever wanted a job he should give him a call. That person I believe was Wayne Huizenga, owner of AutoNation. If it wasn’t Wayne himself, he eventually connected with Wayne.
They eventually asked him if he wanted a promotion and he said yes, of course. They requested that he help them buy his grandfather’s car business. He eventually pulled it off, and was additionally told to fire all the slackers. He pulled that off too and eventually let slip in his story that he made it to a point where he was pulling in $900k a year in the car business!
Wikipedia puts it this way…
“Starting in 1997, Lemonis held several sales and managerial roles for AutoNation. From June 2001 to February 2003 he served as CEO of Holiday RV Superstores Inc. Following that, he co-founded a company called FreedomRoads and began acquiring RV dealerships. In 2006, the company merged with Camping World with Lemonis as CEO, then in 2011, merged with Good Sam Enterprises, Lemonis again at the helm. Lemonis attributes Camping World and Good Sam’s success to the three P’s: people, process and product.” Source: Wikipedia)
2003 to 2005 was a very intense period for Marcus. He pooled his own money with some other investors to start the company Freedom Roads, Inc., then used $400 million in bank loans to speed up acquisition and consolidation…
“So, in 2003, Mr. Lemonis pooled his money with funds from several investors and started buying up dealerships, consolidating them under one banner — a practice he says helped “legitimize” the industry.
The idea was to make RV lots look more like car dealerships, such as Florida-based AutoNation, where he worked from 1997 to 2001, rising to regional manager in charge of 65 stores in 11 states by age 27.
Using multiple bank loans, Freedom Roads spent $400 million in June to expand inventory at all its dealerships and push the company to the $2-billion mark in annual sales. It’s now at $1.4 billion.” (Source)
Pretty much the main conclusion I can come to is that the old sayings go with business. “It’s not what you know, its who you know.” “It takes money to make money”. My own saying is,… “If you wanna play with the big boys, you gotta join the big boys club.”
Marcus certainly learned many lessons on the road to success. His success at AutoNation bred more success and each experience helped feed the next. The key in his life was getting noticed by the right people. Some would call him lucky, but he himself says that he is simply blessed.