5 Takeaways From Being Featured On CNBC's The Profit Starring Marcus Lemonis
This is the article I wished had been written before us. No doubt there are thousands of businesses that would kill for the opportunity of being featured on the show and at one time mine was one of those businesses. Back in 2015 we really messed up an opportunity with Shark Tank. This wasn't devastating to us because it came from nowhere and in no way did we ultimately depend on it. But in the few days that we thought about the possibility, all of our thoughts were positive and had no real downside. Being on that show would give us something we couldn't give ourselves because even if we didn't make a deal it would be a free commercial on national tv. Because of our niche product, this type of national exposure was priceless! But when I hit the "Submit" key to our application to The Profit in summer 2017, I actually began to cry for the first time in a long time. I cried because somehow I knew this would go all the way and a call from casting on The Profit is different than Shark Tank. The Profit exposes the bad stuff, mainly because in order to get better you have to explore what is wrong, and that is almost always the leader of the company. In order to be featured on The Profit, you have to be ready to put down your ego, put Marcus Lemonis in charge, and listen to some really critical feedback that will be aired on national television. I knew this going in and the motto "no pain no gain" has a lot of science behind it. Nonetheless, my tears were 50% fear of exposing myself and 50% letting go and finally asking for help.
The show aired last week and it allowed us to exhale, if only for a minute, before the exposure of a whole new audience at the height of the Holiday season gave us an enormous welcome by shopping with us online! So many people reached out on social media and email in support of our growth and many people asked questions and wanted more information so hopefully this blog post serves to answer some of those. For all they packed into a 45 minute episode the takeaway is rarely heard from the owner's perspective and so I wanted to share my personal takeaway in hopes it will further help other businesses. So here goes!
1. The success of your business has more to do with the people behind it than any other factor.
Before meeting Marcus I would have agreed with this however I would have thought that it referred more to the staff in the stores than the staff at the warehouse because the sales people are the face and voice that customers see. After meeting Marcus I learned that what you create is less important than who you become as a result of creation. I wish they would have had the time to feature our staff because they ALL are truly amazing! As the business owner I was about the only one that watched The Profit religiously and so I knew first hand what to expect when it came to being critiqued by Marcus...My staff however did not! As I mentioned in the show, my employees are like my children and we have a bond that is unlike any bond I have ever experienced in past careers. Marcus was hard on me but my team was my biggest fan club all the way and it did not take long for me understand why it was so important for us to succeed. When the show aired we held a watch party not having seen the episode. We knew all these people who showed up, many not being familiar with The Profit, might walk away thinking QUEORK was doomed under my leadership but a perfect example of the power of people happened instead. Every time an employee or me or Julie came up on the screen we all cheered and went wild. At the end, all the staff were jumping up and down cheering "QUEORK, QUEORK, QUEORK" until the whole place was doing it! As a company with such a unique product its easy to get caught up in just the education of cork and I think for all businesses whether you are a restaurant or a bowling alley we tend to put our customers focus too much on the product. Thanks to the show I realize now that who we are is just as important as what we sell.
2. You have to pick your battles and know your weaknesses.
Trying to pack the whole story into an hour long episode is impossible and one important fact that didn't make the cut is the closure of the two stores outside of New Orleans which happens in less than two weeks. Both the Santa Fe and Santa Rosa Beach stores had success early on but when we took on manufacturing these locations suffered and got little to no attention and became the source for much of our financial losses. Marcus taught me having a brick and mortar store model is great for certain brands but you have to also be present in the market or the market has to be the right fit. I made a bad choice but learned a valuable lesson. Our plan is to keep our presence in those locations via wholesale to local merchants, then take the money saved and use it toward marketing and manufacturing. As sad as we are to see these stores close, the importance is that we focus on our ability to make a difference here in New Orleans and then expand that through channels like wholesale and corporate gifts. It is not to say we will never open another store, but if we do it will be when we have the cash to do so and be in a location more relevant to our product.
3. One Thing That Cannot Be Avoided Is Smart Work.
As Marcus pointed out, his goal was to teach me to work smarter. I am already a hard worker, I love being busy, and I thrive under pressure. This turns out to be a bad trait when you are leading a company because constantly staying too busy to implement processes or notice inefficiencies means everyone suffers. When I watched the episode, looking at the old space made me actually feel stressed and overwhelmed. "The war zone" that Marcus walked into represented all that we left behind. The disorganized and unprofessional space made disorganized and unprofessional people. In that move, everything about the space changed and so did its people. Now our manufacturing "Depot" as we call it is full of life and energy and has a confidence that is shooting us all to the moon! P.S. We did clean up the old mess, just not before the cameras got here:) That was well deserved!
4. Embrace fear.
In the intro I mentioned 50% of my tears being fear. Because we either import or manufacture our own products we never had to have any sort of resale certificate from the State. Earlier in 2017, we finally needed one and when I went to look for how to get it, the State simply needed my account number that I paid the sales tax with. For some reason the number wasn't recognized. Long story short, for the entire time we had been in business I thought the website I'd been paying my taxes through paid all sales taxes however the state had its own tax and for several years it had never been paid! I found this out literally less than a month after taking out a significant SBA loan to consolidate our significant debt and I knew that paying these taxes and penalties associated with them was finacially impossible for our company. The first interview with the casting producer was the first time I told anyone about it. I was so ashamed and the thought of telling Julie, much less the whole world about it kept me awake more nights than I care to remember. Fear rarely motivates people and more often paralyzes people. My takeaway after the show is that I believe people see fear as something we have to conquer and face-off rather than something that can just be. I think the latter helps give us a perspective that can get us through the unknown vs never going through it at all.
5. Listen and allow others to help.
This goes without saying but it can be hard to practice. Owning a company is very personal, some describe it as their baby and so hearing other people's take on it can cause emotional knee jerk reactions. This was the biggest challenge for me. I watched the show religiously and every single time someone argued with Marcus it enraged me. "Why did you even call him?" I screamed at the tv! Now the table was turned and I am actually an extroverted overly talkative person. Every time the crew came through the doors I had to consciously tone myself down 1000% and remind myself to shut up and listen. I would rather be known as shy than be known as the person that argued with Marcus Lemonis! In all seriousness, I wanted all the advice I could get and Marcus isn't the only person that has experience in running companies. My advice to anyone is to surround yourself with as many like minded people as possible. Join business groups and network. Hire a mentor or coach. Getting outside of your own perspective is critical for success. Another one of my challenges was allowing Julie to help. These are just personal issues that have more to do with pride and ego than anything else. At the end of the day, the goal is to make whatever she invests a great investment and the only way to do that is to do what is good for the company, like paying your damn taxes!
If anyone wants to add to this feel free! We cannot directly respond to the comments because our blog is technically challenged but we do read everything!
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