2/04/2015 Peter Durantine

CNBC Host Talks Entrepreneurship With Students

Entrepreneur and television personality Marcus Lemonis says the key to successfully starting and growing a business is not money or accounting principles. It's people.

"It's really important for you to understand why and how people think the way they do," Lemonis told a Franklin & Marshall College audience of students, faculty and staff on Feb. 4 in Lisa Bonchek Adams Auditorium. "I understand people, which I think is the key to business."

The 41-year-old CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises, who later spoke to F&M's Entrepreneur Club, is the host of CNBC's "The Profit," a reality TV show in which he helps struggling small businesses by providing advice and capital in exchange for a stake in the company. The Department of Business, Organizations & Society invited Lemonis to talk about entrepreneurship because of his success outside of the business-dominating high-tech sector.

"The businesses he's investing in are real brick-and-mortar businesses," said Assistant Professor of Organization Studies Amanda Merryman.

  • "What I was really good at was understanding the needs of people," Lemonis said. "To ultimately be successful in business you have to relate to people "What I was really good at was understanding the needs of people," Lemonis said. "To ultimately be successful in business you have to relate to people Image Credit: Melissa Hess

Born in Lebanon and adopted as an infant by Americans Leo and Sophia Lemonis, the CNBC host detailed his early life as an overweight, socially awkward youth with an eating disorder and an inability to relate to people.

To overcome his personal challenges, he said he constantly re-invented himself until he realized, "I didn't understand who I was trying to be."

What he eventually learned about himself enlightened him.

"What I was really good at was understanding the needs of people," Lemonis said. "To ultimately be successful in business you have to relate to people."

Lemonis encouraged students to find mentors not just in older individuals or in faculty, but also in friends who have different views on life.

"(A mentor) can be anyone who influences you or inspires you or motivates you," he said.

Lemonis left students with some advice -- learn to accept criticism, learn to effectively sell yourself in a job interview in 30 seconds, share your aspirations with prospective employers, and work on relating to people of all walks of life.

"It's really about building rapport," he said.

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