A good idea whose time
has passed: ‘The Profit’
should pack it in

It's time to let it go.

Once refreshing and highly informative television, Marcus Lemonis' "The Profit" has run its course.

Season 1 was exceptional. Season 2 was dubious. Season 3 was dreadful.

Now, CNBC is hyping Season 4, to premiere Aug. 23, 2016.

"The Profit" originally was about observing flaws in small businesses and helping owners to correct them. But as Lemonis spread himself thinner and thinner, the show became a shrine to excess.

Dubious investments got heaps of cash. (See Amazing Grapes and Standard Burger and Inkkas and Wick'ed.) Then there are the quality businesses that got eyebrow-raising investments, such as Mr. Green Tea (everybody wants vanilla, so let's throw 10 grand here and there at new flavors) and Grafton Furniture (let's hire someone to paint a ghastly mural on the front of the building) and Shuler's Bar-B-Q (does a part-time restaurant really need a gift shop of non-restaurant items?).

The series' best episode, No. 1, Car Cash, might've had the worst investment of all, as the seemingly happy ending of Lemonis' costly overhaul of the Baron brothers' prized location was undermined by an update in which the Barons got booted by their landlord. (The guess here is that the landlord, out of deference to the Barons' father, had been giving the brothers favorable terms and after seeing Lemonis enter the picture, decided the brothers didn't need his help anymore.)

Surely, one would have to question pouring 6 digits of cash into a location that, according to what was later mentioned on the show, is subject to lease revocation at any time.

It's not a show about profit. It's a show about how floundering businesses can look really nice if unlimited amounts of money are thrown at them.

Occasionally, sales bumps on the program are mentioned. But any small business receiving $200,000 as well as Marcus Lemonis' connections should be able to boost revenue.

Rosy predictions are often made, and rarely if ever realized, about 1) an as-yet-unfinished and untitled product going to national grocery chains, 2) expensive hand-made goods landing highly iffy-sounding shelf commitments at regional retailers who require promises and possibly introductions to Lemonis' corporate network, and 3) Lemonis' teams getting ahead of the fashion scene and creating the next big apparel hit every quarter.

"The Profit" often is downright depressing. These businesses frequently consist of bickering, distracted owners and low-wage workers whose paychecks seem at high risk of succumbing to management incompetence. A lot of managers act in ways that would never fly at IBM. Lemonis often picks a select employee to receive equity (with no discussion at all as to whether equity for a low-paid employee who hasn't contributed any capital is a good move for all parties and makes sense from a tax standpoint) but rarely or never suggests raises across the board.

During the first season of CBS' blockbuster "Survivor," future contestants quickly learned how to play the game and rendered the drama in later seasons nearly moot. The same thing happened years later to reality business television, as entrepreneurs realized the end game wasn't necessarily an investment but simply getting on television. Some entrepreneurs obviously hit up multiple programs in hopes of finding a taker somewhere. Lemonis' savviest subjects learned that to enhance their chances of an investment, they should shed a tear and state on camera that they're afraid of letting their parents/spouse/children down and offer Lemonis a Dr. Phil moment.

Lemonis is an undeniably savvy businessman with endless constructive observations to share.

That insight is still very much worth broadcast airtime.

"The Profit" too quickly outgrew that approach and sadly has hammered home the reality that it's not business school; it's just a TV show.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Buying junk with Marcus’ money

          Posted: Friday, February 26, 2016

Reviews of all of Seasons 3, 2 and 1 below

Far from generating profits, Marcus Lemonis' TV show specializes in overruns.

The presumed final "progress report" from Season 3 of CNBC's "The Profit" paid a visit to Amazing Grapes, Shuler's Bar-B-Q, Grafton Furniture and SJC Drums. By far the most interesting visit was Amazing Grapes.

Give Lemonis props for honesty. He knows the warts are the drama, so the problems get necessary airtime.

At Amazing Grapes, the scapegoat is the "beer guy," Matt, blamed for not only weak beer sales but nonexistent Web wine sales.

Dan, the hardy wine boss who quickly won Lemonis' trust in the original episode, says wine sales on the Internet peaked at $50,000-$60,000 in their best month.

But now, "There is no Web business."

Matt is completely indifferent to Lemonis and the TV production. Yet even though Dan has known for a long time that "the guy is lazy" and that it's like "pulling teeth" to get him to do anything, Matt was somehow put in charge of both beer sales and uploading wines to the website, and no one else is capable of doing the latter.

In the first episode, Lemonis says of Dan, "It's ultimately his decision how we buy wine and how we do all that stuff." Presumably, Dan would've benefited from learning how to upload wine to the Internet.

While it might have been productive to remove original owner Greg from the Amazing Grapes operation, clearly there's a leadership vacuum. One thing clear from "The Profit" is that even the people who run these businesses aren't really comfortable firing people unless Lemonis comes to town.

Yet when Mike, who is listed as general manager, is forced to do it, the showdown is quality television. Mike calmly and briefly (at least in the clips shown) explains Matt's shortcomings and why the employment arrangement doesn't seem to be working out. Matt seems slightly annoyed that the commentary lingers as long as it does and exits peacefully. Presumably/hopefully, if he sought to make a case for his job, he was given the opportunity.

One wonders why Dan, the chief complainer about Matt, takes no part in this process yet sits in the room with his back to the conversation. Dan declares to Greg in the original episode that Dan is in charge of wines now, but this image is that of a bystander. If this is how Dan handles this uncomfortable situation, then perhaps there wasn't adequate communication with Matt for a long time.

Whatever happened here — and viewers don't know Matt's story, and it's highly doubtful that online wine sales went from $60,000 a month to $0 because of Matt — Lemonis is all too happy to build a bigger kitchen rather than simply hire a savvy Web programmer who supposedly will restore the $60,000 a month in online wine sales.

An Amazing Grapes employee who was criticized in the first episode, Brian, vigorously and politely defended his actions in that episode and refreshingly appears to be on solid ground in the update.

In the original episode, Lemonis says, "I've spent well over $300,000" on the Amazing Grapes overhaul, which presumably is on top of the $300,000 to take a controlling interest and pay off the vendors.

Now he's going to spend more, on expanding the kitchen and apparently turning a bathroom into a beer cooler.

It's fine to trumpet how much sales are growing. When the sales are growing because of unlimited capital investment that quite likely requires higher ongoing costs to maintain, that isn't the most realistic scenario of small businesses unaffiliated with Lemonis.

Lemonis makes a cringeworthy declaration that to many justifies outrageous spending. "In any business, you can't be complacent. You can't just settle in. If you do, you're gonna- you're gonna go backwards. And so there are continuous small tweaks in investments that you have to make," Lemonis says.

Well, that sure sounds good — if your competition is Amazon, Google or Facebook. But think of every small business you've visited in the last month. Think any of those are "complacent"? Or perhaps a lot worse than complacent? Yep.

For the vast — make that overwhelming — percentage of small businesses, far more realistic improvement would occur not from tweaking new investments, but cost-cutting. Eliminate lousy employees. Stop buying inventory that nobody wants. Commit to sales calls every week.

Many entrepreneurs can't even afford expansion. The amount of time it takes to run a second location or add new product lines is too much for many people.

Many episodes of "The Profit" demonstrate that when enabled with money, especially Marcus Lemonis' money, a lot of businesspeople like to splurge.

In another portion of this recap, Lemonis visits Shuler's Bar-B-Que, one of the crown jewels of the series largely because it was already profitable and well run and needed little help. But even Norton and Lynn were eager to fill their nearly $1.9 million general store with questionable inventory never examined by a focus group.

And at SJC Custom Drums, Lemonis' original attempts to restore the relationship between Mike and his artisan brother Scott appears to backfire, as SJC is found to have a bunch of cajons built and billed by Scott that weren't exactly what Chris ordered.

Mike says that SJC still owes Scott a lot of money for the cajons, and that he is done talking about his relationship with Scott.

Evidently, Lemonis got rid of Scott's cajons, because while cajons are pictured on the SJC website, there aren't any available for sale.

Scott apparently did not agree to appear this time. Nor is there an update on whether Green Day was ever enlisted to play a bunch of concerts at Sam Goody in exchange for SJC product placement.

The other update on the program is a visit to Grafton Furniture, which showed little except a new machine but at least paid a nice tribute to the late founder Esteban. (And thankfully didn't show that ghastly mural.)

The intro to this program and the 4 segments is so long, you almost don't need to watch the rest of it.

Lemonis is launching a sister program on CNBC called "The Partner" that appears to draw from Donald Trump's "The Apprentice." Winners will assist in managing the ventures from "The Profit."

"The Profit" was renewed for a Season 4, to air in fall 2016. It's run its course. Now's a good time to cut the cord, though no TV show has ever apologized for being overextended.

Lemonis' instant observations about the state of the businesses remain the show's linchpin. The financial negotiations rarely make any sense (see all the recaps below). A few select employees are handed equity. Raises are almost never suggested for anybody. A lot of implications on the show are contradicted by real-world evidence, such as Standard Burger still offering the $6 burger that drew so much scorn:

Quite frankly, "The Profit" is often depressing. People making likely little more than minimum wage are often shown working for difficult bosses. They're assembled for the rah-rah new-sheriff-in-town speech and generally look like they've heard it all before.

So many — not all, but so many — of these entrepreneurs are making such obvious mistakes that even high school kids could run the operations better. What would-be entrepreneurs need to recognize from this program is that success is most associated with personality skills. Most of the time, deficiencies are chalked up to Dr. Phil-type issues, discussions of which are cringeworthy.

It's a grand question whether, based strictly on episodes of "The Profit," American small business is in good shape ... or dire need of steroids. Unfortunately, despite Lemonis' considerable intellect and enthusiasm, it seems hard to conclude anything but the latter.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Is it really that hard to make a sale while sitting next to Marcus Lemonis?

          Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The latest installment of "The Profit," a return to Mr. Green Tea, inadvertently delivered some fascinating — and cold — truths about the ice-cream business.



Then fuhgeddaboutit.

Marcus Lemonis' visit to the family-owned ice cream maker in New Jersey was one of the series' Season 1 highlights. Lemonis recently returned to the company for presumably no other reason than to pad out the Season 3 offerings. He came up with the hook of convincing pops to give upstart son Michael an equity stake in the business.

Michael's a good egg. He's got some savvy. What is he really doing? That's not exactly clear.

In the original episode, Michael somehow was given the green light for a $600,000 factory project and turned it into a $1,300,000 project.

He also bought a new company car for about $18,000.

In the new episode, we first catch up with Michael having committed $73,000 to black sesame ice cream with "no testing, no focus groups."

Michael apparently was tasked with redesigning the Mr. Green Tea logo. Lemonis rejected it.

In terms of production, Michael claims, "I save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars because of this packaging."

But Lemonis claims the margin they're receiving on that package of merchandising is inadequate.

The mango recipe that gets shopped to customers is not Michael's, but something his dad, Rich, came up with.

Michael's parents apparently think he's "cavalier" with money. Rich even says he's "enraged" that when vendors want to ship samples, Michael lets them bill the Mr. Green Tea UPS account.

"You're not making any sense. You're making stories up!" Michael tells pops, then later indicating $20 for UPS is no big deal.

Mom tells the world that one of the risks of Michael is that he will marry a "crazy bitch" (that's correct) that his parents won't like but will have to deal with.

So how, exactly, is Michael earning an equity stake in the company? Apparently it's by speaking during Lemonis' sales calls.

Lemonis says he took the family to 10th Ave Burrito in part because he wanted "to give Michael a chance to shine and show his sales skills." (Something that didn't occur in the original episode when Lemonis took over the conference call and revealed how they were going to buy a $240,000 building that Michael had been negotiating for.)

If Michael deserves an equity stake in the company, shouldn't he be making sales on his own, without Lemonis and friendly TV cameras nearby?

It's kind of like Ernest Hemingway urging this page to write something good. Then Ernest keeps watch with his wireless keyboard while the words are being typed onto the page. Then Ernest tells all of his fans who are watching, "Check out this page! Success!"

One of the sales calls that Michael is credited for, at Leiby's Dairy, flies in the face of numbers presented earlier in the program.

We are already aware of Rich stressing the volatile nature of milk pricing. "It changes every week I buy milk," Rich says.

Rich looks into a vat at Leiby's and tells Lemonis the price: "Today 2,100. Last week, 2,800!"

Given such fluctuations, it seems clear that Mr. Green Tea does not have the volume to deal in long-term purchase contracts and is subject to daily pricing moves. If the price falls 25% in a week, there isn't any hedging occurring here.

Yet at the end of their visit, viewers learn they're paying $7.50 a gallon for 60,000 gallons a year and are seeking a volume discount.

Lemonis tells viewers that "when Michael's intelligence and salesmanship comes out, he can be very impressive."

Michael promises Leiby's boss Jack a "40% increase" in purchases — which would be 84,000 gallons — then quickly extends that to "hopefully 100,000."

But it's Lemonis, not Michael, who demonstrates the salesmanship, asking Jack for $6.50 a gallon, even though the prices may drop by 25% a week.

Michael is allowed to ask Jack, "Can we do this." Jack says, "Yes."

For the clincher, Lemonis takes the family to a meeting with yogurt chain 16 Handles. This is to be Michael's signature moment, making a sale. He wore a tie in the original episode; this time he doesn't take his jacket off. He claims "decades of data" of Mr. Green Tea's 15-flavor portfolio that is never requested. But when it comes time for the handshake deal, it's Lemonis doing all the talking, asking the 16 Handles crew what they think, are they "comfortable moving forward," how they feel about the new product line.

The answer, of course, is "yes."

Viewers can see that at each sales call, it's Rich, a very likable businessman, who is warmly shaking hands with the customers. Michael might be more likable if he didn't accuse his dad of making things up and not making any sense.

This episode includes another pitch for AT&T, this time a system that tracks Mr. Green Tea's vehicles and alerts them to traffic disruptions.

There's a couple more trips to empty restaurants (below) in which no food is consumed.

The stark reality of the ice cream business is that no one really wants new flavors. You heard it on the program.

Michael admits at the beginning of the show that restaurants "want their Green Tea red bean vanilla. That's what they want."

Solomon of 16 Handles says, "Look, chocolate and vanilla are our No. 1 and No. 2."

Brian of 10th Ave Burrito tells the family, "right now, we love the vanilla ... just vanilla."

So it's obvious, the best way for Mr. Green Tea to increase its profit is to make a better vanilla than it already does — if that's possible — and sell it to more places than it's currently selling it. Stop wasting time and money on new flavors that aren't going to sell.

It's the difference between reality TV ... and reality.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Isn’t there already something called 1-800-flowers?

          Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2016

She can't raise any money because she's a woman.

Maybe she's right.

That would be a fine topic for "The Profit." Marcus Lemonis could interview entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and uncover some of the biases that may be present when fundraising pitches are made.

That particular episode would be informative and would gain traction among other media.

But that's not "The Profit," which in its endless 3rd season is becoming mostly a PR vehicle for people who aren't interested in much of anything from Marcus Lemonis except his cash.

Christina Stembel, who runs Farmgirl Flowers, is the latest entrepreneur to exploit the opportunity, landing Lemonis' cameras for a half-hour's worth of free advertising. Perhaps she thought she might even get the cash too though it might be attached to ... actual advice.

Stembel wants would-be investors to feel like she's God's gift to their cash. No wonder no one in Silicon Valley is interested.

It's too bad, but Farmgirl Flowers is a likable business. Nobody watching this episode actually believes it's going to take over the world, but for a floral entrepreneur, it could be a nice living.

Rather than appreciating Lemonis' visit, Christina seems hell-bent on punishing him for Silicon Valley's slights. One actually feels a bit sorry for Lemonis in the last couple episodes, especially this one, in which he earnestly listened and observed and examined the strengths and weaknesses of the business, only to subject himself to Christina's victimhood and b.s.

Stembel even makes fun of Lemonis' vigorous efforts to put together an arrangement. "Your value is in other areas," he is told.

The big idea at Farmgirl seems to be American flowers vs. imports. That feels good. But what, exactly, is the difference? Some flowers may grow better in non-U.S. climates. Neither Lemonis nor Stembel ever explains.

"None of the big guys" has American flowers, according to Stembel.

Perhaps the real crown jewel here is the Internet experience. "We completely changed the way customers buy flowers online now," is one of Stembel's claims.

Moments later, she admits, "It's definitely too many steps, and too many click-throughs."

The customer service manager, Lauren, begins the description of her job not with the Web, but Ma Bell: "I take care of phones, and then, I keep track of all our refunds," Lauren says.

But maybe the flowers aren't always perfect. Lemonis rattles off a list of complaints on the computer: Sender was not happy with the bouquet ... not enough color ... flowers were dead ...

"It's either a complaint or having trouble placing something online, on our website," Lauren reveals, though why the latter would involve a refund is unclear.

"It's not a great website," Lemonis decides.

He was hoping for a Web platform that would allow "ANY product" (translation: Sweet Pete's candy) to be sold as well as the flowers.

At one point, Lemonis declares, "You have no technology platform to speak of."

Christina implies that the business did not have a profit because "We decided to launch national shipping." Apparently, that happened just before Lemonis showed up, because the shipping manager, Stephanie, says she has been on the job for just 3 weeks (translation: not enough time in yet for Lemonis to offer her equity).

To Christina's credit, her grasp of the financials is among the strongest of entrepreneurs in the series. Lemonis seems to think she makes "amateurish" math mistakes simply because she detailed the base product's margin without including a bicycle delivery component. That margin is only obtainable locally, unless these fellows are planning to pedal to Omaha.

Nevertheless, Christina views Lemonis' basic questions as "interrogating" her.

Lemonis asked one important question about how Stembel pays her bills if she's not taking a salary.

"Um, my husband in- has (sic) very understanding, and we've decided to reinvest it in Farmgirl's growth," is her response, which makes no sense and does not answer the important question.

Christina at one point says, "To see competitors come in and raise 10, 12, 15 million dollars, and beat me to market, that does affect me."

Later, apparently, they maybe haven't beat her to market yet. "I'm worried that they're gonna beat us to market because of the money they've raised," she reveals.

She told Lemonis, "I do have one quick question. I do know, I'm not willing to negotiate on imports ... And I hope that you would respect me."

Great. So what's the question?

She also told Lemonis, "7½, it's the end." Moments later, she offered 10%.

She got her publicity. Maybe enough to get an offer from Silicon Valley. Christina seems a likable person underneath who for whatever reason has decided to go full-bore on life's warpaint. Even if viewers don't care for her, enough will try her product to give her business at least a short-term boost.

Christina asserts, "The benchmark for success here in Silicon Valley is if you've raised money."

Actually, the "benchmark" is that this particular geographical area is so sloshing in money that even businesses selling air can probably turn a profit.

Just a few episodes ago, Lemonis was suggesting a shoe designer could do the next Chuck Taylor All-Star. In this episode, he likens Christina's idea to Southwest Airlines.

Oddly enough, for the 2nd episode in a row, Lemonis seems to be unwanted for his gender. Christina early on indicates partial regret for even inviting him. "Do I really want the message to be that this guy had to come in and save our company."

"Are you a man-hater?" Lemonis asks.

No, Christina insists, because she's married.

The cash never flowed, but the b.s. rained.

The 2nd half of the episode served as an update of The Simple Greek, Lemonis' restaurant concept that really has nothing to do with the Pittsburgh-area "chain" called My Big Fat Greek Gyro. This material was tacked on to give Lemonis a chance to chew out Mike for no longer caring about the business he really has nothing to do with and to advertise his new "Chicago" location (actually it's in a far north suburb.)

Next episode: Mr. Green Tea update

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Why in the world was Dede working 80 hours a week?

          Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reviews of all of Seasons 3, 2 and 1 below

That one didn't go over well.

If nothing else, the 19th installment of Marcus Lemonis' endless 3rd season of "The Profit" broke Greg Schroeder's record for narcissism when Sam, who had some of the show's best lines in recent memory, declared, "I know that I am awesome."

Actually, the episode broke ground in several significant ways. A savvy business owner actually admitted to manipulating Lemonis into eliminating the business' biggest problem and providing it otherwise unattainable publicity.

Also, business owners actually took the notion of handing out equity to employees Lemonis has known for a few hours seriously.

There was even a charge of reverse sexism when Lemonis was told that one female owner "didn't like the fact that I was letting a man take charge of the situation." (Then again, Lemonis at least 3 times refers to the owners as "girls.")

You'd think that such revelations would be a non-starter, that upon hearing of a purported ulterior motive, Lemonis would drop this particular venture and its publicity from his catalog.

But Sam and Alexa were undoubtedly aware that even the bad episodes of "The Profit" air too; 1) for the entertainment value, 2) because there are prime time slots to fill, and 3) Lemonis won't waste the money and resources already spent by shelving a venture on principle.

Just Lemonis' initial presence was enough to do the trick: One article in May indicates 240sweet won a lease in a city-owned property while "partnering" with Lemonis. (An April article oversells the headline but is otherwise more guarded in whether there's an investment.)

Lemonis, if he's upset with the content of this episode at all, can blame himself. He's the enabler. Throughout the run of "The Profit," a number of former prized employees (in this case Dede, of the very pretty hair) have ended up quitting after Lemonis muscles them into a greater role at the business. Whether the experience is a net positive for 240sweet is unclear.

It's possible Lemonis sensed a potential problem here and thus devoted a decent portion of the program to the inadequacies of the salt-caramel marshmallow and even took the opportunity to endorse his own rival brand, Sweet Pete's, as better. Viewers might end up thinking Marcus got hoodwinked while at the same time determining that 240sweet's signature product sucks.

Revenge perhaps can be salty as well as sweet.

Next episode: Farmgirl Flowers

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: South America
traveler is going to create the next Chuck Taylor All-Star

          Posted: Thursday, January 21, 2016

One of the curious themes of "The Profit" is that an RV salesman is also a boutique fashion expert.

He knows what it takes to succeed in the shoe business because he's aware of the Chuck Taylor All-Star.

Marcus Lemonis' venture with Inkkas, an independent shoemaker in Brooklyn, could've been taken care of in about 10 minutes of TV time had Lemonis simply attempted the obvious strategy of paying DNA Footwear shoe seller Daniel Kahalani a consulting fee to spend a few hours looking over Dan Ben-Nun's designs in progress and OKing and rejecting them before Dan puts 40 pairs together. (That's known as skipping from the 10-minute mark to the 55-minute mark and avoiding all the wasted costs in between.)

But this is prime time reality television with about 45 minutes to fill, so Lemonis needed to give Ben-Nun, the Inkkas CEO and frontman, a series of assignments to demonstrate that Ben-Nun doesn't have his act together.

Like most but not all entrepreneurs on "The Profit," Dan can't get anything done.

He bubbles over with product ideas, 9 out of 10 of them "suicidal" according to his brother, and treats each as sacrosanct.

Mostly, he just likes traveling Central and South America. But his vision is broader. Dan isn't going to be satisfied until he's got a wall of the U.N. with a shoe in every seat.

Shoes are extremely price-sensitive. Some styles are popular for decades; others come and go in months. Lemonis should've assigned Dan to make wingtips that would pass muster at Goldman Sachs and street gear that Lemonis' buddies at KOTA Longboards would covet. Then Dan might have a breakthrough.

Lemonis says Dan will create 4 designs, and "each model will represent 4 geographic areas." But when you look at these shoes, is there anything about them that is screaming "Paraguay!!!!"??

By the time the episode aired, Dan was probably ordering up 50 pairs of shoes representing Guam, Nova Scotia, Turkey, Gibraltar and Sri Lanka because he's sure that someone out there will want some of them.

Never does the show mention the sales price of Inkkas shoes or the margins. It's never clear if Dan is marketing primarily to men or women or both.

No one on the program, including Lemonis, ever scrutinizes the website and assesses its quality despite the fact Dan claims they are a "very successful" online retailer and that Web sales account for 30% of revenue.

Worst of all, neither Lemonis nor Kahalani ever tries on the final prototypes to determine if they actually feel good.

"I like the product," Lemonis tells the trio at the offer meeting, "because I think that you're headed in the right direction." This is odd, because in his lone attempt at sampling the product, he learned they don't have many sizes in stock and, worse, for one that actually was in the inventory, "I'm not gonna lie to you, this shoe is not comfortable."

"I was born to be a CEO," Dan says, and nobody snickers.

Dan's a likable guy, but he wasn't born to be a CEO.

While his brother laments the "suicidal" product ideas, fellow owner David Malino complains that one of Ben's unsuccessful shoe lines was "something we got bullied into."

Dan also presents Lemonis with a chart projecting $3 million in sales in 2015. But, "Those numbers are not going to be correct," Dan says, explaining it's more like $1.5 million.

Dave says he's "in charge of operations," but it's unclear how there's enough work for him and David both. 4 other employees are shown; God bless 'em, but what they do, who knows.

Lemonis a couple times cheers Converse's Chuck Taylor shoe, a business story from the 1920s (note: there are Nike, Reebok, adidas, etc., now).

Several times there is a reference to "SKUs," as in, they make "50 new SKUs each season." According to Wikipedia, "SKU" is short for "stockkeeping unit."

Lemonis points out that shoe comfort is determined by heel width, instep height, forefoot width and toebox depth (in other words, whether it fits your foot or not). He says that by having Modern Vice create a prototype rather than Inkkas' "stock shoe model," then "it'll fit much better" ... as though Inkkas shoppers have differently shaped feet than whatever is standard.

While Dan's designs are out of control, Lemonis wrongly faults the company's diversity. "When we examined all the sales data, we learned that 5 models made up almost 80% of the total pairs of shoes that they sold," Lemonis says.

But if someone analyzed McDonald's, he'd probably find the Big Mac, Happy Meal, Egg McMuffin, fries and coffee constitute 80% of the sales ... so why sell a salad or a chicken sandwich?

In most episodes, the investment showdown is a head-scratcher. This time, the Inkkas trio rejects Lemonis' $750,000 cash infusion for 51% in favor of $600,000 for 40% in which they'll have to pay him a guaranteed 10% return or "$60,000 a year."

Initially, Dan hoots "Wooooooo" and makes the "hot" motion when Lemonis offers $750,000.

Lemonis deduces that Dan's brother, Dave, "at the end of the day," doesn't mind the $750,000 but isn't thrilled about the 51%.

Dave warns his brother about the $750,000 offer: "You will regret this decision."

But then Dave says of the $600,000 offer, "absolutely," even though after 10 years all the money will be paid back and Lemonis will remain the largest shareholder at 40%.

In other episodes, Lemonis' insistence on closing a retail location is met with fierce resistance. This time, Dan caves without a protest. Whether the group wants to commute to the Garment District every day instead of their hip Brooklyn location isn't clear, but nobody complains.

Probably the most intriguing part of the program is Lemonis' decision to insource an element of production. David explains that he "activated" the manufacturing facilities in Mexico, and "I shipped all the textile from Peru to Mexico, which is no easy feat."

But apparently, the Mexico factory is using the wrong feet.

Without saying so directly, Lemonis implies the Mexico manufacturing created uncomfortable shoes with thin soles and that making a prototype in New York will produce a superior shoe.

This means David Malino will have to take the prototype down to his Mexico factories and make sure they can build it. David seems the only party concerned about that, telling Lemonis, "I have no hesitation in doing a project, but you're driving up costs substantially."

"On the product, or on the development?" Lemonis asks.

"The development," David says.

"I'm good with that," Lemonis says.

"OK," David says.

But maybe factories have nothing to do with it. Dan says a pair of needles stitched onto the backs of the shoes "represents handmade authentic textiles."

Kahalani, receiving exceptional publicity from this program presumably in exchange for ordering some shoes and letting the cameras in, gives a measured endorsement of most of the new product line, pointing out that brown running shoes are a tough sell and that he's "not against" the "X" on the backs of the shoes.

"This meeting couldn't have gone any better," Lemonis says.

Next episode: 240sweet

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: They’ve heard it all before

          Posted: Saturday, January 9, 2016

Given Marcus Lemonis' devotion to lighting, it seems odd that "The Profit" has taken this long to find a lighting company.

It found a good one — in warm and fuzzy Ronkonkoma — in the form of Larry Lieberman's Vision Quest Lighting.

Like a majority of entrepreneurs on "The Profit," Larry spends equally disproportionate amounts of his time doing what he likes (meddling in employee grunt work) and avoiding stuff he doesn't like (drumming up new business and improving margins). The problem is that in terms of succeeding, doing the former adds little and doing the latter subtracts a great deal.

"I'm not gonna pretend I'm- I have a good handle on this. I don't," Larry admits.

Aside from Lemonis failing to notice the most obvious instant problem — "Vision Quest" sounds like an optometrist's office — this episode ranks among the highest in the quality of drama. Larry's problems are not silly tearjerking issues with friends and family but whether he can deliver a product in time.

Remarkably candid, Larry comes across as a skilled artisan who knows what he's doing and loves doing it. Viewers would not hesitate to hire him.

So the problem is that Larry simply can't get things done. Even prodded by the cameras of this program, he was unable to buy the plastic for an important hospital order in the agreed-upon time.

If we give Larry the benefit of the doubt, we could say that such a business is highly tethered to the building industry and that slumps are nobody's fault.

But cyclical hiccups don't explain the extent of Vision Quest's problems.

Consider Larry's motivation for a bank loan. "At one point, I was told, you have a million dollars inventory, the bank will lend you money," he says. "That money is gone. But now, it's- it's in inventory."

So he spent his own money buying inventory he might not use in order to get bank money to buy more inventory.

That may explain why Lemonis spends much of this episode giving Larry pop quizzes on mathematics.


Lemonis claims to be "very intrigued" by the "quality of the product." One wonders how much product he has sampled, other than the "samples" of junk he sees while spending all of his time touring the inventory bin rather than making inspections of businesses that ordered Larry's work.

Lemonis' order for Sweet Pete's (including a "gummy-bear light"), as well as the spiky fixture that Larry shows off, demonstrates the extreme custom nature of this business and what must be a high degree of difficulty in maintaining a reliable revenue stream.

There's no way an operation like this can remain a going concern by making the occasional spike light. Out of all the businesses that Lemonis has tried to genericize into making mass-market products, this is the one that makes sense. But that's evidently not the plan.

Lemonis also says he likes that Larry manufactures the product "and that you're not just an assembler." At one point, he recommends hiring a higher-wage technician who can purportedly lower costs by doing the work faster than a lower-wage technician. This is a departure from the typical "process" formula in which Lemonis usually instructs the entrepreneur to concentrate on design and outsource the production to a nearby manufacturer who will lower the cost of widgets by 25%.

Yes, new machines — with Lemonis' money — will help. Not nearly as much as new orders. It doesn't really make any sense that Larry needs Gotham Lighting to land him ER work when he should be visiting hospitals and all kinds of office buildings on his own in search of new business. But one advantage of landing a "Profit" gig is that Lemonis will line up the business for you. Expect to find Vision Quest stringing up the bulbs at Standard Burger.

With Lemonis aboard, it's hard to see how Larry can fail. But the employees are the ones who know this operation the best and make clear during a pep rally that this isn't their first rodeo in dealing with Larry's renewed attention span.

"We've had meetings like this."

Next episode: Inkkas Shoes

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Paying 50 grand
to work for free

          Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mike Maloney probably didn’t realize it. But the late-blooming skateboard mogul of KOTA Longboards delivered a giant step for Marcus Lemonis' fast-fading CNBC series "The Profit."

Maloney became the only entrepreneur in the series — at least in actual footage — to question Lemonis' frequent and head-scratching tactic of doling out equity interests to employees who aren't even asking for them.

"Anyone that we allocate equity to that- as an employee, there's gotta be something on the hook that says you have to work here for X number of years," Maloney says.

Indeed. Lemonis is trying to hand out 5% stakes of a business he's valuing at $750,000 to workers he has known for maybe a couple of hours. Previous episodes have shown Lemonis lavishing equity interests on apparent hard-working employees with no apparent ramifications. What if the employee quits, what if the employee wants to sell the stake, what does this do to the employee's tax returns, what if the business goes bankrupt and perhaps some of the employee's personal assets become subject to legal action?

Mike even makes a solid follow-up point: "We definitely would like to have a more in-depth look at who really is- deserving of this incentive," he says.

Great idea, actually.

Everything about this episode, the 16th and presumably last of Season 3 (commercials promise a fresh batch in January), is ludicrous.

Yet, Maloney made a huge accomplishment: He got on reality TV, and now a decent number of folks know about his longboards.

The numbers heard on this program are downright loopy.

We are told that 70-year-olds are riding these $329 skateboards. "The meat of our market is age 30 to 70," Mike says. "Absolutely." (Lemonis says the "bulk" of the skateboard market is 9-15.)

Lemonis initially says the company has raised $650,000 in investments and asks Maloney, "How much has yours been?"

"A half million," Maloney responds.

Moments later, Maloney says he has only invested "20,000 of my own capital."

Maloney explains the wide difference in those numbers: "Because if you look from the time we started the company to the time that we are today, I was not compensated, so."

Exactly what IS Mike's equity percentage? We have no clue.

One worker, Josh, has paid Maloney $50,000 to work at KOTA for free.

Lemonis offers $300,000 for 40% of the business. This values it, if our math is not flawed (and it often is), at $750,000.

Included in the offer is a strange condition to repay Josh's $50,000 and give him 5% equity. Whether the $50,000 is equity or a loan or a gift, who knows. It's not worth anyone's time.

This is the 2nd episode in a row to feature a hobby rather than a business. Hopefully/certainly Mike and Nikki's livelihood is not contingent on selling $329 skateboards to 70-year-olds. Mike is not only a former fighter pilot but a former United Airlines pilot and a former CEO of a clean coal company. He got laid off in the Great Recession and gave skateboards a try.

Lemonis has no business being here. He's not even interested in the product. He needs another show. He claims he's interested in a modified version of the product that he can maybe, possibly mass-market to a bunch of youngsters.

He enlists pro skater Rob Dyrdek for backup. Dyrdek sits down with Maloney and dismisses Maloney's pricing structure before even testing the product.

Mike has no interest in changing his product. He doesn't seem at all concerned that he might be away somewhere when 19 boards need to be finished and nobody else can do them.

Why was Marcus invited? It seems Mike couldn't care less that Lemonis is there. Lemonis struggles to elicit satisfactory reality-TV drama from Mike, even reduced to grilling poor Josh on the sidewalk about why Mike won't honor a handshake deal.

(Josh, by the way, is seen in several clips in the same shirt, clearly his favorite. That made us skeptical that there's a "West Texas Investors Club"-esque timing issue going on here in which actual events may have occurred in different order than presented on the program. However, Lemonis is wearing different clothing in Josh's scenes, so we withrdraw that skepticism.)

Mike has — on screen — perhaps the most gentle demeanor of anyone ever on the series. If he is a jerk, and that is suggested on the program by others, he's remarkably subtle about it.

Mike may be the goat of this episode, but Lemonis is the enabler. $300,000? These are skateboards, not fighter jets. For 70-year-olds.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: The wax is fake;
the tear drip is real

          Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It's the holiday season, and no one is doing more charitable giving than Marcus Lemonis, via his reality television vehicle "The Profit."

Another Season 3 installment finds Lemonis shoveling a whopping $200,000 to Mark Biren and Samantha Schacher for 33% ownership of a money-losing hobby.

It really makes no sense that Lemonis is even entertaining this endeavor. But we've got another stunning woman and several moments of tears, so this is definitely "Profit" material.

Mark Biren, clearly a talented artist, likes to design and produce his own candles. The first, a faux-melted look, apparently was a hit.

Apparently nothing else since has been.

Lemonis doesn't like either the "pre-drip" candle or the tortured-artist bio candles or the love notes. He also doesn't like the name Wick'ed, which is actually the coolest thing about the company. He has no reason to be here. This is a gigantic waste of time.

But for a couple of reasons, he can salvage a TV show ... he's aware that Mark holds a grudge against a large candle manufacturer (there's the conflict), and he's aware that Mark is agreeable to a 2-minute Dr. Phil moment (there's the healing) in which Mark can address his issues with a verbally abusive family member.

Mark isn't the least bit interested in making mass-market candles or having them produced by Modern Candle. But for $200,000, he'll go along, dragging his feet just enough for some pulpy reality-TV drama.

Just like the invite to the hair-salon guy for lunch with the Erika Cole gal, Lemonis smartly brings Mark to Modern Candle, where he knows either friction or hugs will result.

Mark's not into hugging, so it's the former, in a rehash with Armik of the 75/25 palm/soy blend that apparently wasn't (but Mark never sent the order back, apparently).

Making excuses, Lemonis decides, "You know what I think the problem is? He doesn't want to give up control of making candles."

Then, Lemonis can diagnose Mark as being "a little defensive" when really it's "offensive" in this situation.

Actually, Mark just isn't a fan of Armik.

Note that when a deal is made, Mark is sorta sitting out the handshake portion.

Mark's going to be fine and is doing far better than most males. Hopefully he won't mind this page observing that Sam is scorching. Even more impressive is the way she stands behind him. How he landed her would make a fantastic hour of television. Mark doesn't need to make a dime because Sam already "has climbed the ranks of Hollywood stardom."

Lemonis asked Sam if she makes "a lot of money" doing TV hosting.

"No, I don't," Sam says.

Lemonis never checks out the cars that Mark and Sam drive (unlike with Swanson's Fish Market), so we'll have to imagine what is "not" very much money for "Hollywood stardom."

Sam mistakenly says "surreal" when taking a factory tour.

Viewers learn the definition of "keystone."

Just as it's impossible to know whether Standard Burger tastes good from watching it on television, it's impossible to know how good Mark's Modern Candle-produced works really are, because we can't judge the scent. He's now got a $200,000 kitty to pay back pops and experiment for a while. There are no partners or associates to mess this up. All he has to do is draw something every now and then.

Of course, the sales pitch works. Elite retailers will buy pet rocks from Lemonis for 1) a chance to be featured on the show and 2) a chance to grab more of his Camping World etc. business.

But before Mark can successfully seal the deal, he has to get 2 minutes of psychotherapy from an RV entrepreneur.

"He comes from a very broken place," Dr. Lemonis determines.

Next episode: Kota Longboards

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Honeymoon’s over for Standard Burger (a/k/a college kids purchasing $13.95 hot dogs)

          Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Several times in Season 2 or 3, this page has suggested that Marcus Lemonis' "The Profit" has jumped the shark.

No episode bolsters that notion as much as the Season 3 update of Standard Burger, a burger joint in which nothing is standard.

Everything about this program is ridiculous.

Lemonis introduces his investment as a success, pointing to Standard Burger somehow winning the Time Out New York burger contest. (That Lemonis made a "surprise cameo" at the event perhaps swayed a few voters.)

Then we quickly find that the restaurant's signature menu item is the $6 plain hamburger.

As for ownership, Lemonis walks into an utter war between Sammy and one of the Joes, who proves a central figure.

Sammy has the biggest stake, but Joe is running the place.

Not exactly a great combination.

Friction surfaces early as Lemonis discovers that Joe has added a $6 burger to the menu.

Fortunately/unfortunately, it's the "highest-selling burger in the restaurant," Joe says.

Sammy observes: "It's the highest-selling because it's the cheapest. We're inventing items on the menu just to make some people happy."

Despite the war, the partners apparently want to use Lemonis' investment to suddenly expand into an $18,000-a-month lease across from a TJ Maxx. Sammy claims he has "the demographics" for how many people live within 1, 5 and 10 miles but admits "I can't remember."

It seems clear that Sammy was eagerly awaiting Lemonis' arrival. Sammy pulls Lemonis aside in the parking lot to offer this critique of his own company: "The restaurant isn't being ran correctly. For the last 90 days, it's been (bleep). Bad burgers. Bad fries. Bad customer service. Bad relations. I came in, literally every customer had a complaint. Every customer."

Incredibly, it closes with a potential franchisee signing up to sell food and a menu they haven't even sampled.

The franchisee suggests alternate menu items besides burgers. Lemonis revisits Standard's supplier, Pat LaFrieda, and claims a $13.95 (that's correct, $13.95) jumbo hot dog is "really creating the 'Wow' factor."

"College kids will love it," Fuji says.

"College kids will love it," Lemonis repeats, incredibly with a straight face.

Lemonis also says the small hot dog will be a "kids menu item." But as of this posting, the Standard Burger menu does not list a hot dog in the kids meal ... or a jumbo dog ... anywhere.

Lemonis says at the end, "We've gotten the dog solved."

Lemonis laughably claims "food costs" are a "function" of "price sold" and stumps his partners with a terminology quiz they don't (and no one should) understand. Lemonis even goes on to say, "Food costs are calculated by taking all of the costs of the actual ingredients and dividing them by the retail price."

That sounds a lot more like a "percentage" than a "cost."

This is shorthand industry terminology designed to impress his partners that doesn't make literal sense; the sales price of the product does not alter how much it cost to produce.

Lemonis explains a good way to get people to stop ordering the $6 burger and buy the more expensive option on his plate: "If you don't have the option, people just order this."

He says he was "blown away" by the amount of franchisee inquiries ("almost 800") for this "concept."

The potential franchisee serves as more of a consultant, suggesting the restaurant add a kids menu and some non-burger options.

Lemonis, who trumpeted the $5 baked potato bar the first time (it's not mentioned in this episode), admits "this is good feedback and something I should've thought of the first time."

Right. So basically, the franchisee should be the franchisor in this case.

The franchisee notes, "You've got 5 burgers." But take a look at the menu:

Time Out New York says Standard's contest winner is "a blend of freshly ground Pat LaFrieda chuck, short rib and brisket coated in Hillside Farms American cheese on a potato roll." So why isn't it on the menu? The best burger ... no one can buy.

Next to the 5 burgers on the menu, there's another column: a "build your own" option with 5 steps of about 6 options per step. Given how good Lemonis is on food cost calculations, he can probably determine without a calculator how many different burgers are being assembled by the kitchen.

A customer says in the program, "We're waitin' for a burger with an egg." But no such entry appears to exist on the menu. So there's another option.

Notice the $6 burger remains on the online menu.

And how many folks are paying $14 for something called a "Reserve Burger"?

By far the best television of this episode occurs late, when Joseph (the manager) confronts the father of a recently fired employee in the parking lot.

The guess here is that the firing occurred because something had gone wrong, and Joe feared the girl would show up and make a scene with Lemonis' cameras rolling.

But that basically happened anyway.

As much as it's tempting to make fun of this pathetic situation, there's no need to amplify the embarrassment of the girl, who months ago surely had no clue nor any control over the fact that her personal life was going to explode onto national television. (Goodness only knows how this gets sorted out in the contractual agreements.)

Joe's demise is a disappointment. One of the more likable individuals in the series, he needs focus and restraint. Impressively in the first episode insisting the cameras stay away from family arguments, in this update, that edict no longer applies.

The group of owners, a likable bunch from the first episode despite the dubiousness of this enterprise, seems split over the Sammy-Joe war.

Joe at one point bluntly tells Sammy, "Wanna know something? Nobody likes you. You're nothing. You're an a------."

"I'm not an a------," Sammy says.

Todd seems troubled by Joe's firing, noting Joe puts his heart into everything.

No one else seems to concur with Sammy's observation that "literally every customer" for 3 months running has a complaint.

But that seems plausible, given that the 3 customers in the restaurant when Lemonis arrives are all getting the wrong orders. The place is also mostly empty during all of the taping; nobody's ordering at the counter.

A cook has the audacity to tell Lemonis that "you're pulling us out of working our stations." But Lemonis grumbles that "these orders got placed before I even walked in the door," which seems hard to believe given that he must've spent 10 minutes shaking hands with the guys before even stepping into the kitchen.

The Standard Burger crew seem like good guys. They just shouldn't be in this business. Honestly, they should've taken over Pete Athans' Athans Motors; that seems like a place where they might've thrived. Fuji can cook a good burger; other than that, nobody has any idea what they're doing here, and this is one of the last businesses anyone should want to model.

Lemonis unbelievably professes to his viewers that this is a "national franchise."

Please, no.

Next episode: Wick'ed

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Marcus should hire lobster king as film critic

          Posted: Saturday, November 28, 2015

If the equity offers for the gazebo makers weren't strange enough (see below), viewers of the latest installment of "The Profit" witnessed Marcus Lemonis seeking 51% equity of Da Lobsta from a guy who has just 52% equity and hasn't contributed his own money to it.

Apparently, for $210,000, J Wolf could've accepted 1% equity and "zero access to the cash."

Which would basically make him the operation's highest-paid employee and little more.

Wolf shook his head no.

This episode, split awkwardly over two unrelated opportunities, was the funniest of the series, albeit unintentionally. It strongly reveals that if a business venture isn't worth a whole hour of "The Profit," it's not really worth airing.

Despite not landing an acceptable offer and being a little too candid for national television, Wolf can likely consider the experience a success. It delivered several mouth-watering images of his signature $12.95 lobster sandwich to viewers who otherwise never would've heard of him.

Lemonis is also compelled to endorse the sandwich and proclaim the Da Lobsta truck in higher demand than any others in the vicinity.

Like Sherlock Holmes on the case, Lemonis instantly senses tension between J and J's father, and sure enough, as the episode quickly veers into bust-land, Lemonis pulls the rabbit out of a hat, producing tears while Wolf explains how his dad didn't even attend his wedding.

Wolf's nonchalance, rare for this series, is nearly fall-out-of-the-chair funny. He freely admits he tries to be "vague" about where his soup comes from, pointing out the sign says "home recipe" but not "homemade."

He decries the "L.A. lifestyle" even though he seems to be doing the same thing in Chicago. Lemonis doesn't even ask what kind of cure for the L.A. lifestyle Wolf expected to find in the Midwest.

Wolf says of his financial statements, "I don't know how accurate they are."

But the most hilarious sequence occurs when Lemonis discovers Wolf has been charging movie trips (to the AMC megaplex) and elite dining to the company tab.

"AMC, AMC, AMC, AMC, Hugo's, AMC," Lemonis says.

"It's my only relief I get sometimes," Wolf says.

Unfortunately, his debt and tax statements might well have caught the attention of not only Sysco but the cash-strapped Chicago City Council, which has had some testy debates over regulating food trucks.

Lemonis devoted roughly 40 minutes of the program to Betty's Pie Whole, but crammed into the same hour as Da Lobsta, things quickly got confusing as to why Betty has 2 locations and what the differences are, etc. It's particularly confusing because the show suggests the strip mall idea was bad (it presumably is), but this article suggests that the same Elizabethan food concept did just fine in the Pie Whole location before it outgrew it, which means the solution isn't to shrink but find a better second location.

It felt like Lemonis was blowing through town for more episode material and didn't bother giving the products nearly the same scrutiny as his other ventures, especially the almighty Sweet Pete's. Don't make your own ice cream is about as deep as the advice got.

In the program, she is called "Betty," but in real life she apparently kinda goes by Elizabeth Harris.

It seems hard to believe that "Betty" simply couldn't have bought a new oven and made enough pies to satisfy the lines of people she draws.

The important thing is that Harris hints at The Tear Moment, telling Lemonis that if he asks about how far away mom is (Texas), it'll make her cry.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: The drama seems as well-manufactured as the gazebos

          Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2015

Marcus Lemonis ironically might not actually be in the black for his show called "The Profit."

Perhaps that's why he paid a visit to California's Kensington Garden Rooms, where it seems virtually impossible to take a loss.

For a while, it makes no sense that anyone at this business would even contemplate calling Lemonis. They've got plenty of work, they make decent money, and there's no debt.

Then co-owner Damion Merry enables the Dr. Phil moment, and it all becomes clear. Impressed entrepreneurs simply want Lemonis on their side; they've watched the show faithfully and mastered the tricks of the reality-TV trade to make it happen.

That's a credit to the quality business advice of the show, now in an extended and rapidly dilutive 3rd season that's a few degrees removed from its rock-solid Season 1 origins.

Merry and his best friend of 10 years, Simon Johnston, both from England, are remarkable overachievers, almost too good to be true. Building a great product and cost-conscious. They don't need anything from "The Profit" except the considerable publicity. To justify it, Lemonis has to find some faults.

Lemonis initially criticizes the bickering and the facilities and the process — none of which (aside from the bathroom) seems substandard for a business of this size. Then he pulls aside a disgruntled employee who doesn't feel enough respect. All before admitting, "It doesn't seem to me like you need money. What do you need?"

The real answer is "publicity." The (un)scripted answer comes from investor Kab Benefield, who tells Lemonis, "We've talked about, how to expand this thing."

That pushes Lemonis' scoff button; "look, I'm disappointed in these guys," he says, accusing them of wanting him to "finance their fantasy," which assumes that a successful business possibly opening a location in the state of Washington is a "fantasy."

But Merry delivers the Sunday punch, excusing himself to step away and shed tears on camera at Lemonis' apparent refusal to invest. He tells Lemonis he's troubled by "how hard I've worked to get you here. And I've sort of used you in the last year as like a mentor. Studied, watched, loved everything you do."

All good and no doubt true. But then he mentions not having "like a father figure," and we know we've suddenly got a deal.

Rather than declaring that no tough businessman should be brought to tears by a goofy scenario such as this, Lemonis justifies involvement by declaring in "that moment, he's showing me a level of vulnerability and humility that I like in business partners."

When tears flow on "The Profit," the money soon follows.

Kab Benefield is one of the program's typical scapegoats: The passive investor who financed the company but is not involved in the day-to-day business.

Yet he contributed money, apparently does the accounting, and one wonders what he did to deserve this.

Consider the deal Kab is offered in the footage shown at the Brook's Ranch Family Restaurant:

1) He can take $150,000 for his investment and walk away.


2) He can give away 2/3 of the equity he has and commit more time to the company.

Why Kab has to accept either offer is a head-scratcher.

He takes Deal No. 2, presumably because a) he figures the presence of Lemonis will sharply increase the value of the business and b) he doesn't want to make a scene at the Brook's Ranch.

For Lemonis, the terms are equally strange. He pays $150,000 for either a 24% stake or a 12% stake.

For Damion and Simon, they are either getting $150,000 in their business ... or $0.

It's not crazy; it's "The Profit."

It seems what's really going on here is that Damion and Simon have little use for Kab now and wish to upgrade their partner, whilst Kab feels content to do the accounting and website on the smart investment he rightly made in the business.

It's important to note that Kab on camera never specifically agrees to the terms of Deal 2; he says, "I want to be in the business." (Kab actually is an accomplished chef who already has a regular job.)

Later, we learn he has sent an email stating "the whole negotiation was a joke," apparently forgetting he didn't negotiate anything. He then agrees to a $250,000 buyout on camera with no negotiating, then asks for his son to be paid for Internet work, calling it a matter of integrity and prompting Lemonis to rescind the $250,000 offer. (Not sure if that can be undone according to business law principles, but suffice it to say we'll be hearing an update in a future program about Kab's buyout.)

Lemonis calls the $250,000 offer "gracious." But he suggested it at lightning speed, an indication he was aware of what it would take to get Kab out.

Like many business meetings on "The Profit," the True-Value sitdown feels like it's missing cuts. At first the True-Value people indicate this product won't work, then suddenly they're all pronouncing it a go.

While Lemonis elicits a lot of favorable commentary from shoppers at True-Value, there's no indication any of them purchase this $10,000 item.

There's an obvious risk to this business that's never mentioned on the program: If Simon and ace worker Jack Owen are not making every gazebo, the quality is bound to suffer. They can't work 14 days a week, so if expansion happens, the gazebos are going to be built by other people ... perhaps the Grafton Furniture guys (see below) during non-peak times.

Jack explains the tradeoffs of someone his age while working for a nascent business: "I'm 20 years old, I don't have a girlfriend, I don't have time to go out and meet girls. I can't afford to buy a car."

While Lemonis praises the vulnerability of Damion, he never questions if there might be an issue with Simon's girlfriend having their child back in England.

Like many entrepreneurs on "The Profit," it's impossible not to root for Damion and Simon. But there's a lot of uncertainty here, young people from another country with growing family obligations who have a lot of things to figure out besides miter joints. Craftsmanship, not expansion, is what they do. Stick to that blueprint, they'll be an undeniable success.

Next episode: Da Lobsta

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Boutique shop
needs a little jean therapy

          Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Marcus Lemonis in the opening 2 minutes of the Blues Jean Bar episode of "The Profit" claims, "I believe in Lady's concept: a specialty boutique for blue jeans."

Then he spends the remaining 58 minutes believing in utterly nothing that Lady is doing.

He doesn't want the bar, he doesn't want the soccer moms (at least on Halsted Street in Chicago), and he doesn't even want the store's name.

It's hardly clear what he needs from Lady or why they are even partners. Lady is good for regular tears, always an important consideration, and is drop-dead gorgeous. When you get beyond that, you realize she has been spending a small fortune to lose money all around the country and doesn't seem to grasp why this is happening.

"One basic premise of the store is that you can't, you know, touch the jeans without us," Lady says.

Sounds like a winner.

Lady admits that "currently," she buys all the inventory, much of which apparently is ending up in basements and "over 70%" (according to Lemonis) wasn't even going to sell. (The funny thing is, the San Francisco location receives the Chicago inventory during the renovation, and staffers gush that it added $15,000 to SF sales.)

"This is the most irresponsible use of cash that I've ever seen," says Lemonis about the Chicago inventory.

Yet Lemonis never questions Lady's capacity for this important endeavor, and barely criticizes her for never visiting at least one of her 3 store managers in 6 years, instead pointing to would-be COO Tasha Ault as the villain, an unnecessary albatross of middle management. (Note to Tasha and other deputies in these projects: Be prepared to have a tearjerker story about how you're afraid of letting someone down.)

Questioning Lemonis' strategy to remove the bar, Lady suggests the place will become "Gap on steroids." Actually it's probably already the other way around, Gap on valium.

Unlike most of Lemonis' projects, there's absolutely nothing proprietary here to sustain a business long term. Even Courage b. benefited from Noemi's duster designs.

It's fine to launch a business. Does the world really need a Blues Jean Bar a/k/a Denim & Soul franchise? Jeans are, as Lemonis indicates, a hyper-competitive space. That can also be said of clothing boutiques, including Lemonis' own Courage b., which rely on the very difficult standard of making accurate fashion calls every season.

Incredibly, Lemonis doesn't even bother to study current styles/designs in jeans and determine what the stores should have in stock, which designers, which price ranges.

Lady Fuller has an MBA from USF, but her retail expertise is unclear. She might, in fact, sort of recognize one thing Lemonis doesn't. She employs attractive people, none moreso than herself. Her customers are yuppies who will pay for chic. A shopper forced to get personal assistance from a "jeans-tender" might well be more inclined to buy than someone who has to chase down a clerk at the Gap.

But never, perhaps out of obliviousness or modesty, is this strategy mentioned in Lemonis' makeover.

Instead, he just demolishes the bar and instead gives folks a table to lay out the jeans.

While one wouldn't expect Lady to be personally ringing the register, that's the company's best hope for success — instilling an expectation in customers that when they walk in, Lady is going to be there to guess their size and help them out.

Were that a guarantee, you'd see a stampede to the doors.

Despite salty language, her charm offensive is considerable. In the negotiation that occurs on a boat and begins with bright sunlight and ends in the dark of night, Lady tells the camera crew, "I feel like he's about to give me a rose," explaining, "Well we're sitting in this romantic spot."

She understands what she is supposed to say during the program, the clincher being telling Tasha in a nice way that Tasha has to manage the Dallas store, our way or the highway.

Despite the widely scattered locations of this curious chain, Lemonis doesn't see the need to hook Lady up with an AT&T videoconferencing system like he did for the crew at Bentley's Corner Barkery.

Viewers learn Lemonis is a size 36, with a big, er, "athletic" butt.

Lady mentions a husband, but for whatever reason, he's spared any involvement in this episode (despite the fact Fuller says "he often selflessly puts my career above his own"), an apparent spousal prerogative Sue Swanson (see below) could only dream about.

Speaking of dreaming, after spending countless resources to re-create Lady's Chicago location as just another independent boutique, with more spending surely needed in the other locations to make them look the same, Lemonis, who sells RVs for a living so why not be a denim merchant, is already assuring viewers that this project, which doesn't really resemble the original project, is a winner with considerable expansion potential, just like The Simple Greek and Standard Burger.

"With tweaks and some refinement, I believe we can raise the bar, and turn this into a national brand," Lemonis claims.


Next episode: Kensington Garden Rooms

Will grocery-store pet food
kill your dog or cat?

The Bentley's Corner Barkery episode of Marcus Lemonis' "The Profit" begins with a curious, unchallenged assertion.

According to Lemonis' narration of owner Lisa Senafe's backstory, "After losing a pet to illness and convinced it was related to diet, Lisa was inspired to open a store and carry food made with healthy ingredients."

How Lisa arrived at this conclusion is never addressed. Lemonis in the opening minutes asks Senafe and her husband, Giovanni, "Is it dangerous for the animals," the "it" apparently referring to regular pet food in supermarkets and big-box stores.

"Yes," says Giovanni Senafe.

"Yeah, a lot of 'em are getting sick," says Lisa Senafe.

Really. This is quite a revelation. Mass market pet food is "dangerous" and making "a lot" of animals sick.

Nobody seems alarmed enough to pick up the phone and call the humane society.

Given his considerable renown, Lemonis surely could've called a couple veterinarians to determine if Lisa's assertions are legit.

If they are, we've got a major story here. If they're not, unfortunately, there's really no purpose to her business.

In the middle of the program, Lemonis assures Lisa, "I would never put my own dog in jeopardy or anybody else's dog in jeopardy, to make a buck."

Good Lord — what sort of jeopardy are grocery stores unleashing on our pets?

Do the pets know that Bentley's Corner Barkery food is healthy eating? Perhaps. Yet Giovanni admits that 20-25% of the inventory "is the treats." Lisa points out a display that serves as "a candy shop for dogs."

Are the treats like human treats, i.e., not exactly the healthiest food ... or is dog candy something that makes dogs healthy, and if that's the case, shouldn't owners just give their dogs the treats all the time and skip the regular food?

The program, unfortunately like many recent installments of the series but unlike the rock-solid first season, has an alarming absence of due diligence and innovation. One wonders why Lisa, obsessed with the quality of pet food, isn't trying to create her own. There's no indication the Senafes even know how. Instead, they are taken to Pennsylvania to see how it's made — for big-box retailers.

Without question, if a pet hates the food bought by the owner, the owner isn't going to buy that food anymore.

The simplest thing would be for Lemonis to conduct his own taste test. Ask Lisa to prepare a bowl of her choicest dog food. Then Lemonis can pick up his own at a grocery store and have his own dog(s) and others choose between the two.

Lisa says the Bentley's concept is "Trader Joe's or Whole Foods for pets," which happen to be not quite the same thing. Her top concerns seem to be China-free and corn-free.

Lisa, who spends a decent chunk of the program pouting, clearly already has the scene figured out. Lots of manufacturers are off the table. Anything she hasn't heard of isn't fit for animal consumption, including the stuff made by the unhealthy companies who "jump on the bandwagon" to offer a product to fool the natural-only crowd.

There's a major branding issue. It seems the stores should be called either "Bentley's" or "Corner Barkery," but not all 3. Notice that the original logo separates the 1st word from the last 2, and from a slight distance, "Bentley's" is not legible. In the revamp, without explanation, Lemonis has apparently settled on a circular logo. The paw is very similar to the Clemson University logo. Is it possible that, in the event this operation expands, Corner Bakery will take issue with the name? Lemonis already ran into that snag with My Big Fat Greek Gyro.

It is implied throughout the program that Bentley's has cat food and cat accessories. But many references, including the trip to the dog park, are strictly to canines. Is it clear from the business name that this place serves cats? And does it serve birds, rabbits, hamsters, etc.? You'd think Lemonis would at least poll passersby on their impression of the sign.

Only the Arlington Heights store, which looks like a former insurance agency, appears to be on an actual corner. Lemonis refers to Arlington Heights as a "neighborhood" of Chicago.

Lemonis never asks about leases or scrutinizes whether the typical customers of these locations would be driving or walking.

He doesn't ask why the previous Rogers Park shop, apparently called Urbanimal according to the awning and presumably also dealing in pet food and/or supplies, failed. Maybe it's a lousy location. Maybe the rent's high. Maybe the managers (who presumably are with Bentley's) didn't do a good enough job.

Dogs are repeatedly shown in the store.That's probably the norm for this industry. Whether this is good for an independent shop is never addressed. What if a dog sees another dog and becomes unhinged in the store, what if there's an accident, etc.

Lemonis initially complains about the darkness in the Arlington Heights store. But from the image above, it seems as though the store is quite bright. A better question is whether there is enough space in his revamped floor plan to allow people to walk their dogs through it.

Other episodes at least show Lemonis questioning who ordered the unsold inventory, why it was ordered, and then the disposal of it. This episode never gets that far.

There are 7 stores; Lemonis says "over half of them (that means at least 4) are losing money." In many episodes of "The Profit," bank-account balance is an issue. Here it's a mystery. Lemonis does actually point out that the business has lost $12,000 through the first 7 months of the year.

The 30% investor, David, is about as good as it gets. He has given the Senafes $400,000 to buy as many stores as they possibly can, few if any questions asked.

"I go get the deals and then go, 'Hey, we'll figure out how to pay for it after," says Giovanni.

"In the next 18 months, we'll have positive cash flow," says David.

This page is not always great with math, but at 30% for $400,000, David values the business around $1.3 million.

Lemonis invests $400,000 for a 25% stake, which puts the value at $1.6 million. Plus a $1.3 million loan that raises his equity stake until it is paid off.

David surely must be happy with Lemonis' investment, seeing how he quickly said the offer was "fair" with no counteroffer at the 95th Floor restaurant at the John Hancock, yet another restaurant scene in which no food is actually ordered or consumed.

The Senafes will clearly be better off also. "We moved 7 times in 7 years," Giovanni says, adding at one point, "We sold our motorcycle one month to pay rent." Yet Giovanni and their small child wear Ralph Lauren shirts in every scene.

This episode, like so many since the first season, is far better television than investment. "The Profit" is television, not business school.

There are plenty of tears and Dr. Phil moments. There's a photogenic couple, perhaps the most likable entrepreneurs in the show's history. There's someone purportedly coming around to a new way of enlightened thinking at the end.

This episode, launching the 2nd half of Season 3, got a major boost from CNBC's Republican debate lead-in and aired with minimal commercial interruption. The franchise remains quality even as business details and obvious skepticisms get left more and more on the cutting-room floor in favor of sobs and hugs.

The formula has evolved into Lemonis flooding the operation with cash, adding overhead lighting, adding cheaper inventory, explaining how select advertisers will boost the business' growth, boasting about instant sales increases and vowing to take things national.

Lemonis trumpets an AT&T system that allows Giovanni to do video conferencing. Presumably from a sponsor, it costs Bentley's nothing, as it would be a questionable expense for a business this size. "You can see if there's a manager that's not engaged, or they're not paying attention. Seeing their eyeballs makes a big difference," Lemonis says. What exactly can we infer from the eyeballs below?

"These stores have unbelievable potential to be profitable," Lemonis says at one point, without ever explaining in this episode why this operation with absolutely nothing proprietary will be profitable.

It's impossible not to root for Lisa and Giovanni. But should anyone be rooting for this company to open a bunch of new stores? You are not murdering your pet by purchasing animal food at a grocery store. If you prefer Bentley's to Petco, more power to you and the Senafes. We'd suggest just asking your pet.

Months from now, after the expansion gets under way, Giovanni and Lisa will be in even less communication with their managers than now, Lisa will still be turning up her nose at Lemonis' cheaper dog food suggestions, and employees at all the locations will be doing the same thing they are now, waiting for customers to walk in and ringing the register when they decide to buy something.

Aside from rearranging the store inventory, Lemonis' big idea seems to be adding stuff that Lisa won't have in her stores on the website, where people would presumably buy it there rather than from Amazon.

But it seems the Internet is the last thing on the Senafes' minds. They're cemented in brick-and-mortar land. "50 stores in 12 months," says Giovanni.

Lemonis is drinking the all-natural Kool-aid. "It wouldn't surprise me within 5 years if this company had a hundred stores around the country," he says.

Next episode: Blues Jean Bar

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Landlords evidently
watch the program too

          Posted: Monday, July 20, 2015

When a business appears on "The Profit," viewers become privy to a lot of details.

So do those who conduct regular transactions with the business.

The 3rd season recap of "The Profit," presented as another edition of Marcus Lemonis' greatest hits, illustrated the shortcomings of this intriguing series as much as the successes.

One update involves "Car Cash," the program's inaugural episode. It remains the best. It's worth saving on your DVR and rewatching occasionally. Likable brothers Jon and Andrew Baron buying vehicles from drive-up customers, carrying on dad's dream. They're so approachable that viewers are probably half-inclined to pay a visit and get an offer — from either one. But they're struggling, and cash is running low.

Lemonis arrived at the right time, with deep pockets and reverence for family tradition.

The clip showing how Jon Baron tells his wholesalers that it's over should be a must for every boss.

But as with virtually every episode, the due diligence was laughable.

In the "Car Cash" update, viewers learn of something Lemonis never bothered to ask about in the pilot: the status of the Car Cash lease on the West Side of Manhattan.

It seems the unnamed landlord was not impressed by Bruce Baron's family legacy or its 6-figure overhaul and invoked a decades-old clause allowing him to boot the business.

Perhaps he was impressed by Jon Baron's comment in the original episode that "it's a fantastic location," and Lemonis' observation that "obviously, West 55th gets a ton of traffic."

A check of the original episode finds no discussion about lease terms, only Lemonis' guess that the Barons are paying $10,000 a month and Jon Baron's revelation that Car Cash pays "almost $30,000" a month.

The actual amount, it's revealed in the update, is "about $27,000." Lemonis expresses doubt the site is worth any more than that.

"What's he gonna get? 28,000? 29,000?" Lemonis wonders aloud.

He says the landlord refused to "budge," but it is not clear if the Barons offered a higher rent.

It's entirely possible that the landlord didn't care for Car Cash and wanted something else there but allowed the Barons to stay out of respect to the family business ... and then once he learned of Lemonis' involvement decided such largesse was no longer necessary.

According to series history, a contract situation happened with Sharla McBride's Planet Popcorn after Disney World saw something about that episode (perhaps more than one thing) it didn't like. (See below.)

Now we learn that after decades in the same location, Car Cash is booted ... after it appears on a reality TV show with a benefactor.

Coincidence ... or perhaps not.

In most episodes, the business owner would be criticized either for not understanding his/her lease or for not sharing details with Lemonis.

But because the Barons are nice guys, the landlord is the baddy here, smartly not agreeing to allow his name or voice on the program.

Jon Baron on the update says losing the location "would be catastrophic," but, after a phone call from Lemonis fails to change the landlord's mind, moments later we find everyone abuzz over a more heavily trafficked location that costs only $1,000 a month more.

Except it looks like it's going to need a pricey sledgehammer overhaul (the bathroom and walls and even the floor treatment that was "gonna sound like corduroy pants swooshing together") at a minimum equal to what Lemonis already paid at the long-standing location just a couple years ago.

2 renovations in a couple of years is sure to eat into some profits.

Another comment raises eyebrows. In the update, Lemonis says, "In the old location, we were appraising around 600 cars a month and buying about a third of everything we appraised, so 200 cars a month."

But in the original, Jon Baron is heard saying that he is "probably closing like 80%."

Evidently, enough new business was brought in by Andrew's impressive radio ads that the brothers had to start turning people away.

The Season 3 update also headed south to Florida, where Lemonis' venture with Sweet Pete's, a likable confectioner, is proving more Jacksonville real estate play than candy company.

Lemonis indicates that his investment is swelling to $6 million.

"In order to be successful in business, you have to be willing to take risk. But, it has to be somewhat calculated," Lemonis says. "Most of my money is going into real estate, which is a lot safer."

"A lot safer" than what? Presumably a candy company. The show implies that the whole building, and the next-door property, is for Sweet Pete's, which would seemingly represent significant overhead. Actually there's a restaurant and bar, as well as an outlet for Crumbs, Lemonis' cupcake franchise.

The experience of Sweet Pete's — neighborhood candy shop thrust into a TV/downtown revitalization project with someone else's money — is hardly relevant to the everyday entrepreneur. In this case, "The Profit" should be called "The Largesse."

One can't help but root for the Behringers, but one also wonders 1) how this couple can adequately oversee such a suddenly burgeoning enterprise and 2) how many dollars are left in Jacksonvillians' candy budgets to sustain such an expansion.

Lemonis spends too much of his Sweet Pete's narration explaining and predicting how lucrative everything is turning out for the company without actually showing any financial successes, such as people gobbling up the treats at the hotel or the Jaguars game.

Lemonis suggests that Sweet Pete's can sell $30 worth of candy per week in Ponte Vedra hotel rooms at "about 50%" margin. Presumably that margin includes some payment to Ponte Vedra; presumably it doesn't include spoilage from rooms where it is not purchased.

Lemonis makes the Jacksonville Jaguars sound like the Dallas Cowboys.

Courage b has at least 2 problems; inventory it can't sell and a smirking owner. While Courage b also is run by a likable family, Lemonis never in the original episode or update adequately explained its value-added proposition for the customer.

The original chief designer, mom Noemie Goureau, is depicted as talented but unreliable, someone who creates as many misses as hits. Her capable son and daughter seem best-suited to critiquing mom. In the cutthroat and fickle business of fashion, Lemonis fails to convey how Courage b is going to thrive beyond one season of dusters.

In this update, Lemonis observes that the family hasn't followed his inventory process. Nicolas' reaction to this concern seems the bigger problem, or at least the more interesting one. Lemonis assures viewers that Nicolas tends to act insouciant when he's nervous and is actually fully locked in.

While Nicolas' behavior is the thrust of this segment, it is curious that sister Stephanie Menkin too seems just as puzzled and uninspired by Lemonis' presence (and doesn't seem at all interested in the "cool spring stuff") but manages to fly under the radar.

Lemonis carps about the tagging process and its location. It seems the bigger issue is that this store — like any other — simply ordered stuff it can't sell.

Viewers are told that's an anomaly. "We are never gonna make these mistakes again," Lemonis says, but that's a lofty goal in fashion, where inventory that doesn't instantly sell is toxic.

One wonders what's going to go in the warehouse once all the mistakes are chucked. The program implies that Lemonis is employing a sort of just-in-time system.

No question, fashion is an interesting business. Courage b should be one of the series' most provocative subjects. Women near its highly scattered locations will check it out after seeing the program. But it's never made clear what the niche is. Quite frankly, "process" isn't the sexiest term to emphasize for a fashion outlet.

The latest Courage b story concludes the way most episodes do, with a grand opening, this time practically in Lemonis' backyard in Chicago's North Shore (thankfully without a Grafton Furniture-esque mural), with assurance from Nicolas that the sarcasm's over.

"The Profit" now boasts more than a couple dozen episodes. Lemonis' observations, and the inside look at a small business, remain compelling television. Fortunately, sponsors and CNBC support it. Ironically, the title is irrelevant. The "profit" is in the television contract. The first season was the best. The series gradually feels more and more rushed. Lemonis has never mentioned his actual profit in any of the show's enterprises. Rather, updates are full of revelations of additional costs and renovations and expansions. It should be called "The Spend."

According to the program, new episodes of "The Profit" resume in November.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: ‘Your business is failing. Just not financially’

          Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Despite what Marcus Lemonis said, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Miranda Coggins' Lano Company before Lemonis arrived to film "The Profit."

Lano is a great entrepreneurial success story, and it's almost a disappointment that it had to be subjected to some of the program's typical dramatic reaches.

But once those potholes were cleared, this episode was one of the series' most appealing, even if — unlike the product line — it was plain vanilla.

The star was Coggins, who is smokin' ... hopefully her husband, Layne, won't take offense to that ... and owns the camera.

Because this is cosmetics, viewers also were treated to several striking women, including Birchbox's Katia, QVC's Ariana and salon boss Megan, asked to analyze the product lines.

The Cogginses are savvy, down to earth and approachable, and unlike most "Profit" participants, easily handled Lemonis' sales meetings.

They are so savvy, in fact, it seemed as though they had mastered "The Profit" script in order to facilitate an arrangement with Lemonis that virtually felt prepackaged.

Miranda freely defended her products and company, right up until Lemonis insisted it was failing. Then Miranda was compelled to concede Lemonis' talking points and dab a tissue to the eye while expressing concern over somehow not having the business someday.

This episode produced an utterly laughable line from Lemonis that maybe isn't so laughable when considering it accompanied an offer to purchase: "Your business is failing. Just not financially. You're selling lots of different beauty products and you're making good money on it. But with no sustainability."

Absolutely nothing in this episode indicated failure. Miranda had overspent a bit on inventory that didn't sell. Lemonis seems strangely intent on shooting down the lighted-mirror lip gloss that actually proves fairly popular.

Lemonis even admitted that the margins are "really good. Those are good margins."

Miranda made one of the greatest comments in the history of the series when asking Lemonis a question: "What would be your game plan?"

This was the answer:

"Are you interviewing me? 'Cause if you are, then we shouldn't do business. 'Cause I have enough of a track record that I shouldn't have to tell you what my game plan is. 'Cause candidly, you don't have a game plan at all."

Ponder that for a moment. 1) Someone wants to buy 30% of your livelihood, and you're not supposed to ask him questions. 2) He insists his track record is great, so don't question him. 3) You don't have a plan yourself, which has nothing to do with your question.

The restaurant discussion, from the show's inception, has been a low point, conveying what would be in real life a disastrous decision-making process. Viewers are given the impression that entrepreneurs are making spur-of-the-moment, 6-digit choices about their livelihood without even attempting the most basic due diligence of what a partnership would mean.

Usually Lemonis' candid observations and physical overhaul of the business are enough to overcome that. In this case, it's all Miranda.

Other than introducing the Cogginses to some potentially lucrative sales outlets and giving Ashley a pop quiz and taking out one box of trash, it's hard to say what Lemonis accomplishes here for his investment.

Never is it suggested what his $500,000 is even needed for or what it will be used for.

No matter. Miranda and Layne clearly thought a little exposure and expansion wouldn't be a bad thing. They got the script down pat and got a deal they were comfortable with. If they weren't offended at being told their business was failing, neither should viewers.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: No sign of a problem

          Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Marcus Lemonis paid a visit to Precise Graphix and found no drama. But darned if he didn't attempt to create some.

Here we have a couple of quiet, friendly brothers running a profitable company with diligent employees. Obviously, something's terribly wrong here.

This episode could've been ground-breaking. Normally you want smart, wealthy hotshots to take an interest in your business. This is a rare time when the hotshot should've been told to take a hike.

Lemonis says the company is way too reliant on its top customer (Weis Markets), without which the company would "be out of business;" the brothers don't go to trade shows, they are too conflict-averse, there's "confusion on the floor," one employee is on the road too much which is hard on his family, and some of the equipment needs repair.

Call in the National Guard.

According to a news article, Dean Lyden submitted an application to "The Profit," then told Keith Lyden about it. Presumably, Dean contacted the show for the same reason many do — landing Lemonis' business. It worked. In spades. Normally it's not this blatant; participants usually have to make a pitch to NASCAR or Bass Pro Shops or Sylvia's restaurant. Lemonis in this episode doesn't even bother with 3rd parties. He invites the Lydens into Camping World and AutoMatch for some upstream sales and, as you might expect, after the first try is a stumble, the project is pronounced a success just as the closing credits roll.

Precise Graphix is solid enough that Lemonis doesn't even bother with the basics. Nobody is asked to call a vendor to negotiate a lower debt in exchange for instant cash. The warehouse "process" does not need to be reformed with better inventory tracking and overhead lights and a design studio and a snazzy employee breakroom.

Why he's here is a mystery.

It would seem obvious that someone in Lemonis' position would visit some Weis stores and ask managers and shoppers what they think of the decor.

That's not even suggested, apparently because Precise can just sell to Lemonis' companies.

"The Profit" is a TV show, and TV needs drama. Lemonis drops an unusual makeover project on Dean's crew, ordering them to spruce up a Camping World location in 3 weeks. Dean feebly but rightly protests that "this is different than- than what we do a lot of." Keith agrees. The prudent approach here — giving this more time, or trying a different business that the Lydens are familiar with — would be boring. This is going to be the signage equivalent of Evel Knievel's Snake River try. Lemonis defends the time frame: "There's other vendors out there that can do it in less than a month," but he doesn't name them.

Lemonis scolds Dean as having "plenty of time" to make this work.

This plan, and its successor, gives Lemonis, with an air of condescension not present in his other episodes, ample opportunity to repeatedly scold the Lydens as though they were Hank Maarse.

They should've told him to get lost in an RV.

Lemonis, by the way, said the Camping World store is the turf of a manager named Greg, "the decisions for this location go through him," but it seems like this decision came from Lemonis, and Greg's role in this project amounts to Yelp-like reviewer.

Quite frankly, this store already has a lot of stuff in it, and this makeover seemed to add unnecessary clutter. (But, there's a TV show to produce.)

It's possible the expression "people, process, product" was never uttered in this episode. Viewers did get "execution" at least a couple of times.

But they didn't hear a word about margins or see any slick graphics about how cleaning up the mistakes is going to make the company more profitable.

A female staffer delivers the obligatory tears.

In case you were wondering why an Epson printer got an extended camera shot, here's a press release about a new sponsorship arrangement (presumably the Lydens don't need AT&T's cloud for storing their designs).

While Lemonis repeatedly shows machines cutting out blocks of letters, he hardly shows any examples of the company's products or what techniques might improve them. He doesn't explain what the plan is to land new accounts that aren't from Lemonis' own companies.

It seems what Lemonis likes most about Precise Graphix is the ability to mock its reticent owners. "I don't have time to baby-sit right now," he scoffs at one point.

Dean's biggest mistake is complaining to Keith in an office about Lemonis' demands; "it's (sic) honestly seems to be more about the show."

Lemonis, shown on the other side of the production floor, somehow is aware of what Dean is mumbling (microphones, anyone?) and strides angrily into the office insisting that he's telling them nicely that if he hears that complaint one more time, he won't do a deal with them.

"This is not like a gimmick or a game," Lemonis tells the Lydens.

No, but it's reality-TV drama, which is virtually the same thing. And it can be profitable, which must be the only reason the Lydens would allow themselves to be humiliated on national television.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: The chairs are
mid-priced; the drama’s cheap

          Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Well, it's a feel-good story.

Marcus Lemonis' investment in Grafton Furniture is one of the most likable in the short history of "The Profit." A 3rd-generation Miami company founded by a crackerjack Cuban immigrant, now run by his capable son and quite possibly capable grandson, is in need of a little cash and a little overhaul. Lemonis is happy to oblige.

Which is why there's no pleasure in poking holes in what is one of the lightest episodes of the series.

While Lemonis has cleaned up the place and created an all-important employee breakroom, his strategy for actually improving the business' trajectory seems to hinge on an upcoming Dallas conference of DirectBuy retailers.

This is the conference at which Grafton will attempt to sell 4 regional styles of chairs. Lemonis is so excited about these chairs — including this curious SoHo model (above) — that he gives them less airtime than sponsor AT&T's cloud service and Joe's Stone Crab's dining room (with no food on the table, which is how Lemonis' restaurant meetings usually go).

Rather than promoting the company's products, he actually spends most of the program tearing apart the furniture and criticizing the quality. A swell here, a chip there, a half-ass cushion, arms that are too low, etc.

While Steven explains that Grafton sells to interior designers, Lemonis never asks about the lifeblood of the business — the clients. These are society's elites, and there is no indication of dissatisfaction (other than "showroom" demo material) with the product. Who is the sales force at this company? Is that person going to wine-tastings, charity balls, etc.? As is the norm, Lemonis wants to make a more generic product that would find a broader customer base. He calls it being "diversified" on its price points. It is never explained whether this product would end up in department stores, furniture boutiques or simply be sold online.

Nor does anyone question whether a lesser-quality line would, as is possible with SJC Custom Drums (see below), diminish the eliteness of the current brand.

"I just feel like we're custom, and high-end, and I kind of want to stay that," says Steven's wife, Mary, but she's clearly outvoted.

Lemonis says manufacturing margins should be around 70%. But he's willing to take 50% on the new line of regional chairs.

"Although the margins are a little low at 50%, the volume is where you make it up," Lemonis says.

Assuming you can sell them.

He also predicts 20% improvement in gross margin from new machinery that reduces spoilage.

He never assesses the furniture market in general and whether independent American furniture businesses can adequately compete with goods made overseas.

Lemonis' goal is to sell $250,000 worth of each of the 4 chairs; presumably this will be accomplished in part with orders from The Simple Greek, Crumbs, Sweet Pete's and Shuler's BBQ.

While they're too modest to say it, the Grafton family's instinct here is likely far more accurate than Lemonis' — the key to long-term success is mining high-end customers, not competing with China for the masses.

Instead of presenting a bona fide turnaround plan, Lemonis spends the episode manufacturing TV drama. He is adamant that there is some kind of tension between Steven and Stevie that doesn't seem to really exist.

In one irrelevant conversation, Lemonis tries to claim that Steve's heavy hand is impairing his son's ability; "Look how stressed he looks!" This leads to a condescending sitdown with papa Esteban, who dutifully points out Stevie's potential.

If Lemonis is so interested in Stevie's potential, why isn't he having Stevie co-design the chairs with his father?

Lemonis also claims "For the last 14 years, Steven and Louis have been running this business with secret sort of code," as though there's some kind of communication problem that's hampering sales.

Lemonis in the past has faulted small-business owners for spending money on cars and ineffective signage. Yet he has no problem commissioning an oddly garish mural over the business entrance that presumably could raise hackles from city council storefront critics.

The most important line of the program, by far, comes early, when Lemonis says 2nd-generation businesses have a failure rate of 60-70% and that 3rd generation has a failure rate of 90%.

The verification of those statistics might be debatable, but those are sobering, and not surprising, numbers.

If you are not rooting for Esteban, you are anti-American. Steven proves highly capable of running this business. Stevie is earnest for his age and comes across, unlike Michael at Mr. Green Tea, as risk-averse. As Lemonis points out their faults, the Graftons are remarkably candid about what's going on, down to the pit stains. Long-term success likely lies in getting Esteban, Steven and Stevie (with a shave) to the country club and telling their story.

Next episode: Precise Graphix

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: The last thing anyone wants to do is a Google search

          Posted: Sunday, June 21, 2015

The FuelFood installment of "The Profit" is merely the latest evidence that, despite the title of the series, this is just a TV show.

It was however allowed to demonstrate one element that apparently has been a source of tension in some of Lemonis' TV projects — the check-signing ceremony that really only pretends that money is changing hands.

It is never clear why Lemonis is summoned to FuelFood (at least one sign says "FuelFoods" and Lemonis at one point says "FuelFoods"). Owner Erik Leander seems to view Lemonis as a wealthy cousin who drops in, entertaining his ideas and potential money but otherwise indifferent to his presence.

There are, as in most episodes of "The Profit," valuable observations here. Leander's product is not packaged as well as it could be. He might be paying or charging too much for delivery. His marketing leaves something to be desired.

But he's actually doing something right. He's got customers. He's got revenue. He's innovative. Unlike many of Lemonis' subjects, he's got a high motor. None of this is adequately explained in this episode. Presumably Leander, described as a former bodybuilder and boxer, has made high-level connections in sports, including with the Miami Heat, an impressive achievement.

It seems like he should be succeeding, but packaged foods doesn't feel like quite the right fit. Lemonis knocks Leander's high-testosterone marketing. But on some level, this approach works, including with women. (That does not mean this page is endorsing it.) Lemonis halfheartedly is trying to convince Leander to sell this Ultimate Fighting-scene product to the symphony orchestra crowd.

"I am really relieved that my check didn't get cashed," Lemonis says, even though he prevented it from being cashed.

Lemonis could've spared Leander and the employees and the viewers their time with the most basic due diligence — yes, with a Google search. The simplest research would've revealed the legal entanglement of FuelFood. He needed an episode, so we got one.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: ‘I’m not here
for television’

          Posted: Friday, June 5, 2015

If Todd had only spent as much time in the kitchen as he did watching surveillance video, Standard Burger might never have needed Marcus Lemonis' help.

There is such a strange, likably edgy family dynamic that makes the place well worth an hour of prime-time viewing.

That it's pure fantasyland makes the fast-food imagery no less of a visual treat.

The episode, like most in Lemonis' series, is not really about "The Profit" at all but a vehicle for Lemonis to dabble in launching a nationwide product. As with most of the show's projects, it requires far more than the original investment just to have a chance.

Whether $12 burgers represent a decent chance is anyone's guess. The new Standard Burger is clearly as much a takeoff on The Simple Greek (see below) as Shake Shack. By the end of the program, it's still not clear what's special about the burgers, except that they are no longer frozen.

The biggest headwind to the new Standard Burger is undeniably the competition. The fast casual burger space is already bloated. They always say the typical burger buyer is the 15-25 male; whether he's also interested in a $5 baked-potato bar seems a stretch.

Dwelling on these details only obscures the real fun here. Standard's ownership contingent is the most likable of the entire series. They clash, and they hug. They're not afraid to talk about things and stand up for the people they're criticizing. Joseph Tranchina, who volunteers to oversee the previously dysfunctional day-to-day operation, isn't afraid to tell Lemonis, with a certain Staten Island humility, when Lemonis has crossed the line.

"I'm not arguing with my friends no more for TV. It's not gonna happen. So, don't do it again," Tranchina says, not as aggressively as it appears printed.

"First of all, don't talk to me that way," Lemonis says.

"Don't embarrass my friends and family like that again," Tranchina says.

"First of all, don't talk to me that way. I'm not here for television; I'm here for you. I don't care about television," Lemonis says, if you can believe that.

Tears, often essential, are supplied here by primary owner Sammy Lazoja, who somehow took the time to email Lemonis about this establishment every day for the last 2 years.

Sammy's crushed because he feels like he let his family down but for hours makes no mention of brother Fuji, whose own ouster seems at the root of many problems.

Much like Season 3's first episode of SJC Custom Drums, Lemonis summons the vanquished relative.

"Too many cameras on me," Fuji says.

But unlike at SJC, Fuji's problems stem not from his brother but from the perceptions of part-owners Todd Baslin and Joe Covello.

Todd seems to think T-shirts were disappearing. Joe claimed Fuji "would edit the timeclock."

"Who told you ... Are you kidding me?" Fuji demands.

Despite this percolating drama, manufactured or otherwise, no resolution is really explained. Sammy is left to make another teary appeal for the effort of his brother. Evidently that's convincing enough for the rest of the owners to proceed with Fuji's involvement sans backroom cameras. (In a not-so-effective alert to potential thugs, Lemonis declares that the location's only camera will be at the counter.)

The Standard Burger food — even the frozen stuff at the beginning — is at times mouth-watering in a guilty pleasure sort of way. Nevertheless, there is very little here in terms of "process" that should inspire dreams of a turnaround bonanza. They cleaned up the place and started buying fresh beef and started charging $5 for baked potatoes. The burger range of $3.99 to $8.99 merely went from $7 to $14. (Of course, they're also selling Crumbs Cupcakes and Mr. Green Tea, helping to validate Michael's decision to buy the Mr. Green Tea car.)

The restaurant as Lemonis arrives, despite its ownership chaos, does not appear in poor condition, merely average. There is clearly junk in the back and outdoors (Lemonis insists the leaky water has nothing to do with the snow, which is hard to believe), but if Lemonis thinks that's unusual for a fast-food operation, he clearly hasn't been checking out the Dumpsters at Burger King and Wendy's.

Lemonis early in the program asks the group, "What's the first place you look if you're gonna go eat at a restaurant?" Tranchina inexplicably answers "Oh the bathroom," which hopefully is not the first place most folks go when treating themselves to a meal. Standard's restroom actually looks above average despite Lemonis' strange assertion that it's filthy (and if he wants to see filthy, wait till the number of customers purportedly doubles).

As is typical, Lemonis issues a rosy profit forecast at the end of the program, this time predicting that a nice outdoor patio will double the number of daily customers, who will pay $15 on average instead of $10. Nevertheless he's surprised at the amount of customers when he sees the renovated location.

By the end, he's calling it a "national concept that I think is portable." That's at odds with his initial comments on the program in which he implies he's only drawn to this business because he likes the vibe on Staten Island (the location is 4115 Hylan Boulevard), which he reportedly discovered based on mingling with the community at a CVS.

Viewers never did learn convincingly whether Fuji ever opened the store at 1 p.m., nor whether $5 milkshakes can sell like hotcakes. They did learn that when you're part of the Standard Burger group, someone's got your back. Todd says it, and we believe it: "Money never comes in between my friendships or my family."

Next episode: Fuel Food

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: No one turns down
a free cupcake

          Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Tonnie has a history of guessing on everything," says Marcus Lemonis.

But by the end of Season 3's third installment of "The Profit," it's viewers who are scratching their heads.

Tonnie runs a Manhattan cupcake shop called Tonnie's Minis (the 2nd of those names is never explained) that seems a train wreck. Lemonis seems to think it's Fort Knox.

In the middle of the program, Lemonis takes Tonnie to the Melita Pastries bakery and insists that Tonnie will have all of his cupcakes made here.

But at the end of the program, Lemonis shows off Tonnie's renovated shop and points out it "has an efficient flow for the employees to make the cupcakes." #somuchformarginimprovement

Somewhere there's an apparent lease obligation in Newark that just fades to oblivion. (Perhaps the site can be sublet to Courage b., which is further along in the expansion stage.)

Somehow, it's implied that the grand opening is so robust that Tonnie can repay his mother on the spot though the shop is making a minimum of only $400 gross profit a day.

It's also implied that Tonnie has landed an exclusive contract to sell sweet potato pie cupcakes (made at Melita's or Tonnie's, who knows) at Sylvia's restaurant, except the conversation only indicates that Sylvia management is open to the idea ... and the current Sylvia's menu (below) doesn't mention cupcakes.

For whatever reason, there is no greater cupcake champion in the world than Marcus Lemonis, who bought the failed Crumbs chain a year ago in hopes of reviving it.

There is no mention of Crumbs in this program, but almost assuredly that is part of the end game; either Tonnie will create products for Crumbs, or he'll end up a franchisee, assuming the brand can relaunch.

Lemonis never addresses the challenges of a cupcake business. Do people buy them for breakfast, for lunch, for dessert, for a snack? How much price elasticity exists? It's not the most convenient food. Tasty as they are, they tend to be difficult to eat and messy, toppling over once the wrapping is removed. Shouldn't Tonnie be selling coffee at high margin?

Lemonis seems flabbergasted by the concept of build your own cupcake; one wonders how that occurs when the cupcakes are being made at a bakery. (Perhaps it should be called "choose your own frosting.")

Whatever Tonnie's faults, it's impossible not to root for him. He seems not the least bit receptive to Lemonis' interest in his business, but somehow he's made it this far and, with his Obi-Wan-esque control of things, you can't help but want him to see the light and make it better.

Tonnie, according to the list of debts he recites at Mamajuana Cafe, makes clear that he has accepted funding from his wife, mother, friends and/or relatives, and by now he's even into "loan shark" territory.

Even with those contributions, "there's 15,000 in arrears," Tonnie explains, as well as "late fees" and some taxes owed.

Despite that, "People tend to take advantage of my niceness," Tonnie says.

Somehow, Lemonis can't reach for his wallet fast enough, offering to take care of every one of Tonnie's thorniest personal debts in exchange for an incremental share of a business that by every reasonable metric is worth ... as Lemonis indicates in the beginning ... essentially nothing.

One of Lemonis' angles — which his subjects are all too capable of providing — is to bring drama to the latter half of the episode by discovering a previously unmentioned debt. In the beginning, the business owners often aren't telling the entire story, but this reticence proves valuable as plot device, giving Lemonis a chance to mull whether the beleaguered entrepreneur has finally exorcised his/her demons and proved himself/herself a worthy partner.

Here, it happens early; "This is a much bigger number of debt than I originally thought," Lemonis declares at Mamajuana.

Except it only gets bigger and bigger, without complaint. Think ceiling repairs and a mysteriously unaddressed lease (we kept waiting for the purported loan shark's name to be mentioned later, with a larger dollar amount than the original 10,000, but that didn't happen). Yet Lemonis never flinches. The kid at Mr. Green Tea got chewed out, but Tonnie — in an impressive Jedi Mind Trick — seems to convince Lemonis that Tonnie is the one with the right to be offended.

One would almost think Lemonis owed a favor to someone in Tonnie's family and fulfilled it by consummating a deal.

Tonnie's likable wife, Erenisse, is already so fed up at the meager cash flow, she demands "to know when the money's coming in" from a torn-apart shop that is only halfway through being rehabbed with Lemonis' money. In another Jedi Mind Trick, Erenisse compels Lemonis, who's 100% in charge, to assure her that if she just gives them 3 days, they'll have a grand opening and "invite the neighborhood."

How this arrangement came about is hard to fathom. It's fantasy land. Tonnie wasn't the slightest bit interested in Lemonis' arrival or ... shockingly ... even his money. Tonnie just wants a location in Newark, perhaps where no one will take advantage of his niceness. Somehow, he's having his cupcake and eating it too.

Next episode: Standard Burger

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Sal still apparently hasn’t paid the rent

          Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Season 3 of "The Profit" started off on the right note a week ago at SJC Custom Drums (see below). Unfortunately, Episode 2 could've been relegated to 10 minutes at the end of any other program.

Lemonis decided to give viewers an update on 4 of his Season 2 projects. He spent much of the time at 2 of them praising his new partners to tears.

Normally, one would think that if you don't see a previous episode revisited here, it couldn't have been a great project. However, Shuler's Bar-B-Q and Athans Motors-turned-AutoMatch were trumpeted as instant successes, so perhaps Lemonis is saving updates on those ventures for later episodes.

Viewers Tuesday heard about 3 purported (if costly) turnarounds, Coopersburg Sports, Key Lime Pie and Unique Salon & Spa (which is perhaps known as Erika Cole now).

Of these, only Coopersburg provided a tiny amount of new drama. Scott bought a printer to make miniature Duke basketball courts. Marcus doesn't like it. (Hopefully Scott won't want to slug this page for pointing out that his daughter Jackie is stunning; Larissa Swanson (see below) remains by far the most popular subject in the history of this page.)

Not surprisingly, Lemonis has roped in NASCAR as a potential Coopersburg client; Lemonis thinks NASCAR underwear and toothpicks and shaving cream would sell like hotcakes and drive margins through the roof. (And what is that red NASCAR thing over Jackie's shoulder in the picture above?)

Key Lime Pie Co., now without volatile owner Jim Brush, is making a go of it thanks to additional investment and the continued diligence of Tami. One wonders, if Tami were to call it quits, what kind of operation Lemonis would really have here.

For some reason Lemonis considered it necessary to chew out Sal one more time on the rent, so he took viewers back to Artistic Stitch in Queens.

The typical "Profit" format is to declare any partnership, by the end of the episode, a success, and worry about all the details and reinventing later. The truth is that, based on what's presented, Lemonis' initial rosy expectations are never met, and the entire declared premise of the program is suspect. Not a problem. The real value of "The Profit" is (for viewers) the candid look at small-business operations and Lemonis' rapid-fire assessments. (For the businesses, it's the publicity of being on the program.) No one needs to keep a scorecard.

Next episode: Tonnie's Minis

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 3: Does Green Day know it’s booked for a Sam Ash concert?

          Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"The Profit" historically has saved the best for first, so it wasn't a surprise that SJC Custom Drums, the premiere of Season 3, was even a cut above Marcus Lemonis' typically intriguing fare.

The feel-good notions of this tear-filled episode might've made it Lemonis' best work ever, but that's going a bit too far. Stronger emphasis on financial details and strategies would've rounded out an A+ effort.

Everyone in this program is likable. You can't do anything but root for Mike, Chris and Scott to succeed. Like most participants in this series, just doing the program was the primary success. People who never heard of SJC have seen this episode and now know all about it. Sold. (If this page ever is in the market for musical equipment, we're callin' Scott and/or Mike.)

Viewers can infer what almost certainly happened between Mike and Scott Ciprari.

Scott is an introvert, the creative genius.

Mike is the hipster, the one who pals around with Green Day and makes far more friends.

For many people, this combination is ideal yin and yang.

But for some it doesn't work. The best guess here is that Mike was too casual about the business and made promises to his friends that put too much of a burden on Scott; also the place was probably too cliquish for Scott.

Scott freely tells Lemonis, "My brother formed a mutiny," and tells his brother, "You were the one who initiated me leaving."

"We both put up with disappointment and crap," Mike says, conceding later, "I think it was more, he was just ganged up on, than, than a mutiny."

But Mike, demonstrating impressive savvy that belies his laid-back appearance, in multiple opportunities mostly refrains from divulging details of their split on national television and manages to say most or all of the right things in sincere soundbites.

"My brother's a genius," Mike asserts, as there are hints throughout the program of Scott being the Stradivarius of drum-makers.

Fortunately for SJC, there's talent in the building. This is evident from listening to the workers' description of the operation and of drum-making in general. Unlike in most episodes, employees at SJC freely assess the management.

So, bringing Scott back into the fold is not necessary to save SJC. But Lemonis, who claims "I am not Oprah!," likes nothing more than being Dr. Phil and obviously struck gold here.

What's missing are some critical business details.

Lemonis describes the business early as selling a high-end product to niche professionals. He wants to make it more mass market, which indeed might be the only way to save the company. But he never contemplates what rock stars might think of this approach and what it might cost the company in status.

Is it better than what big companies make? Presumably, or it wouldn't exist. Or, it might be merely equally as good but favored for its exclusivity.

How much do other drum-makers charge? Lemonis skips that all-important subject. He wants to charge $895 for a beginner set, but perhaps Ludwig or Pearl sell a similar set for $795. The mass market is going to be far less discerning than rock bands.

Lemonis does not adequately explain how these drum sets are sold. Apparently they are not in stores, and the orders presumably come from friends and touring musicians. How effective is the Web site? Is this equipment marketed in trade publications?

Dubious cutting in the program shows a skeptical Richard Ash, CEO of Sam Ash stores, apparently rejecting the notion of selling SJC's intermediate set at $1,700; "that's- nah, I'm sorry." But after a commercial, Ash suddenly seems fine with the idea given that Mike has unilaterally booked Green Day for a Sam Ash concert.

Unfortunately "The Profit" often doesn't delve into interesting bigger-picture issues. Piano sales have fallen off a cliff. Now that people can create pop songs on home computers, how much future market really exists for drum sets?

Lemonis skips this angle but gives extended airtime to a computer chart of a drum's sound.

As is often the case on "The Profit," a new partner is added, with no explanation as to where this equity comes from.

Mike's company has no money but it does have a brand; this is what Lemonis is buying with his 33% stake. Apparently Chris, a capable manager, is not putting money into the business despite being awarded a 33% stake. That seems like a gift, although it's worth considering that if the business fails to make a profit, Chris could be liable for debts, and that either Mike or the business itself has a long-term debt to Scott that requires a balloon payment down the road.

(Mike describes this settlement as $533,000, consisting of "$2,000 a month for 15 years" and a $285,000 payment in year 15. If you add that up, you get more than $533,000; presumably there is interest accruing.)

It doesn't have to add up. The best episode of "The Profit" remains the first, Car Cash, in which the Baron brothers heeded some good advice, became friendly again, stood up for their tradition and produced a winner with Lemonis. The Cipraris are capable of topping that. But cars seem an easier sell than drums.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: To the victors
go the Crumbs

It was far more "recap" than "update."

Marcus Lemonis finally closed (the extended) Season 2 of CNBC's "The Profit" with at least a small amount of news — Nancy Pappas and Tom Etheridge are on speaking terms again.

Lemonis freely issues episode updates, and select commentary, on his Twitter account. And some of his enterprises are written up in local media. Understandably, most TV viewers are "casual" and don't follow Lemonis' every move on social media, so the season finale quite possibly was highly appealing to a broad audience that hasn't been keeping episode-by-episode scorecards. Also, it could prompt accidental viewers into looking up the reruns for the original stories.

To Lemonis' credit, the finale is candid about the ups and downs of the program.

It does, however, imply many difficult truths about the world of business and this type of endeavor.

Most of all, it can be inferred that the biggest benefit delivered by Lemonis is the simple airing of the program. Suddenly a nationwide audience is aware of these companies, and according to various news and show accounts, the online orders apparently pile up.

It is generally stated or suggested in the programs that businesses call Lemonis because "they need help." They should instead be calling for the publicity. Nearly all can get financing from banks or family members. Only a minority of the featured businesses are actually in dire need of money.

No question, Lemonis' instant observations are the show's Sunday punch. But how much are they really moving the needle?

The finale states in several instances that Lemonis is cross-selling products from "The Profit" in upstream transactions. The most blatant example is the pairing of Car Cash and AutoMatch. Lemonis boasts, "And the best part is that AutoMatch gets over 60% of its inventory from 1-800-Car Cash. Now that's a win-win for both companies."

How is that possibly a win-win for anyone ... why would a customer take his car to Car Cash knowing that AutoMatch is going to pay Car Cash slightly more for the vehicle? Instead of frittering away this margin to another company, AutoMatch management should itself be paying cash for cars and drive Car Cash to irrelevancy.

AutoMatch has essentially adopted Car Cash as the same middleman that Lemonis forced the Car Cash brothers to fire.

Lemonis also praises the potential of Mr. Green Tea, declaring, "I've already given them a huge account to make ice cream for Crumbs," the beleaguered cupcake chain bought by Lemonis that is not a part of "The Profit."

While many of the programs involve negotiating prices down with suppliers and creditors, it's clear there are obvious conflicts of interest for Lemonis. (It wasn't suggested in the program, but we gotta believe Crumbs is selling Key Lime Pie and Planet Popcorn ... we already learned it's selling Shuler's Bar-B-Que biscuits.)

We can guess that Lemonis will be filling up that Jacksonville building with a Simple Greek.

One update only prompts skepticism of the original program. Lemonis visited Michael Sena's Pro-Fit, actually set out to turn it into a national health club (even though he says in this episode that "the real opportunity" was in the protein bars), then settled on mass-producing the ProFit bars of Sena's wife, Tina, for grocery stores. The episode featured a visit to the Mariano's chain of the Chicago area and implied an exclusive contract.

If Mariano's actually got an exclusive, it doesn't got it anymore, as Lemonis and the Senas in this finale trumpeted the inclusion of ProFit bars on shelves "exclusively at GNC for a while." (And then after a while, they will likely be at Crumbs.)

In a major marketing lapse, Lemonis never told the cameraman to focus intently on the ProFit bars so viewers could see exactly what the packaging looks like. (Yet, he has no problem suggesting an Ink by Chase card for a businessman who is not having a bank problem.)

Quite frankly, the show reveals Lemonis is no miracle worker.

In two seasons of endeavors, nobody is getting rich — or more rich than they already were.

These businesses are not reinventing anything. They are using a windfall of cash from Lemonis' previously mega-successful entrepreneurial career to clean up the place and throw out old inventory and equipment. That part is hard to screw up.

Most of the "ideas" of Lemonis amount to cajoling uninspiring people to come up with their own ideas. He's going to create labs at Skullduggery, Sweet Pete's, Coopersburg Sports, Mr. Green Tea and Jacob Maarse where highly unproven employees are going to launch the next breakthroughs. Mystery designers at Courage b. are going to keep the appealing shop at the forefront of fashion every season. It stretches belief to think Lemonis seriously expects the next-generation Coopersburg sports brass to hit it big with bar stools.

His logos and rebranding are uninspiring at best, or downright terrible, if one wants to be harsh.

AutoMatch, as the review (PgDn several times) on this page indicates, is a highly generic operation (that's fine) that hardly resembles the bizarre Athans Motors that was supposedly going to be reinvigorated. In the finale, Lemonis welcomes to the Jacksonville AutoMatch location Pete Athans (above), who seems less than overwhelmed.

Lemonis asks Pete, "Do you feel like you're better off today than you were?"

"I feel my stress level has diminished," is Pete's answer.

Sweet Pete's, with its 2 very likable owners, is suddenly regarded as a raging success thanks to enormous investment while functioning virtually as a startup, a term Lemonis derided in the recent episode on My Big Fat Greek Gyro. If any business in the series has gotten ahead of itself it is this one, as the previous struggles of Pete and Allison Behringer suggest they might struggle to run a $2.5 million building that appears to be reliant on an unrelated restaurant.

Curiously, the brief clip aired of Key Lime Pie in the finale implied Lemonis' venture there didn't succeed while the original episode (see below) was painted as a success.

Much of Lemonis' Mr. Green Tea update involved clips from the original episode, where it was freely admitted that a huge decision on a building was severely bungled in terms of pricing. Again, because of Lemonis' deep pockets, this mistake is easily dismissed. The drama here was not making Mr. Green Tea profitable (it already was) but how "big" it should be and how much additional responsibility did this small family ownership (3 people) wish to take on. The future of Mr. Green Tea's plant relies on how many sales will be made by Michael Emanuele or (perhaps more likely) a generic, hand-picked Lemonis associate.

All of which makes the most impressive element of the finale the update on Worldwide Trailer and its fractured couple, Nancy Pappas and Tom Etheridge. This page (see below) rightly noted that Nancy and Tom, despite personal issues, appear to be a savvy business duo who can likely connect with customers. Tom is heard in the finale describing a new inventory system that has improved a now much tighter operation. "They moved the entire business to Georgia," Lemonis reveals, although we doubt Nancy moved there.

Several of the show's subjects weren't mentioned in the finale, suggesting the results are less than outstanding. Amazing Grapes, Eco-Me and Queens Vibe were not heard from. Another business, Swanson's Fish Market, described its experience with the show as "awful" (see below on this page).

Viewers learned in the finale that Lemonis had to pay seriously more than agreed upon for the Mr. Green Tea building. They learned that getting Sweet Pete's off the ground required a huge initial investment. They learned he lost somewhere around $100,000 on the renovation he funded at Skullduggery, which didn't want him. They learned he wasted serious time at Jacob Maarse florist, LA Dog, and in a previous epsidoe, ASL Sign. They learned a week earlier that his visit to Planet Popcorn, exposing a slipshod operation, actually cost the owner a Disney contract (not the show's fault). They learned that his apparent bailout of A. Stein not only didn't save the company but led Lemonis into a lawsuit.

"People always ask me how seriously I take the show. Well why don't you Google 'Marcus Lemonis' and 'Stein Meats' and see what you find," Lemonis declares in the finale. (You'll probably get this page on the 3rd Google page.)

"The Profit" has been good television. As a business, it's far more bust than boom.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Owners need not
fear a fight over new name

It's the last episode of the season — which means Marcus Lemonis' takeover of My Big Fat Greek Gyro is going to be a success.

Whether intentional or not, this episode, the 17th of the extended Season 2 of "The Profit" (a final episode is slated to deliver updates of previous shows), is possibly the most intriguing of the entire franchise. It deserves 2 hours, but evidently "Shark Tank" reruns can't be disturbed.

The introduction to this program is choppy and herky-jerky, complicated by Lemonis' all-too-common attempts to elicit tears ... from someone ... this time co-owner Kathleen, whose tragic loss of her first husband in a car accident seems to bear no relevance whatsoever to the business she runs with her current husband, Mike.

My Big Fat Greek Gyro is unique among "The Profit" subjects in that it has already accomplished franchising. Clearly as Lemonis observes, the process here is quite dysfunctional. Nevertheless, there is something impressive about the discombobulated network that apparent small-timers Kathleen and Mike have strung together.

There are enough variables to this enterprise — starting with, how in the world did these fine franchisees agree to launch these locations in the first place — that require far more than an hour to explain. But what airs is plenty of food for thought.

The mystery to this episode is how My Big Fat is succeeding. Lemonis admits from the beginning he doesn't like the look of the restaurants or even the food. Unlike in most episodes, the financials are not challenged. Nor does Lemonis bother investigating what kinds of cars Mike and Kathleen are driving to visit franchisees (thankfully). Nor is anything mentioned about mortgages or leases held by any of the locations.

How one location has made $100,000 when others apparently are not making a profit is left to the imagination.

Lemonis points out how cooking fresh french fries instead of ordering frozen will add $25,000 a year to the bottom line. He doesn't explain 1) if they'll need extra space/time to store/cook potatoes, 2) if they'll actually taste better than the frozen variety, or 3) what fries have to do with Greek food.

Despite the smiles by the end of the program, absolutely nothing about this project is certain, except that one location is clean and bright.

However, as in most episodes, it's Lemonis' rapid-fire assessments that intrigue. The food isn't fresh. It's not very good. The decor is spotty. Franchisees are ticked. Mike may not be up to this. The name's gotta change.

Oh yes, the name ... once again, forced to engineer some instant creativity, Lemonis' crew has cooked up an utterly terrible name and logo.

Most gyro eateries feature "gyro" in the name. It's a blunt acknowledgment of the specialty.

"The Simple Greek" has the look and wording of upscale diet food.

Lemonis was flat-out wrong not to consult Kathleen on this subject. A logo needs to give life to those who stand behind it. For as much emphasis as he gives to Mike's leadership abilities, he utterly dismisses the clearly savvy better half of the couple.

The unveiling of "The Simple Greek" succeeded at one thing — producing absolutely the most hilarious line in the history of "The Profit," after Kathleen says she is offended by the name and Lemonis says he is not.

"So that's 1 to 1 so far in terms of being offended," Lemonis says.

Kathleen shouldn't have said she is "offended" by "The Simple Greek." She should've just said "this sucks." It says almost nothing. It means nothing to 19-year-old males. It's too elegant for this type of restaurant, and most of all, it's not fun.

Lemonis incredibly describes the logo this way: "I think that brands and names should be conversational. They should be entertaining. I like the fact that the name 'The Simple Greek' is a bit funny. And it's a bit ironic."

Funny? Ironic?

"You're not a branding expert," Lemonis scolds Kathleen. "And I am. ... This is what I do for a living." (Oh gosh — did Kathleen see "Queens Vibe" (below)?)

"That's fine. I will go with it," Kathleen concedes (below).

My Big Fat Greek Gyro, in traditional font, was a tremendous name. Lemonis never explains in the program whether attempts were made to secure the rights or why Mike and Kathleen's operation was allowed to continue with that name. That might've been the best investment Lemonis could've made in this concept, maintaining the name.

We learn Mike coined the name My Big Fat Greek Gyro (a sign Lemonis is underestimating his savvy) and that a California company has trademarked "My Big Fat Greek."

One possible solution here is for Mike and Kathleen to drop the "Greek." Just make it "My Big Fat Gyro." Everyone will get it.

Short of that, given how much everyone likes saying "Opa," they should've just called it "GyrOpa!" or something like that.

Given that there are 5 locations, My Big Fat must've been doing something right. By the end, it's not clear what is unique about the business. Lemonis takes a serious gamble in changing the menu to "authentic" Greek. The concept seems to be doing OK with hot dogs and fries. Lemonis concludes that while many restaurants are doing "fast casual," none are doing it under a Greek banner.

The franchisees and employees in this episode are hardy and vigorous across the board. Kayne of the Cranberry location is the most disgruntled, telling Lemonis and Mike, "We have been robbing Peter to pay Paul since Month 2."

Lemonis includes a plug for AT&T. Unlike the regrettable endorsement of Ink by Chase forced upon Scott Pino in a previous episode, this one is not as disagreeable given that it was apparently a part of the Mount Lebanon makeover.

Lemonis' menu-and-branding overhaul here is risky. As he implies, his cash is mostly helping out the franchisees. The gut feeling says if it doesn't work, these entrepreneurs and their staff will figure out a way to serve something that sells. If not, we're looking at a Big Fat Greek Failure.

Next episode: Businesses Revisited

Subject of ‘The Profit’
calls experience ‘awful’

          Posted: Monday, Dec. 8, 2014

For at least one business, CNBC's "The Profit" was hook, line and stinker.

Swanson's Fish Market has responded to Marcus Lemonis' Season 2 stiff-arm in the form of a Web post by Larissa Swanson (that's her above), the beautiful daughter of Gary and Sue Swanson who found herself in the middle of several dramatic clashes last summer.

Swanson's post is 2,037 words, not including captions. She adds copies of financial documents to support her points.

Not surprisingly, she asserts that one scene was "staged."

Her post actually concedes several of the most troubling moments of the program: Her father, she says, "messed up his numbers" on his insurance comments. Gary in fact is heard twice on the program stating he received a $1.2 million settlement that Larissa says was actually $903,000, before subtracting 10% for an adjuster rate.

She says it was not right "AT ALL" (sic caps) that employees, "on a few occasions," spent their own money to bring in a day's product.

She complains that the building's foreclosure notice occurred well into the taping, after Gary Swanson told Lemonis the mortgage is paid and "we're in good shape."

Lemonis says in the program that the bank initiated foreclosure in 2012; "the foreclosure action started before I even got here." Larissa is heard to say, "we literally just got it a month ago."

She says in her post that the family was served with the notice on Aug. 26, nearly 2 months after taping began. Her description only raises more questions. "The building had a contractor/mechanical lien put on it almost 4 years ago and my parents paid that in 2010. The lien release was never brought to city hall to be taken care of and we explained that to Marcus," is what she writes.

The post alternates strangely between condemning Lemonis' crew and praising him for certain advice.

Her explanations are not enough to doubt Lemonis' assessment of the situation.

And in an indication that some things are never going to make sense, Swanson proudly argues that her mother was prepared to sell the BMW, even though she leases it and does not own it.

Swanson's most valid complaint centers on an impressive moment of the program, when Lemonis has instructed her to negotiate a vendor down with the promise of paying immediately with a certified check. However, the money presumably would have to come from the $1 million check Lemonis writes. But he tells viewers that the check is "going to go into escrow" until lawyers have cleared the property. So it's unclear how, after neatly shepherding Larissa through an important negotiation, he expects her to fulfill her end of the bargain. "He had me promise to pay these people the next DAY with a certified check, and he never followed through with that either. One of these vendors is now suing us because they are so angry," Larissa writes.

On Twitter, Lemonis said of Swanson's post, "the lies continue."

Here is what really matters about the post: Larissa writes, "My mother never even wanted to film, but was told if she did not show up the deal was off."

"The Profit" isn't a business. It's a television show. TV shows need drama.

It's clear from the details of the episode that there was utterly no business need for Sue to be on the program.

Here's exactly what Lemonis and his producers are looking for: An established business undergoing difficult times as relatives capable of mending fences feud with each other.

Then Lemonis can give the place an overhaul, elicit a few tears, and everyone can hug at the end.

Finding the businesses is surely not a problem. Finding the drama is. Many times the program reaches to identify transgressions among family members or jilted lovers that Lemonis can heal with Dr. Phil-type moments.

In the Coopersburg Sports episode, Lemonis somehow strongly implies that standing in the way of progress is Scott Pino's unwillingness to hand over the reins to his son and daughter, who can't be too far north of age 20 and despite coming across as impressive young businesspeople surely haven't developed the next Rubik's Cube. (Their growth ideas include lighters and ashtrays.)

At Unique Salon & Spa, Lemonis, unsatisfied with a neat little upgrade on a popular salon, insists on trying to manufacture hugs between Carolyn DeVito and her ex-business partner Joe Secreti, even though one of those parties has utterly no interest in such detente and the other, based on what is shown in the program, should rightly feel snookered.

At the marvelous Shuler's Bar-B-Que, a fine episode that seemed to be a win-win for all parties, Lemonis insisted on including extended footage of brother-in-law Ewell's uncertain career plans as though it were an obstacle to improving the business and stated that Ewell requested a $200,000 salary though that is not specifically what is heard in their conversation. (He also scoffs at Ewell's PR expertise even though Ewell is the one who submitted the application and brought Lemonis to this investment he enthusiastically praises.)

Let's be fair. A television professional would likely say this: "If you don't have drama, you don't have a program. And this is a quality show. There's a limit to how much people will watch new drywall being put up. Many of Marcus' savviest techniques are not visually depictable, such as raising prices or paying bills."

All true. This site reviews television and absolutely acknowledges those constraints.

So how do we find a happy medium?

The best episode remains the first, Car Cash, which fit the desired formula to a T. Brothers not on the best terms gave Lemonis' ideas a chance and praised the show afterwards.

While Larissa Swanson owned the camera (she's the one who contacted Lemonis, though he suggests otherwise at one point in the program), her folks clearly did not. It's fair to say Gary was not comfortable in front of the lens; Sue seems to be rehearsing for a play. At some point, someone needed to recognize the disorganization here and politely tell Machete Productions, "Thanks, but we've reconsidered."

This many episodes into the series, potential subjects applying to "The Profit" should be well-aware of several fundamentals, not necessarily in this order: Dress appropriately. Make sure the relevant income statements, balance sheets and mortgage/property information are declared and accurate (this was Gary Swanson's lone lapse). Show up on time. Don't speak to a parent as though he/she were a child. Meet Lemonis' sales contacts with enthusiasm. Don't override the work of your staff. And, um, consider presenting a few ideas of your own to Lemonis.

That way, you won't reach the same conclusions as Larissa Swanson: "How awful this whole experience was for us ... My father is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet ... He also had a good reputation in the town of Fairfield. They were getting threatening emails, calls and people driving by their house. It was SCARY ... just sad how they can be content with slandering/destroying a families (sic) name and 41-YEAR-OLD business just to get higher ratings."

Whatever the truth, this is television. And there's a lot of healing needed here. Swanson's clearly has potential — as a business and as drama. For those reasons, it might well not have seen the last of Marcus Lemonis.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Businessman
faulted for trying to make sale

          Posted: Friday, Dec. 5, 2014

(Reviews of all of Season 2, including the Planet Popcorn installment of Episode 16, and Season 1 are below)

Marcus Lemonis' visit to ASL Sign Sales & Service in Surfside Beach is only given about 40 minutes (including commercials) of airtime, about 30 more than is deserved.

If only viewers had a dollar for every time Lemonis says Anthony Leggio is a know-it-all.

Lemonis' decision not to invest with Leggio is understandable. Thankfully, Lemonis spared viewers a check-writing scene.

However, Lemonis' ultimate rationale is beyond bizarre.

Nobody doubts that Anthony is the boss, even Anthony's dad, Louis, who resists the show's relentless emphasis on dysfunctional family relationships. Because Louis is so quiet, Lemonis can't even milk an hour's worth of material.

Despite complaints on the show to the contrary, Anthony is clearly doing something right. He has a very pretty and responsible girlfriend, Kristin. His business is growing. It has $75,000 in cash.

Lemonis misses a chance to make a beautiful point about all the episodes of "The Profit." Many times just wanting it is 90% of the battle.

Anthony says, "I'm a go-getter; I'm a go-go guy." He is among the rarest of the series' subjects, someone determined to expand even more aggressively than Lemonis is. Show after show, Lemonis has to prod skeptical business owners to actually initiate meetings with potential customers. Most of these owners look like they'd rather be at the dentist. Anthony is likely the first to make a too-aggressive sales pitch. If Pete Athans had this kind of motor (see below), he'd be running half of Lemonis' RV dealerships by now.

Underneath his 6,000 rpm exterior, Anthony's actually got a heart, doling out apologies and mea culpas like business cards. And even some discipline, evidenced by the big sign stating "no cell phones in the shop." Whether he's a good person to do business with or bad person to do business with probably depends on the moment you happen to catch him. Or, whether you think his version of the Solar Inferno logo is better than Josh's:

Anthony's nemesis, "Jeff," seeks out Lemonis to divulge Anthony's reputation. Lemonis concedes that Jeff, having been sued by Anthony, is biased but says Jeff's story does not surprise him.

What's perhaps most important about this exchange is that Jeff admits, "I lost $600," an indication Anthony had a reasonable case.

Anthony unabashedly makes it clear what he wants — business. Somehow, it's perhaps the first time in series history that the subject has tried to sell Lemonis its product. Somehow, that's deemed a no-no. Anthony says he applied to "The Profit" because he wanted Lemonis' companies to place orders. What he doesn't say is that he also probably figured that the free prime-time publicity wouldn't hurt, either.

In a shocking statement of irony, Lemonis actually grumbles to viewers that Anthony didn't call him for help or a partnership, "he called me for a piece of my business. Well that was the last straw for me."


Anthony took the high road. "I needed this," he tells his crew. "Inside."

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Sharla learns the hard
way that people watch reality TV

          Posted: Friday, Dec. 5, 2014

Way back in the early days of "The Profit," Sharla McBride (see bottom of page) invited Marcus Lemonis to check out her Planet Popcorn operation.

Afterwards? Several contracts canceled, and not even a kernel of investment from Lemonis.

This page argued at the time that McBride is savvy and not one to be underestimated.

Disney apparently didn't feel the same way after seeing the program.

"If I hadn't been on TV, Marcus, I would not be where I am today with my contracts," McBride laments in a tearful update on Season 2's Episode 16.

Surely Lemonis will defend the show as an accurate portrayal of McBride's business. Yet, something in this update feels like Lemonis is motivated more by a pang of sympathy for McBride's plight and less by financial opportunity.

He quickly concludes that the Planet Popcorn books are now in order and, mysteriously, that the operation's now scaled-down enterprise is ready to deliver an instant return on his investment.

This is a good warning to all applying for reality TV.

Sharla did not take the program seriously enough. That McBride didn't realize her sloppy offices, shoddy bookkeeping and not-particularly-polished appearance might alarm someone at one of the world's most conservative businesses (Disney) is troubling.

Given a 2nd chance, she looked great in 2 outfits, said all the right things, and contributed tears to the effort.

We have a hunch this isn't the last we'll be hearing from Sharla.

Next episode: My Big Fat Greek Gyro

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Supposedly
lazy relative scores PR coup

          Posted: Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014

(Reviews of all of Season 2 and Season 1 are below)

You'd never know it from watching Marcus Lemonis' trip to Shuler's Bar-B-Que.

Ewell got the job done. Big-time.

But first things first.

In Season 2's Episode 15 of "The Profit," there were no shameless endorsements for sponsors.

Nor were there any shameless scorned lovers seeking a date.

Yet there were actually diligent owners with a great product and even greater work ethic.

So it was no surprise that Lemonis' partnership with Norton and Lynn Hughes culminated in apparent success.

Still it can't be ignored that as the expanding series dilutes Lemonis' talent — his time and expertise — even the best episodes are rapidly becoming light on business and long on Dr. Phil.

For manufactured drama when there is none, Lemonis quickly identifies Ewell, brother-in-law of Lynn, as the nemesis and attempts to milk the melodrama, though there is no reason at all for Ewell to appear on the program.

"All I hear him talking about is PR," Lemonis grumbles.

Lemonis also warns that the Hugheses' young son is supposed to one day inherit the business, but without Lemonis' help, it somehow "may not make it to the next generation."

Shuler's Bar-B-Que does not need Marcus Lemonis' help. It could easily borrow money to expand its deck and buy a flag. A big regional hit, it makes money — $145,000 last year before the owners took a payout, and unlike in other episodes those numbers sound believable — and it's only open 3 days a week.

Lemonis correctly observes that even if it's only open 3 days a week, "there's a lot of things that go into running a restaurant" that make it a 7-day job. But for many, that's a lot more desirable than a 7-day-a-week restaurant that amounts to a 10-day-a-week job.

What Lemonis has failed to mention in any episode is that small-business people have lives too. Time is often as important as money. The Hugheses have carved an ideal niche — they are getting ahead with a restaurant open 3 days a week. Should they have a pressing urgency for more income, they can always open another day or two, or add a location.

Lemonis faults Norton for spurning credit cards because he doesn't want to pay a 1.5% fee. What Lemonis is missing is that this isn't so much a business decision, it's how Norton feels. He thinks the 1.5% fee is a ripoff. He's not concerned about milking every possible dollar. These are the values that, whatever pennies they cost in profit, bring the restaurant life.

If you're uncertain about that life, take a look at the many images of Norton's cooking in this program and see if your mouth doesn't water.

Regardless. Shuler's does not need Lemonis, and in fact viewers are forgiven for cringing at the attempts by Lemonis to genericize this unique South Carolina treasure into a mass-produced margin upgrade.

Initially he warns the family against "the concept of franchising" and "changing the secret recipe."

Moments later, he's literally changing the recipe, to the award-winning biscuits Lynn makes. As usual, Lemonis boasts that these can be sold in grocery stores (updates to all the previous programs in which this strategy is touted are never provided) but conveniently, he finds them a good match for his newly purchased chain of Crumbs cupcake shops ... which can certainly use some free prime-time publicity.

Thankfully, Lynn eventually seems OK with the biscuit alterations (why they were not all originally the same size, shape and weight is a mystery), and Lemonis' other moves prove benign: He expands the deck, he adds a cash register, he smartly adds a giant flag, he only hints about a "general store," and he only slightly hikes the menu price.

If anything, Lemonis has underestimated Norton and Lynn. According to an article on the show, Norton Hughes "said he researched Lemonis so much that when he got there he knew more about him than anyone on the crew."

Lynn noted how comfortable she became with the "photon laser cannons" used by the show's photographers.

Somehow, producers feel compelled to add closed-captioning when Norton talks, as though his appealingly rich Southern drawl was a foreign language.

Lemonis is fairly obsessed with the food's cost as a percentage of sales. Neither he nor the owners are heard differentiating between buffet restaurants and non-buffet.

While Norton could probably benefit from a more modern cash-register system, chances are that his prices reflect the going rate for a buffet.

Norton says in the program that the lunch buffet costs $8.95 and dinner costs $12.70. A year ago, the buffet price was reportedly $12.98.

"I couldn't go to Wendy's for this price," Lemonis says, but 1) yes he could, it's just not the same food, 2) he could say the same for every buffet restaurant, and 3) Wendy's is making every order unique per customer.

This episode, refreshing as it is, has no business being on "The Profit." Profit is hardly the issue. Norton and Lynn are the heroes here. They do not need "perfect" 3-day-a-week operations. They pride themselves on the quality and value they provide. They need to keep doing what they've been doing.

The last thing they need is a reality TV show.

So, the obvious question is, why were they on "The Profit"?

Chalk that up to the relative who only talks about PR, Ewell, who did far more than tout Shuler's on Facebook: He's the one who submitted the application to Lemonis to get Shuler's national television publicity on the fastest-growing network in prime time.

Now the whole world has seen Norton and his cooking, and will continue to see it in reruns, and viewers planning a trip to South Carolina are penciling in extra stops in Latta.

Lemonis at one point bluntly tells Ewell, "It's still cloudy for me what your role is." If he somehow didn't know then, he does now.

Next episode: ASL Sign Sales & Service

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: And now a few
words for our sponsor

You'd think the "fastest-growing network in prime time" would have no trouble attracting advertisers.

In Season 2 of "The Profit," an advertiser actually became part of a program.

In a startling scene, Marcus Lemonis spends an entire minute of Episode 14 recruiting his new business partner, toy baseball bat maker Scott Pino, to open a Chase Bank Ink account.

After asking Pino out of the blue, "What's your relationship like with your current bank," Lemonis is told nothing about Pino's current bank but is informed that the previous relationship "was not good" (presumably that had something to do with Pino's business debt).

Rather than asking whether Pino's current bank arrangement is fine, Lemonis explains, "Ink by Chase is a credit card that allows you to manage and see expenses."

"This is great," Pino says, dutifully pointing to the screen, "because you're creating spending limits."

Chase is a featured sponsor of the program; Lemonis has appeared in its ads. To incorporate its product as part of the program's guidance is astonishing and calls into question the "reality" of this series.

Even worse, it suggests the possibility of a quid pro quo — that in exchange for Lemonis' publicity, investment and guidance, business owners are compelled to endorse or perhaps order sponsors' products.

Advertisers are the lifeblood of most media. Chase and others, including Jaguar in the first season, deserve credit for helping to get what has been a quality program, with high-quality business principles espoused by Lemonis, on the air.

That this support would become a blatant part of the editorial content suggests at least some of the "reality" drama is phony. (At least Lemonis never took a struggling entrepreneur to a Jaguar showroom.)

Is CNBC going to have Tyler Mathisen and Sue Herera start pitching Fidelity products to their interview subjects during business-day programming?

Given this travesty, it almost feels offensive putting together a diligent review of the material. But you've been warned.

Pino, of the family-run Coopersburg Sports, which seems to sell little besides toy baseball bats, seems like most subjects of "The Profit" — eager for TV publicity, exaggerating the strength of the business, happy to get a little cash and advice, utterly uninterested in any of the big changes Lemonis wants to make.

A lot of courtships this season have crashed and burned, usually after Lemonis discovers the financials are worse than portrayed or after the owners have defied him. This time, the unresolved outrage is that Pino insists his bat is in "every major league stadium" while Lemonis insists it's only in "5 or 6." Pino follows that they "were" and "are" (take your pick) in "30 parks." Presumably enough went right at Coopersburg by the end to go ahead with the overhaul and 6-year lease of a new warehouse on the premise that a toy bat company can sell a bunch of stools and toothbrush holders and Bass Pro Shops logo-bearing knives as well.

We don't have a jilted woman hoping Lemonis can compel her ex-something or other to finally marry her (see below), but we do have plenty of tears, and fears that someone has been a big failure.

The editing is so poor, the initial conversation about bat economics would be flagged by a 1st-grader. Pino tells Lemonis the bat, plus royalties, costs "about $1.15." Lemonis asks him how much it costs to add the Mets logo. Pino says "20 cents." Lemonis somehow says, "So that's 95 cents." Then Pino tells Lemonis he's paying Major League Baseball "12%, 18 cents."

Lemonis adds that up as "95 and 18, dollar-13."

Pino agrees. "Dollar-13."

Lemonis regularly stresses that the apparently untested Pino children are the key to success, if Scott will merely start mining them for product ideas. Clearly the show highlight is Pino's stunning daughter Jackie, who is aware she is catching long looks from the "reality" camera.


She says she "was hired to mainly handle the collegiate market and sales, which I am doing on top of like 30,000 different other things."

Jackie, who goes heavy on the eye shadow, is labeled "daughter and licensing coordinator," but despite her 30,000 responsibilities, the only licensing arrangements appear to be Scott's 1991 deal with Major League Baseball and perhaps some interest from Penn State, which according to Jackie is interested in the growth industry of "lighters."

At one point she tells Lemonis, "We were thinking of doing higher-end. Money clips, ashtrays ..."

She tells a female Bass Pro Shops buyer, "I kinda want to learn a little bit more about your demographic."

Nobody ever brings up the possibility of other pro sports that use wooden equipment, such as hockey. (Apparently no one buys little hockey sticks.) Chances are the impressive new Coopersburg warehouse will find itself with a little too much room for its ashtrays, and Lemonis will be extending that "free rent for another 6 months/why not the building's otherwise empty" argument.

Next episode: Shuler's BBQ

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Finally realizing
these two don’t actually work

Eventually, Marcus Lemonis woke up and smelled the coffee.

In what proved to be a waste of viewers' and Larkin's restaurant's time, Lemonis devoted an astonishing hour of prime-time television to a pathetic (non-)couple's relationship grievances.

Unfortunately, given the omnipresent "Shark Tank" lead-ins, Episode 13 of Season 2 of "The Profit" will probably be a ratings success. But maybe the impact of this wretched exercise will still be felt in the bottom line if viewers decide that no matter how good West End Coffee may be, they can't stomach buying anything from John or Becky.

This one isn't hard to figure out. Becky and John admit their relationship is "broke." Becky admits to Lemonis, "That's why I called you." Becky hopes Marcus' entrance will compel John to marry her. John isn't interested. Nobody else in the world gives a (bleep).

Lemonis nevertheless pretends there's a lucrative long-term business opportunity here and repeatedly teases commercial breaks suggesting reconciliation is possible.

Worst of all is Lemonis in the early moments, despite zero evidence, claiming that what he likes about both John and Becky is that "you have passion."

If the FCC flagged TV programs for insincerity, we'd have a wardrobe-malfunction-esque fine coming here.

The heart of "The Profit," generally an excellent series, is not the "People, Process, Product" espoused by Lemonis, but his rapid-fire assessments of a business' strengths and weaknesses and the post-makeover images.

There is almost none of that at West End Coffee. Lemonis' grandiose pronouncements about how the warehouse is only operating at 33% of capacity, perhaps technically true, aren't backed up by actual evidence of demand. If anything, viewers see that a lot of smoothies and flavors are sitting around spoiled because they couldn't be sold.

Most episodes of "The Profit" feature a declaration from Lemonis that the company is experimenting with too many products and not going whole hog with the meal ticket. That is hardly addressed here, unless you count ripping the labels off a few unpopular flavors that probably cost a grand total of a few hundred dollars.

Shockingly, Lemonis never visits a Whole Foods or Fresh Market to see how West End is displayed (assuming it is actually sold at those places). He hints that using a distributor is costing West End serious dollars on the margin but never gets around to exploring an alternative.

Thus it can be inferred that Lemonis indeed sensed a lemon here, never expected this management troika to work, never took his own (contingent) investment seriously ... yet still felt whatever got on camera was worth an hour of prime-time TV.

It had to be apparent to Lemonis early that being the 3rd wheel in this arrangement is big trouble. Here is how John Brown described his relationship with Becky Schramm to Lemonis:

"She became friends with my wife. We would hang out together. My wife and I, my ex-wife and I had problems. I went to my wife and I said, 'If you want to try to work this out, you need to get rid of Becky.'"

Brown adds, "We were like an inner circle there was like, the 3 of us, that were, you know-"

Lemonis asks, "You all were having like a, there was like a triangle thing going on."

"Sort of, yes. Yes. Cohorts in crime, maybe, I don't know," Brown responds.

Now that's reassuring.

Yet, that sequence and another, when Lemonis spills the beans (literally), produce perhaps a first in "The Profit" — a natural laugh from Lemonis.

"Triangles, circles, cohorts in crime," whatever, viewers realize long before Lemonis that absolutely neither owner at West End is interested in doing anything.

Lemonis says at the beginning, "If I can just get John and Becky to put their claws away and act as a team, we'll be making money in no time," a possibility veteran viewers have no reason to believe will actually occur.

Lemonis at one point insists, "I'm not gonna do this. Play these games," but he plays games like this in about half the episodes.

Becky and John are incapable of roasting, selling or cleaning.

Think of how silly the folks at Larkin's (below) must feel when Lemonis hilariously assures them with a straight face, "We'll overservice the account."

Lemonis somehow praises both John and Becky "for putting together solid financials." Yet when he asked them about the bottom line, John describes last year's profit as "40,000 at the most," a remarkably vague assurance for an investor with a $200,000 check.

Unable to remove spoiled inventory, Becky, who pronounces "irrelevant" as "irrevelant," frustratingly declares, "I'll herd them out of here in my (bleeping) car, because I'm sick of hearing about the smoothies," but it looked like they were only removed when a staffer found some empty trash cans at a nearby business.

If there is any redeeming value to this episode — and likely there is none — it would be the revelation of yet another bizarre small-business ownership structure.

John has contributed $300,000 of the $499,000 business investment from his 401(k).

Yet somehow, Becky has the status of "director" of John's qualified pension plan.

This somehow gives Becky the power to fire John from West End Coffee. (And if John's qualified pension plan bought 100 shares of YHOO, could Becky fire Marissa Mayer too?)

Like WorldWide Trailer Manufacturing (yeesh), neither principal is likely going anywhere because they can't untangle their financial interests forged during happier times.

Lemonis' best advice here would not be about a 1-pound bag but rather advising Becky that John is not going to marry her and it would be more productive for her to get a life and sell her stake in the business.

She won't believe him regardless. But viewers unfortunately have seen this movie too many times before. Lemonis admits he's not a "guidance counselor," and he's no Dr. Phil either.

Next episode: Coopersburg Sports

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Waiter never
got a chance to serve Joe

It's the bye week for "The Profit."

Pressed to meet the demands for more episodes of his hot reality TV series, Marcus Lemonis seems compelled in this Season 2 addendum to try the investment equivalent of speed dating and hope the parties live happily ever after.

Clearly the time spent on research in the previous installment, Swanson's Fish Market (the episodes are shown not necessarily in the order in which they were produced), was time sacrificed in Episode 12, Unique Salon & Spa.

Carolyn DeVito is clearly not a great businesswoman. She has a heart. Whether she has a BMW or a boat, Lemonis never notices and doesn't seem to care.

"I haven't taken a paycheck in like, 6 months," DeVito tells Lemonis in an assertion that's never questioned.

Shortly into the episode, viewers can tell this is going to be a quickie. "I have no interest in being a big partner in a hair salon," Lemonis tells DeVito, stating the concept is "not something that I can scale across the country in a way that I really want to."

Yet, that's at odds with Lemonis' goal at Michael Sena's ProFit gym (see below) in which Lemonis pushed Sena to load up on generic fitness machines so that they could theoretically open gyms/centers across the country. Obviously, when the episodes and time and financial commitments pile up, ideas become a bit more limited.

The fixes here are so simple, Lemonis needed to invent some (unneeded) drama to fill the hour. He says in the intro that Unique "is now drowning in debt," but Carolyn paints the finances as at worst break-even and indicates her desire is simply to start getting ahead.

Worse is the red herring of the reunion Lemonis stages between Carolyn and her former partner, Joe Secreti, which makes about as much sense as lining up George W. Bush and Al Gore for a round of golf. There's an emotional bait-and-switch here as Lemonis initially indicates he wants Joe back in the picture to provide sales outlets but later seems far more interested in Joe as a foil for burnishing his purported Dr. Phil skills. Both Carolyn and Joe seem not to realize that Lemonis, under an honest objective, is borderline puppeteering the pair into manufactured reality-TV drama. By the time he storms out of the restaurant, Joe has to be wondering why he signed the show's release.

Hair salons might not be Lemonis' cup of tea. But there's cat-fight potential here that isn't quite milked enough.

Lacey, the manager of the Plainview location, makes a personal visit to the home base to inform Susan, the pretty and well-dressed 4-day-a-week general manager who doesn't appear to do any actual work but whose own hair looks great, that her shop's air-conditioning is broken, which appears to be fresh news to Susan despite Lacey's multiple attempts at making contact.

"I have 2 phones," Susan explains, although she appears to hold only one.

But then, moments later, Susan doesn't dispute that in fact Lacey spoke to her twice on Saturday about the broken air-conditioning, only to twist the conversation into a feeble evaluation of Lacey's management.

This episode is the first in a while in which employees pull Lemonis aside to express their opinions on the management. This scene is very effective for Unique, as the stylists (especially one stunning blonde with show-stopping eyes) come across as highly impressive and conscientious in informing Lemonis, "Susan, we are kind of confused at what she does ... She's off Saturday, Sunday and Monday."

Lemonis ultimately tells Susan he wants her to be "unconfused." That presumably happened the day Susan quit.

There isn't much wrong with Unique other than it's disorganized (that's simply a matter of ousting Susan) and needs some new chairs and lights (that's a simple capital upgrade). Lemonis somehow seems to find the shop unique, for lack of a better term, among hair salons in having old equipment and cluttered shelves. (Ask anyone who has ever had her/his hair cut.)

He dubs Unique's quirky product lines a "flea market" and implies that people buy the stuff by walking in and browsing.

Surely in the heavily competitive, price-sensitive haircut industry, survival comes down to upselling, stylists who persuade customers to get some highlights or pick up a bottle of elite-sounding shampoo or conditioner that's really no different than what's in a grocery store. They'll willingly buy it, if the experience is good. Lemonis never questions who's running the front desk, are they keeping appointments on time, are they calling customers to stay in touch and encourage them to come back, etc.

Lemonis devotes a small amount of the episode toward his pursuit of launching Carolyn's hair-care products in stores nationwide. He assures that previously $18 bottles will sell in different bottles for $22. He says in fact that Ulta has agreed to carry them. He doesn't scrutinize the ingredients, where they are made, or whether the products could be produced better or cheaper. (And, he doesn't even contemplate Unique's logo.)

Numbers are not crucial to this episode. It can easily be inferred that cleanliness and vibrancy of a salon (not to mention many other businesses) are important for business, and that to stay on top, they must do routine upgrades. It's almost assured that Lemonis' involvement in Unique is an instant success, though it's not clear how clean and shiny the rest of the locations look.

After a while, color will be getting lost, light fixtures will break, chair cushions will rip, and then it will be up to Carolyn to batten down the hatches. Only time will tell if Ulta will place additional orders for Erika Cole by Raquel. Oddly enough, Carolyn owes much to Susan — if she hadn't been there, Lemonis wouldn't have had anything to do.

Next episode: West End Coffee Company

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: So which bag,
or both, is the Louis Vuitton?

This one smelled fishy from the beginning.

A solution in search of a problem, Marcus Lemonis decided to offer his services to Swanson's Fish Market — even though the owners didn't invite him and don't want anything from him.

Nor, apparently, based on the car, purse and boat, do they even need him.

Episode 11 of Season 2 of "The Profit" is decidedly watchable, which unfortunately qualifies it as a good program. Like Lemonis' visits to Worldwide Trailers and Skullduggery, the aftertaste is bad enough to make a viewer wish he hadn't spent an hour of his life with these individuals. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

It is not uncommon for Lemonis' subjects to be clueless about their own financials. Savvy viewers might've guessed — just a hunch, gut feeling — in the opening minutes that Gary Swanson's mortgage statements were too good to be true.

He claims to be collecting $3,000 monthly from 2 tenants, more than enough to offset the business' $3,800 mortgage.

Possibly none of that is true, given what viewers heard about 2 of those 3 parties. (Hopefully the mac and cheese shop in the middle is staying afloat.) And folks thought Sal (last week, see below) had exaggeration problems.

All of which calls into question Gary's claims that he came out ahead hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit from 3 separate insurance cases.

The shop burned by unknown cause ... and there was a warehouse fire too. "Hard to believe that it happened, twice," Gary Swanson says, explaining insurance payments exceeded costs of those disasters by $390,000.

For his boat that "got swamped in a hurricane," Gary says he got a $70,000 insurance check, "probably double the value of the boat."

Lemonis, who apparently believed those whoppers, also accepts Gary's assertion of product margins (60% prepared foods) without scrutiny.

Larissa, the self-appointed bookkeeper who just happens to be gorgeous, explains she was motivated to jump in when seeing her parents struggle, and "it was such a mess," as she was "trying to teach myself."

She drives an hour each way to work. "I don't know why I made everyone's problems my problems, but ..." she says.

Yet, social media and the reader comments section of this article indicate viewers noticed Larissa owns a Louis Vuitton bag, an accessory that escaped the eyes of Lemonis. We don't know what a Vuitton bag looks like, but it's safe to say it must be at least one of these two:

Much is made during the program about how the employees are chipping in for the inventory, how payroll barely gets made, how vendors aren't getting paid.

Yet never is there an assertion made about the business' cash balance, a frequent subject in Lemonis' other ventures.

Lemonis calmly tells viewers he dislikes Sue's car and Gary's boat. He only erupts when presenting the family documents about the building's foreclosure. Yet Gary Swanson told a media outlet that it wasn't 100% real, "some things exaggerated for dramatic purposes."

Viewers get it. The Swansons use their business, which is successful but not very well-run, as a piggy bank. When the foreclosure threats start getting serious, they'll find some more cash somewhere. Larissa's only interest was in landing some reality TV cameras; you've gotta give her credit for succeeding.

Curiously, when Lemonis assembles the workforce for the "I'm a hundred percent in charge" meeting, one employee's face is blurred, indicating he didn't sign a release form. That was no doubt the smartest decision in the episode.

Next episode: Unique Salon & Spa


Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Artistic Stitch gets
the worst logo in the world

(Reviews of all of Season 2 and Season 1 are below)

He surely was going to walk.

He didn't.

Then again, he probably didn't have any choice. Because once Marcus Lemonis head-scratchingly committed $660,000 to Artistic Stitch, he was committing himself to a serious part-time job to ensure he ever gets a dime of that investment back.

This Episode 10 of Season 2 suggests "The Profit," enjoying much-deserved success in CNBC's prime time renaissance, is desperate enough for new material that Lemonis is going to start crossing streets when the light is flashing "Don't walk."

In the opening seconds, viewers get a great look inside the place, a mini-mall so ghastly as to offend anyone with the slightest sliver of aesthetic (not to mention commercial) appreciation.

It's clear the damage has already been done at Artistic Stitch.

Lemonis then learns in every segment of the episode that financial obligations are worse than he's been told and that his primary 2 co-owners are simply incompetent.

The best message — the only message — this episode should've imparted to its viewers is to run away from a business like this as fast as you can.

Lemonis has made such exits before.

However, as "The Profit" viewers have discovered, compelling Marcus Lemonis to abandon you is actually a lot tougher than one would think (see Hank Maarse and the Koehl brothers in other recaps below). Sal Loretta evidently was saved by his perpetual hangdog expression (below).

Many curious details make Artistic Stitch an excellent episode. It's a television success. In terms of business fundamentals it's a disaster.

Only one of the staffers, Fabio, is shown with any work to do. Others wander around grimacing. Lemonis seems not at all concerned about what Sal and Nick are doing all day given that they're not selling anything nor printing anything.

Furthermore, Lemonis cannot explain the endgame. At the end there is not a financial projection, but a serious note of caution that the shop isn't out of the woods. Let's indulge in optimism and assume Artistic Stitch begins to make money and satisfy its debts. Then in 5 years, Sal buys the building below market. What does he do with it? Lease half?

As for strategy, Lemonis barely offers more than explaining why an AT&T account is more lucrative than a Joe's Pizza account.

Employees seem torn between the past generosity they've received from Sal and their current realization that he's clueless. Lemonis brings the group together and insists, "We're gonna kick butt together," but the staff looks like it's preparing for a funeral, and Sal is already in tears.

Lemonis takes co-owner Nick Meola, the six-figure sales chief, to what would appear to be the easiest sale of all time, a receptive veteran firefighter representing some undisclosed organization at a Queens firehouse. Yet Meola can barely finish a sentence. The cringe-worthy encounter is topped only by the Koehl brothers' visit to the NYC Nascar offices.

Lemonis has walked into an already-busted gambit. It's like taking over a 17 blackjack hand when the dealer is showing a king. Sal doesn't care about restaurants or batting cages or basketball courts. Sal cares about making just enough money for 5 years to swing a fantasy real estate deal. He's already in charge of the property now but has no clue what to put there. How he could actually "stand to make millions" from buying the building is one of Lemonis' unexplained declarations.

The smart move is for Lemonis to team with the landlord, Michael, sell the building for a profit and relocate Sal to a tiny storefront where his shop is sustainable.

(Then again, the fact Michael turned over this location to Sal with this kind of business plan raises doubt about his own business savvy.)

But having poured more than his $660,000 into the shop, Lemonis seems content to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

He moves clothing racks onto the basketball court and buys an embroidery machine. Nothing is done about the restaurant, which curiously escapes scrutiny and scorn. Nothing is said about the insurance bill that must be huge when kids are swinging baseball bats and playing basketball, nor is it ever explained if the site passed the fire code inspection and got certified.

Regular viewers of "The Profit" know how oddly sensitive business name changes are. This time, incredibly, Lemonis is the goat — taking a perfectly useful name, Artistic Stitch, that's known in the community and changing it (at least on the retail marquee) to something called "Queens Vibe," a moniker that conveys absolutely nothing and even worse, a logo (above) that is downright illegible.

Take a look at the Artistic Stitch storefront prior to Lemonis' turnaround. This hardly seems hopeless. The building is fine; it's just way underutilized, filled by a concept that shouldn't have made sense to anyone in authority here. In fact, the basketball court and batting cage are the ideal location for Michael Sena's ProFit gym concept that Lemonis visited in Indiana (see below). The restaurant would probably do better as one of Lemonis' Key Lime Pie outlets.

Perhaps as the episodes pile up, Lemonis sees himself more as a Dr. Phil, at the expense of his business edge. It's hard to believe, given its debts including restaurant meals for Sal's family, that Artistic Stitch is even solvent. Sal and Nick were so eager to get Lemonis' check and take his first offer, it's a mystery why Lemonis didn't start by asking for 75%.

What seems to work every time is the beleaguered business owner, reduced to tears, telling Lemonis how he/she feels like such a failure for overseeing a sinking ship.

It's impossible not to root for Sal. But Sal needs more than pity. Or money. Sal needs a clue. He does have a tear. And apparently a conscience. In the world of reality TV, that's enough.

Next episode: Swanson's Fish Market.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Now Courage. b needs
to find Marcus a new sweater

This was one was easy — and likely a prototype for the future of "The Profit."

CNBC launched a new batch of fall episodes of Marcus Lemonis' reality-TV original and has designated them an extension of the winter's Season 2. Whether it qualifies as a new season or not, Lemonis' experience at Courage. b gets the extended series off to a much better start than the awkward takeover of Athans Motors in Season 2's Episode 1 — and reaffirms "The Profit" as one of TV's most worthwhile programs.

Courage. b represents low-hanging fruit: decent revenues and likable family-run ownership with a savvy business streak. No shenanigans here. It seems no question the family behind Courage. b is a hard-working one. Apparently because of a non-recurring legal issue and one bad fashion year, it's suddenly in a bit of a hole — but this feels nothing like the problems facing A. Stein meatpackers or Amazing Grapes or Athans Motors.

Attempting to build TV drama, Lemonis insists, "We've lost our way here," claiming the shop "has a terrible identity crisis" simply because the latest batch of clothing didn't work.

On the contrary, a small, independent fashion boutique already established in trendy locations is an appealing concept many would like to tackle. Whether it's a match for Lemonis' specialty is certainly iffy. The risk here is that Lemonis, as he is prone to do (see previous reviews below), might overly genericize a product line that absolutely can't be generic because then people will just buy it at Macy's or Nordstrom.

There has been no indication in 2 years of the program that fashion is Lemonis' bailiwick. Shockingly, he never mentions what is obviously such a shop's biggest hurdle — the need to always be in front of the next hot thing or risk a season with a shop full of inventory nobody's buying, a problem not faced by Mr. Green Tea or AutoMatch USA.

In his assessment, the CEO of Camping World whose expertise is mostly in the automotive space is telling fashionistas that "we basically just knocked off everybody else's bags," and regarding pants, "we gotta be a little bit more in the strike zone." Surely they do — but not just this season, but next season, and the one after that, etc.

In another of the show's recurring issues, Lemonis makes a key price decision. While his rationale sounds good, viewers never learn if such a risk pays off.

He wants Courage b. to hike the price of its most popular product, the $99 duster, to $145, after the material/production costs are upgraded from $11 to $25. Surely Lemonis arrived at this decision not from his own fashion acumen but because one of the designers he brought in suggested an upgrade would work. Some businesses may hit the jackpot with a nearly 50% price hike; in fashion it seems highly risky given that dusters may be "out" by the next season.

In many of the episodes — not this one — Lemonis insists to the business owners that he is not a consultant, but an investor. Yet, his consulting-type observations continue to be of far more value to the viewer; his rapid-fire declarations in the opening minutes of what works and what doesn't work remain the series' crown jewel. By the time his investment is complete, at the end of each episode, viewers typically are left with little more than Lemonis' sunny forecast that things are going to turn profitable (which proved embarrassing in at least one episode, the A. Stein meatpacking makeover, which apparently is still embroiled in a lawsuit).

While the family (above) is undoubtedly aware of Lemonis' earlier episodes, there is none of the reality-TV narcissism here seen on many Season 2 episodes (see below). This is a quality small-business with focused, diligent management. It just needs a big-leaguer's advice.

The company amounts to 3 principals: Noemie (pronounced "Naomi" in the program) Goureau, who has a French accent, her son Nicolas Goureau and daughter Stephanie Menkin. Noemie (in blue dress above), despite the strange scolding she often receives from her children, is the darling of the program. A lovely, likable and creative woman, she's exactly the type who must get calls from moms and girls about prom dresses and from 20something women about the attire for their next job interview.

No skeptical staffers are quietly interviewed in the background and/or express complaints. In minimal scenes, they appear happy with the shop. The only sign of discord at Courage. b is the way Nicolas talks to his mother; "Don't even!" he shouts to her at one point, and "enough with your ego already."

Both children refer to their mother at times as "Noemie." Stephanie can be occasionally sharp toward her mom, but not near the level of Nicolas, who often speaks as though he's Noemie's father.

At one point Nicolas shouts at Noemie, "You don't know how to finish anything," which suggests that dealing with Noemie on an everyday basis might include a small amount of frustration.

Part of the blueprint of "The Profit" involves Lemonis bringing warring factions together in moments that often unfortunately come across as Dr. Phil-lite. In this episode he prompts Nicolas to discuss his father's death and, after an obviously legitimate sweeping tear on Lemonis' face that nevertheless feels a bit like William Hurt's machination in "Broadcast News," family tension is basically pronounced solved, even though viewers can be certain Nicolas is likely sniping at Noemie about something or other today.

Unlike in certain other episodes, Lemonis does not question what Courage. b is paying its suppliers — or even, disappointingly, who/where the suppliers are. Are the clothes coming from overseas, or from a seamstress down the block?

Nor does he question the leases as he does in other episodes; apparently, given the surprising lack of discussion about local foot traffic in both Greenwich and NYC, Lemonis is satisfied that Courage. b's locations are solid, though check out the image below:

The intro depicts 7 scattered locations of Courage. b, which should raise eyebrows. 5 sites are clustered in the Northeast and presumably manageable. 2 others appear to be in Denver and South Florida. While Lemonis in many episodes talks of making a product into a national brand, this is the type of streamlining he loves to fix. Surely there should be some conversation in this program as to the profitability of the Denver and South Florida locations and whether they make any sense given the travel that must be necessary for the owners. (If one had to guess, it would seem these are likely vacation-home locations of Noemie's family.)

At one point Lemonis refers to a 30something shopper, and he complains that the shop's message is unfocused, but he never does zero in on who is Courage. b's targeted client — married or unmarried woman, her age, other demographics, etc.

Among other curious subjects Lemonis does not address are how Courage. b got its name and why the period is apparently dropped in the makeover (though it remains on the exterior sign), but viewers do learn what a "fopp" is (as well as a "Planogram").

As with many episodes of "The Profit," it's best not to try to make sense of the details. Stephanie is described in the opening labeling as "owner," even though 20 minutes into the program, Nicolas explains she has no equity. Where she is suddenly getting her newfound 15% — as a gift or loan from Lemonis or Nicolas, or her own money, who knows. Extending an unbeaten streak from the show's inception, neither Nicolas nor his mother or sister bother to ask Lemonis if his investment is transferable or completely independent of his other ventures (in other words, if another Lemonis investment goes belly up, can creditors go after Courage. b).

Lemonis seemed to meddle a bit too much with product at Key Lime Pie. He doesn't seem inclined to do so at Courage. b. Given the show's success and continued demands on his time, he's going to be less and less able to do a hands-on turnaround of struggling businesses. The finessing required at Courage. b is ideal. No question that by the end of the episode, Courage. b has experienced some degree of success. Lemonis cleaned up the shop. That's really about all they need from him. The rest is up to Noemie.

Next episode: Artistic Stitch

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Don’t ask a Florida
woman to move to Georgia

It looks like the next endeavor for Marcus Lemonis, after 14 episodes of the CNBC hit "The Profit," might be shark-jumping.

Much of Season 2 and its 8 episodes felt a bit like a set-up — not by Lemonis, but by the supposedly struggling entrepreneurs seeking his input, people who were clearly aware of Lemonis' earlier ventures and wooed him possibly with less than impressive motives.

The lowest point of the franchise was Lemonis' collaboration with the Koehl brothers of Skullduggery, in Episode 5. Given that Lemonis' motto is "People, process, product," one wonders how he got past the first stage with this pair. Nothing in the episode was believable, starting with Lemonis' belief that glowing toy race cars would turn the company around, or that the brothers would use an idea lab, or that Lemonis actually believed the Koehls would impress a NASCAR exec, who is made the patsy in an utterly cringe-worthy moment of reality TV.

But the Fonzie moment occurred in Episode 4 (photo above), when Lemonis actually directs Nancy Pappas, the scorned half of the Worldwide Trailer Manufacturing leadership, to a home in Georgia he suggested she buy.

Businessman, investor, advice-giver, yes.

Realtor, no.

It seems "The Profit," in search of subjects, has run out of the shy entrepreneurs from Season 1 and instead stumbled into a hornet's nest of reality-TV narcissists who think the publicity from the show would be just dandy.

In a change from Season 1 probably little-noticed by viewers, Jaguar — and the images of Lemonis driving one that seemed contrary to the show's message of numbers and frugality — apparently declined primo sponsorship. Depending on the episode, this void was apparently filled by UPS, Chase's Ink card and Lexus. Sponsorship has always been the lifeblood of media, now more than ever. Given that ratings for Season 2 (given a big lift from "Shark Tank" reruns) were high, maybe Jaguar laments getting out.

The joy of the first season was watching Lemonis assist fairly small-time businesspeople in making improvements. The second season started off, unfortunately, with what felt a bit like poaching.

Episode 1 featured Pete Athans' shrine to high-end used cars/football/open space known as Athans Motors, a purported used-car dealership that isn't interested in selling any cars for less than $30,000 and whose greatest assets by far are the Bo Derek-like eyes of operations manager Erika (below).

Lemonis, who regularly states that he is investing his own money in these projects, portrays his Athans Motors overhaul as inspiring a snappy new name, AutoMatch USA, in which "we're gonna match the right person with the right car."

In fact, according to this December 2013 article, AutoMatch USA was already a division of Lemonis' company, Camping World, and had already established at least one location (in North Jacksonville, Fla.). Which means rather than orchestrating a "turnaround" of Athans, Lemonis was simply acquiring real estate for his corporate expansion against CarMax.

No question, Athans Motors appeared to be failing. Lemonis would certainly argue that without his investment, Pete would have to close the business and sell the land anyway; this way he's a stakeholder. But it's certainly a different business than Pete was running, and not one he seems particularly thrilled to be a part of.

In Episode 2, Lemonis' valid attempts to help A. Stein disintegrated into an outright purchase of Brooklyn Burger for $200,000 with no negotiation or consideration whatsoever. That story, painted like most episodes with a happy ending, was anything but a success. Lemonis in fact was compelled to sue over the rights to Brooklyn Burger after owners Howard Mora and Alan Buxbaum insisted that the $200,000 was merely a loan.

Episode 3, regarding Michael Sena's Pro-Fit (don't call it a "gym") personal training facility, was dubbed a 2-pronged success. Yet Lemonis and his crew seemed far more intrigued by Tina's protein bars than with the fitness center. While Tina indeed seems pleased with the Mariano's grocery agreement, the couple seems to have the priorities in different order, and Lemonis' closing mention of Pro-Fit adding "nearly 100 new members" suggests the fitness center is light-years away from a nationwide expansion.

"Failure" is too strong of a term, but the common theme of Season 2 is resistance. Very few of Lemonis' ideas for rejuvenating these businesses gained traction. His revamping of the Key Lime Pie Company into a more inviting dining atmosphere, and the closing of an unnecessary location, were successful. He also rightly enhances the margin possibilities at Sweet Pete's.

But the supposed new location for Sweet Pete's, deemed the key to survival, was nixed after repeatedly seeking extra months of free rent (apparently he has found a substitute).

The turnaround at Amazing Grapes feels authentic. Yet in the end it seems that all Lemonis has done is convert an upscale wine shop into a tavern.

One formerly infrequent Amazing Grapes customer tells a newspaper, "It’s a hell of a transformation. I’ve never seen this place with so many people. It’s more open, and now it’s a place to hang out. I’ll keep coming — maybe more often now."

Fair enough. But the Amazing Grace story, like the Athans Motors story, reveals Lemonis' troubling penchant for widgets.

Many entrepreneurs strive to be elite. The reality is that most of us make widgets to make a living. We live in a formulaic world.

Lemonis understands this all too well and in the process (one of his 3 favorite words), he doesn't mind crushing a few spirits.

Greg Schroeder was never going to rain money at Amazing Grapes and, without throwing good money after bad, was probably looking at closure. He was, however, able to boast a deep cache of inventory that would appeal to the wine snobs he presumably associates with. That's mostly gone, as are his band gigs, in favor of $9 vintage and sports-bar pizza. It's doubtful, given his reactions on the program, that he considers this a positive trade-off.

Pete Athans only wanted to deal in elite and/or collectible used cars from his football-shrine office. Now he's a part-owner of a CarMax-like franchise with no control over anything.

Obviously, Lemonis got utterly nowhere with the Koehl brothers of Skullduggery. They wanted his money, but none of his advice. Like Nancy Pappas and Tom Etheridge of WorldWide Trailer Manufacturing, the Koehls are more astute than they probably seemed. Those 4 could've produced better episodes if not thwarted by personality deficits, unlike Season 1's Sharla McBride, whose savviness and feistiness were impressive even if her obfuscation was not.

The best episode of the 14 remains the 1st, Car Cash. Brothers in the right place in the right business who just needed a boost. They were struggling to live up to dad's vision but had the heart. That's too rare. In Season 3, Lemonis needs to find some dreamers and show them the way.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Crusty owner
finds success easy as pie

By the end, it looks like everyone was seeing green.

It's only fitting that Marcus Lemonis would close out Season 2 of "The Profit" with an apparent success story, perhaps as a reward to viewers and himself for enduring what seems to have been a bit of a sophomore jinx in CNBC's entrepreneurial franchise.

The bottom, in terms of show value as well as investment return, had to be Lemonis' stint with the Skullduggery brothers. But Episode 8 at the Key Lime Pie Company was a much different story, despite the presence of several tiresome show cliches that apparently will remain a fixture of the series.

Google searches reveal that Key Lime owner Jim Brush, despite presiding over a struggling business, is already a veteran of reality TV, having appeared on the Food Network and CBS. So many eruptions in this episode are defused so quickly, one might get the impression that Jim is trying to create as much drama as pie crust. Yet, his red-faced unhappiness seems all too real, and viewers can only hope Jim doesn't blow a gasket before the profits start to roll in. Helping out here is girlfriend/co-owner Alison Sloat and reliable $300-a-week manager Tami.

This episode contains ample evidence of Lemonis' business savvy. However, it takes some inferring for viewers to figure out exactly why Key Lime Pie Company is not making money. And, as with many episodes of Season 2, the owner's intuition is not to be scoffed at, and perhaps on some level is superior to Lemonis' advice.

Brush's version of Key Lime Pie Company deals minimally in production. Most of the inventory, even the pie crust, is pre-ordered. This gives the operation a generic feel. Lemonis will state several times, "if we don't make it in the store, we don't sell it."

But making it requires effort and costs (and additional employees, evidenced by the grand reopening), from Jim as much as anyone, and Lemonis' philosophy here contradicts itself. He suggests that the packaged goods Brush had been selling are not making enough margin and then ultimately decides (this was the most important comment of the program) that the pie margin should actually shrink in order to declare the product "proprietary" and "all-natural" (as opposed to somehow "chemically infused"), and increase volume.

It's critical for viewers to discern between "proprietary" and "elite." Lemonis is all about the former, and definitely not about the latter. Despite Jim's awards, Lemonis wants to sell his pie for $16.95, cheaper than the $18.95 of "everybody in town."

Whether the typical key lime pie consumer is as impressed as Lemonis by the new "all-natural" variety remains to be seen. One early comment about selling to grocery stores is not addressed at the end of the program, but one thing that's addressed is whether Macy's, an important customer, is going to want the new version of the pie. (Lemonis says that if it doesn't, he'll sell the pies to somebody else.)

If nothing else, viewers learn how difficult the key lime pie space apparently is. Lemonis invites 3 of the top pastry chefs in Key West to make their own key lime pie. Each offering (one is in a jar) is deemed a bust.

Lemonis seized on the primary problem of Jim's operation (which despite Lemonis' constant complaint is not the Keebler crust) — he's simply not making or selling enough pie. And, he's got an extra uneeded location that is costing him a fortune. Those are addressed. Yet, a lot of loose ends are left dangling here, and the new and improved Key Lime Pie Company does not quite seem a slam dunk. An unwanted long-term lease must be dealt with, the pies are going to require more cost and labor, and the pie margin is going to shrink.

Among other curiosities, "The Profit" has amply demonstrated that business owners seem to care about nothing as much as their logo. Tell them you can make them profitable, you get a shrug; tell them you're changing the sign, you get a fight. Jim is just the latest entrepreneur to nearly go apoplectic when Lemonis' staff unveils the new imagery. (A sidewalk chat, rather than a walk along the waterfront, is enough to overcome the problem.)

Brush, one of the most impressive entrepreneurs of the series despite perhaps a lack of vision, told the Miami Herald that he "learned a lot of things" from Lemonis' presence. Unlike many of Lemonis' subjects, the shop's Web site trumpets "The Profit" and even offers a "Profit" special for $69.95.

Prior to the airing of this season, Lemonis promised viewers updates on Season 1 programs. Those updates have been largely nonexistent in Season 2. Quickly becoming as much of a cliche as the restaurant rejection, then acceptance moments later, of Lemonis' offer (and the berating of an valiant employee) is Lemonis' notion of selling the company's enhanced product in grocery stores, or (if non-food) franchising it nationwide.

Lemonis acknowledges in at least a couple of episodes that these businesses are in a very competitive space. Ice cream, pie, wine, toys, hamburgers, car sales are all hyper-competitive. Whether these particular operators can leverage their treats into national brands seems a reach. It seems Jim will be happy to settle for a slice of profit.

Next: Wrapup of Season 2

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: A narcissist’s
wine bar saved by pizza

He not only rips out the walls, but the eliteness.

Marcus Lemonis' turnaround of Amazing Grapes is one of the better episodes of "The Profit," as a demonstration of his weakness as well as numerous strengths. Unfortunately, just when things start to get good, the increasingly annoying series cliches resurface: The current owners aren't exactly visible, they pretend to be shocked and offended by the offer only to shake hands and smile about it seconds later, and finally have to angrily walk off when they feel disrespected. (At least Lemonis didn't have to take a seaside walk to clear his mind and determine if he really wanted to do the deal.)

The owners of these businesses are quickly becoming clones of each other, their arguments no doubt affected by what they've seen in previous episodes.

At least Amazing Grapes' Bill didn't pull a Dane (see below); it's hard to figure out why Bill wasn't hugging Lemonis upon entering to thank him for taking this investment off his hands.

"I could be, not involved," Bill says.

Lemonis doesn't dwell enough on the real problem at Amazing Grapes, so it must be inferred. Wine is an extremely competitive business. Decent variations are produced cheaply from many places in the world. Wine aficionados have many places to shop, including the Internet. Markups are low. The odds are stacked against Amazing Grapes.

Greg Schroeder, painted as the bad guy here, is not so bad as the show tries to imply. Clearly disorganized, he has nevertheless kept the business afloat and kept quality employees on hand despite losing money.

It takes a while, but Greg does demonstrate a spirited feistiness toward making Amazing Grapes elite. He might actually be the twin brother of Pete Athans, the car dealer in the 1st episode this season who prided himself on building a waiting room like no other. Unlike Athans, Greg has yielded enough control (probably because he doesn't go to the office every day like Athans does) of the operation to allow Lemonis to overhaul it with relatively little pain; no relatives are compelled to resign this time.

Amazing Grapes allows Lemonis to demonstrate more marketing savvy than in some previous episodes. To his credit, Lemonis recognizes that serving wine to bar diners, not selling them bottles from a distributor, is the only way to get a decent margin on it. Again, viewers unfortunately must notice developing cliches; the most profitable part of the business not given enough space, too much inventory that doesn't sell and must be cleared out, staffers taking sledgehammers to walls.

Disappointingly, there is nothing here about marketing or establishing a greater rapport with the wine-snob community. Lemonis never mentions hosting tastings or seeking magazine articles. This is the part of the operation where Greg can be a legitimate asset. Dan and Mike do not seem like they'd be comfortable breezing into upscale environments and chatting people up on a wine bar. That's what Greg should be doing. He would probably claim that's why his band plays there once a month. (Clearly, his opinion on that is biased.)

It seems a lapse to hear Lemonis ask Dan, "Do we have an e-mail list or anything we could send out to people, for like an alert?" And then not ask about the substance or potential of the list as Dan answers, "Absolutely," offering no other details."

While Lemonis implies a happy ending here — and Yelp comments indicate the place is popular, although it's worth noting that pre-Lemonis comments are equally praiseworthy — one has to wonder what Amazing Grapes is turning into.

This episode is an excellent example of how a lot of owners treat a small business. Entree to a community, a semi-hobby, a place to hang out, useful for tax purposes.

Premium is lacking in Lemonis' turnarounds. He cares not if a business is sexy, only efficient, which few sexy businesses are. Greg and his other partners are not there to sell widgets. They want a "cool" place where wine lovers will congregate and listen to cool bands and discuss pricey international brands and windsurfing and bitcoins. And hopefully make a little money while doing it.

Lemonis wants a bar that serves $9 private label wine, and apparently plenty of "pizza," whose declaration as the most popular menu item should've brought groans.

By the end, the Amazing Grapes makeover looks good.

It also tends to resemble a lot of other restaurants that offer wine.

Neither Dan nor Mike seemed that excited about the visit to the private-label wine wholesaler.

Nor was Brian, the retail manager who leaked his assessment of the plans to the mayor in an effort to be "proactive," apparently in the zoning "process," which happens to be one of Lemonis' 3 favorite terms.

Let's hope it's as generic as the product.

Next episode: Key Lime Pie Company

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Never partner with a guy seeking the 4-hour work week

Marcus Lemonis' experience at Sweet Pete's candy shop figured to be the most sugary episode of Season 2 of CNBC's "The Profit."

In a lot of ways, it was.

But this potential feel-good story is soured by endless conversations with an obstinate partner that, by the end, fail to yield any sense of closure.

Pete and Allison Behringer are the extremely likable Tampa confectioners who made one of the worst business deals ever, with investor Dane Baird, who 1) knows nothing about candy, 2) does not want to make candy, and 3) is probably going to be harder to extricate from this operation than the show conveys.

For television, there is a bigger problem. Dane is not at all interesting. He is not even polarizing. Yet, he is on camera constantly.

Dane comes across as reasonably educated. However, his arguments in favor of his interest are less than articulate. Either he has made no contribution, or he is unwilling to state his case. Given the ample time he's given in these soundbites, one has to conclude the former.

Presumably, Baird deemed the Behringers a low-risk investment, a tenant for his property with a big-time recipe book. It was, in fact, a savvy investment on his part. Whether he actually believed the Behringers would succeed and enrich him is unclear. But he certainly is aware that Lemonis' presence signals value in this particular investment.

Lemonis never makes clear why Dane's presence is even needed for this episode. Yes, it is probably useful to show Dane's lack of interest in making candy. But why is Dane, and not the menu or the classes or the location, getting the bulk of Lemonis' attention here?

Lemonis seems determined to drive Dane out of the picture, apparently on principle, to prevent him from profiting from this business' revival. Dane does not appear to interfere with the operation, but perhaps he might if it becomes successful; that would be another reason to buy him out. The inference is that Lemonis recognizes that Pete and Allison signed a bad deal. The price of simply walking away from Dane — giving up recipes and the name, which Baird could presumably continue to operate with different candy-makers — is steeper than the Behringers want to pay.

So, Lemonis apparently spent much of his time applying pressure to Dane in various ways to get him to fold. While this angle gets the most attention, less is said about the product and marketing and what the business really needs for a turnaround. (It does, in fact, lose money, according to those involved.) In fact Lemonis spent more time on Tina's protein bars at the ProFit gym (see below) than he does with Pete's candy creations.

Sweet Pete's, Episode 6, is the 2nd business in this season of "The Profit" based in South Florida, where Lemonis is from. This seems the only way Lemonis could produce 8 episodes in a season. He is said to live in the Chicago area, where 2 other episodes are based. One, A. Stein meatpackers, is in the New York/New Jersey area, where Lemonis makes occasional appearances on CNBC. One business, Skullduggery, is located in Southern California. Someone with this many demands on his time must be judicious about travel decisions.

How successful can Sweet Pete's really be? Lemonis observes that candy-making classes are high-margin. Whether Sweet Pete's is capable of booking 3 classes a day of 20 people, for an ongoing period of time, seems iffy — especially if Steve is required to teach every course, taking him out of the kitchen. (Lemonis does not opine on whether another employee could effectively sell a class as well.)

The move to the new building is still, according to the program, a year away. Certainly it figures to be an upgrade on the current location. But as this Florida Times-Union story indicates, the new location "will take a lot of work." Whether Pete and Allison, who seem like fine employers, can effectively run a retail shop, teach classes, drive a food truck around and manage Internet orders, is not a certainty.

Dane, in fact, may have a leg up on Lemonis in knowing what it's like to work with Pete. In fact, it's shown that Pete had a falling out in his mother's Peterbrooke store, which prompted him and Allison to start Sweet Pete's with way too little capital. Sometimes, highly creative people are difficult to work with.

Ideally, viewers somehow should be better able to savor Pete's treats. More ideally, Dane would see the writing on the wall, and do the right thing: Wish Pete well, help him and Lemonis move to the new location, and accept a reasonable buyout.

That notion, according to the Times-Union article, seems half-baked. "Baird said nothing has been finalized and that attorneys are still going back and forth," the article says. "'Either he’s going to be out,' Allison Behringer said, 'or we’re leaving with Marcus to start a new company.'"

If we had to guess, we'd say neither. Dane holds a dubious trump card. But given the investments, Pete and Allison are virtually free to cook away from Dane's thumb. He's Lemonis' problem now.

Next episode: Amazing Grapes

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Running out of toys

The Koehl brothers are far better at gamesmanship than you'd think.

"The Profit," in Season 2's Episode 5, wasted an hour of viewers' time and who knows how much of Marcus Lemonis' time.

Lemonis' initiative at Skullduggery wasn't believable from the opening montage.

It's clear that the Koehl brothers watched all the episodes from Season 1 and, like most businesses visited by Lemonis, really only wanted some TV airtime and a little cash. What they clearly don't want is NASCAR.

They apparently studied the game so well, they elicited a partial renovation of their offices evidently on Lemonis' dime.

Baffling from the opening visit is Lemonis' interest in this company. Clearly, he pursued an investment strictly for purposes of filling out a TV schedule.

Lemonis doesn't like the toys Skullduggery makes, he never comes close to clicking with ownership and he makes no effort to bring in other creative people.

Several times the Koehls insist they don't want a NASCAR association. Lemonis, the 30% partner, still forces them to go through the motions of a cringeworthy meeting with a NASCAR marketing chief. That Lemonis figured he would compel the Koehls to maximize such a marketing agreement (assuming they ever got one) is beyond belief.

Lemonis tries to convince the viewer that glowing cars are a gold mine, and that if he can reach a licensing deal, "We can make millions."

Basically nothing in this episode is believable. The Koehls do not need or want him as a partner. NASCAR is not going to turn this company around, nor is a new toy lab. The only thing that's believable is that Lemonis had to produce a certain amount of episodes, and this was the best of a bad tour.

It's almost repulsive to even consider praising the Koehls, who make fun of little kids, but in fact their assessment of a NASCAR relationship with their toy cars is probably more accurate than Lemonis'.

Lemonis never explains what age group he considers the target market for these cars. We don't have any stats and don't want any, but the guess is that kids excited by glowing race cars probably don't care much whether the toy says Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jimmie Johnson.

It's good that "The Profit" is not completely formulaic. The episodes can't all be happy. But Season 2 has seriously lacked the most compelling theme, which is a business of potential, having stumbled, first being reluctant to accept Lemonis, and then contemplating at least some of his uncanny observations. This made Planet Popcorn one of the most watchable of the series despite a rocky ending.

In Season 2, Lemonis is regularly encountering clueless or wooden management that makes uninteresting products and isn't budging on anything.

Startlingly, Episode 5 is a downright embarrassment for Lemonis, suggesting a certain gullibility for the sake of this program that viewers haven't seen before. Presumably the show has a way of negating any dollars Lemonis contributed to this business. Even so, Marcus got taken for a ride.

Next episode: Sweet Pete's

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: These businesses
need Oprah, not an investor

          Posted: Monday, September 9, 2013; Updated for Season 2, March 20, 2014

It's a "Real Housewives" wannabe.

WorldWide Trailer Manufacturing proved an embarrassing waste of time not only for "The Profit" host Marcus Lemonis but for viewers who managed to stick around to the end of Episode 4 of this 2nd season.

It was clear from the opening scenes that Lemonis wouldn't be investing a dime in this business, and his offer at the restaurant (why in the world did he raise it) calling for teamwork had to be about as convincing as John Fox's halftime speech during Super Bowl 48.

Strictly from observing this episode, it's clear this is what was really happening:

1. Tom Etheridge is tired of dealing with Nancy Pappas.

2. Tom Etheridge knows Nancy Pappas is a terrible businesswoman.

3. Nancy Pappas clings to this business like a joint life-raft because it's her only way to get back at Tom Etheridge for a perceived series of slights.

She admits as much, telling Lemons, "If we didn't have this business, I would never speak to him again."

So, for Etheridge, calling in Lemonis makes perfect sense. (Notice which one readily agreed to Lemonis' offer, and which refused.) Perhaps Lemonis will buy Pappas out, or at a minimum convince her that she and Tom shouldn't be in business together.

Except it's embarrassing that Lemonis spent more than 5 minutes here, then went to Georgia and actually claimed this could be a serious project.

Notice how Pappas responds to Lemonis' question about buying each other out. First she says (undoubtedly disingenuously) she hasn't bought him out "Because he won't let me." Then she says, "We're not in positions to basically buy each other out as far as the amount of money." Which is it? Lemonis doesn't try to figure it out. Had he spent any time on it, he should've realized that Tom would love for him to buy Nancy out, then Tom could get this headache out of his life and run a profitable business. But Lemonis somehow seems committed to the notion he can only work with both.

And in the process becomes a patsy to a "Springer" episode.

WorldWide Trailer Manufacturing may be succeeding as Lemonis suggests in spite of its ownership, a rare player in a unique market that is bigger than people would think. But Tom and Nancy should not be underrated for their sales savvy, which is clearly where their expertise lies. These people can clearly connect with the type of person looking to buy a food truck. (That is meant as a positive.) In several soundbites they do demonstrate keen knowledge of their end market. Even in her worst moments, Nancy displays appealing persistence. Neither is paying attention to details. There is no thinking out of the box here.

While Lemonis tries to persuade the owners to move to Waycross, it would make far more sense from the owners' perspective to move the production to Tampa, where they live and where the sales are being made. Pappas' explanation for the Georgia location is, "Because everybody who works at the factory in Georgia has been doing it for 20-years plus, so they're very good what they do." First, some are clearly in their 20s, so "everybody" hasn't been doing it 20-plus years. They would be equally good in Tampa if forced to move there. The decisive issue is that, based on Lemonis' scenes, the Waycross facility is no different from the Tampa site, and his observation that the Waycross guys express "a lot of enthusiasm" while sitting around listening to his questions rings a bit hollow. They run their own outfit (Lemonis points out Tom and Nancy never go there), and do a lousy job with inventory, so why Lemonis is praising them while blaming Tom and Nancy for the disorganization is curious.

It's clear when they get an order, someone is guessing which parts are needed, placing an order, and the parts are left around the yard until they get used.

Basically we have 2 owners who will forgo a healthy amount of profit to keep a couple dozen jobs in Georgia. Whether that's a good move or bad move depends on your sensitivities.

This episode further cements the trouble that "The Profit" is in. (See previous reviews below.) Lemonis has clearly run out of low-hanging fruit. He insists here that his role is "not to play therapist," but he's elected himself to that position in episodes 2-4 of this season. Every week he encounters entrepreneurs who need counseling far more than equity. He doesn't want to be Oprah, but he's reluctantly playing her on TV. He needs to start finding more big-time operations that appreciate his goals and assessment and check the girlfriends at the door. "Happy Days" got mediocre ratings until the Fonz started wearing a leather jacket; Lemonis needs to discover a patented hook, and quickly.

Speaking of the Fonz, the WorldWide Trailer episode practically jumps the shark when Lemonis drives Nancy Pappas to a house for sale in Waycross and suggests (with a straight face, incredibly) that she should move there.

A staple of "The Profit" cliché book — owners wrongly stating the profit/loss of the business — resurfaces here. Tom indicates he is forced to hide certain information from Nancy (presumably data on how many sales his girlfriend is making), but tax returns suggest both of them are making the same inaccurate profitability claim. Lemonis either didn't have the time, nor hopefully the inclination, to bring in his own forensic accounting team this time.

As has become the trend in much of Season 2 (but not all), Lemonis is unable to get WorldWide Trailer employees to candidly assess the ownership, though some in Waycross point out a lack of organization. As a small business, these are probably not union workers, though perhaps some of the specialists are. The impression is that Tom and Nancy are respected as rainmakers, they are moving product, and that is not insignificant.

Tom and Nancy bear similarities to Episode 3's Michael Sena, albeit on a much more successful scale. Each is highly competent at making the sale, but deficient at maximizing the business. "Let's be honest, I mean, we don't keep good track of stuff," Tom Etheridge says. When Lemonis arrives, it's square pegs meeting round holes.

Tom will need another tactic to extricate Nancy from his life. The price for his BMW is daily interaction with Nancy and occasional tirades. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: A wellness facility’s
best products are the snacks

Season 3 of Marcus Lemonis' "The Profit" is starting to shape up.

Episode 3, featuring Michael Sena's ProFit gym, is the best of the current season, which continues to lack the punch of Season 1. Several critical assessments are ignored or overlooked. Sena's gym, however, provides Lemonis with a new playground of opportunity, smartly evaluated and executed as always.

The odd thing about this installment is that Lemonis' plan is actually the goofy one. He states he wants to turn ProFit into a national brand, which means another generic entry into a costly, highly economically sensitive, tiresome space requiring far more acumen than that of Michael Sena.

Lemonis asks early, "What makes this gym different from every other 4 walls with paint?" Sena, who should've just said "Me and my wife," is close enough in insisting it's not a "gym," but a "small group personal-training and wellness facility." Yet Lemonis concludes with thoughts of pounding a square peg into a round hole, insisting he plans to get ProFit into a bigger space and "build it into a national brand."

Clearly the (very limited) value of ProFit is the enthusiasm and dedication of its owners. Michael Sena is undoubtedly an outstanding personal trainer. His gorgeous wife, Tina, is not only in phenomenal shape but seems an ideal ambassador for the barely 3-digit clientele.

But Michael Sena can't train every client every hour.

And if you're a client who's not seeing Michael Sena, it's just another gym.

Lemonis says, "I'm convinced if more people knew about this place, it would be packed all day long." Yet he identifies nothing besides the coaching of the owners as a unique strength. Ultimately it is implied that hiring yoga and spin instructors is the answer. ProFit staff members are briefly shown in the early minutes, but what they do is unclear. Also, none of them comment about their company on camera, possibly a first in this young series. Lemonis does not explain what he expects customers to get at ProFit that they would not get at a competing gym. In fact, he goes shopping with Michael Sena for fitness equipment that looks like the same equipment in every other gym.

Lemonis does not even address competition near the current ProFit location and his proposed one. Surely the proximity of another gym/club, and the proximity of 20-30-somethings who might join either, would be a major factor in a location decision.

Nor does Lemonis address another extremely critical element, pricing. Do ProFit customers have to commit to a year's membership? Are credit cards mandatory or can they pay in check/cash? What's the cancellation rate? What's the average tenure/age of current members? Does ProFit employ the unfortunately typical health-club practice of demanding long-term memberships and automatically renewing memberships?

Unlike other episodes, which featured savvy marketing ideas, Lemonis says nothing about marketing ProFit. Could there be a Facebook campaign, a grand opening of sorts, or perhaps mall recruiting demonstrations? Lemonis seems to think merely plunking down a gym into a busy strip mall will bring in customers.

A decent amount of time is spent on Lemonis' directive to Sena to get out of the current lease. While much hand-wringing occurs over the iron-cladness of the contract, never is it suggested, even by Lemonis, that they just ask the landlord and see what he/she/it says. Given Lemonis' saves in other episodes, the inference then must be that Lemonis' company was unable to make any headway here behind the scenes. He does chide Sena for not pursuing subletting, but finding a tenant willing to pay close to the $5,800 a month for a gym space in a mostly empty strip mall with plenty of other vacancies seems a tall order. (Karate studio, anyone?)

Were the episode only about the gym, it would be an obvious bust. But Lemonis manages to find a diamond in the rough in the form of Tina's aftertaste-free protein bars. They are good enough to sell to grocery stores, Lemonis says, which figures to be the Senas' real meal ticket.

Lemonis acknowledges that the health food space is highly competitive. Never do viewers see Lemonis, Tina, or even Lemonis' equally striking ad agency expert, Erica, taste-test Tina's protein bars vs. other protein bars on the market. They seem far more interested in the packaging (undeniably important), which gives this endeavor a tinge of artificiality. The program almost makes Tina's launch seem too good to be true; she gets an instant offer from a grocery chain (that wants exclusivity) during the only sales pitch we see. Whether Lemonis is leveraging this product against others he might supply to the chain is unclear. While the product may sell, it may not be a blockbuster. Whether Tina will be able to make similar sales on her own is questionable.

A pair of regular show shortcomings resurface in the offer scene, in which Lemonis takes the Senas out for dinner and a couple proposals, and within a few soundbites, we've got handshakes and hugs. Anyone presented with such offers as the Senas are would be a fool to make a decision on the spot, without asking any relevant questions (in this situation, whether Lemonis plans to bring in an associate to boss Michael around would be a critical issue), including as this page has previously noted (see below), asking others what it's like to work with Lemonis, whether Lemonis has the right to sell his share of the business to an unknown 3rd party, and what entity of Lemonis (personal/corporate) is actually making this investment (in other words, is ProFit becoming a unit of Camping World).

Presumably, as in other episodes, viewers can infer that some groundwork must've occurred before the pivotal meeting, and important papers must've been signed somewhere, hopefully with a lawyer sitting beside the Senas for their own peace of mind even though Lemonis' handshake is rock-solid.

Maybe he was desperate for new-show material. Or maybe he's a softie for the Senas. In any case, based on what he says, Lemonis makes a massive miscalculation with ProFit.

The Senas don't want an overhaul and a national brand. They don't want to relocate ProFit. They want advice and a cash infusion. That's not Lemonis' thing. He has his own brand to protect. So we end with the fantasy that ProFit will become a successful chain as rationalization for his partnership with the Senas (and production of this episode).

The unmistakable conclusion is that Michael Sena, a lovable teddy bear of a muscleman, isn't capable of running a thriving business and isn't even close to being on the same page with Lemonis.

However — here's the difficult paradox — Sena should be running his own business and not just an employee somewhere. There's too much heart.

Whatever cash Lemonis pumps into ProFit isn't going to pay off. But he'll always be a source of reassurance for Michael Sena.

"I feel like you're Oprah," he says.

Next episode: Worldwide Trailer Sales

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: Where’s the beef?

In Season 2, Marcus Lemonis' "The Profit" is experiencing a sophomore jinx.

After the 2nd episode, we have to wonder whether the TV franchise or A. Stein Meat Products will be out of business first.

Lemonis' sleepy examination of the likable Brooklyn meatpacker uncovered little except that nobody really knows what's going on here.

Stein is supposedly "run" by Howard Mora and Alan Buxbaum, who in this program seem far more like bemused bystanders than actual owners.

Only office manager Donna seems concerned about the bank account, to the point of tears. (Perhaps she should team up with Tony of the former Athans Motors (below) and launch a real business together.)

Aside from Donna's lamentations (her job security apparently is enough that she can say what she wants), the standard moments of the excellent first season — Lemonis' rapid-fire observations, clever branding and renovations, candid comments from the rank and file — are absent here as Lemonis drags viewers through an hourlong mess that ends, unfortunately, for the 1st time in the series, with the slight perception he is taking advantage of his subjects.

Lemonis admits in the beginning, "I'm a bit baffled by the annual losses." By the end, we all are. The business is clearly poorly run, but Lemonis never explains why this $50 million operation somehow cannot be profitable without a blockbuster grocery store product. Moving warehouse equipment around seems like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. To last this many decades, at some point, it must've been profitable. Either Stein is not selling its beef for a high enough price (see the Car Cash guys), or it is paying its suppliers too much.

This episode is dogged by a regular Season 1 issue: The terms of Lemonis' involvement are far from clear. First there is the typical handshake "deal," which as viewers know is really not a deal but just an option that Lemonis is free to not exercise. Lemonis says "I've made the decision to terminate all of the sports contracts" (the tour of the arena concession stands is a rare show highlight), but whether he has the authority to do this if he has not actually consummated his $1 million offer is a mystery.

The owners are never seen objecting, so apparently, they're canceled.

Lemonis implies that the stadium deals aren't working because the burgers aren't touted well enough on the concession signs, and because, on a night of light attendance, he doesn't see enough fans at the stands. Yet, if "at the end of the day it's a business decision," why does Lemonis care only about that when he and his elite accountant should be able to figure out whether Brooklyn Burger stadium profits exceed the $400,000 contract costs?

Much of the limited hook of this episode centers on Lemonis' idea to turn Brooklyn Burger into a grocery-store blockbuster. By the end, it's totally unclear whether 1) this is working or has even occurred, and 2) whether lost stadium revenue will further hurt the company before the grocery plan has even taken flight.

Mora and Buxbaum (one of them gobbles raw meat while giving Lemonis a tour) have no idea what they're doing, floating a ridiculous offer over dinner at Peter Luger's before readily accepting Lemonis counteroffer with hugs and smiles.

The ending, in which like kids receiving an allowance they accept Lemonis' $200,000 offer for the Brooklyn Burger brand (with no indication of who has the rights to what, an important matter given that these burgers are/were official burgers of the ballclubs depending on whether Lemonis legitimately canceled the contracts) without pushing back or considering any alternatives, is sad, pathetic, and embarrassing to watch.

Lemonis indicates on the show that after buying Brooklyn Burger for $200,000, he will remain a consultant to the company (and security blanket to Donna) and that it won't fail. But according to a newspaper article, he's done with Stein. Chances are, if Mora and Buxbaum had any kind of clue or sense of urgency, they could wring some union concessions, plead for extra time from their creditors, and perhaps even get a break from the Yankees while searching for someone competent to run the business full time.

Hopefully, that's what happened since the episode was filmed.

Through no fault of Lemonis, "Shark Tank" has caught fire on CNBC, to the point Kevin O'Leary is making a second home at Post 9 of the NYSE. "The Profit," meanwhile, is fully dependent on 1 no-nonsense person to produce extremely labor-intensive programming. The shows are undeniably brilliant for entrepreneurs. A week after the tepid turnaround of Athans Motors in which Lemonis did little more than buy used cars and stock the shelves with tire rims, "The Profit" is struggling for a payoff.

Marcus Lemonis’ ‘The Profit,’
Season 2: The only thing worse
than a micromanager is a bad micromanager

Pete's heart is in the right place. If only he knew what he was doing.

After an exceptional Season 1 of "The Profit," Marcus Lemonis opened Season 2 with a business story that is almost too hard to believe.

Athans Motors, we learn, is the north suburban Chicago shrine of Pete Athans, who curiously is more interested in collecting football helmets than actually selling cars. That's a problem. There are 20 vehicles available for sale, most costing more than $30,000 and apparently scattered around an enormous lot. Pete doesn't seem to want to let any of them go, nor does he have any money to acquire additional ones. Overruling his competent staff with incompetent directives is the norm.

What, exactly, he was expecting to happen here if Lemonis hadn't shown up remains a mystery.

As is the routine, Lemonis unleashes rapid-fire impressions as to why Athans Motors is failing. In this episode, the flaws are so obvious even teenagers could improve upon them, and Lemonis' necessary criticisms are not as compelling as the unrevealed backstory of how in the world Pete ever got into this mess.

Lemonis says the location of Athans Motors is good, an indication of some level of instinct on Pete's part. (Pete's background apparently is in real estate.) Yet, the place has to be seen to be believed. An enormously empty showroom contains artwork, big-screen TVs and video games. It seems there are more employees than cars. Pete talks about creating the "best customer experience anywhere in the United States." Perhaps he thinks he's at Chuck E. Cheese's.

The potential hero is Pete's cousin Tony, the general manager. "I wear all the hats," Tony says, but it's his career that's capped when Pete refuses to stop meddling. Tony's emotional exit, despite pleas from Pete to stay, suggests serious doubt that Pete will permanently change, despite the hugs at the end of the program.

Tony isn't the only staff member who seems high-quality, a cut above the typical work force of Lemonis' targets in Season 1. They respect Pete, even if his business is a laughingstock. Everyone seems to take pride in the quality of the product at Athans. It's not clear if any of them besides Tony believe changes are needed. Applause for Lemonis' pep talk is best described as "measured," and cute, enchanting-blue-eyed "operations manager" Erika is not detected clapping at all.

The turnaround is satisfying, but in this episode not particularly clever. Lemonis converts the former customer lounge into a mini-AutoZone, a welcome change. Otherwise the major strategy seems simply to acquire inventory. Season 1's opening episode featuring Car Cash involved an interesting assessment of how the vehicles are acquired and sold, but no such secrets are revealed here. What's most impressive is how Lemonis managed to draw customers on the snowy grand reopening day, but the program omits an explanation of the advertising.

As in most of the Season 1 episodes, the owner storms off after witnessing one of Lemonis' changes that had already been previously discussed. Pete's reaction to his name coming off the building, like that of the outraged proprietors in the first season, almost feels obligatory. It's too much to say he's hamming it up for the cameras, but it also feels the owners are aware that this is a TV program that needs drama and conflict. Lemonis will need more interesting, less predictable dialogue with his future business partners to keep the shows fresh.

Viewers can't watch this episode without secretly pulling for Pete. Whether he can ever run this kind of business adequately seems a bit of a stretch. Given that Lemonis owns a healthy share of the operation and installed his own general manager, it seems Pete will ultimately have to accept a backseat role, or cash in his Athans Motors dream — at a newfound profit — and try his luck with something else.

Review: Marcus Lemonis’
‘The Profit’ is a prime-time offer
that’s hard to refuse

If small business is indeed the backbone of our economy, we've got some tinkering to do.

Celebrated entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis, in his exceptionally watchable CNBC series "The Profit," poses the question of whether even unusually successful people are capable of heeding good advice and improving themselves ... or whether we all have discouragingly permanent limitations.

Watching Lemonis court business owners is akin to NFL coaches installing their offense on a prep team; a savvy, meticulous pro with the broadest vision engaging in a partnership with someone only sort of in the same profession and with decidedly different expectations. This combination/clash is what "The Profit" is about. When wisdom is pounded into someone with a 2x4, does he actually aborb it, or does it just roll right off.

The rocket science dispensed here by Lemonis generally is this simple: These businesses are not selling their best products for a high enough price, and not selling them to as big of an audience as they can. Some savvier tactics are more subtle: When you offer to pay in cash, you get a better price; you can't just make an offer but you need to sell the offer; why isn't your phone number displayed everywhere.

Four of the six businesses are run by males, though one of those four is virtually controlled by a matriarch. Lemonis introduces each business as flawed; it is not suggested that this series represents the entrepreneurial state of society. While many American businesses fail, most are run by dedicated owners well aware their livelihood is at risk. Yet it's hard not to notice the issues discussed in this series virtually everywhere we shop: Why is this store not cleaner, why do employees show up late or leave early, why don't they dress better, why is the place disorganized, why do I not see any advertisements, how come the owner never greets the customers, etc.

The architect of Camping World, Lemonis' verified credentials include consolidating at a young age businesses within the fragmented RV space into a recreational giant. A veteran of reality TV who is still somehow under 40, he strikes the perfect balance as the straight-shooting, no-nonsense purveyor of advice who also has a heart.

The businesses featured on "The Profit" need far more of the former than the latter. How these shops, generally family operations on each coast, came to invite Lemonis, and why he chose these particular operations, is not fully made clear. In several episodes, he indicates he likes and uses the products; more likely it seems that most of the companies, like the Maarse flower shop of Pasadena, are merely interested in a line of credit and perhaps some free publicity.

Nor is it ever clear what exactly are the terms of Lemonis' investments. The show zips through important financial details that are often left murky. In a head-scratcher, each episode strongly suggests the business owner has accepted Lemonis' check, but in some cases — after considerable renovation and expense (though one wonders if the experts Lemonis consults are doing it pro bono for the publicity) — we are told at the end that the deal is off and that Lemonis will not make the investment. (Only one episode ends with a threat of a lawsuit, which is resolved in an update at the end of the season.)

No matter. Viewers should not waste energy trying to figure out the rate of return. It's the depiction of the condition of these businesses, and Lemonis' rapid-fire, extraordinarily down-to-earth observations, that are gold. The first season concluded last week with its 6th episode. Each is crisply cut, and while the first 15 minutes are generally the strongest, the entire hour for each is watchable. Lemonis does not resemble an actor but has a high comfort level with the camera and, most impressively, articulates devastatingly accurate assessments in potent soundbites. It's impossible to believe that he is not a real-life idea machine.

Some of the testier conversations of "The Profit" indeed can seem, to use a charitable word, "anticipated." (Dubious examples are the $240,000 warehouse transaction by Mr. Green Tea and its father-son desk confrontation, the Cash for Cars showdown with the wholesalers, and the just-what's-needed-to-make-a-point customer roundtable feedback in the Eco-Me episode.) The alternative is also a problem. The show tends to interview managers and other employees opining on the ownership without the owners present. Mostly this does feel authentic, as staffers speak while figuratively looking over their shoulder. The problem is that it's too authentic, they clearly have more choice opinions than they care to have their bosses learn once the episode airs. When rare blunt honesty occurs, it's hilarious, as disgruntled LA Dogworks technician Neil explains to Lemonis, "Man to man, I'm planning my exit," and explains that after a confrontation with boss Andrew Rosenthal that if others hadn't calmed a tense situation, "I would've probably left here in handcuffs, and Andrew in an ambulance."

For the viewer, emotions alternate between cheerleading and frustration. Every one of these companies has an impressive product or concept and most have likable management. Inability to shepherd it all to glory is their deficiency. Not every situation can result in a happy ending; the material and Lemonis' motivations would quickly become suspect. However, half of the first season ends in hand-wringing letdown, not typical TV formula. And even the folks in the success stories seem vulnerable to reverting to old habits as soon as Lemonis' week in charge is over.

The premiere, featuring the New York City-based Car Cash, feels the most satisfying episode of the series but also feels a bit too easy. A likable brother combination, with apparent flaws in the relationship, is struggling to keep pop's gem of an idea going. While there are the necessary theatrics for television — taking sledgehammers to walls, flushing nasty toilets, arguing, elicting tears — it seems as though Car Cash's inexplicably simple problem is selling its merchandise for less than it's worth, an easy fix for Lemonis or any other quality consultant. The signature moment occurs when Jon Baron matter of factly tells his longtime wholesale associates that the jig is up. Why Baron believed in a pattern of handing the bulk of his profit to his wholesalers is unaddressed; he seems a much savvier businessman, and this discussion, previously fiercely resisted with Lemonis, seems to come out of nowhere.

Presumably the wholesalers do Baron the favor of selling; he doesn't have to leave his garage and strike deals on his own, a challenging process that does require more energy and resiliency than Lemonis and the program convey. But if your business is losing money, and the problem is the middleman, you'd think it wouldn't take a CNBC crew to make that clear. Apparently satisfied with the experience, Jon Baron says of Lemonis, "It's hard to describe, but his vision is just unbelievable."

Skeptics might say that for his projects, Lemonis has cherry-picked the low-hanging fruit. He is improving businesses with an already-proven product, closely held, family-run shops that are run about as efficiently as a living room. He admits that Jacob Maarse, if alive, would've thrown him out. These are not visionary entrepreneurs seeking to maximize profitability, but regular folks accustomed to the way of life that they've happened into and not eager to disturb. The only problem? They could use some cash. And they'll listen to his advice, but they don't want his meddling.

What's always important is what is not seen in the program. None of the entrepreneurs Lemonis visits ever ask about his credentials. Presumably they are aware in advance of what they're getting into; a TV show and an investor looking to make more of a return on ratings than equity. Some insist he can't know their business as well as they do, but none are shown contacting others who have done business with Lemonis to vouch for his abilities or character. Nor do they ask highly relevant questions such as, "How do I know you're not going to sell your share of my business to someone else?" "How do I know that if your own business fails that the stake you own in my buiness doesn't become part of bankruptcy court"?

Whether they did ask, and their questions got left on the cutting-room floor, is not known, but Lemonis points out in the premiere how much he likes Jon Baron's counteroffer, the notion of someone asking for more, so it's unlikely he would've axed this type of critical dialogue had it occurred. (Unless someone found out something that producers didn't want aired, but to be fair, there is zero indication of that.) Surely at a minimum it would be helpful to ask, "How do I know you're not just here to make a short-term splash, produce a good TV show, then leave me hanging with obligations I can't meet."

For whatever reason, in the end, Lemonis (with the possible exception of Hank Maarse) is the sole party making the decision on the partnership. It would be perfectly right for any of the business owners to tell him, "I think you have a good strategy, but it's more demanding than what I can commit to in life. I can't do it." But no one ever does.

Also what's not seen is a decided motif. A New York Times writer noticed that Andrew Baron in the premiere was often seen holding a tiny dog. This is the visual that Lemonis himself needs for injecting (however quirky) variety to the show. This is what the creators have missed. Maybe after a long day at the office he sits down and asks his golden retriever what he should do. Or maybe he calls a 90-something grandma, a Betty White type, and gets her opinion. He could also use a slogan ("People, process and product" is too generic and not catchy enough, and "You're Fired" is taken). Apparently the working title of the program was "The Big Fix."

Effective as the first season is, sustainability for "The Profit" will soon become a concern. Other channels do similar features, and future batches of businesses featured on the show will all be well aware of what happened in Season 1 and will be prepared for Lemonis' tactics and know what he likes. The shows lack a conclusion or endpoint and given the long-term nature of these initiatives, leave viewers hanging as to how much profit Lemonis makes or whether the businesses fully accepted his ideas. Presumably future episodes will revisit early projects.

This being competitive television, it's an obligation to note that the individuals Lemonis helps in Season 1 (with 1 exception) do not look like models. At some point it seems clear, Lemonis will have to show bikinis. It'll be a woman with a surf stand in Malibu or an apparel maker in the Gulf of Mexico or a music upstart trying to create a show for MTV.

The only disappointment to "The Profit" is Lemonis' blatant sponsorship of Jaguar. By no means is this page scoffing at sponsorship — thank goodness Jaguar is stepping up to finance a quality series. The problem is that Lemonis is shown repeatedly in his F Type sports car zipping along California freeways, conveying as late-night, get-rich-quick infomercials do that the real reward to a successful business or career is buying your way into life's fast lane. To his credit, Lemonis does not convey this notion elsewhere in the program. It's apparently decided by CNBC brass and the Jaguar people that this is a necessary image of sponsorship.

Unfortunately CNBC's commercials for "The Profit" are less than stellar; they stress arguments and show most of the particulars in their worst moments, saving Lemonis' gems for the viewers who actually tune in.

Whether Jaguar and the upscale retailers who advertise are getting as much benefit as the businesses Lemonis courts is doubtful, though curiously, none mentions this program (at least with any prominence) on its Web site. However their long-term investment with Lemonis pans out, the program should rain at least a small amount of orders on the businesses profiled. Shockingly to many people's perceptions of car dealers, the Barons come across as trustworthy. Planet Popcorn and Mr. Green Tea each make you hungry for snacks. Eco-Me will get your attention the next time you're in the toilet-bowl aisle, and your pet ought to like LA Dogworks. Even the depressing story of the Jacob Maarse floral shop will probably prompt viewers to check it out to see if Hank is a real person.

Lemonis toes the line between pushing his subjects and embarrassing them. The latter line is possibly crossed with Eco-Me's hapless Jen, but for the most part, the people at these businesses can only blame themselves, exposed for the cocoon-like insularity with which they run their livelihood.

Lemonis' least-convincing project is the Jacob Maarse floral shop. The proprietor, Hank, is beyond awful, but impressive employees who fondly remember the Jacob years give the place continued credibility, however diminishing. The facilities are not nearly as shoddy as in most of the other businesses. Lemonis' initial complaint is that the shop is too unorganized for customers, a valid observation, but his overhaul, while clearly constructive, doesn't seem a game-changer.

Nevertheless, the greatest individual success story of the series is likely the Maarse shop's beleaguered general manager, Marina Santos (pictured with Lemonis above), a bright and cheery go-getter who has been politely chafing under her dreadful boss. It does not hurt that she is stunning and resembles Sandra Bullock and owns the camera in her scenes. Unfortunately, it's frightening at the end to realize that, after flourishing with a new assignment, she will soon be reporting again to Hank, an individual who manages to come across as intoxicated even though he's not drinking.

Lemonis is best when sticking to the basics: how clean the place is, what the margins are. In some instances his advice is debatable, particularly with logos and the fact he presents the founders of these businesses with the designs he has commissioned rather than allowing a prior consult. He seems fascinated by glasswork and whether the windows he installs are actually plexiglass.

Robin Kay Levine, the likable founder of Eco-Me, tells an immensely powerful story of how she began creating superior cleaning products. Yet she's somehow oblivious to the reality that her company is potential big-league talent playing Class AA ball. It apparently never occurred to her that a machine would significantly boost production. Shockingly, she describes this unorganized, unfocused klatsch of a company as "my child," for whom her aspirations are barely the size of Joyce's office. Bottles of cleaning solution are given names of friends. ("There is an Emma, yeah. There is an Emma.") The untold mystery of Eco-Me is how it ever got a product onto Lemonis' radar screen. He chides Levine for changing a logo without consulting him but inexplicably doesn't point out that neither one is effective, with too many tiny symbols.

Sharla McBride, CEO of Planet Popcorn, seems at once the savvy, tough businesswoman you want to know ... and a flake. Planet Popcorn has a unique boom-bust approach with its petty cash — buying lottery tickets. "The Profit" never suggests that anyone got the better of Lemonis, but if anyone did, it had to be McBride, whose profitability suddenly skyrocketed once Lemonis' forensic accountant took a look. Her mother and daughter and boyfriend, responsible figures all, probably upon seeing the episode began wondering what's going on. But no one is likely to ask. It's a good thing Lemonis doesn't reveal the location of the Planet Popcorn HQ, which he notes has gobs of cash lying on the floor and "would be a cool place to rob."

Likely the most polarizing figure of Season 1 is Andrew Rosenthal, the founder of LA Dogworks, an entrepreneur with a heart of gold for animals and a heart of lead for his staff. While employment there would seem disturbing, the place also seems safe for pets. Lemonis' suggestions here about better advertising the services and making the cages more appealing to the pet owners are sound but feel incapable of significantly moving the profitability meter. Lemonis acknowledges the real problem with LA Dogworks is getting Andrew to lighten up and broaden his approach. In this episode, Lemonis' shtick proves counterproductive, as his relentless battering of Rosenthal's personality overwhelms opportunities to stoke Rosenthal's considerable (if quirky) brainstorming potential. Rather than cleverly push Rosenthal's buttons, Lemonis delivers lectures, then an all-too-easy self-help moment probably too sappy even for Dr. Phil. Ironically, Rosenthal, a Brooklyn native according to Dogworks' Web site (which lists several media references but not this program), delivers the show's greatest professional compliment, justifying his handshake with disgruntled employee Neil on the grounds that Neil "would never do anything to hurt a dog."

The concluding episode features the steadiest business of the series, Mr. Green Tea, an appealing 2nd-generation ice cream seller in the Northeast. There is minimal drama here, and the warehouse deal feels as prepackaged as the ice cream. Apparently "very, very conservative" Rich Emanuele simply needs someone besides his son Michael to push him into building his own factory. By inviting the cameras in, it seems the decision was likely made in advance, and disappointingly, it feels like the family was instructed to negotiate for a $240,000 site without knowing the trick (uncovered by Lemonis' researchers) for making this transaction lucrative. (One wonders Lemonis' reaction if Michael had succeeded in buying the site under the less-appealing terms for $230,000.) Yet, there is a beautiful depiction here of a father who has run a successful buiness for many years skittish about what he knows are the workaholic demands of expansion, clashing with his ambitious son who rightly believes expansion can work but whose financial acumen is decidedly — scarily — reckless. Lemonis says in the program that he looked at the company Web site but apparently never saw the grammatically challenged "about us" page and the fact it makes no mention of the appealing continued family ownership. (The family reflexively says on the show the company was founded in "1968," though the Web site merely says "late 60's.")

Parental bailouts are a common theme of "The Profit." It could probably be inferred that every business detailed in the program has probably relied on some point on parental cash (four of the six explicitly reveal this). In two of the episodes, reliance on an all-too-forgiving parent, who is being taken by sheer incompetence, is borderline disturbing.

Yet there's a poignant, cold reality here: People have a life outside of work. So does Lemonis, though it is conveniently never shown. With life and business, there are tradeoffs. More money put at risk in the business is less available for vacations or a new home. Many people don't want to be, as Lemonis boasts of himself, the first at the office and the last to leave each day. CNBC claims that Lemonis has successfully turned around more than 100 businesses in 10 years. Just one would be a considerable undertaking for anyone, especially those below the 39% tax bracket. A son bored by the daily grind observes that his cautious father "is not hungry anymore." An inheritor of a 2nd-generation landmark doesn't want to advertise his phone number because "then I'd have to work more." A co-founder is not going to be asked by her friend to move 3,000 miles to keep her job. Lemonis, already a very wealthy individual, is spending time away from his family to visit and scrutinize these businesses. Those facts are as real as his expertise.

Owning a business is plenty tough. It's not for everyone. Neither, it seems, is quality advice.

"The Profit" (2013)
Featuring: Marcus Lemonis, Jon and Andrew Baron, Hank and Clara Maarse, Sharla McBride, Robin Kay Levine, Jennifer Mihajlov, Andrew Rosenthal, Rich and Michael and Lori Emanuele

Original concept by: Charlie Ebersol, Justin W. Hochberg
Executive producers: Justin W. Hochberg, Charlie Ebersol
Executive producer: Amber Mazzola
Co-executive producer: Curnal Achilles Aulisio
Executive in charge of production: Tony Testa
Co-executive producer: Andy Scheer
Line producer: Talin Parseghian Middleton
Consulting producers: Tim Eagan, Lisa Knapp
Supervising producers: Fairouz El-Baz, Kimberly F. Oelman
Story producers: Sarah Bullion, Elizabeth Jones, Gloria Paymani, Brent Washlake
Story associate producers: Kevin M. Smith, Alex Anah
Field producer: Steven J. Hoffmann
Field ap: Shae Anne Morales
Segment producer: Daniel M. Kim
Segment ap: Ari D. Chmielnicki
Directory of photography: Jim Wright
Camera operator: Mike "Mac" McIntyre
Jib operators: Danny Neal, Bob Smith
Lead editor: Matt Wafaie
Editors: Jon Alloway, Lee Arenson, Marc Cahill, Derek Chin, Mike Espinosa, Christina Fontana, Dan Golding, Anne-Marie Hess, Chris Jones, Tony Solomons, Ben Striz, Craig Vandeman, Wendy Lee Wallace, Aaron Wigo, Zougi
Post producer: Dee Balson Mollett
Post coordinator: Vince Forcier
Production manager: Jamie Lovewell
Production coordinator: Jessica Haesemeyer
Assistant production office coordinator: Jessica New Fuselier
Assistant editors: Dylan Bond, Hilario H. Rodriguez, Jesus "Chuy" Rosales, Isaac Dang, Eric Dinh Lu, David Scott
Lead assistant camera: Glen Diller
2nd assistant camera: Jason Brown-Lewis
Jib tech: Angel Pagourtzis
Re-recording mixer: Chris Testa
Graphics: The Other House, Gunslinger
Online editing and coloring: Sonicpool Post Production
Colorist: Jen Ruvalcaba
Online editor: Ricky Hayner
Casting provided by: Brendan Blincoe, Iconic Casting
Music score by: Vanacore Music
Main title by: Signature Tracks
Production accounting: Jennifer Stone, Jazmin Del Castillo, Media Services, Production Accounting
Promotional consideration furnished by: Jaguar
Executive producers for CNBC: Jim Ackerman, James Bolosh
THE Company, Machete Productions

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