Any fan of CNBC’s The Profit, knows that Marcus Lemonis has an unconventional style. He’s turned around countless American small businesses on the show by asking the hard questions, and he brought his unique brand of tough love to his keynote at Xerocon Austin. No one in the sold out crowd was safe from his scrutinizing eye, but in the questions he asked audience members to think about lay a simple truth: the key to business isn’t business. Rather, it’s your understanding of people, how humans think, and more importantly how you think.
Marcus told delegates he had a difficult start to life as an orphan born in Beirut. After being adopted by an American family, he said he was incredibly lucky to be brought to live here, and while his life looked great – it was a different story beneath the surface. He told the audience that they should feel okay to be similarly candid and vulnerable with people – giving delegates the opportunity to share something with him that they thought would make him want to do business with him.
“Vulnerability is the key to business, opening yourself up and showing people who you are,” Marcus explained.
“We wake up everyday and we try to be big leaders and put on a happy face for our employees and families because we don’t want them to see weakness. I believe that that our weaknesses can be used as a sign of strength.”
He had advice for would-be entrepreneurs.
“I tell people coming out of college that they can’t be an entrepreneur until they work for someone else,” Marcus explained. “They need to be able to decipher the difference between a good boss and a bad boss.”
He told delegates one of the hardest things about being a business owner is being a steward of other people. But, being successful in business goes far beyond operating margins.
“What is the definition of a good business person?” Marcus asked. “If you’re good to your customers and if you’re good to your employees. The employees matter more than the process or the product.”
“Your success will not be defined by how much revenue you have but by your client roster and by the employees that you mentor who go on to open their own practices.”
Marcus ended by urging delegates to pay it forward to their clients.
“I came here today to get my message to you and get it to them,” Marcus said. “How do we get to more people quicker? Try to think about your small business owners differently than you used to. Share your family story and your pluses and minuses.”