Entrepreneur and business investor Marcus Lemonis, during an IT Nation 2015 keynote, described his lifelong journey -- the low points, the rebounds, and his commitment to trust... even in the workplace.
Rewind to the summer of 1987. Lemonis was at the lowest point of his life. It was the evening, he was bloodied, he was molested two years earlier by a family member, he didn't have a lot friends and he contemplated suicide. He was in eighth grade.
He survived the night. But the years ahead would involve plenty of struggles. In high school, Lemonis lost weight and cut his hair -- but still struggled and didn't do well in school. He fled Miami, thinking he would reinvent himself. After high school, he headed to Milwaukee, Wis., for college to escape his former self.
In college, he was contemplating suicide again -- despite being adopted and given a wonderful home as a kid. "You always wait for the moment when things will change. Some of you may not have had that moment yet."
Back in college, Marcus was forced to repeat a class just to move forward in life. He started trying to cut deals with teachers and the administration to get out of the class. (The story is far more colorful than ChannelE2E has time to detail.) The bottom line: He cut his deal by discovering administration and teacher needs, and then made key parties offers they couldn't refuse.
"In that moment, I knew what I would do in my life." The answer: Figure out how to bring people together, figure out what each of them needs, and then make deals happen.
Why did Lemonis share deep details about his life with the audience? His response:
"Be honest, be vulnerable, so that you build trust. So now you somehow feel connected. The hard part now starts. The reason I am relatively successful is not because I'm the richest, smartest, best looking person in the room." Instead, it's about doing business with people you like and people you feel connected with.
Oh My: Marcus asked all attendees to stand if they work in a business where they want someone to quit. Most of the room stood up.
"I'm disappointed in those of you who are standing. It's your fault. When you own a business, run a business or manage it -- the people who work for you are like your kids. They are putting it in your hands because they're not capable of being leaders like you."
His advice: Go back to the office, grab that one person you want to fire -- but haven't addressed -- and tell them the truth. Say something like: "I wish you left this business and I haven't been honest about it. I take responsibility for you being late, for you being mean. It's my fault. Let's do a reset. And if it doesn't work out we'll both do something different -- but I'm going to stay here."
Everybody can hire the world's best lawyer to write a contract. But Lemonis prefers to get started with a handshake instead. "You can do it on a handshake, or you can slow the entire process down waiting for the paperwork."
He doesn't know where our culture lost the honesty of handshakes, "but it's gone. And that's why I do the show." The theme is not about business. It's about being a good person while building the business, he notes.
"You can be aggressive and kind. You can be hardworking and warm. You can be the best negotiator in the world and still be a good person. One has to do with your skill and one has to do with your character."
"These events are about learning about yourself as much as they are about learning about. I believe owning a business in this country is a privilege not a right. It's a gift. What you do with it really matters."
His biggest fear is dying alone. Others are now stepping up to the microphone to describe their biggest fears. They include:
- Being a fraud
- Failure in business
- Failure with family
- What if my child dies before I do?
The takeaways? Most of the room shares the same fears. Document them. Work through them. Attack challenges like time with family.
"Whether you have five or 500 employees, you need to do more. Not to make more money or have more clients. Do something more for your people. Listen to them. Not everyone can afford to write a check for philanthropy." Instead, lend an ear to an employee.
"There are people who need you more than you know. It's your responsibility; help them."
Sitting Down with Arnie
Bellini points out that there's a misnomer about technologists -- "They do have hearts. They are tender. Everyday can be a day where you feel beat down."
There are only about 30 percent of IT solutions providers that run their businesses correctly, Bellini estimates.
Focus on a slow and steady ride rather than a wild roller coaster, Lemonis recommends. "Rocket ships scare me because in my mind I think it's gonna crash," said Lemonis. "Don't confuse what I'm saying with being complacent. There's a balance."
- The employee you wish didn't work there? That's on you.
- Understanding it's a privilege -- not a right -- to own a business? That's on you.
- Being more vulnerable and open? That's on you.
Closing thought: You need personal relationships to sell.
- Marcus: "I've never invested in technology. I don't know enough."
- Arnie: "l'll help you."
- Marcus: "I have a ton of respect and humility for what you do . I'm astonished by how you make the world go round. I'm amazed by how smart this group is."