For the past decade, I’ve dedicated myself to helping small business owners all across America achieve their dreams of running successful, profitable businesses that serve the communities in which they live. From a pie shop in Key West, Fla., to a toy store in Santa Claus, Ind., and dozens more in between, they all share the same desire to succeed and the same drive to overcome obstacles. I’ve seen it all after more than seven years as host of CNBC’s “The Profit.”
These last few months since the onset of COVID-19, small business owners have faced new and more serious challenges than ever before, and many of their lives have been turned inside out. There is simply no playbook for this pandemic, and what we now refer to as ‘the new normal’ feels anything but normal.
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, so much of who we are and what we stand for – as a country and as individuals – has been tested over these last few weeks. I believe that a diverse America is a stronger and better America; I believe in the power of different viewpoints and the responsibility to listen to those voices that have been ignored for too long; and I am committed to that in my public and private life.
My business is based on three core principles: People, Process and Product. They matter just as much as ever, but the ways in which I work on them with small businesses has changed. I can’t give the same daily doses of tough love; I can’t stop in for morning check-ins; I can’t conduct renovations or new product tests; and I can’t go for long walks with business owners to talk through their issues. So many of the ways I do my work have changed, and it has not been an easy or comfortable adjustment.
I woke up recently with a realization that in addition to all the small businesses I work with, there are more small businesses behind the scenes of my CNBC television show, through which I share these stories. I thought about the people working for the production companies who make their living helping me celebrate the successes and teach lessons through the failures by turning these small stories into larger narratives. Without these stories to tell, how do they survive?
What happens to the independent contractors who shoot the shows? The ones who write, edit or produce? Who do hair and makeup for the talent, manage the logistics or design the graphics? What about the people who represent the talent, negotiate the contracts, green light or promote the shows?
What appears to people outside the entertainment industry as glitz and glam we know is incredibly hard work. And that work – your work – is at risk. Your jobs, ideas and dreams are on hold, and no one can tell you when – or if – that will change. Ad sales are under tremendous pressure, the cost of adapting production to ensure proper distancing will be high, and the greenlight you have been working towards has turned yellow or red.
Americans have spent the past few months devouring content… content you created. Millions of people have turned to your work. Your news, films, serials, sitcoms, and reality shows have kept them informed and entertained. Your work has made a difference. Your work matters now more than ever, and I believe that the purpose and importance of your work will become even greater.
So how will you get through this period of instability and uncertainty? How will you continue to create and entertain and inspire? I think you’ll do it by remembering how you did it back when you were an intern or a production assistant, when you were so hungry for anyone to see your work that you figured out how to make it happen. I think you’ll do it by making the same sacrifices you made when you had the dream but not yet the clients or the network or the reputation. It isn’t so much if the industry will get back on its feet as it is when it will stand up again.
So when that time does come, will you be ready?
How will you answer the questions I pose to every small business owner I meet? Will you have done the work to change your personal habits and put others ahead of yourself? Will you have adapted the processes that you operate by? Will you have evolved the product or service you offer the world?
There’s never been a better time to look inside yourself and think about what you want, who you need around you and what your priorities are. And I believe that all of you in this industry are beautifully equipped to be ready. You are more creative than most, more resourceful than most, more willing to make sacrifices than most, and – best of all – you know how to shape the narrative and tell the story. The only difference is that now, it’s your story.
So let’s get to work. It’s time to stand up, dust off and move forward. The world needs what you have to give.
Marcus Lemonis is a serial entrepreneur and host of CNBC’s “The Profit,” which features Lemonis helping business owners turn around struggling operations. Since 2013 he has invested $50 million of his own money in companies featured on the show.