The Turnaround Kid: What I Learned Rescuing Americas Most Troubled Companies

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Gerard Swanson started the business in and grew it into five stores. But everything changed after Lemonis didn't get the deal he wanted from the family, says Larissa Swanson, Gary's daughter. The day after the show aired, business started to decline," says Larissa.

The Swansons did not come across well on The Profit. They went on the show, looking for help to get out of a cycle of debt. It also gives Machete the right to record with "hidden cameras" and expose a company and its employees to "public ridicule, humiliation, or condemnation. Even for reality TV standards, The Profit contract is overly "aggressive" and founded on clauses that could result in the "abuse" of contestants, says one well-known reality TV producer. Jonathan Handel, a lawyer in Los Angeles who represents documentary producers, says, "This contract says they will portray you however the hell they want.

This is not something many people agree to unless they are desperate or ill-informed. The family rejected the sharply reduced price on the advice of their lawyer and, just before the crew returned to finish up taping, the lender served a foreclosure notice.

It turned out, according to Larissa, that Lemonis hadn't been making the payments on the mortgage, either. When asked if the Swansons were lying, he says: "It's their perspective.

But as an investor, I'm entitled to my perspective. In my mind, the reasons I didn't invest were on the show. I didn't feel like people were straight. A few days before Christmas , Swanson's Fish Market announced it was closing its doors. Gerard Swanson died the next day.

I have a long list of questions for him, including some about the contract business owners have to sign before appearing on The Profit.

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It's a contract with CNBC and the production company, he says, not him, which is technically true. I ask him about the simulated-investment clause--the one about deals on the show not being real deals--and why it's in the contract. Pressed again, the veteran dealmaker insists he's never even looked at it. There's nothing in there regarding me at all in the agreement. According to business owners who have been on the show, along with former executives and employees who have worked with Lemonis, his most basic strategy is: I'm a provocateur.

Lemonis identifies personnel problems or family issues--as he did with Chicago pizza joint Simply Slices in and inserts himself in the middle. The situation worsens and the founder needs to accommodate Lemonis by following his advice to get everything back on track. With Simply Slices, Lemonis got involved in a family feud, which resulted in the father's ripping off his microphone and walking out of the episode. Or there's the soft coup strategy. As a multimillionaire, he can pour so much money into a company that he dilutes the owner's equity--creating a situation that requires owners to put up hundreds of thousands of dollars, take on debt, or deal with lower levels of ownership.

They grew it to three locations through franchising and wanted to expand even more, but they needed both capital and business guidance. After Lemonis cut a check on camera, the producers took it back. But, he assured them, royalties would be coming. The Ferences were not part of the new company and not acknowledged as owners in any legal documents.

They're now suing and hoping for a jury trial. Why do you just get to hold onto equity for free? It doesn't work that way. David Slomski, the Ferences' attorney, sums up his clients' experience: "The Ferences had thriving businesses and if they'd never met Lemonis, they would've still had these thriving businesses," he says. If you watch The Profit , you'll see tears in nearly every episode. One of Lemonis's talents is that he knows how to excavate someone's pain, bring it to the surface, and create a bond by expressing his own painful memories.

Part of Lemonis's allure is that he is a relatable guy who freely confesses his own vulnerabilities. In June , during that joint conference with Inc. He also admitted that his biggest fear is that people will find out that he's not as smart as they believe him to be and how he could die alone. In the Secret Millionaire episode, Lemonis admitted he was bullied as a kid. I was the fat kid who was picked on. It's his wielding of aggressive financial tactics.

Over the next month, he gave more money, but then abruptly switched gears: Lemonis would be a lender, not an equity investor, and asked them to sign a promissory note with aggressive lending terms. But, through hard work and practical intelligence, the author was able to parley this event into a career. Kind of like multimillion dollar on-the-job training. The author seems like a nice, decent fellow. Certainly, I'd want a guy like that turning around the company i work for. He's no Al Dunlap.

He tries to rebuild the business, make it competitive, and actually talks multiple times about keeping the employer in the community, as a way for the people to fend for themselves. He reveals the scams the bankruptcy vulture executives pull, like attorneys and other execs who belabor minor issues just to create billable hours. It's in their best interest to NOT wrap things up. The reason i give this three stars is the 1st few chapters are irrelevant to most readers, and the author doesn't really feel the pain of the troubled company. He comes across as a nice guy who through stroke of luck became really rich by having his name in the rolodex for corporate bankruptcy executives.

He probably needs that perspective.


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But as someone who's seen the terrible devastation that happens when companies falter and near bankruptcy, i know there is much more emotion involved. A better book would have discussed this very real part of the process. The author never met with Chambers of Conference, never met with workers and their families.


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A third knock is that the descriptions he gives for how to fix failed companies sound so simple. The author just flys in on the corporate helicopter, literally , determines a few industry benchmarks, determine where the failing company is in relation to those benchmarks, and then takes action to attain the goal of the benchmark. He makes it sounds so simple! Anyone with a bachelor's or years in business would be able to come to the conclusions the author presents. I don't think that's unintentional.

I think it really isn't too difficult to do these jobs.

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The difficult part is to be in the club that chooses you to do these jobs. For the employees, those who care about the area, those with houses and schools to maintain, the pain is much more real than restructuring the balance sheets. But, it's good work if you can get it.

109 Comments

Interesting look at troubled businesses From Amazon Yeah he wears out his elbow patting himself on the back, but it's a pretty good look at what you do when you're dealt a weak hand. Steve, because of his childhood experiences on the family lumber mill, strives to achieve turnarounds at his companies while ensuring valuable jobs are not lost. The initial chapters are a tad bit slow because of the focus on family and personal life, but build a good foundation for the later one on his fast moving corporate career.

The main takeaway I got from this book is that people in your life matter and can be a good influence, i.

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Superficial From Amazon There is no depth here, no how to, no clear industry analysis, no clear cut metrics on his record, nothing beyond, "I went here and did this. I expected some real insight, some hard hitting analysis, some real fortunes made from good judgement, but got none. The guy just came in, did some superficial things like eating in the company cafeteria and either went BK, merged or hired the next CEO.