“The Profit” kicked off its fifth season on CNBC Primetime with a deep dive into a failing family business, Swim by Chuck Handy. It was a classic example of the kind of turnaround Marcus Lemonis enjoys. It had a family of hard-working people (parents and two kids) whose talent took them only so far before they hit a wall both emotionally and financially. They applied to be part of the show and were willing to lose control of the business, with a little bit of a quarrel here and there, in an effort to save it.
Dad Chuck had been a swimwear sales exec for decades then began his own business. Wife Mary Lou was the inspiration to make and sell bathing suits for the plus-size woman. They and daughter Mary Ellen lived and worked out of their residences in New Jersey, while son Charlie held down the fort in a Miami location that served as the business’ only true office/work space.
But, they had not fractured from the pressure of losing money and disappointment and were primed for the kind of help Lemonis provides. Dad Chuck was the CEO, head of sales and design, which consisted of him touring department stores to see what was selling this season, then designing around it for next season. Mom worked a full-time job to keep benefits flowing to her and her husband, then worked nights on administrative chores. Charlie and Mary Ellen split the rest of the responsibilities, with Charlie thinking he was sneaking up on his dad to be the prime decision-maker.
Their annual sales had not cracked $1 million for a few years and in the two years prior they lost a bit under $100,000 combined. Their wholesale pricing was way off, and a major factor in the company’s inability to turn a profit. The kids hurt for their parents’ lost dreams and shaky finances. The parents feared their kids wouldn’t be successful and couldn’t seem to help them.
“The Profit” has always been about what Marcus Lemonis calls the Three P’s, process, product and people. If he could find enough talent among the four members of the Handy family, revamp the process, including the split locations, change the pricing structure, then home in on a swimwear product that was updated enough for the current fashion choices made by consumers of plus-size swimwear, he believed it was worth his time and investment.
Lemonis’ offer for 55% of the business was to inject $650,000 into the company, change its brand ( from Swim By Chuck Handy to Siloette), location, product offerings and connect it to other companies he controls for economies of scale. Charlie lost his Miami location and the business moved to New York City. What Lemonis learns after a deal is struck is who is strong enough to adapt. Charlie had the most difficult time, since he had to relocate to his parents home and lost the protection of his indulgent mom Mary Lou who tried to keep him failing.
Marcus knows that unless he has mom and dad on board, he can’t play hardball with the kids, and he masterfully pulled that off. Charlie had to stop whining, and also got blasted for the unnecessary hiring of two assistants without permission. Next, Lemonis demonstrated to Chuck that he was out of touch on the design and brand expansion side.
The guy is a master salesman and had to stick to that side of the business. Chuck also had to get past his reluctance to accept what the successful pros thought were good color choices and brand extension items that would attract a younger demographic. The real star of the organization turned out to be Mary Ellen who had been itching to assert herself. She bowled over Marcus with her energy, creativity and ability to work on her own and turn out ideas he loved. He named her CEO.
Charlie ultimately came around after a flogging or two and the family was able to create a trade show booth, an extended line of swimwear as well as accessories that bowled over the crowd. After 48 hours at the Curve trade show in NYC’s Javits Center, they had purchase orders for almost 40% of the previous year’s sales.
The episode flowed nicely and without the typical rancor among family members and bitching at Marcus for controlling all decisions; it was an enjoyable hour. This is just he beginning of the new season and there will be plenty of time for duplicity and craziness. For the Handy family, it was none of that. For that we thank them and the producers for kicking off the season in this way.
“The Profit” airs new episodes Tuesdays on CNBC beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT Image/video credit: CNBC< used with permission