Latest Post

“The Profit”: When Ego Fights Brand Evolution

One of my favorite new shows I’m enjoying is CNBC’s “The Profit” in which billionaire Marcus Lemonis attempts to turn around struggling businesses by offering them a check and in return, he gets to do pretty much everything his way for a week, including making all decisions on the company. And the current managers can’t do a darn thing about it.

If you think all episodes featuring these business owners work out and they live happily every after, you’re wrong. So far, only about half of them have.  There are some businesses Marcus just can’t fix. And it’s not his fault – certainly not because of his business acumen. No, although Marcus judges a business based on People, Process and Product, from my point of view the reason some of these businesses featured aren’t successful deals for him really comes down to one thing above all:

It’s because the management doesn’t want to listen and can’t admit their mistakes.

Period. Oh, they can say they were wrong. But it doesn’t mean a THING in saying that if they don’t actually do something about it. And that’s where Marcus can help the business. But something in the human element is fundamentally flawed. They have other problems to be sure too – like not knowing their numbers accurately – but even that can be fixed easier over time.

For example:

One owner has anger management issues and can’t control his emotions. Everyone but him is wrong and stupid. He arrogantly thinks he knows better than everyone, including Marcus.

Two co-owners used to be a couple, broke up and now can’t stand each other…but they still jointly own a company. They’ve let their hate for one another ruin the business. Buy one another out? Nah. It’s easier to blame and point fingers.

One owner just doesn’t want to even be in the business and lacks all passion for making any kind of meaningful change. He bolts early on the day of the business’ re-grand opening.

The ones that worked out? Boy, do they work out brilliantly. Because they listen. Sure, they’re a little nervous to give up making decisions for the company temporarily for a week – come on now, A WEEK – and do things radically different in some cases, but they surely realize that the current path isn’t doing anything for them financially, emotionally and in terms of their goals and dreams. So they take the deal and shut up and listen to an outsider – an outsider who happens to be a highly effective CEO too. We’re not talking about Joe Schmo off the street.

I’m no billionaire (yet!), but I’m fascinated by this pattern when recommending changes not on the operational front but for brand strategy. It’s absolutely shocking to me when I see this play out on a grand scale on “The Profit” because these people are throwing away an absolutely golden chance to change their businesses in an opportunity they will probably never have again.

And for WHAT? Trying to be…right? Trying not to look stupid? Seriously? Seems pretty childish to me when, in the case of this show, an entire business hangs in the balance. But some are just…blowing it due to their constant inability to eat humble pie. And ironically, in doing so, look mind-blowingly idiotic for their digging in their heels anyway.

This is why the willingness to listen and be open to change is a pre-requisite for me. I can’t and won’t convince the patient they’re sick. They have to know they are. And they have to want my help – or at least somebody’s help.

Unfortunately, while I have many positive stories to tell, I’ve also seen stubbornness surface from people who don’t know how to get out of their own way. Agency heads who think they know everything and have a formula they can’t break out of. Marketers who have always done it a certain way. Creatives who would rather wax nostalgic about the good ol’ days of print than learn about social media. Micromanagers who hover over agency creatives and direct them like umpires making calls behind a catcher. 

Some have gone against what clear data is telling them. Hell, some have gone against what their own customers are telling them.

When otherwise good people think they know better than their own client and that the brand’s message should appeal to so many people within their own walls, none of whom is the client, you’ve got a bad situation. When some twerp serves the client what they want to hear no matter what rather than growing a pair and telling them what they need to hear, you’ve got an even worse situation.

That’s why I say, in reality, I don’t really write for clients at all. I write for their audience. The ones I have the best relationships with get why that’s important and why the brand can’t always sound like their official mouthpiece. Because there’s something much bigger at work than one person trying to be the loudest heard. There’s an attempt to have a meaningful connection and that takes identifying with others. And caring. And actually demonstrating that love in consistent gestures.

Wait. Is that love applied to your own people or your customer? Hopefully it’s both.

Ego is the enemy of evolution. 

You’ll be amazed by how fulfilling life can be sometimes when you just be quiet and listen. Especially when someone who only wants to help you is walking through the door.

I’d love to hear your experiences and challenges with this and/or your thoughts on “The Profit” if you’ve seen it. Sound off.