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What I Learned About Business from Watching Reality TV

As a learning tool, sitting on the couch watching reality TV – and lots of it – would never get my vote. When it comes to business, first-hand experience seems hands-down the best way to learn.

But then, along came Shark Tank, The Texas Investor’s Club, Undercover Boss and, our favorite, The Profit. And suddenly, reality TV isn’t all rose ceremonies and Kardashians.

Take Marcus Lemonis and The Profit.  Lemonis is the chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises, where he leads close to 6,000 employees in over 100 cities across the US.

As a young child, he was exposed to positive and prosperous business values at the car dealership his family owned.  After college, family friend and former Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacocca, advised him to get into the camping and RV business, which put him on the path to eventual chairmanship at America’s #1 source for RVs, camping accessories, RV maintenance and repair.

On this CNBC reality series, Lemonis lends his business expertise and his personal money — some $35 million to date — to struggling businesses in various industries across the country.

At the core of everything is his 3P mantra – people, process and product. That’s the lens through which he evaluates each business.  “Business success,” he says, “is about the three P’s: People, Process and Product.”

While Lemonis has certainly added some current-day buzz to the 3P principle, it’s actually old school.  B-school legend has it that the 3Ps were first used by Mottorola when they were developing Six Sigma, the set of techniques and tools developed for process improvement in the late 1980’s. Six Sigma, of course, is still popular and effective, used and taught in some of the country’s most successful businesses.

But back to Lemonis…  he analyzes every business he takes on by the quality of their people, whether they have an excellent and relevant product, and if they are using the best possible process for creating, delivering, and selling that product.

He recognizes that the most important “P” is people, and that the right people are effective while the wrong people can destroy the business. The second “P” looks at how organizations create, deliver, and sell the process. Finally, the third “P” determines whether the product is an excellent one and a relevant one.

Want to be a successful business? Lemonis says you must have at least two of the three P’s working in your favor.