Breaking news first: Yes, the cupcakes are smaller.
If you're one of the thousands of Crumbs devotees who lined up in Manhattan earlier this week to be among the first to sample the goods at the newly reopened bakery chain, and you felt somehow, um, unsatisfied, it's not you, it's the cupcake.
At the Inc. 5000 conference in Phoenix on Thursday, new Crumbs owner Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC's The Profit, admitted--"because it's going to come out anyway"--that yes, he shrunk the merchandise. "Not for money," he insisted. "For portion control."
Coming from just any business owner, that explanation might seem insincere. But by then Lemonis had already revealed that despite what he looks like now, he was seriously overweight as a teenager, and that he struggles to this day with an eating disorder.
In true reality-TV mode, Lemonis shared a lot of things about himself: That he's single; that he has no kids and probably never will (although he has said he might adopt one day, as he was adopted); and that he has very few close friends. "By design," he said, "because I'm afraid I'll let them down."
As everyone who's ever watched The Profit knows, those admissions are classic Lemonis. He's all about the human side of business. He talks about people, process, and product with the entrepreneurs whose failing businesses he tries to fix, but he's clear that it's the people part that matters most.
Business is the greatest game there is, he said, but it's not just Monopoly, it's also Life. ("Maybe Hasbro should come up with a board game that combines both," he wondered aloud.) That's one reason he doesn't like that other business reality show, Shark Tank: "Because I want to know more. Did the deal really happen? [Did the investors] just hand them a check? Discipline them? Hold them accountable? Find out if they were tax cheats?"
Lemonis implored his fellow entrepreneurs to spend time doing whatever their lowest-paid employees do every day--the better to foster camaraderie and accountability. ("How many of you who don't do that, don't do it because you think you're better than the people who work for you?", he asked.) He also warned against paying anything less than top dollar for top people: "Hire the most expensive, most talented, most sophisticated person you can find, even if it hurts a little. Because I'm sure you spend the money on other things that are a lot less important."
When things go wrong in hiring, though, you can't be afraid to correct your mistakes. "How many of you have someone on your staff you wish didn't work for you?" he asked. "Shame on you," he said to the few brave souls who raised their hands.
His point: that the health of the business is more important than the well-being of any one person who works there, including the owner. And by the way, when someone doesn't work out, guess what? "The reason they're failing is not their fault, it's your fault. People fail because we screwed it up, they didn't screw it up. People come to us because they're not cut out to be business owners. They're counting on us to lead them. You need to make sure everybody is OK. That's your responsibility."
Lemonis invests in a lot of businesses in a lot of different industries--he's in for $11 million so far via The Profit, and that's just a fraction of his portfolio--but one sector he said he'll never go near is technology. "I'm deathly scared of it," he admitted, as he left the stage and roamed the room. "I don't understand it. And it moves so fast. I'm afraid I'd wake up and be broke."
"To me, being in technology is the quintessential act of entrepreneurship," he continued. "Taking cash, burning a lot of it, investing in a product you might not even be able to put in your hand, knowing someone else is making something just like it, and hoping that when it gets to market it will work and it won't be obsolete. I think your odds might be better in Vegas."