People, Process, Product: Spiritual Lessons For Entrepreneurs From Marcus Lemonis #TheProfit

People, Process, Product: Spiritual Lessons For Entrepreneurs From Marcus Lemonis #TheProfit December 16, 2014

Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

I don’t watch a lot of reality TV. But recently, I have come to really appreciate The Profit, a CNBC show where serial entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis goes into struggling businesses, invests in them, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the process.

What I like the most about Lemonis is that his business savvy has little to do with making money, but more about understanding the interaction between people in an organization, what they do all day, and what the end result is. This is summed up by his belief in People, Process and Product.

Entrepreneurs are not always (or perhaps often) spiritual people. The focus of any business owner is the business: trying to take care of customers, employees and making money while doing it. I don’t know a lot of businessmen and women who would consider a connection to spiritual values as at the core of their being, perhaps because business is business, and for many entrepreneurs, the business is “who they are”.

If you are a business owner, or perhaps a high level corporate VP, there is a good chance you have neglected, or maybe never had exposure to, the world of the sacred. If that fits your identity, I would like to offer The Profit as a very nontraditional, but interesting, way of approaching the lessons of religion.

The first of Marcus Lemonis’s principals is people, and in my mind, a focus on people is the easiest entry into the world of the sacred, even for the most stubborn anti-religious person.

At the core of religion is not Deity or the metaphysical, but people. It’s why most religions, even if they do have beliefs that are considered supernatural, tend to focus less on those aspects and more on the here-and-now. My own faith tradition Judaism teaches that a religious life is lived with others. Even Buddhist monks who fully devote themselves to self-enlightenment, choose to live in a group setting.

Listening to interviews with Lemonis, one might be lead to believe that money is not really part of his equation. For Lemonis, it’s about people, the end result of working with people and strengthening relationships being profitability. A kind of spiritual profitability is found in putting others before oneself, which is probably why every great philosophy includes compassion as its great motivator, including Judaism and Rabbi Hillel’s famous phrase about the Torah as being summed up by “that which is harmful to your neighbor, do not do.”

Businesses have processes for everything: how an employee clocks in every morning, how a customer is served, how money is spent, etc. When a process is efficient and really working, the results are incredible: people are happy, products/services shine, nothing is wasted, and each component of a business benefits.

Religions have processes. In Judaism, our process is centered around sacred moments. Every day we have moments of spiritual connection through prayer (Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv). Each week we have Shabbat, a time of rest and contemplation. With the exception of one month in the calendar, a holiday exists to realign us toward joy (Purim), remembrance (Passover), learning (Shavuot) or any host of other positive, life-strengthening values. Additionally we have the Jewish lifecycle of birth ceremonies (brit milah or simchat bat), adulthood (bar/bat mizvah), marriage, and death, with many secular observances and other moments of celebration in-between.

These processes do not exist for themselves: they exist to bring the ones being “processed” into a new state of being, into a constant
renewal, a reincarnation of our old selves into our new selves. Without these time-tested methods, we find ourselves wandering through life without a sense of direction. Entrepreneurs, find processes that bring out the best in you, especially if it comes in unexpected ways, and completely outside of your own design.

It’s interesting that product is the last of Lemonis’s core ideals. Logic would dictate that this would be the first thing one would focus on in any business. At parties, no one starts cocktail chatter with, “who you work with” or “what kind of process do you spend your time on”, but instead “what do you do”, meaning, what product or service exists as the result of your time?

The Profit appears to have a different approach. The product is great: if you don’t have a good product, Lemonis is not going to invest in you. But at the same time, The Profit has taken on products that don’t make sense at all (one business, Key West Key Lime Pie Co., was making pies from pre-made commercial materials).

So too is religion. Judaism as it exists today did not come from Mount Sinai. Judaism is the response of the Jewish people to the total of Jewish experiences. Our beginning as a break-away confederation of tribes, bound together by a shared spiritual/economic/social comradery, eventually led to moments in history that completely altered us, our understanding of ourselves, and our impact on the world, the greatest of which, I believe, is the Torah. The product of thousands of years of innovation is a religious/cultural perspective that I think is a great model for human life. But then again, I’m a rabbi, so I’m a bit biased in this regard.

Am I suggesting that all entrepreneurs become Jews? Not at all. But what I would suggest is that entrepreneurs look to what the sum total of their experiences have been, and align the product of their lives with a spiritual tradition whose culture (books, institutions, principals, etc) speaks to their experiences.

People, process and product, both spiritual and in the world of commerce, can do us all a lot of good.

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