Undercover Boss Uncovers Needs
Leo Durocher, the famous baseball manager told a story in his book about Phil Wrigley, longtime owner of the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Wrigley would like to go into the upper deck and watch the games from there. In Leos first year as manager that was not a problem. Crowds were small and the seats were rarely taken. In his second year however, added interest in the Cubs was gained. Invariably the usher would come around and ask Mr. Wrigley for his ticket. Leo concludes that if it were him he would have lit up a cigar even though he didn’t care for cigars, just to blow out the smoke. Then he would say to the usher “it’s okay son, I own the place, keep up the good work.” Mr. Wrigley was never like that. He would get up and apologize to the usher and head to a less populated area.
To their credit bosses on the reality show Undercover Bosses never give away their cover although I’m sure sometimes it is very tempting. The show is about owners, presidents, or CEO’s of companies disguising themselves and passing themselves off as new people in the company. The camera crew is explained in various ways from two people competing for one position to doing some kind of a special documentary of a new person on the job. They try to get natural reactions and hope that the presence of the camera does not interfere with what people truly think.
Chad Hallock was raised by a single parent in Anaheim, California. He and his brothers knew that they needed to start at a young age helping with finances. Chad was working in a window covering business when he lost his job. He and his brother along with 3 other friends started Budget Blinds on $5,000 each. Today it is the largest window covering company in North America! They have over 800 Franchises all over the United States. Chad decided to be the focal point on an Undercover Boss episode so that he could get a better awareness of how their businesses are being ran with the hope of helping franchisees increase their profits! He went under cover as Tom Robbins with the story that a reality show called Second Chances would be filming him as part of a plan for a failed business person to get financial backing for a new company.
Chads first visit was to a franchisee named Keith in Morris Illinois. Keith had been in the business for 10 years and described to Chad how he started. “Someone had come over to his house to install blinds and he really liked what they were doing and the new business prospects.” He added that “the next thing he knew he was flying out to corporate headquarters and meeting Chad and his brother.” He described the brother as more flexible, more laid back. He described Chad as a rigid guy who was defensive. Chad is heard denying the charges to the camera but explained that he does take the business seriously. It was comical watching Chad as Keith thought he was talking to a new person about someone else.
Keith took Chad (Tom) on a sales call. It was obvious that the couple had no idea what they wanted but knew they needed something. Keith started pumping them with questions. “Did you want to control light? Did you want the room to feel hot or cold? Did you want casual or formal? Were you interested in white or off white?” There was this big book he had the customers thumbing through. “Take your time, we have all day”, he mentioned. Chad was saying to the camera “This is taking way too long. For two rooms this should be done in an hour. “Keith is not taking control of the situation. Keith has been in this business for ten years. Sometimes less choices is better. He needs to go in and analyze the situation and lead the customers into what would be best for the room!” Keith made the comment “Tom just sat there because he probably had never done anything like that before.”
Chad (Tom) met a franchisee named Maris in Chicago. Maris wondered what his experience was and Chad said that he was in the Iron Art business until the economy downturn hit. Maris took him on a installation appointment. Maris was very good in what she did but she found Tom (Chad) clumsy. He had a hard time drilling the holes and dropped the screw. She concluded that he was too quiet and she thought this was Toms first time working with a drill and screws. She didn’t think he was qualified to be a future Budget Blinds Franchise Owner. Chad was impressed with Maris! He called her a real go getter and liked her initiative of doing mailings to increase her business!
Later Maris shared with Chad her view that local advertising would be helpful to her business. Keith had also made the same plea but Chad had dismissed it as someone not knowing what they were talking about. When Maris made the same statement it got Chad thinking that maybe they had a point.
Typically on the show the boss learns of the personal lives of their company workers. In this case after the appointment Maris was telling Tom (Chad) that she had two sons. One of her sons, Tyler, who was 12, had a football injury. He had suffered two stingers in one season and was dealing with neurological damage. She was trying to get help for him but was finding it extremely difficult. Hearing the frustration in her voice, I could see that Chad was deeply effected.
Chad (Tom) met Pam who worked in the factory where the blinds are made in Middleton Wisconsin. Pam thought that Tom was cute but later admitted that he was like a bull in a china cabinet working this job. They worked as a team putting together individual blinds so that they could be painted. Chads comments about the job to the camera was how monotonous it was. When he asked Pam how she liked her job she said “don’t ask”. Chad found out that there was no employee recognition. Pam brought up the fact that they used to have a company picnic but it was cancelled.
Chad met a man named Dennis on his last stop in Kansas. Dennis did over 600 installs a year and Chad was interested in finding out what he was doing to make the company profitable! Dennis was an installer who was very impressive with his politeness and his attention to details on the job. His personality and kindness showed through the camera! Dennis cleaned the windows before they were done as an extra bonus! He mentioned that “he does more than he needs to, but that is what brings customers back!”
After their appointment Chad (Tom) and Dennis went to a local bar for a beer. Chad asked Dennis about his family. Dennis had 5 kids and one who they lost. When Chad questioned him Dennis said that his son was murdered and he found out by a phone call. They told him where it happened and Dennis found his son dead on the street. Once again you could tell that Chad was deeply moved.
The show concludes with the franchise owners and employees invited to corporate headquarters. I think they were given the story that they needed to be there to give their opinion of Tom and his future potential in a new business. Individually as they are sitting there Chad (Tom) comes into the room. Now he looks completely different. Instead of the casual appearance they saw before he is in a nice suit. He speaks with each one before the next is called in. After realizing that the bumbling new employee was actually the CEO of the company there is a lot of apprehension as to what they said on the job.
Chad talked to each one about the business end of what they were doing. To Keith he mentioned how he was the stiff, rigid, defensive guy. But when he got serious he talked about a local advertising fund that both he and Maris had recommended. After hearing the same complaint twice he reversed his opinion. He also mentioned how Keith needed to direct customers instead of being laid back and letting them decide things for themselves. He was going to send his brother to oversee his training since Keith liked his brother so well! Since the local advertising was a big issue with Maris, Chad mentioned to her that he was going to put $25,000 into a fund for that purpose. Pam was commended for her attention to quality control. She was very focused on putting out a good product! Chad told Dennis that of all of the people he worked with he enjoyed working with him the most. He was commended on his professionalism and the great job he was doing!
The most memorable and touching part of the show is when at corporate headquarters Chad talks about the personal lives of the people he met. He found time in his period with them to find out their stories. He gave Keith money to put his two kids through college. He gave Pam money to go on her annual Mexico vacation that she needs each year as a getaway from the job. The awards that brought tears to my eyes and Chads too were for Maris and Dennis. Maris was awarded $30,000 for expenses related to her son Tylers injury and rehabilitation. Maris, who you can tell is a very strong person and personality, broke down with gratitude! Dennis was awarded $40,000 to build an addition on to his house for gatherings of family that helps Dennis deal with his tragedy. The tears are flowing with Dennis and myself as Dennis says between sobs that “It’s the nicest thing anyone ever did for me.”
Usually in experiences when people are giving they are the biggest beneficiaries.
Chads comments proved this true again. His mission was originally to go out and help his company employees become better at what they do. He accomplished that mission with flying colors. He also found what his people thought about the company and how they could best be productive in the future. He was able to share the wealth of the company to meet personal needs within the company! I’m sure that he felt much more attached to the company and the franchisees after this experience! His final ending statement about the effect of this adventure on his thinking was this line:”I learned that the franchisees need to be heard. I have to be more patient, debate less and listen more.” In other words be more humble and more caring! Now that is a concept for us all to strive for!
I’m thinking of a new reality show. Maybe we could call it Outside These Doors. It would be a show similar to Undercover Boss where a representative of the church goes to a business in which a church member is working. It wouldn’t be the pastor because they would be too recognizable. It might be a random person that reports back to the pastor. Maybe the random person would be searching for the meaning of life. We could have our camera crew just like the undercover boss show. It would be interesting to see how the church operates outside of the church. How many people would lead a stranger in the sinners prayer? How many members actually take their relationship with God outside of the church and into their everyday lives? What would the attitudes of the members be like at work? I know that some people would star because of their love for God and their compassion for others! Some may make us wonder where they are hiding their light. Would this new show end up on the Christian Channel or the Comedy Channel? Or would it be canceled by CBS because the reality is more than we would want to see?