Dwyer Group CEO Says Walking in Employees' Shoes was 'Overwhelmingly Rewarding'
January 20, 2012

by Sahely Mukerji, smukerji@glass.com

January 17 was a big day for the employees of The Dywer Group in Waco, Texas -- the parent company of Glass Doctor -- and for their CEO and chairwoman Dina Dwyer-Owens. About 1,200 people showed up that day at the Baylor University in Waco, to see the private screening of CBS' reality show, "Undercover Boss," featuring Dwyer-Owens.

"It was a huge deal for me," says Dwyer-Owens. "As the leader of a company, you are willing to be vulnerable and put yourself and your company out there [in the show]. I was nervous and excited. There were a lot of mixed feelings."

Nonetheless, it was an incredibly positive experience, Dwyer-Owens says. "I feel connected to our brands and the services they provide on a whole new level," she says. "And I'm so proud of what we do across our franchise family. I've always known that our service professionals were so important to our businesses, but being on the front line with them showed it in a whole new way. I went undercover to see how our code of values of 'living rich' was being embraced on the front line, and it was incredible to see those values in action."

The idea to participate in the show came about as a mutual interest. CBS was interested in featuring more female leaders in the show, Dwyer-Owens says, and The Dwyer Group contacted them at the same time as fans of the show. "I don't watch much TV, but I watch that show, and every time I watch, I learn something about business, about people, about leadership. ... [plus] I have always wanted to visit our franchises, ride in vans and go on calls with service professionals to see our businesses in action."

On CBS' part, "We felt that Dina was an incredibly strong and compelling character who happened to be a female leading a male dominated company, and we thought the family of Dwyer brands gave us a great diversity and volume of classic job types," says Chris Carlson, executive producer of "Undercover Boss."

Dwyer-Owens spent time with four people on the show, three of whom were franchisees of Mr. Appliance, Mr. Electric, Mr. Rooter and The Grounds Guys. "I didn't know I'd be meeting franchisees, and I did not know the three of them at all," she says. "One of them had come through one of my training classes, but I was in pretty good disguise, and even if he recognized me, he didn't say anything."

Glass Doctor was not one of the francisees featured in the show. "The production company chooses who will be on the show," Dwyer-Owens says. "They visited all brands across several states. Only four jobs could be featured in 42 minutes."

The experience was an eye-opener, Dwyer-Owens says. "I always knew that our service professionals did very hard and important work, but I have a much deeper appreciation for it today. When you're going on service calls with a heat index of 118 degrees outside, doing hard jobs that demand a lot of physical activity, the importance of putting customers first across our service brands has a higher meaning than ever before."

Tanna Marino, a service professional with Mr. Appliance in Conroe, Texas, worked with Dwyer-Owens in the show. "It's not every day that an employee gets to meet the CEO of [her] company," she says. "I was impressed with her enthusiasm and ambitious drive. However, it was obvious that she hadn't done this type of work before. I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone willing to chase their dreams!"

The production company had full editorial control over the show, Dwyer-Owens says. "I did not get to see the show until a private screening of the episode on Tuesday night at Baylor University."

Contrary to popular belief, the show definitely is not scripted, says Dwyer-Owens. And the idea that it's rewarding only to some worthy employees who are used in the episode, is "unfair and inaccurate," she says. "The show has led to changes within companies and broader programs for other employees who are not featured on the show," she says. "And, [with] regard to the rewards that are highlighted, they are completely the decision of the CEO. The rewards I chose to give with those I worked alongside were my decision and mine alone. They are a result of my journey and my discoveries on the jobs with the people I worked alongside."

The show will air at 7 p.m. EST on January 22.

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