Monson Goes ‘Undercover’ –CagleJuly 2012
The television-viewing public has reached a saturation point with reality television, from wannabe singers and dancers to finding Mr. or Ms. Right (or Wrong), or the bevy of game show topics including cooking, fashion design and weight loss.
But, every now and then, a show comes along that offers some redeeming qualities that exceed mere entertainment value. CBS has one such show called “Undercover Boss,” in which the president or other high-level executive from a major business (sometimes national or even global) undergoes a physical transformation to disguise himself/herself and gain employment within the firm at a more granular level.
The upshot for the execs is an education from the lower-level folks whose blood, sweat and tears have enabled the featured company to attain its lofty status. The stories are often humorous, sometimes gut-wrenching and sobering, and occasionally disappointing. The execs soon find, to varying degrees, that their business is not always an accurate reflection of their mission statement. But the takeaways often outweigh the negatives. The rank-and-file employees featured during the episode—many of whom have their own remarkable tales of triumph and tragedy—are rewarded at the end for their tireless efforts.
The show recently featured FASTSIGNS International President and CEO Catherine Monson, who spent nearly 30 years with franchise printer PIP Printing/Sir Speedy. Monson came to FASTSIGNS in 2009, intrigued by the challenge of turning the company around. In front of the camera, however, she found herself a far cry from the corner office, working hands-on in various capacities, including site surveys, production and installation.
“It was a very amazing experience,” Monson tells B&P. “The whole process was exhausting and grueling. But it was a load of fun and a great way to get a completely different view into the company and how to make it better.”
Monson is contractually bound not to give away any production secrets; she did admit the taping sessions were unrelenting. “It’s very intense, exciting and fun. Even when you go to the ladies’ room, you’re still miked for sound.”
In order to protect Monson’s identity—after all, many franchise owners/employees have met her through various company functions—she was decked out in all black as “Louise Steely,” a somewhat gothic-looking free spirit. The filming was done under the guise of shooting the pilot for a new reality show, Second Chances, where a downtrodden “Steely” was vying to win money to buy her own franchise.