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Monson Goes ‘Undercover’ –Cagle

July 2012
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Monson bounced around the country visiting franchises. She didn't have any hands-on experience with the signage aspect of the business and found it to be fun and frustrating as she attempted various duties, from applying vehicle decals to rigging an exterior installation.

While no one caught on to Monson's real identity, there were some close calls. She'd spent extensive time with Scott Koehler, the Phoenix franchise owner, and had visited his franchise twice prior to the "Undercover Boss" taping.

“He didn’t have a clue,” Monson laughs. “It was a combination of the fake tattoos, heavy eyeliner, heroin-chic makeup and more F-bombs than he’s used to me sharing.”

The FASTSIGNS' honcho reaped a number of takeaways from her experiences that were or are in the process of being implemented as changes or modifications for the company. She was floored that Koehler had to fend for himself when it came to learning the installation aspect, including training, permitting and safety standards. So, now the company is in the process of creating a corporate curriculum. Marketing and e-commerce enhancements have also been developed, in part, from Monson's interaction with franchise workers.

One unintended consequence of the show was Monson relating some aspects of her personal life, including memories of her abusive, alcoholic mother. She was interviewed for several hours to provide some background, and the relationship with her mother bubbled to the top.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the thousands of e-mails and letters I’ve received from other people who have had abusive childhoods,” she relates. “The more we talk about it, the less it affects us, and the more we understand that we’re in control of our happiness and our destiny.”

Another positive splash has been the added business generated by Monson's appearance. FASTSIGNS' Website saw a tenfold spike in traffic, and a number of new clients discovered the sign franchise through "Undercover Boss." A number of franchises across the country also held viewing parties that were covered by network affiliates, which brought positive publicity and expanded brand recognition.

Monson has no regrets about the experience, which taught the CEO a little something about herself.

“All work and no play makes Catherine a boring girl,” she laughs. “I don’t want to be boring anymore.” PI


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