Going undercover for internal marketing

By

Mary Smith

Published on
March 23, 2010

After an exhausting but productive week at the 2010 International Boston Seafood Show, it was time to kick back and relax.  I took a break Sunday night on the couch and watched a newish TV show called “Undercover Boss” and I have to say, I loved it! In this particular episode, Michael Rubin, CEO of the e-commerce giant GSI, donned some hip glasses, quit shaving and went undercover in his own company. I was skeptical at first. 

My humble foodservice career began in high school at a Wendy’s franchise owned by a nice guy we’ll call “Steve”. About once a month, Steve would stop by our store (he owned several) and would hop on the line to “help out”. He’d spend about 20 minutes wrecking our groove; spilling sodas, burning fries, dripping Frosty gunk all over the floor. We were always relieved when he’d pull out of the parking lot in his BMW.  Steve was just trying to be nice, be part of the team, but I never really felt like he learned anything from these encounters.

On this particular episode of “Undercover Boss”, Rubin leaves the comfort of his fancy office to spend some time with the people that work for him. He makes an fool of himself in a couple of different situations; trying to pack a truck by pulling boxes off a fast-moving conveyor belt, filling orders, packing boxes and taking calls in the “escalations” department of a customer service call center. He fails miserably at most of these tasks, even getting fired at one point. Throughout his experience, Rubin seemed to sincerely appreciate the effort and dedication of most of the people he trained with (excepting a surly customer service agent). He also took the time to get to know each of the people he worked with, and in doing so I felt like he actually learned some important lessons.

Everyone will agree that it’s easier to manage people when you understand what they are dealing with, but how many of us actually have acted on this idea? If you own or run a business, can you honestly say that you’ve worked every job in your company? If you have had the opportunity to move up through a business, then you know how much easier it is to deal with problems below you – you know what people are experiencing and you have a much clearer idea on how to fix things. 

Spring has just begun; a great time of year to take a day or two to spend in different areas of your company. Get on that line and make some fries! But take a lesson from “Steve”, don’t just hop in and act like you know what you are doing. Ask some questions, learn something and take some time to get to know the people you are working with. 

Why not make this part of an internal marketing plan? What do you mean you don’t have an internal marketing plan? Internal marketing plans focus our marketing energy inward toward our employees and coworkers, instead of outward toward our customers, and can help ensure your whole team is on the same page when it comes to company culture and values. Internal newsletters, yearly company meetings, employee-of-the month rockstar parking spaces, all these things can serve to improve morale and build team spirit. Go undercover and see what your employees want from you – and then give it to them!

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