In 2012, Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS, took the bold step of putting her franchise in front of the camera, by taking part in the Undercover Boss series. Seven years on, the lessons she learnt during the experience still resonates within the FASTSIGNS global franchise network.
Going on Undercover Boss, was a significant decision, one which Catherine believes is good for any CEO to do. “The CEO position is often seen as a sacrosanct within any business. The experience I gained when filming Undercover Boss, allowed me to get my hands dirty and learn about the operational skills required in our centres. The experience provided me with the opportunity to understand FASTSIGNS from a different perspective, enabling me to gather organic information about how the business works at the grassroots level.”
Even though the programme first aired in the US in 2012, Catherine had many take-aways from her experience, one in particular is still apparent in how she leads FASTSIGNS and engages with her franchisees in 2019.
“The most valuable lesson I learnt related to how effectively we communicate information to the wider network. In 2012, we thought we were doing a great job of communication, we would send information and materials directly to the franchisee, expecting them to share it with their employees.”
In reality, although the message was being shared as far as the franchisee network, sometimes the messages were not reaching centre staff. “Whilst filming Undercover Boss, I spent time with an employee who thought our marketing materials were out-dated,” Catherine explains. “Her employer, our franchisee, had been using marketing collateral that was seven years old! Although we had sent across our new material; he’d thought he should use up the old resources before using the new.”
During a separate conversation, Catherine met a different employee who didn’t think the FASTSIGNS website could be customised. She didn’t think it was right for every franchise to operate from the same website, she wanted to be able to showcase her centre’s individual capabilities. The FASTSIGNS website is actually highly customisable, this employee’s franchisee hadn’t taken the time to make any changes to the centre’s website, so the employee assumed they couldn’t!
The FASTSIGNS website is actually built on a CMS which allows every franchise to customise their website to help them showcase their individual centre. The FASTSIGNS brand guidelines help to ensure their changes fit within the brand but their content, like meet the team information, blogs, imagery and case studies can be updated to effectively communicate the work each centres does in their local communities.
Catherine identified issues within network wide internal communications. As soon as the cameras stopped rolling, Catherine took her findings back to her executive team and swiftly implemented changes to FASTSIGNS internal communications. “Rather than just informing the franchisee, we started to send communications about marketing and training to both franchisees and their employees. We also implemented a bi-weekly newsletter, called FASTBrief, which serves as a platform to deliver key information to the entire employee network. By improving our communications, our franchisees benefit from having informed teams, who are knowledgeable, can offer the very best service to customers and have direct access to the relevant and required resources.”
In her final reflection, Catherine says, “It’s very easy to keep doing things the same way, Undercover Boss gave me the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate FASTSIGNS process at every level within the business. For the most part, we found our operations and processes were effective, in the areas that we didn’t do so well in, we utilised the information gathered from the show and used it to make improvements to our service, helping us to further improve our franchisees satisfaction.”