Undercover Boss uncovers new perspectives

A stint on the CBS show “Undercover Boss” gave CEO Jeff Dudan some leadership insight into his company, AdvantaClean. Dudan is a six-year member of Vistage, a peer advisory group that helps CEOs and key executives improve their companies and communities by expanding perspectives and optimizing decision making. His “Undercover Boss” insights provided additional valuable input.

Going undercover

It was an interesting few days for “Dusty.”

A burly Southern-Californian type, complete with tribal tattoos and a foot-long goatee, Dusty spent several days last year shadowing employees of AdvantaClean, a light environmental-services franchise company based in Huntersville, North Carolina.

Days later, Dusty revealed himself to be Jeff Dudan, founder and CEO of AdvantaClean, who had traveled the country in disguise to see if franchise owners were following the culture and practices he implemented.

If this all sounds like the premise of a reality TV show, well, that’s because it is.

CBS’s “Undercover Boss” tapped Dudan and AdvantaClean to be featured on the show. The episode, which recently aired January 11, gave Dudan the chance to get back in the field and check on the franchises.

“Anytime you can step outside of your normal existence and take a look at an organization that you had a hand in dreaming up and building, that creates some perspective that’s powerful,” says Dudan, a Vistage member since May 2011. “To get back in the field, get in the truck, get under the house and see firsthand what our people are doing to help our customers, it was powerful.”

A CEO’s discovery process

What he found were hard-working people who turn caring when handling clients’ water-damaged and mold-encrusted properties — even when tearing out kitchen counters. They reminded Dudan of himself and his own work ethic as a former Appalachian State football player who started AdvantaClean in 1994 after helping demolish, repair and rebuild homes in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.

The company has grown since those humble beginnings in Winter Park, Florida. AdvantaClean now generates revenues of more than $50 million annually, with more than 225 franchise locations across 33 states.

Dudan says he learned a lot from the show and walked away with new perspectives and insights, chief among them was to revamp training and support for franchise owners.

“You can never provide enough training, coaching, support and clarity for your franchise owners,” Dudan says. “You have to remember that they haven’t been doing this for 20 years. You have to inform your owners of best practices and providing educational opportunities.”

The Vistage connection

That echoes advice Dudan’s received in his Vistage group, most notably from his Vistage Chair David Zerfoss, former president of Husqvarna Professional Products in North America. “He built Husqvarna through a dealership network, and we are a franchise organizations, so our experience providing leadership to a disparate group of franchisees is very similar,” Dudan says. “Vistage is one of my most valuable resources.”

Watch Jeff Dudan go undercover in “Undercover Boss.”

Category: Leadership

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Avatar About the Author: Glenn Jeffers

Glenn Jeffers is a Vistage staff writer and an award-winning reporter and editor. Previously, he served as editor of Kellogg, the alumni magazine of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He h…

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