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Fastsigns CEO Catherine Monson: Five Traits to a Successful Career

What lessons did you learn about yourself and about the company from being on CBS' "Undercover Boss"?

Monson: First, I need to say that the "boss" has nothing to do with the casting. The production company does all the casting and you really don't know, until that morning, the first name of the person you're working with and what you're going to be taught.

I'm totally blessed that all of the employees I worked with are fabulous employees. They care about customers. They're passionate about Fastsigns. They're focused on quality and great service. That was hugely rewarding to find out that the sampling that the production company picked were just great examples of Fastsigns so that made me very, very proud.

We did uncover two really significant issues that we have. [The first was] addressed the following week and the other we're in the process of building a whole new curriculum.

1. We had always communicated all of our programs, marketing initiatives and everything, directly to our franchisees and expected our franchisees to communicate that to their employees. And with all of the employees that I worked with -- each was employed by a different franchisee -- all of them had misunderstandings about the company and what we did.

One of them said, "Your marketing -- it's too basic. Why don't you let us customize it?" Well, we have two new marketing programs. One is, "On your behalf or we do it for you," and the other is, "Do it yourself where you can completely customize every message." That employee didn't know.

Another employee said, "Why do all the websites for all the Fastsigns have to look the same?" Well, they don't. Our website infrastructure is set up with huge customization capabilities, but that particular franchisee chose not to use it and just go to the default website.

So starting right the week after "Undercover Boss," now every time we send a communication to our franchisees, we also send it to every employee e-mail address we have.

We're starting to see employees understanding better, knowing more, using our tools more.

The other one, as I was three floors up, outdoors on a lift on a cold windy day in Phoenix, installing an exterior sign ... I learned from the franchisee I was working with that he had to learn everything about exterior large sign projects on his own. And I came back [to the home office] and that was true. We did not have any training on what's involved in large exterior sign projects and so we've now hired a gentleman who has 25 years in the exterior signs industry and in January we're going to be giving to all of our franchisees a detailed manual, videotapes and a lot of training seminars on that at our convention. So those were two great business lessons.

Now what did I learn personally? I learned that maybe I need to take a little more time for Catherine and not be such a workaholic. Have I implemented that? Not so much.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to:

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