When Connecticut-based Subway Chief Development Officer Don Fertman went undercover on the CBS show “Undercover Boss,” he never imagined he would be asked back to the show that has business heads going undercover to get a better perspective on their employees and their companies. Fertman disguised himself as “John Wilson” a former drug and alcohol counselor looking for a new career when he appeared on the show in 2010 and now comes back for an episode titled :”Undercover Boss: Epic Bosses.” The episode airs Friday from 8 to 9 p.m. and features some of the most memorable bosses from its four seasons. Fertman, whose sleuthing on the show resulted in some positive changes especially for the franchise’s “sandwich artists”, found time from being boss extraordinaire to spend a few minutes Spilling the Beans with Java.
Q: Is it a compliment to be asked back and why?
A: I hope it is. The spin they are putting on the episode is that it is about the more intriguing bosses. I’m not sure what was intriguing about me other than that I work for a terrific company and with terrific people. I have been at the job for quite a period of time and that has given me a unique perspective on watching the growth of the company and its growth and that of employees including our sandwich artists.
Q: What changes did you make in the company after your first appearance and was it a rude awakening or a pleasant surprise?
A: I would say it was pleasant surprise to really see the level of customer experiences that was taking place at store level and the concern our folks had for our customers. The sandwich artists, all four of them that were part of my 2010 episode, were very focused on making their store the best possible. they wanted each customer to leave feeling really, really good. One of them, Jesse in Florida, gave me a hard time when she thought I was John Wilson and making sandwiches too slowly. She told the filming crew to shut off the cameras because there was line of people who needed to be served. She made such an impact when it came to customer service and she will be back for this Friday’s episode.
Q: Did you ever have a great boss like you?
A: I do have a nice boss now. My first job was pumping diesel fuel at a truck stop. There was a guy in the tower who used to yell down, “Fertman do this” and Fertman do that.” He was not particularly warm and fuzzy. Before subway I was self-employed in a rock and roll band, CT’s greatest, The Crayons. I was the orange one. I did it for five years and then, as my dad would say, I got a real job.
Q: On a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being great, where did your company rate before “Undercover Boss” and where would it rate now?
A: I would say we were an 8 because I think in our organization we had recognized the fact our franchise owners are the key to the implementation of the business. Our developers are the key to the growth and the sandwich artists are the key to customers and keeping them coming back. As a result of the show in 2010 I think we are a 9 now. We needed to get in hearts and minds of our sandwich artists all over the world. We held roundtables with them to understand what the customer experience is like but what the company experience is like, and when we make decisions in the big house here, how those decisions impact the field on the front line.