As the CEO/Founder of AdvantaClean, the country’s fastest growing light environmental service franchise™, keeping up with the demands of the job can sometimes make me feel like I’m chained to my desk!
I started what would become AdvantaClean in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in South Florida in 1992. My “office” then was a pick-up truck, and I was on the go all the time: leading demolition and clean - up of water - damaged houses, remediating water and mold, and dealing with homeowners who had lost everything.
Today, there are meetings after meetings, reports which must be reviewed, decisions to make, and other important data which seemingly gushes out of my computer like a busted water pipe! Don’t take me wrong, I LOVE what I do, but just sometimes I feel like I’m losing touch with the most valuable assets I have: the employees who have made AdvantaClean the industry leader it is today.
I have discovered the key to consistent, positive trending growth is hiring the right people, and putting them in the right positions to be heroes for the clients, the company and themselves. That comes from intense training, as well as a culture which promotes professionalism in everything we do at AdvantaClean.
So much gets filtered from the field to me, I feel detached from the people who ARE the very face of the company - the employees who are dealing with the clients, vendors, and community. THEY are the people home and business owners talk to, on a daily basis, who can make us, or break us, depending on their quality of care and service. So how can I see for myself our AdvantaClean teams in action? How can I get the best picture of their activities, to truly help them be more successful, while burnishing the brand? If I let them know “the boss” was coming to town to observe it would not allow me the unfettered access I wanted. This called for a different tact, one where I could embed myself with teams, without them knowing who I was. My stint on “Undercover Boss” offered me that opportunity.
The popular CBS network TV show allows CEOs like me to go undercover, complete with disguise, alias, and made-up backstory. The CEOs work with different employees, to get a real feel for the workers, as well as the operation from the ground up. It can be a jolting reality check.
When the producers approached me about being their next “Undercover Boss”, I jumped at the chance. This would allow me to see for myself what challenges the teams were facing. Are they wearing the proper uniform? Are they conforming to brand compliance? What kind of first impression are they making? By being the “Undercover Boss”, and not Jeff Dudan, CEO/Founder of AdvantaClean, I could hopefully have my questions answered.
My undercover identity was “Dusty”, a day laborer. My disguise came complete with a “soul patch” on steroids: it was so long, I had to tuck it into protective facemasks I wore to work in.
I worked with four different employees, from four different parts of the country, over a two week period. They were Steven, Danielle, Kyle, and Barry. All were chosen randomly by the producers. My first impression of all four? They BELIEVED in what they were doing because they were making a difference in the lives of people who had suffered some sort of property loss, or other damage. They wanted to be part of the SOLUTION! That’s part of the AdvantaClean Value Code acronym, C.A.R.E.S.: Community, Accountability, Respect, Excellence, and Service. These folks LIVED our code.
Steven and I worked together in several homes in Georgia, cleaning air ducts. He could have cut corners, but didn’t, attacking every duct as if it were in his own home. He was going to make sure the clients would not have any breathing issues due to dust, pollen, or mold.
What I liked most about Danielle was her energy and respect for the property of others. Our job that day in Indiana, was to deep clean and disinfect china which had been inside a flooded- out home. It’s not the hardest job, but it does need to be thorough, and Danielle made sure I was aware of that. She instructed me to, “..clean every piece like it’s your grandma’s china!” and together we vigorously did just that, right down to the last cup and saucer!
Kyle was my team leader on a kitchen demolition in Washington state. It all had to go because of widespread mold due to a water line leak. Now, my best tools are a hammer and crowbar. I can “rip and roar” with the best of them! But Kyle explained how the project needed to be done in a certain order, and stayed with me to offer help. His clear explanation of what had to be done, and how it had to be done, left no doubt he wanted the job done the right way, the first time. It was clear he was following his AdvantaClean training of communicating effectively with his team.
I like being around positive people, and we like hiring positive people. Barry just radiated that from the first second we met on a job in South Carolina. That kind of energy just rubs off on others, and creates a “can do” attitude. Our job was to crawl around under house, searching for mold, and then getting rid of it. NOT my favorite thing to do. But Barry turned it into a fun crusade. He imagined himself as “Spiderman” battling mold as an arch enemy! Even I got excited about the “fight”!
It was clear from my time in the field these employees are setting the best kind of example for our AdvantaClean teams. Working alongside them as a co-worker, and not “the boss”, I learned about the strengths of my teams in the field and received an unforgettable, positive experience.