Key Takeaways From Three Months Working As An Undercover Boss

Lisa Richards the Founder/CEO of RPZL.

For the last three months, I took over nearly every administrative position at my company to see how each role operated—it was very Undercover Boss. Have you seen that show?

It involves high-level corporate executives leaving the comfort of their offices and secretly taking low-level jobs within their respective companies to find out how things really work—and what their employees actually think of them. I had initially planned on doing it for a month, but I’m now going on three months. Why? Because I love it and am learning a lot.

For my Undercover Boss experiment, I took over every position at my company from customer service (meaning: every phone call was transferred to my cell; I read and responded to every email; and took over all Yelp, Google and social media responses), to operations, HR, R&D, legal, finance, IT, admin/web design, business development, payroll and vendor relationships.

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Here are my key takeaways from that experience.

Talking to your customers is the best marketing tool and research/focus group.

I’m talking about phone calls, emails, Yelp—all of it. Prior to my Undercover Boss moment, I already oversaw marketing. But by being the main customer service employee, I was able to implement feedback, suggestions, ideas and new services immediately and saw results.

For example, a potential customer asked if she could FaceTime with our staff (she did not live in New York City) to see if she wanted to work with us. In the end, it inspired me to launch a virtual free consulting service, which is now our biggest incremental revenue generator. Now, we have clients all over the U.S. who come to see us after meeting with us over FaceTime—all because of this one phone call I happened to take.

Look at the numbers every day for motivation.

In doing this daily, I’m pumped to beat my numbers for the next day, and I also become much better at reducing overhead when seeing the big picture. Try incorporating this into your daily habits.

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Implement feedback immediately.

Consider working with your international research and development team to take feedback from direct reports and customers and apply key learnings for better products and, more importantly, more products. I decided to increase our SKUs by over 100% and thereby bridged the gap between customer demand and products that weren’t aligned by going back and forth between the groups until all parties were satisfied.

Recognize the importance of listening to employee feedback and allowing them to make changes or additions to the company. In the end, this can help increase your revenue and make your employees happy as they feel they’re a more valued part of the company.

Companies should consistently evolve.

I took my former partner’s word as gospel: I believed her when she said that no changes were needed and that everything was seamless and optimized. This turned out not to be true—as a company, it’s important to shift consistently and look at the business, talk to staff, talk to clients, always be open to change and feedback and keep pushing the limit to take the company to the next level.

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By doing everything myself, I am able to better direct and manage all areas of the business going forward. While the actual workload I’ve taken on isn’t sustainable in the long term, performing each of these positions has put me in a better position to work with my employees, hire for our open positions and get a better handle on what my employees are dealing with along with their needs. When I go back to my position as founder (soon, I promise), I’ll be better informed about all aspects of my business—and that’s invaluable.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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