When Vivint Inc. founder and CEO Todd Pedersen was invited to appear on CBS’s “Undercover Boss,” he had a couple of concerns. First, Pedersen doesn’t like being filmed. Second, he worried that he might blow his cover.
One thing he was not concerned about, however, was how his employees would represent his company on national television.
“I’ve been at Vivint for 20-plus years, and I was pretty confident that we have a great employee base,” Pedersen said. “You know, not that things are perfect but that people have good experiences here, so I wasn’t really too nervous about that. I was really intrigued by what I would find out in the field.”
“Undercover Boss” is a reality TV show that disguises executives and films them as they join their employees on the job.
“What the show provides is CEOs or executives of companies a format to really get out and see what’s happening on the ground level directly with employees and sometimes interacting with customers a bit, so it’s not something that you really can schedule time to do to that degree, so I actually loved the whole experience, and the longer it went, the better it got for me,” Pedersen said.
Since Pedersen and Keith Nelleson co-founded Vivint, the home security company formerly known as APX Alarm Security Solutions, Pedersen has become the face of the company and wears signature Vivint hats daily. To prevent employees from recognizing him on "Undercover Boss," Pedersen wore a wig, fake facial hair, glasses and colored contact lenses.
“The funniest thing is it scared my son the first time he saw me,” Pedersen said. “He’s 4, and he would not even look at me he was so scared.”
During the week that he spent filming, Pedersen was reminded of the things he has lost as his company has grown to 7,000 employees, with 2,500 more in its solar business.
“It’s the direct relationships that I probably have missed since the company has gotten larger,” Pedersen said. “Not that I don’t have them, but they’re with the executive-level team down to middle-management. I actually am one that tries to interact with people quite a bit, but you only have so many hours in a day. Building those relationships (on "Undercover Boss") made me appreciate even more how special those people are and validate the fact that they are the drivers in the success of the business.”
Pedersen returned from filming “Undercover Boss” and immediately acted on what he learned.
“We actually made changes, interestingly, just from going out there and performing different jobs on ‘Undercover Boss,’ ” Pedersen said. “We made changes on some design to hardware, the installation process and different things, but really across the board it’s just the small things that make the difference and prove that the company really cares about its employees and their happiness on the job.”
Pedersen's interest in employees and customers may stem from advice his father gave him, which he shared with Fortune in a February 2014 article.
“First, if you’re going to run a company, you have to provide the best service you possibly can for your customers,” Pedersen said, quoting his father. “Second, you have to treat your employees like gold. And then three, everything else will work itself out.”
He calls that the best piece of advice he has ever received, and it has influenced the way Pedersen manages his company.
“I feel like I’ve always tried to appreciate all people that have been willing to work with me and with Vivint,” Pedersen said. “When you talk about assets or value inside of a company, I have always believed and tried to treat people here at Vivint like they are the main asset of business, not the technologies or the patents that we have, but it’s really the employees that drive the success of the business.”
Pedersen was pleased with what he saw while filming "Undercover Boss." While the employees he interacted with faced various challenges in their lives and in their jobs, they performed to the best of their ability and faced everything with a positive attitude. He learned to appreciate this attitude as he discovered just how complicated and stressful some Vivint jobs are.
When viewers tune in to his episode of "Undercover Boss" Friday night, Pedersen hopes it will help them understand the company's values.
“I would hope that people would watch the show so that they get to know Vivint,” Pedersen said. “What we do as a company, and then I hope that they’ll realize through that how we, myself included, appreciate the employee base and try to teach situations that we’re willing to address and resolve. And then how much the employee base cares about taking care of people.”
The episode will air Feb. 20 on CBS. Check your local listing for broadcast times.
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