To celebrate The Dwyer Group’s 30th anniversary, chairwoman and CEO Dina Dwyer-Owens felt it was time to do a little investigative work. Underneath a black wig and lots of makeup, Dwyer-Owens went undercover, seeking entry-level employment at four of the seven franchises her company represents. The Dwyer Group, based in Waco, Texas, is the holding company for Aire Serv®, Glass Doctor®, Mr. Appliance®, Mr. Electric®, Mr. Rooter®, Rainbow International®, and The Ground Guys®.

Dwyer-Owens’ true objective wasn’t to land a job, but to secretly evaluate the customer service experience and see if the company’s code of values was really penetrating the organization’s front line efforts.

For a few days last summer, Dwyer-Owens, rechristened as Faith Brown, found herself clumsily hedging trees in 100° F Tennessee heat, installing a hefty water heater, splicing thermometer wires inside an oven, replacing exit signs atop historic Houston buildings, and more.

Her entire journey was filmed by television crews and will be broadcast nationwide at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Jan. 22 on the Emmy-nominated CBS television show “Undercover Boss,” which follows executives as they leave the comfort of their corner offices for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of the companies they lead. While working alongside employees, they see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organizations, and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their companies run.

“I’ve always appreciated our service professionals and re-cognize that their work is not easy from my bird’s-eye view, but this experience was really from a worm’s-eye view,” she said. “I was literally in the dirt with these service professionals. The work they do is much more difficult than I ever imagined.”

Dwyer-Owens was promoted to the position of president in 1999 and CEO/chairwoman in 2007. While in office, she vowed to make surprise stops at franchises across the United States, gauging their success and ability to uphold The Dwyer Group’s code of values — respect, integrity, customer focus, and having fun in the process.

“We have a very clear code of values and ask our franchisees to do the same with their employees,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if that was really happening as much as I’d hoped, because I have been busy as CEO and haven’t been in the field to test it. I felt our 30th anniversary was the perfect time to get out there and see firsthand.”

Unaware of her destination, Dwyer-Owens boarded a plane last summer bound for a Mr. Electric franchise near Houston. At her first training assignment, she was asked to perform commercial work that had her scaling a tall ladder to replace a faulty exit sign atop a historic building, cutting holes for sockets, and not-so-patiently waiting in a product line while fetching supplies under deadline.

Her next stop was with a The Ground Guys franchise near Memphis, Tenn., where she encountered a number of challenges, including a sweltering heat index of 118 degrees.

“It was scorching hot,” she said. “We had to stop what seemed like every 30 minutes to take a drink. I only made it a half a day and to think these guys do this all day every day is incredible.”

Through a training session at a Mr. Rooter franchise, Dwyer-Owens was faced with the challenge of removing and replacing a broken residential water heater.

“This water heater was bigger than me,” she said. “It was hard enough to get that thing off the truck. Luckily, the service professional I worked with had the patience to allow me to attempt to manage the process all on my own. I was determined to get the job done, and this may provide some comic relief when the show airs.”

Her last visit was with a Houston-area Mr. Appliance franchise, where Dwyer-Owens had to fit her whole body inside an oven to splice and rewire a thermometer.

“I was impressed with her enthusiasm and ambitious drive, however, it was obvious that she hadn’t done this type of work before,” said Mr. Appliance service technician Tanna Marino.

“It is easy to become frustrated with the daily grind of one’s job and begin to feel like your challenges go unnoticed, but this experience made me realize my opinion is not only important to my employer, but valued. It’s not every day an employee gets to meet the CEO of their company.”

Following her training with all four franchises, Dwyer-Owens said she was impressed with the professionalism and care she en-countered. “Every one of these individuals has their own story, challenges, and pains,” she said. “Yet, when it came time to get on the front line and take care of business, that is exactly what they did.

“Today, our mission is all about making a positive impact on people’s lives — regardless of the fact that we’re doing service work or that we’re in the franchising business. We’re really in the business of improving the quality of people’s lives, and I feel we are going to touch millions more through our brands.”

CBS executive director Chris Carlson believes Dwyer-Owen’s passion makes this airing one of the series’ most powerful and moving episodes. “This is clearly more than just a job for Dina as she has deep emotional ties to the business and its employees since The Dwyer Group was founded by her late father, who was also her mentor,” he said. “We felt she was an incredibly strong and compelling character who happened to be a female leading a male-dominated company. We thought the family of Dwyer brands gave us a great diversity and volume of classic job types.”

Publication date: 01/16/2012