Reality TV already has exposed the inner workings of a number of intriguing industries — from crab fishermen and meter maids to mall cops and pawn brokers. This week, franchise businesses will get their own turn in front of the cameras.
On Sunday (Dec. 2), the creators of the reality show "Undercover Boss" will unveil their latest peek at the workplace on A&E with "Be the Boss" — a series that gives two lower-level franchise employees the opportunity to battle their way to the top of the franchise business.
"Each week, two deserving employees are summoned to corporate headquarters and told they are up for a promotion," Aaron Saidman, the show's executive producer, told BusinessNewsDaily. "What they don't know is that they are really being judged on who would make the best business owner."
In each episode, two candidates selected by their respective franchise system are put through a series of challenges designed to test their skills at running their own business. In the end, there are no losers, with one person winning their own franchise and the other getting a promotion.
"This is a fun show that takes employees and really puts them to the test," Saidman said. "It's a fun ride, but in the end, it is quite emotional and impactful."
Among the franchises featured in the show's first season are Complete Nutrition, Auntie Anne's, Molly Maid, The Melting Pot, Jazzercise and Signal 88 Security.
William Dunn, president and CEO of the hand-rolled soft pretzel chain Auntie Anne's, said being a part of the show afforded one of their hardworking employees a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"Our company is based on the principles of giving back, so this was a great fit for us and our brand," Dunn said.
For Complete Nutrition, reality TV meant opening more eyes to the franchise.
"We are always looking for positive exposure and a chance to show what our brand is all about," said Ryan Zink, president of Complete Nutrition.
Meg Roberts, president of the residential cleaning franchise Molly Maid, said she was sold on the idea of rewarding two deserving employees.
"There are two winners and no losers," Roberts said. "That was really appealing."
Roberts also is hoping that being in the spotlight will bring Molly Maid franchisees some new customers.
"That type of brand exposure is going to be great for our organization," Roberts said. "If we sell a franchise because of it, it would just be icing on the cake."
Throughout the hourlong program, which airs on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT, two contestants are put through the paces in a variety of tasks Dunn says encapsulate the key components of running a successful business, such as working with a team, leading others and being driven and passionate.
This season's challenges include running an Auntie Anne's store solo during the busiest delivery day of the week and creating and running a fitness class while promoting Complete Nutrition products.
While they might not be things a business owner faces every day, the intense tasks effectively test the contestants' ability to function under fire.
"We really put them to test," Roberts said. "We wanted to see how they would handle a situation that was out of the norm."
Producers credit an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" with the sparking the idea for the show. After the first season of "Undercover Boss," a number of the participating CEOs appeared on an Oprah episode, Saidman said. During the show, 7-11 CEO Joe DePinto awarded one of his employees with their own 7-11 store as a nod to their hard work.
"We thought that could be a show in and of itself," Saidman said.
Those who've taken part so far say the show served as a reminder of their employees' dedication.
"It confirmed to me that they are so many folks involved with Auntie Anne's around the country that are passionate about what they do," Dunn said.
Roberts said she enjoyed seeing how everyone in the brand came together to make the franchise shine.
"The show really brought out the best in all of our employees," she said.
In addition to "Be the Boss" and "Undercover Boss," creator Studio Lambert has also produced "The Pitch," which examines the advertising industry, and "Three in Bed" — a look inside the workings of a bed and breakfast.
"We love celebrating the American worker," Saidman said. "We find the workplace fascinating, and we think Americans are intrigued and fascinated by their inner workings."
Zink hopes the show gives viewers more of a feel for what the franchise industry, which includes more than 800,000 businesses that support nearly 18 million jobs, is all about.
"Hopefully people see that becoming an entrepreneur and being your own boss isn't that difficult," he said.