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Going 'Undercover' Changed How I Run My Business

Going 'Undercover' Changed How I Run My Business Credit: Marco's Pizza

The following piece was contributed as part of Business News Daily's byline series:

My background is perhaps not typical of your run of the mill C-level executive. Our family struggled growing up, and we always had to work extremely hard to make ends meet.  As hard as I tried, I wasn't impervious to making mistakes.

In my youth, I stumbled into the wrong crowd before a kindhearted judge decided to give me a break, for which I have been immensely thankful ever since. That was the turning point for me and I resolved to do everything I could to turn my life around and take advantage of the opportunity I was offered.

Without a college education, I used my "second chance" to work my way up in the restaurant and hospitality business, from dishwasher at my local Holiday Inn, to my current role as president and COO of Marco's Pizza.

I took my opportunity for redemption and ran with it, never looking back — until my recent experience of going undercover on CBS' "Undercover Boss."

This past January, I appeared on an episode of "Undercover Boss"to get an up-close view at the front-line operations of Marco's Pizza. While all of America had a chance to see my employee empathy put to the test, some may have missed the story of how the experience caused me to reflect on my own life, which in turn directly impacted changes to how I run my business.

Disguised as a bearded, middle-aged man trying to map out his future career, I traveled across the country working as a Marco's Pizza cashier, delivery driver and pizza maker, performing tough everyday duties that even included unloading hundreds of pounds of ingredients and supplies to pizza stores in the dead of night. 

When I was first approached about appearing on the show, I was skeptical. However, the opportunity to gain an unfiltered view into our operations was irresistible and turned out to be invaluable.  I learned a lot about myself and the experience reemphasized how a quality business requires quality people.

In life, it's often easy to view individuals through a narrow lens of who they currently are, versus with the broad vision to see who they are capable of being. My journey on "Undercover Boss"reminded me that I was once in the same position as our entry-level employees are now, just waiting and working for an opportunity to achieve my potential.

This reminded me that talent can come from anywhere, and led me to discover multiple employees during my experience that I believed to possess a high level of potential to move up within the brand. I learned to be more willing to look past what we sometimes see on the surface, and focus more on what people are capable of achieving if given the right opportunity. I could be a catalyst to others in achieving their dreams just as my first manager did for me.

Following the show, we began creating leadership and ownership opportunities for our employees, in addition to requiring all of our corporate office staff to work at least one day a year at a Marco's store. These changes allow us to ensure we are taking advantage of the goldmine of high-level potential among employees.

Appearing on "Undercover Boss" helped me learn how to make Marco's Pizza the pizza of choice, employer of choice, and partner of choice through reflection of my own roots.

About the author: Bryon Stephens is the president and chief operating officer of the Marco's Pizza franchise. Follow the company on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Shannon at sgausepohl@purch.com to learn more about our contributed content program.