We spend a good chunk of our lives working. On average? At 40 hours a week, 49 weeks a year (assuming vacation time) multiplied by 45 years…I don’t even want to do the math.
It’s A LOT. So, it would be great if, during that time, we felt appreciated and valued for the job we’re doing.
Unfortunately, however, oftentimes it feels like the opposite. And yet, despite this, one employee still managed to maintain such an inspiring positive attitude that he ended up changing an entire company’s culture, impacted his community for good, AND got a new house.
What One CEO Discovered While Going Undercover
In an episode of Undercover Boss, Rick Forman, Founder and CEO of Forman Mills Inc., a quarter billion dollar A YEAR discount clothing outlet, decided to go undercover as “Brad” to see what needed to be changed before embarking on a huge expansion.
Donning a mullet and mustache and giving off serious ’70s vibes, Forman pretended to be a new Forman Mills management trainee.
While training under maintenance supervisor, Kurtis, at his flagship store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he really got the dirt on what working at the company was like. Literally and figuratively.
From scrubbing toilets to removing urine from, well, everywhere, Kurtis’s job was about as far from Forman’s plushy corner office as he could get.
At one point, while breaking down cardboard boxes, Forman asked, “Is morale good in this store?”
Kurtis didn’t hold back.
“This company, I feel like, don’t care about their employees. There ain’t a whole lot of future in a type of company like this,” he said. “It would be nice if the company had some type of incentive or some type of recognition for people that does a good job. There’s no incentive besides just having to feed your family.”
And yet, despite a lack of recognition and incentive, despite being unfairly overlooked for a promotion, despite all of it, somehow Kurtis still had the motivation to go the extra mile.
When the lesser among us would have become bitter and masters of sub-par performance — after all, you give what you get — Kurtis wasn’t deterred.
“A lot of the stuff that I do is not under my title. I treat this job like the job that I always wanted because when I do get the job I always want, I want to be ready for it…I gotta put myself in a position to achieve better.”
How Being Homeless Changed One Employee’s Life
Kurtis confided in Forman that for a period of his life, he struggled with alcoholism and bounced around from job to job. At one point, he was homeless.
Eventually, he stopped drinking and surrounded himself with “good people.” His life changed. But he never forgot what it was like to be at rock bottom. And he never forgot the difference one person can make.
He lives by the motto, “The more I give, the better I am.” And part of giving means giving back to the homeless shelter that once helped him.
During his lunch break, he asked Forman to accompany him to the shelter (where he regularly volunteers as a mentor) to hand out Forman Mills gift cards, cards which he had purchased with his own meager earnings.
It really hit a nerve with the CEO. Kurtis’s selfless actions reminded him of why he started his business in the first place — to serve the people in inner-city communities. The effect was so profound, in fact, that it ended up sparking an entire company-wide movement.
An Employee Receives a Life-Changing Offer
Forman was so moved and inspired by Kurtis and his attitude of giving back that he decided to implement a new community outreach program. And he appointed Kurtis to head it up, doubling his salary.
“When Forman Mills started, we were all about the community,” Forman said. “And now I realize we’ve been concentrating on growing and profiting and making our stores bigger…we really need to get back to our grassroots.”
He then revealed that he didn’t want Kurtis, or any employee of Forman Mills, to ever be homeless so he was buying him a house for up to $250,000.
“Five years ago man, I was just out, just roaming the streets, this is beyond my wildest dreams. My life just changed,” a shocked Kurtis told the CEO, crying and hugging him.
When he broke the news to his fiancée, Chinesa, she had the best response, telling him, “I told you you were worth it, I told you.”
Good things really do come to the people who deserve it.
A Company CEO Learns a Valuable Lesson: “It’s About the People”
Not only did Kurtis inspire Forman to invest a million dollars a year back into the community, but he also inspired him to give back to the people who made his company what it is today.
In a town hall meeting with employees, Forman, struggling to hold back tears, announced that he was implementing a profit-sharing program. “I realized we’re not going to go anyplace unless you guys have a stake in the outcome,” he shared.
The journey he took going undercover was a transformative one, not just for himself, but for Kurtis and his entire company as a whole.
Thanks to the actions of one employee, Forman realized the ultimate truth: True success isn’t measured in financial growth but in the positive impact one person can make in the lives of others.
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