Since 2008 and with the slowing recession, the top 1% of the United States population has accumulated an estimated 95% of the country’s income. The disparity isn’t just economic, though; many industry leaders rarely put boots to the ground to see the true condition of their companies, but instead blame lack-luster financial gains on lack-luster employees. Rick Forman, owner of big-box discount clothing store chain Forman Mills, was able to see what truly plagued his business, and found out it was not his employees. Forman participated in the reality show Undercover Boss, which disguises CEOs and company owners and has them work for their companies as entry level laborers.
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After been done up like a 1970s cartoon with golden-framed glasses, a mullet and a cop stache (that’s a bushy mustache favored by law enforcement), he was put to work at the chain’s lowest-performing store in Chicago. There, he initially trained under Elizabeth, a single mother of two who works two jobs to support them, in tasks related to the sales floor at the store. He came to the realization that the reason the store was underperforming was not the employees, but an outdated pricing system. To the contrary, he found that Elizabeth, the employee he was training with, was extremely dedicated to the store.
Digging in deeper
He continued his undercover mission in a distribution center in New Jersey, then to a retail store which he worked with Nikia. There he discovered that the company offers very little training for customer service representatives and found another antiquated Point of Sales system. While working with Nikia, he found out that she had a child with Down syndrome and was struggling to support her with the salary she received. He then met Kurtis, a reformed alcoholic who was actually homeless at one point in his life. Kurtis showed Forman how to correctly clean the restrooms and prepare cardboard boxes for the compactor. Later on, Kurtis took Forman to a homeless shelter that he mentors at.
The reveal and the redemption
With the conclusion of Forman’s ‘training,’ he revealed himself to all of the employees. There was a much more significant reveal, though. He gave Elizabeth $5.000 dollars to start a college fund for each of her children, and paid off her car. He finally gave her a raise, a promotion, and bought her and her children a trip to Disney World. He then praised Nikia for being an exemplary employee, promoted her to frontend manager, gave her a raise and a full-time position. He also gifted Nikia $15,000 to help her with her special needs child’s expenses. Finally, he met with Kurtis who had the most profound effect on Forman. He told Kurtis that he was emotionally touched by his story and considered him an inspiration. He said that Kurtis had inspired him to create a community outreach program and doubled Kurtis’ salary to run it. He finally offered to buy Kurtis a $250.000 home.
Rick Forman might have a bit more understanding of the everyday man’s plight. He started his company with a $70 loan from his father selling athletic clothes at flea markets; today, his company is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Even so, the generosity and compassion that this man displayed is beyond comparison.