UNDERCOVER BOSS: Churchill Downs
The executive alters his appearance and assumes an alias and fictional backstory. The fictitious explanation for the accompanying camera crew is that the executive is being filmed as part of a documentary about workers in a particular industry. The "undercover boss" then tries to do the same work that the actual employees do, experiences what they experience on the job, and talks with people to learn more about them.
At the end of the show, the boss reveals his identity and talks about what he has learned about the business, and ways to improve it for both the workers and the company. The boss also presents several of the employees that he met during the week undercover with varying rewards including job promotions and vacations.
In this episode, Bill Carstanjen, the chief operating officer (C.O.O.) of Churchill Downs Inc., home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby, got down and dirty at his own racetracks; he traveled to Churchill Downs Calder Casino and Race Course in Miami and Arlington Park near Chicago to work on a variety of jobs over a 10-day period but by his own admission did none of them very well.
He worked with a trainer in the stable area and learned how to care for a horse. Carstanjen also worked in the Jockey's Quarters saddling horses with a jockey's valet, with the track maintenance and housekeeping crews, wrote news releases in the pressbox, shadowed an outrider and even practiced with a track bugler. He mucked stalls and cleaned urinals, as well, apparently.
"Being undercover meant the people I was working with side-by-side could speak frankly about their work," Carstenjen said. "They talked about their personal sacrifices, health issues and time management, all while showing up every day for work with the same attitudes so many of us feel for this business - the passion, dedication and drive to get more fans to love the sport as much as we do."
Bill said that going incognito for 10 days among the workers at Calder Race Course and Arlington Park was "a fantastic experience." And he found it surprisingly emotional. "There were things I was very proud of and things that bothered me that I want to see improved," Carstanjen said. "At times, I wanted to cry, and at times, I was very happy."
Although he and producers were careful to do nothing to jeopardize anyone's safety, he said, "they still let me make an absolute fool of myself. There were very few things that I did right."
But he got to know a lot of employees. "I worked with people who have a lot of personal challenges - family issues, commuting issues, health concerns," Carstanjen said. "Part of what was really moving was how much commitment they bring to their jobs. I saw all sorts of things to improve on and to make better. It wasn't something I shied away from."
To go undercover, he wore jeans instead of suits, contact lenses instead of glasses, and grew out his beard. Nobody looked at him and thought "corner office," even though he was being followed by a camera crew, ostensibly to film a documentary on different kinds of work.
"When you have the 'reveal,' it's actually very emotional," he said, referring to the moment at the end of the show when the boss's identity is uncovered. "Since I'd gotten to know these folks, you might have thought it would be awkward, but it wasn't. They were happy to know I was listening and that the company cared about them."
He said the company plans to implement a similar, although not secret, program to allow managers and assistant managers to "walk a mile" in workers' shoes. "We want to give more people in our company the opportunity to understand what other people go through," Carstanjen said. "We are our own world. We've got a front side and a back side - it's very easy to not understand how difficult the other folks' jobs can be."
A very revealing look behind-the-scenes of the busy life on a racetrack's, "backside", filled with plenty of humorous, enjoyable and raw-emotion moments can be yours!
|Format(s) Available:||DVD And VHS|
|Category:||U.S. & Canadian Flat Racing|