The online news magazine of Atlas® World Group.
October 10, 2013

Undercover Boss

  • Atlas Canada
Kirsten Flynn thought she had a good team. But she didn't know how good they were until she became an undercover boss.
Tougher. Grimier. Riskier. Are you game?

Kirsten Flynn, Vice President, Premiere Van Lines (8060 Corporate Head Office), faced this proposition last spring when she was approached by the producers of Undercover Boss Canada. With operations in 22 key markets across Canada, Premiere Van Lines is a large player in Canada. 

"You don't audition or apply to get on the show," says Kirsten. "The producers pitch to you based on their research. Among the requirements for consideration are Canadian ownership, coast-to-coast operations, and a minimum of 1,000 employees." 

Kirsten says the decision wasn't easy. Filming would have to take place in the last week of June and first week of July, which meant she would be absent from her executive duties during the busiest week of the year. But the upside was great. Here was a rare opportunity to portray a positive message about her company, about Atlas, and about the industry. 

"Professional moving requires trucks, employees, insurance, brick-and-mortar locations," says Kirsten. "This was a chance to educate the public on what is involved. People should know that if they get a quote that is too low, the best thing they can do is ignore it...otherwise the repercussions can be expensive." 

With Kirsten's agreement, the producers proceeded to scout locations. Because the show is character-driven, they looked for employees whose personal stories would most likely resonate with viewers. To deter suspicion about the presence of a camera crew, the producers told employees they were filming an industry documentary. After visits to several Premiere branches, they had found the people they wanted to feature. 

For her part, Kirsten received a complete makeover. The crew cut and dyed her hair and outfitted her with different clothing. 

"I was introduced as Helen, a new employee," says Kirsten. "Helen was a stay-at-home mom whose kids are now grown, so she decided to take a job outside the home."

The production schedule was intense. The 46 minutes that make up the finished episode represent the distillation of 300 hours of shooting. What ended up on screen can be described as "magical." 

Kirsten says the experience has made her a better manager and better attuned to communication. She is now using social media more to share individual successes and strengthen teamwork. "When you are praised by and in front of your peers, your heart soars and you have a strong sense of belonging." 

"I have a lot of respect for the show... it has a lot of honesty," says Kirsten. "I love this industry and I love Premiere Van Lines. I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to show people how they can choose a good and reputable mover."