Undercover Boss: Great Wolf Resorts' Kimberly Schaefer is Show's First Female CEO

undercover boss great wolf resort kimberly schaeferGreat Wolf Resorts' CEO is boldly going where no 'Undercover Boss' has ever gone before: into the ladies room. That's right -- this week marks the first time we've seen a female infiltrate a company incognito. "I hope I do a good job representing my gender," says CEO Kimberly Schaefer. But it seems she was doing that long before she was on the show.

"I've always been a very driven, focused, hard worker," she says, which is probably why, after 14 years, she is the only one left of the original six partner group that got the ball rolling on the resorts. She was also the only female. Now Great Wolf is North America's largest family of indoor water park resorts, a $330 million business with 12 facilities nationwide and more being built. It's slippery work managing a company like that, and managing a family at the same time.

But Schaefer is living proof that you can have it all. She has two well-adjusted kids, a daughter age 15 and a son age 12, and a very supportive husband who is the key to balancing her multi-faceted life. "He stays at home," she explains. "We're like yin and yang. He is laid back and relaxed, and enjoys running marathons and puttering around the house. Dave doesn't have an ego. He's all about what's best for the family."

undercover boss great wolf resort Kimberly schaeferGreat Wolf Resorts attempts to be all about what's best for the family too, and Schaefer's undercover experience opened her eyes to the myriad different needs of the families involved, whether they belong to employees or to guests. Her cover story for being followed by a camera crew was also family oriented -- it was explained that she was part of a reality series about moms going back to work.

And many of the employees she worked with were working mothers. Jackie, who showed her how to manage the very complicated check-in process, had long, irregular hours on her feet, which exacerbated a knee problem that she hadn't had the time or money to take care of. She was also unable to to attend her kids' extracurricular activities, because her shifts were so irregular.

Once Schaefer's identity was revealed, she wasted no time giving Jackie a raise and switching her to a consistent 7:00 am to 3:00 pm shift so she could be there more often for her kids, and paying for her knee surgery and recovery time.

These were probably among the most emotional, and most heartfelt resolutions of any undercover boss yet. That could be one of the advantages of her gender. Schaefer was very aware of how nurturing her staff is, and attempted to return that.

"I was surprised by the way the staff accommodates the individual needs of each guest, and they have so many." She notes how, when she was working as a waitress, one guest came in who had just had a car accident. Schaefer was so impressed with the way Deanna (the server who was training her) handled that guest's special needs.

Schaefer was also impressed with the way Deanna handled her needs -- which included serving just one table, while Deanna juggled six. Schaefer was particularly touched by the fact that Deanna had lost a daughter in an accident and is recovering and building a new life. "I thought of my own daughter, and how difficult it would be to lose her," Schaefer says through tears.

She was moved to not only give Deanna a raise and a promotion, but to pay for her to take six months off to spend time with her new baby and family. "You need to see him grow up," she told Deanna.

But that wasn't Schaefer's most challenging assignment. Working as an aquatic supervisor at their massive Grapevine, Texas, facility got that honor. Shorts she felt were too short and too tight were the least of her worries -- she found being aware of everyone's safety at all times a bit overwhelming, and was impressed with how Kelly, her trainer, managed it. She also struggled with wearing a heavy shirt in an environment they keep heated to 84 degrees, so the guests, in their swimsuits, will be warm. "Running around so much with all those clothes on is not easy," she says.

Then there was the poop. Schaefer was called to respond to an "AFR" (Accidental Fecal Release). It involved getting in the pool and fishing out the offending object, then cleaning up the "smear" at the bottom of the pool. At first she thought, "Why did I volunteer to do this?" But then she calmed down, and realized, "S--t happens." It was nothing she hadn't seen before.

She realized that Kelly and his colleagues had to deal with that every day, along with keeping all the guests in the park safe at all times, yet they were amazingly competent and had very positive attitudes, especially Kelly. He confided in her that his real dream was to become a pilot, so not only did she give him a raise and a promotion, but is paying for him to attend flight school.

Having raised two kids of her own, Schaefer thought she would have been more relaxed and capable helping kids make pizza at the "Cub Club," the Texas facility's daycare activity center. But there's no fooling kids, who were merciless about her being a newbie. She was grateful for the good nature and energy of Bree, who had only been with the company a few months. Shortly after she got her job at Cub Club, Bree's husband lost his job, and with her daughter going to college, she was more grateful than ever for her work. Schaefer ended up creating a whole new position for Bree, and arranging a scholarship for her daughter.

AOL Jobs Asks Kimberly Schaefer
5 Quick Questions

1. What was your first job? I worked for my dad in an optical lab making sunglasses.

2. What inspires you? My family inspires me to work hard for them every day.

3. What is the most important trait needed to succeed? Understanding.

4. What's your biggest challenge? Being a working mom (she pauses to wonder why no one ever answers that question with "being a working dad," which is not even a common phrase).

5. What is the best career advice you ever received? Don't take anything personally. It's not always about you.

While the male CEOs seem to sort of enjoy dressing down and relaxing their grooming standards, it was more difficult for Schaefer. "I admit, the vanity kicked in," she says. They cut and dyed her hair and put large glasses on her. "I didn't even recognize myself when I looked in the mirror," she says. But after awhile, she was so busy she forgot about it. One of the minor fringe benefits of the experience is that her husband loves her new bob.

Some Undercover Bosses are so shy and nervous about their experience they prefer to stay home and watch the final product when it airs for the first time, surrounded by their immediate families. But not Schaefer. They're throwing a a massive watching party at the resort closest to where she lives in Madison Wis., and more premiere parties at each of the resorts across the country. "It's going to be a big bash everywhere, and all the employees are invited to bring their families," she says.

That seems to be perfectly fitting for Great Wolf Resorts.

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Kinda stupid how someone can become COO, CEO, CFO, and not know 1 THING ABOUT THE BUSINESS. Just like a manager at wal mart, the grocery store, etc. THEY ARE MANAGERS BUT CANT RUN A CASH REGISTER. wow.

January 30 2011 at 8:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great Wolf Lodge seems to be a great place for kids! I teach preschool and we have kids go there all the time. It became such a big thing with the kids iin my class year before last that we got wristbands in our class and they played "great wolf lodge" with each other. lol

October 04 2010 at 8:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Although it was a very kind gesture to give the employee a raise and 6 months off along with a promotion, I believe it shows what is wrong with corporate thinking. There are more employees with similar tragedies ans stories that did not have the oppurtunity to meet and tell their stories. Will they be given a raise and promotion also? Did this individual think how other employees morale would be affected by this? Although it was a very kind gesture on her part I personally believe it was wrong. I personally know a employee of Great Wolf who worked 3 jobs to support her family and ill mother and also know a employee who lost her mother, father and brother within 1 year of each other. How do you think these employees feel?

October 04 2010 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This show is all set up and fake. The CEOs are paired with someone who has problems to make a good show. I stopped watching it as soon as I found out the truth. I'm sick of reality programming that is more fake than real.

October 04 2010 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Oh Boy

My wife **is** a millionaire CEO and I don't get to putter around the house. Have to work my 9 to 5 for twenty bucks an hour or she'll kick my *** out. ggggrrrrrrr

October 04 2010 at 7:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
organko the unbridled

she looks cute in shorts :)

October 04 2010 at 7:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I enjoy watching Undercover Boss, of course, because it allows CEO's to see just how hard their employees work to help make the companies what they are, However, this is a T.V. show! These CEO's and employees alike know they are on camera! You will never, ever, EVER see the real Reality, becuase they know they are on camers. It's a show where companies are given the opportunity to uphold their image to us, the viewer. If there was no camera, you wouldn't be seeing very much compasion from the CEO's. I may be pesemistic, but also realistic.

October 04 2010 at 7:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh boo hoo hoo! I hate my boss! Waaa haaa haaa haaa haaa!!! My boss makes me work!!!!! Waaa haaa haaa haa!!!!! My boss expects the business to be productive and make money!!!!! WAAA HAAAA HAAA HAAA HAAA HAAA HAAAAA!!!!! I can't be thankful for being employed, I'd rather be homeless and eat cat food!!!!! WAAA AHAA HAAA HAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!

October 04 2010 at 6:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Safety Gal

Sorry, but Kimberly seemed totally unprepared and inept. Usually a company sends all new hires through an orientation meeting which includes written policy, safety rules, chain of command etc. Where is the manual? Did she read it? Why didn't she study it so she knew some of the terminology? Sure, you don't remember everything, but she looked down right stupid. I would hate to be the person training her. I think she needs to spend more time with her family and a lot less on self gratification. I'm glad I don't work directly with her.

October 04 2010 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

we are going to have to clean up this big big mess obama made in the last 2 years.......impeach obama...

October 04 2010 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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