Home Improvement CEO Gets Misty-Eyed On 'Undercover Boss'

Dwyer Group Undercover Boss CEOThe pious chief executive of The Dwyer Group weeps when she finds out about her employees' woes on this Sunday's "Undercover Boss." The two-time Emmy nominated CBS reality show is now in its third season, and took its viewers Down South this past weekend. And for the season's second episode, Southern hospitality was shown very early to be a central tenet of the episode's featured company. Based out of Waco, Texas, The Dwyer Group is the parent company of seven franchises including Mr. Rooter and Mr. Appliance.

Overseeing a meeting of employees from the upper ranks of her company, CEO Dina Dwyer-Owens (pictured at top) prompts her lieutenants to recite the company's code of values. Morality is demonstrated to be vital to Dwyer-Owens from her several church visits. And by rote, her workers more than oblige her at the company meeting. With military precision, they take turns preaching the company philosophy: "We are treated how we want to be treated."

Indeed, Dwyer-Owens then goes on camera to explain the company's four guiding pillars, which include "respect, integrity, customer focus, and having fun in the process." In practice, all this means a 14-step guide that must be followed by the electricians, carpenters and other employees who make worksite visits on behalf of Dwyer-Owens.

That covers 10,000 employees nationwide, who do $800 million in business a year at 1,560 locations. Dwyer-Owens, who worked in the real estate division before ascending to the top post, is the daughter of the company's founder, the now deceased Don Dwyer Sr.

She readily acknowledges having confronted the challenge of being the "boss' daughter," and says that questions regarding her own merit would always follow her. Perhaps as a reaction to that role, Dwyer-Owens learned over the years to overcompensate, and developed a sincerity and lack of imperiousness in sitting atop her group. As she heads off to her first assignment, Dwyer-Owens turns to the camera, and says that she looks forward to getting feedback from her company's front-line workers so as to know how to best make improvements.

Her first of four gigs takes her to Roswell, Ga., where in impersonating a job applicant (who introduces herself as "Faith Brown"), the CEO confronts unhappiness with a company-wide compensation model. Brown is brought to the Peach State for an apprenticeship with Mr. Rooter, which produces 70 percent of The Dwyer Group's revenue. She is slated to install a water heater with a man named Wayne.

Wayne expresses his loyalty to the recognizable brand in discussing his job, and says he is proud to work for the brand that once employed his father. But he is not thrilled with how he is paid by The Dwyer Group. He tells of a compensation scheme based on commission, but from which "material" is taken out each cycle to account for costs. Wayne mentions one employee who, he says, ended up owing the company money, and Wayne refers to the model as "shady." And when Wayne talks about his family, which includes an autistic child, Dwyer-Owens tears up. This is the first time of many when the CEO cries, and in each instance she eventually addresses the cause of her concern with corrective action.

But it's hard to imagine she had no idea how her company pays its employees in its largest franchise, or it's at least indicative of an uninvolved executive.

Her second visit takes her to Germantown, Tenn., where another sad tale brings an earnest Dwyer-Owens to tears. Jake, an employee of Ground Guys, is a profile in courage. He has been mowing lawns and doing other landscape work since he was 8 years old. Now 20, Jake helps watch after his brothers after their father committed suicide. He tells the story with a steely reserve well beyond his years. When Dwyer-Owens recounts her reaction to Jake's story, she says it got her "heart racing," and it's not hard to see why.

On her third visit, Dwyer-Owens faces the most formidable challenge to her philosophy and work code yet. In Deer Park, Texas, an employee of Mr. Electrician, named Brock, drives her around to jobs with his truck. They are to do upkeep at the Magnolia Ballroom. On the car ride he dismisses the 14 steps that all employees must follow. Customers are "more focused on business," Brock says. The "customer is not really into all that," but rather is "more focused on getting it done than on how it gets done." Dwyer-Owens sits there with a blank face and takes it. She is forced to accept that a guideline that includes laying out a welcome mat for all customers may not always extend beyond the boardroom.

The fourth and final leg of the show brings her more satisfaction. Traveling to Conroe, Texas, Dwyer-Owens is set up to work with Mr. Appliance. Her stint as a service technician is very different than all her other gigs in one glaring respect -- she's to work with a woman -- identified as Tanna. "We have so few in any of our brands -- this is cool, I just didn't expect it," Dwyer-Owens says. Working with Tanna, Dwyer-Owens helps fix an oven.

Tanna says that older customers are less hospitable to female technicians, something that Dwyer-Owens got a hint of in her own home: At the episode's start, her husband said that he expected tension resulting from his wife's gender when she worked these technical jobs.

But Dwyer-Owens says that she wants more women to be able to make a living off of "working with their hands" -- if that's what they want. And she makes that desire the focal point of the program's final chapter -- the reveal. She tells the employees that she was in fact not a contestant on a reality show featuring career changes but rather one that disguises the CEO.

In talking to her compadre, Tanna, Dwyer-Owens tells her that she wants her help in launching an apprenticeship program for women. Dwyer-Owens ponies up $5,000 for the program. But she also gives Tanna $10,000 for each of her children to start a college fund, so Tanna can spend time at home without picking up a second job.

Dwyer-Owens also shows a desire to grow her employees in her dealings with Jake, the 20-year old. She gives him a new truck, and tells him that she wants him to start a new franchise for Ground Guy.

Dwyer-Owens also accepts the criticism from Wayne over compensation, and says it will be adjusted. She gives Wayne $20,000 for a down payment on his home.

Where she is less generous is with Brock. She urges him to give the 14-step model a try. The only gift that she has for him is a gift certificate so that he can brand his truck with a decal. Not quite a life-changer, but also not a pink slip for the man who dismissed the company ethic right to the CEO's face.

Next: Hotelier Becomes Benefactor For Medical Bills On 'Undercover Boss' Premiere

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Dina Dwyer-Owens' role was that of an actress, nothing more. She claims in her speeches that she has faith-based values; yet, she turns a blind eye when her franchisees engage in fraudulent activity and the customer reaches out to corporate for help. Even the president of Mr. Rooter Corporation (Mrs. Rooter) was caught in intentional lies to the homeowner (proof of that is on the internet) and wouldn't admit it or offer any apology - no remorse. The president of Mr. Rooter Corporation can't even keep her story straight. She refuses to engage in any written communication. The president of Mr. Rooter claims that having "conversation" is important, but she is the one who dominates any phone conversation and proceeds to interrupt and talk over the other party on the line; thus, it isn't really a conversation is it? Wouldn't that violate their Code of Values? Ahhh….Yes, it would. The president of Mr. Rooter Corporation's only concern was ensuring the the franchisee and its parent company wouldn't have to part with any money that wasn't legitimately earned. Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Pittsburgh, Mr. Rooter Corporation, and The Dwyer Group are guilty of high pressure, misleading sales tactics, fraud, and breech of contract. I have created a youtube video with links to my blog and my mother's blog stating facts and our conclusions based on the factual events presented, as well as provided supporting media. We have nothing to hide, but they definitely do.

If you were lucky enough to have them "solve" your problem with whatever repair you probably didn't need, then congratulations! If you want to used them again, by all means go right ahead.

If you experienced a similar situation (should be more than just price gouging…even we knew we would pay more with a national chain, but we expected to be dealing with professional plumbers not just salesman diagnosing our issues *in PA, you don't have to be licensed and can work as a plumber if you work for a master plumber…the owner is the only one that has to be licensed and he was never at the job site* nor did we expect our problem to exist after forking over $19,500 and it be solved at no charge by the sewage authority!!!!!), I would submit your situation to your local Attorney General (check applicable laws). Multiple complaints may garner the attention of your local Attorney General and inspire action to help protect consumers.

They should not be allowed to get away with this kind of unethical behavior. Corruption is present throughout the entire organization!! While they employ a great number of people, if they are getting their money illegally defrauding people, do we need that kind of organization around?


November 07 2012 at 7:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


January 24 2012 at 10:46 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This show made me sick. I made the biggest mistake of my life 4 years ago,buying a Mr. Rooter. Having had a family business in the field, we felt this would help us grow. The Dwyer group fed us all types of pretty stories and how they help their people and no one ever had filed bankruptcy. Neither had we until we met them. We are now in financial ruins due to their unanswered promises of help and protection. You purchase by territory and they promise protection from other Mr. Rooter's. When you give them out and out proof that their favorites are stepping over the line they give them a little slap on the hand, not how the contract reads. We went to them many times explaining the difficulties we were having and they brushed them off. We have run our own company for over 35 years and were doing all right until then. Our lives are in a shambles, we have almost lost our home,our credit is shot and our family has suffered large emotional stress. Where was Dina with all her help when we were crying out for help. They painted a pretty picture, but the truth be told its DOG EAT DOG. We had an excellent credit record, but ruined our credit using everything we had to try and make this work. We spent thousands of dollars on marketing to no avail.
The promises where empty. We were told the existing Mr.Rooter would be turning over the calls in our area when he got them, he kept running the calls hoping not to get caught. I set him up with calls and he took them, I proved it to the company and nothing was done. I talked to them about buying other area soon after getting in and they told me they would get back to me. This area backed up to my area and more of the calls came from that area. The following week they signed a contract with someone else. All the while knew they were selling the area to someone else.
They are very sweet and nice when you meet with them, but its really all about money. Where was Dina with her handouts when we were crying out for help. We are now in ligation with Mr. Rooter and pray that we will see ourselves out of this mess. Being a family business this has affected our whole extended family and ruined many lives. With the grace of God we are hanging in there.
Never did we have to use a food pantry, we always gave, but having to walk in there in order to feed my family bought me to tears. i really have seen the other side, not like Dina with her pearls doing a few days of physical work. How was it everyone had microphones on. They try to get you to upsale every job, in this economy people need to get done the bare needs taken care of. They want honesty
They take their fees even when you aren't making it. . If you are smart you will run if they call you to buy. May God watch over and bless all the others who fall for their empty promises.

January 24 2012 at 9:42 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
T Gonzalez-Crespo

Dwyer and Tanna aren't compadres they are comadres (feminine form)

January 23 2012 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When you take a job,you take their check,you take their rules! Bottom line!

January 23 2012 at 10:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


January 23 2012 at 10:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The "pious," church-going chief executive of The Dwyer Group, who certainly had her father and his friends greasing her "climb" to the top, is so full of bald-faced lies she's pathetic.

The article doesn't say what churches she goes to, but it's clear that her real denomination is "dollars."

She's been running a corporation that runs her employees into the ground, but when she gets next to them, and in front of a camera on the major network, she is shocked, absolutely shocked, to see how she's making her money.

And the corporations' motto? What does it mean?

I could understand if the philosophy was "We treat others like we would want to be treated."

But what the hell does "We are treated how we want to be treated" mean?

Given the abusive way that the corporation treats them, the motto implies that the employees are into some kind of S&M thing.

They certainly aren't be treated by the corporation the way most humans would want to be treated.

January 23 2012 at 10:05 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Shame on you Dan Fastenberg, what an obviously biased piece of "journalism?" I bet if the church had been "the church of lets feel good about ourselves" or the church of scientology your article wouldn't have mentioned it. But you are on the same train as a lot of other journalists, equating Christianity, and Cristians with being somehow weird and wrong. There was so much you could have said in your article that would have made a very positive article but you chose to set a tone with your first sentence. Shame on you!!!!

What a mean board this is as well, so many haters, I despair for the state of humanity.

January 23 2012 at 9:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Was it just me, or was that gym teacher looking undercover boss hitting on that cute little country girl from nowhere ?

January 23 2012 at 9:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a very humble woman. God bless her.

January 23 2012 at 9:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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