'Undercover Boss': Budget Blinds CEO Finally Sees The Light On Ad Plan

Chad Hallock Undercover Boss Budget Blinds CEOThere's nothing like being shown the light. If you work in the blinds-and-drapery business, that should come with the territory. But on Friday's episode of "Undercover Boss," Chad Hallock, CEO of Budget Blinds, the country's largest window-covering franchisor, fought enlightenment as long as he could.

"I take it very personally when [my employee] starts disagreeing with the way corporate spends its advertising [money]," Hallock told the camera while defending a national advertising strategy for his company's 800 franchises. "I don't think I am defensive. I think I know what I am talking about. I've got incredible logic and rationale to support the decisions we make."

Hallock, pretending to be "Tom Robbins," an owner of a cast-iron business on a phony reality show called "Second Chances," dismissed critiques from an employee named Keith, citing Keith's performance as a Budget Blinds' salesman. His numbers "aren't stellar," he said. In fact, despite his 10-year's experience, Keith's sales approach seemed a bit lethargic -- at least from what viewers saw on the show.

"Would you see yourself as a little more casual?" Keith asked a client, as if he were a therapist, and not a pitchman trying to close a deal. His sales visit took hours, and the clients were left unsatisfied. "I need someone to tell me what to do," one customer said.

"Keith's problem was that he didn't know how to consult," Hallock said during an interview with AOL Jobs. "There comes a time when the customer wants to know what you think." So Hallock initially paid little attention to Keith's complaints that the Chicago-area franchises should have greater control over advertising money, as well as the ability to choose which television stations to pitch to.

Until he heard the exact same gripe on his next site visit.

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"Why can't we have local control?" asked Maris, who owns one of the Chicago franchises, saying she'd like to choose where Budget Blinds billboards are placed in her market. Maris' performance was more formidable than Keith's. She owned her installation visits, seeing to it that the blinds and draperies fit perfectly while also assuring customers that they need not fret about the process. She also showed a willingness to "juice" doormen by "greasing" them: She gives them some cash to make sure they send business her way.

It wasn't surprising that Hallock stood firm in the face of a little criticism. Having been abandoned by his father during his teenage years, he was forced to work to help put food on the table. As he notes at the TV episode's start, the situation made him angry until, at age 16, his stepfather asked a question that changed his life: "What makes you think your parents owe you anything?"

By age 19, he opened his Orange County, Calif.-based blinds business which, he says, began generating $100,000 a month in sales by the end of the first year. Twenty-six years later, that figure has grown to $240 million in annual revenue. But he is still surrounded by his closest friends and twin brother, Brent, in his inner circle at Budget Blinds. Having mastered the chilled-out West Coast casual-corporate look, the group comes off as if they just walked off the set of "Swingers" while appearing at a company barbecue. Keith even tweaked Hallock for being too "Hollywood" for the company's Midwest employees.

Another 'Undercover Boss' Heartthrob

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of Hallock's site workers swooned over him. In what has become almost a weekly routine on the show, the Boss became a heartthrob. Last week, it was Sam Taylor, the CEO of TaylorMade, who was so flattered by one of his employee's come-ons while he was undercover that he decided to reveal his identity.

For his part, Hallock kept his actual identity secret, even while Pam, an assembly line worker in Middleton, Wis., openly fawned over "Tom Robbins." "Tom has a famous rock star look," she confided to a co-worker.

'What in the world was appealing about me? I was wearing a Mohawk [for my disguise]," he said during an interview with AOL Jobs. "Pam was just such a sweet person, it was really more sweet than wrong." Pam even told him that she wanted to invite Hallock to her hot tub, but it was unclear if her husband would also be asked to join the party.

The show moved from the light to the heavy in its last visit, in which Hallock worked with a blinds installer in Topeka, Kan., named Dennis. In a company that allows franchisees to run the business as they see fit, Dennis does door-to-door advertising after each site visit -- even though he's just an installer. And his chivalrous demeanor -- he disapproves of the cool, grunge style of "Tom Robbins" -- is a total success in the field. He nets 600 installations a year, which Hallock said was enough to make Dennis one of his highest performers.

Dennis has had no choice but to excel for his family. Having lost one of his five children to a roadside shooting, Dennis presides over a tight-knit clan in which he and his wife of 25 years help raise their grandchildren. And so in the reveal, Dennis was given $40,000 to help remodel the family home. Both Dennis and Hallock were moved to tears.

"That's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me," Dennis said. Hallock was equally charitable with Maris, the second worker to complain about the advertising plan. She was given $30,000 to help pay for the medical bills for her 12-year-old son Tyler, who's had trouble writing with his right arm after a football injury. She was having trouble getting appointments with neurologists.

The experience was a learning one for Hallock. He came around on the marketing strategy, announcing a committee for regional advertising during the reveal. He'll also pony up $25,000 for the campaign. He even eased up on his hard-nosed style; admitting to Keith his stubbornness about ad strategy. And the punishment for the brazen Keith, who maintained his air of defiance through the reveal? A college fund for his kids, with $15,000 for each.

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100% true or not, I love the show. I don't know how long it can go on literally "undercover", but it's a well-produced, well crafted 60 minutes that cannot be compared to any other hour on television. I think back to an episode where, in introducing the Boss and his Family, time was spent explaining the couple's trip to China to adopt a little girl to become their new daughter, joining three teenage girls in the home. When the Boss was leaving for his week in the field, his little Chinese daughter followed him to the door, then when he was going down the driveway, she said "Bye Daddy" ... ... tender moments like this drive me up the wall, I shed a few tears, then am not worth a DAMN for the first hour following the show ... and have no regrets for the experience. Period. Long live Undercover Boss ...

April 29 2013 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a joke! See the like? Yeah right....Chad and his buddies running Budget Blinds have been told by franchisees for YEARS that they needed some of the money they send corporate monthly for advertising to state locally or to have corporate give them more support in their local markets in terms of advertising. SO they came up with $25k for one market, doubt it will spread across the system. They are all "Hollywood" and cannot understand that there are territories out in the rural areas of the country that are spread across vast expanses of geography just to make ends meet and what works in Orange County California does not necessarily work in Minnesota or Massachusetts. Just 2 years ago there were about 1100 BB franchises now there are 800 and these handouts were not there to help them. The show was highly edited and I would have liked to see a successful sales person rather than 2 installs.

April 20 2012 at 3:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The first thing everyone needs to remember is that Franchises are really bad for the franchisee. The Franchisor always makes money. The franchisee takes all the risk and usually goes out of business or ends up buying him or herself a low paying job. There are few, very few exceptions exceptions, and Buget Blinds is not one of them. Franchisees fail at a greater rate than regular start-ups. The show is real, what is wrong with it is that FRANCHISEES are not employees, or so they thought. What is wrong is the franchisor treats the franchisees like employees, but after they sign the contract they become indentured servants, too late they learn they are stuck. Stay away from franchises, its almost always a bad deal..

April 16 2012 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I also think it is scripted....how can you not know after all these episodes that the guy you are training is
undercover. Plus they are filming the whole thing.
But it is fun to watch...just entertainment.

April 16 2012 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I were these peoples co-workers, I'd feel angry and slighted, we all have problems that 10 grand would easily fix. Creak open that wallet and share some of those millions with the people who actually do the work. This show is no more real that real housewives, and probably wont last another season now that every one has caught on.

April 16 2012 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wish they had the CEO or someone in the Leadership team do an undercover visit while I was with one company. They would have seen some behaviors from the Leadership that needed to be addressed and changed to show more respect towards the employees.

April 16 2012 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I like to watch this show, but there is a problem with these undercover bosses. The ones they go undercover with get the benefits but what about the rest of the struggling employees, they get nothing.

April 16 2012 at 1:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dkcrown1's comment

You want every single employee to get $5,000 - $15,000 worth of gifts? It's a "reality gameshow". Just consider those that got something, the winners.

April 16 2012 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a family member that works for a company that was covered on an episode of Undercover Boss. Her job site was visited and filmed along with wuite a few other locations but nothing from her location was part of the show. Yeah I'm sure they're picking the best for the show. But it is for real.

April 16 2012 at 1:14 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Do you really think these stupid shows are "real" and not contrived and scripted to create some conflict and drama?

April 16 2012 at 12:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to CHUCKIE's comment

Yeah you know we really have never landed on the moon and there is no Hubble telescope and all the space pictures are all computer made images. Drink the koolaide it's free.

April 16 2012 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How do you people watch crap TV?

April 16 2012 at 12:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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