'Undercover Boss': Steve Greenbaum, PostNet CEO, Discovers His Corporate Family
Many bosses talk about the "team" working as a family. But how many executives really follow through on the rhetoric? For Steve Greenbaum, CEO of PostNet, the importance of family gained particular resonance as he appeared on the CBS series, "Undercover Boss," this past Friday.
Greenbaum claims to run the fastest-growing business and copying services company in the world, but this "Undercover Boss" got where he is at PostNet truly without any familial support. His father abandoned him when Greenbaum was in high school, taking his other three sons to Las Vegas with him. Greenbaum dropped out of high school and left his hometown to build a company that now has $200 million in annual revenues.
"The kid from Chicago has come a long way," the PostNet CEO beamed in introducing himself on "Undercover Boss" as the leader of a franchisor with some 800 locations in 39 state and nine countries. But in this episode he would discover that familial bonds can bring a deeper sense of satisfaction and success.
Family-helping-family was a theme seen throughout this "Undercover Boss" episode. On a visit to a franchise in Alpharetta, Ga., Greenbaum worked with Shannon, a graphic artist on staff who helps customers design business products, such as posters.
After sitting down with Shannon at the graphics computer, Greenbaum was introduced to Shannon's son, Tyler, who has Asperger's syndrome. Greenbaum fumbled the poster construction -- from its on-the-screen design to placing the poster on the table once it was printed out. Tyler, however, bested him at that task, putting together the poster before he could.
Workers on the autism spectrum often outperform their peers on technical jobs. In the video shown above, Shannon reacted to being told what she'd receive from Greenbaum in the show's reveal. "Tyler is going to get the nurturing he needs," she said, after finding out that Greenbaum would give her $10,000 to purchase a house, $20,000 for her son's education and another $10,000 for a donation to an Asperger's foundation of her choice.
Greenbaum said that he wanted to make sure this worker didn't have to choose between her house and her son's education.
He also showed a nimbleness and ease with on-the-street sales pitches that eluded Greenbaum. While handing out business flyers, he pulled off lines like, "How you doing, sweetheart?" that might have gotten another man a slap in the face. Instead, his potential customers gave him a giggle. They also walked away with a flyer in the hand. Greenbaum, for his part, struggled. He only had one line ("Can I give you information on PostNet") and he delivered it with corporate stiffness -- approaching people on the street as if they were potential investors in a board meeting.
Belton's energy was all the more impressive when it was revealed that he is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Having served eight years with the United States Marine Corps, Belton saw action in some of the worst of the war's hot zones, including Fallujah. "I've seen it all," he said, including the loss of some of his brothers-in-arms. Since returning to civilian life, he said, he'd been unable to shake the fear that people around him were always about to reach for a gun.
Obviously moved, Greenbaum decided to visit the gravesite of his own brother, who -- after becoming an alcoholic -- died in 1995.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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