Fastsigns CEO Catherine Monson: Five Traits to a Successful Career

I also bring that goal-directed behavior. We were a company that didn't really have a business plan. We now have one every year for four years. We didn't necessarily communicate what the business plan was to the entire team. Now every month I go over the business plan and where we are. We didn't even share the company's financial statements with anybody outside the executive committee and every month in our company meeting, part of the never stop learning, you've got to understand that if a company brings in $100,000 of revenue in month one, they don't have $99,000 of profit in month one. What are all of the things that go into that?

We have a long central corridor in our office that we call Inspiration Hall and it is filled with quotes about positive mental attitude and planning and self-discipline and all of those things. What I'm trying to do is feed the minds of my entire team about what it takes to be successful. That's kind of how I've tried to filter it through into the culture.

I'm assuming that trickles down to the franchisees as well.

Monson: Absolutely. In fact, I have spent a couple different convention speeches and different columns in our regular newsletter talking about that philosophy, coaching franchisees. At our upcoming convention next month I'm doing a seminar on how to develop a success culture in your business and so that same philosophy, not only do I use that in dealing with my teams of my employees, the 100-plus people that are here, but also the 500-plus franchisees out there.

What lessons did you learn about yourself and about the company from being on CBS' "Undercover Boss"?

Monson: First, I need to say that the "boss" has nothing to do with the casting. The production company does all the casting and you really don't know, until that morning, the first name of the person you're working with and what you're going to be taught.

I'm totally blessed that all of the employees I worked with are fabulous employees. They care about customers. They're passionate about Fastsigns. They're focused on quality and great service. That was hugely rewarding to find out that the sampling that the production company picked were just great examples of Fastsigns so that made me very, very proud.

We did uncover two really significant issues that we have. The first was addressed the following week and the other we're in the process of building a whole new curriculum.

1. We had always communicated all of our programs, marketing initiatives and everything, directly to our franchisees and expected our franchisees to communicate that to their employees. And with all of the employees that I worked with -- each was employed by a different franchisee -- all of them had misunderstandings about the company and what we did.