Online Exclusives

Yankee Candle CEO Goes 'Undercover'

By Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor | March 29, 2012

Harlan Kent of Yankee Candle stars on 'Undercover Boss' reality show.

Psst! Boss! Want to know what your employees really think about you and your company? Then break out the fake soul patch, add a wig and get in the trenches. According to Harlan Kent, CEO of Yankee Candle, he learned about the most innerworkings of his business while going behind the scenes—and got to star on a reality show to boot!

Kent will appear on "Undercover Boss," on Friday, March 30 8-9pm ET on the CBS Television Network. During his time undercover, Kent worked in a variety of positions, including at the company's flagship storein South Deerfield, MA, mall locations across the US and even in a manufacturing facility (where more than 2 million candles are made each year).
Harlan Kent: before and after!. All photos courtesy of 2012 Studio Lambert.
Working side by side with retail employees and experiencing their daily responsibilities allowed him to observe the company from a different perspective and connect with employees from the position of a peer, said the CEO.
Undercover Boss on the assembly line.
“I had to walking in blindly and get up to speed,” Kent told Happi in an interview. The producers from the show chose the locations, and a lot of the work on the agenda was new for Kent, who joined the company in 2001 and previously held positions at Totes Isotoner and Pepperidge Farm.

But besides lugging boxes of precious cargo—“I just didn’t want to be clumsy or break anything, that was a big concern for me,” said Kent—feedback from Yankee Candle employees was the biggest physical takeaway from his time as “Undercover Boss.”

Stocking shelves at a retail location.
“My time on the show is going to change the way we interview possible employees for the company,” he said. “We have to ask, ‘is this a positive person?’”
As to whom Kent met on the set and what their particular stories were, that would have to be revealed on the television show when it airs.
“Active listening is the number one skill any leader should have,” he told Happi. “If you can listen to the folks on the frontlines and find out what motivates them, anything is possible.”

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