Mitchell B. Modell, CEO of Modell's Sporting Goods, said he cried more during the week of filming CBS' "Undercover Boss" than he ever had.
"I always loved the show and I knew a lot of people on it," said Modell, the great-grandson of the founder of the retail chain. "You really need to watch and see me doing all that crying. I learned so much about my people."
In the premiere of the fourth season, Modell goes on the road to see why a store is underperforming, checks out a distribution hub and meets some down-and-out employees. The show's format is pretty basic: a senior executive works undercover in his own company to investigate how his firm really work and to identify how they can be improved.
"You learn so much that unless you work on the front lines with your associates, you don't know truly what is going on," Modell said. "I was on the firing line hearing them do their jobs while facing their own obstacles day in and day out."
Modell's, founded in 1889, is the eighth largest sporting goods retailer in the United States, with 84 stores in the Northeast and more than 3,000 employees.
Modell said "no question" the show has changed how he does business.
"I see how hard they work. I will never take them for granted," Modell said. "I see how much effort and care and passion they have for this company. It's unbelievable."
And now Modell can turn his attention back to his love affair of sports. In fact, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia gave him some advice about changing his voice before beginning his mission.
"Sports is what my DNA is. For 24-7, I live and breathe sports as a fan as well as from a business standpoint," Modell said. "It's tough on Sundays knowing that if a team loses, what kind of markdown will I make for the team! And if they win, how quickly can I get that merchandise in the store!"