Watch This Sunday
Houston jefe Bill Massa talks about being on "the dirtiest Undercover Boss ever"
Bill Massa, CEO of local industrial waste recycling company Synagro, is the star of the next episode of the hit CBS reality series, Undercover Boss (Sunday, 8 p.m., Channel 11). Massa took a moment to speak with CultureMap about his experience on the show.
CultureMap: Tell us about your life before being a CEO of Synagro.
Bill Massa: After I got out of the Navy, I had a series of jobs in finance, sales, marketing, general management and operations. About five years ago, I got a phone call from a recruiter pitching me an environmental services company. Many people have this image of the chemical industry polluting the Earth. I spent the first 15 years of my career polluting the Earth, and I'll spend the next 15 years cleaning it.
CM: What led to your appearance on Undercover Boss?
BM: Unlike most companies that are on the show, we never reached out to CBS — they called us. How and why, I'm not 100-percent sure. What they told us is they thought it was a very interesting company because it was all about environmental services and green energy, which people can take for granted. They liked that I was a relatively new CEO and that we were all about a new strategy. There were a lot of storyline strategies they thought they could go down.
CM: While filming the episode, what surprised you the most?
BM: These are very physical, tough jobs that my employees have. The commitment, passion and, frankly, the sense of humor that people had about what they were doing surprised me. I've worked at many companies and I've never worked with employees like that.
CM: Based on your experience on the show, will you be changing your management style?
BM: I'm 50 years old, so I kind of have adapted my style and learned over the years. I'm not changing one thing in particular. I've been CEO for nine or 10 months, and we had introduced a new strategic plan five months prior to the filming. This was important to see how that was working. There were pockets in the organization that had not gotten the full exposure to the new strategy.
Of course, CBS doesn't want me to give away the punchline. There were learning moments and personal moments that will come out.
CM: Are you now friends with the employees you encountered during filming?
BM: We stay in nice contact. I got lots of pictures. We talk regularly. I've told them that I'm going to keep an eye on them and help them further their career. "Friends" might be stretching it. We don't go out for drinks, just because they're hundreds of miles away. During the filming, I was in Knoxville, Baltimore, Sparta, Wis. and Johnson County, Kan.
CM: What surprises can we expect while watching the episode?
BM: I think what you can expect is a lot of up-close and personal scenes. It's the dirtiest Undercover Boss ever, no question. I work in a two million gallon tank — I was up to my waist in waste. I was operating big equipment in giant lagoons. I think it will be a great show because it explores industrial and chemical waste recycling, which is an issue people don't know about. Not long ago, this waste ended up in the ocean and landfills. Synagro offers an environmentally friendly option that's a much better use of our resources.
CM: How do you plan to watch the episode for the first time on Sunday?
BM: I'm having a party at my house for a whole bunch of friends and family. We're encouraging all of our employees to have a party, subsidized by Synagro. Employees are very, very proud of the company and thrilled that others will find out about what we do.
CM: What is unique about being a CEO for a Houston-based company?
BM: Even though our business is scattered across several states, I like the dedicated, professional workforce in our Houston base.