'Danny & Igor' Inspire Spinoff

Be the Boss puts new twist on Undercover Boss

LOS ANGELES -- The A&E cable network has ordered seven episodes of Be the Boss, which will feature contestants who think they are vying for a promotion, but in fact the winner will be handed the keys to a franchise or new branch of his or her own, reported Variety.

From executive producers Stephen Lambert and Eli Holzman at Studio Lambert, the series was inspired by a 2010 episode of their Undercover Boss that featured 7-Eleven Inc. CEO Joe DePinto giving Igor Finkler, an overnight delivery route driver, his own convenience store franchise.

Watch the video clip below or click here.

The show is a little more competition-based than most of A&E's fare, but it's grounded in the realities of the workplace, David McKillop, A&E's executive vice president of programming, told the publication. "Given the mood of the country I think it's going to resonate strongly," he said. "These are not fantasy jobs. This is a competition that takes into account hard work and intelligence, and shows the kind of skill sets that someone needs to run their own business."

Holzman said that the show has the potential to tap into the national mood at a moment.

"With Undercover Boss, we realized that we'd struck a chord with a show that brings the 1% face-to-face with the 99%," he said. "We think this is just the beginning. We want to continue to put a positive message out there about the American entrepreneurial spirit."

A premiere date has not been set. Studio Lambert is now finalizing the corporate participants for the first batch of episodes, said the report.

"Honestly, I still cannot digest it," Finkler told the Dallas Morning News about being presented with his own store in a mixed-use development in the Dallas area by DePinto in 2010. The CEO waived franchise fees of about $140,000. It was Finkler's enthusiasm and spirit that got him noticed by DePinto on the CBS-TV reality show Undercover Boss in October 2009.

The show featured top corporate executives posing as low-level workers in their own companies to see how things worked at ground level. "He blew me away," DePinto said in a previous interview with the Morning News.

Finkler, an electrical engineer and immigrant from Kazakhstan, arrived in the United States in 1994 with $50 in his pocket and a family in tow. He was unable to speak or read English. In 1999, the husband and father of two moved his family to Dallas. He started driving a truck for 7-Eleven, making overnight deliveries in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Eleven years later, he became the owner of a brand-new store.

In June 9, 2011, on the first anniversary of being given the store, Finkler told the newspaper that he wants his customers to be happy. "I'm going to treat every customer as a welcome guest and honorable guest for whom I was waiting all my life," he said.

Although the business hasn't been as busy as he had hoped a year ago, his enthusiasm hasn't waned. "We are driven by economy and weather," Finkler said. "Everybody is much busier in the summer time."

Finkler said that he believes his greatest obstacle as a business owner is Richardson's signage ordinances. The mixed use shopping center doesn't host the large green, orange and red free-standing sign that's widely recognized across North Texas at other 7-Eleven shops.

City ordinances restrict the use of such signs at this location.

"That's the biggest problem I see," Finkler said.

The city of Richardson allows temporary promotional signs to help businesses increase visibility. Owners may request a permit four times per year and the sign is allowed to be displayed for 21 consecutive days, city officials said.

Click here to view previous CSP Daily News coverage of 7-Eleven's Joe "Danny" DePinto and Igor Finkler on Undercover Boss.