Undercover Big Boss is a supersized, rebooted version of the Emmy award-winning format and sees the chief execs and multi-millionaire bosses of four different UK companies – Pickfords, Bristol Street Motors, Wyldecrest Parks and Euro Foods Group – swapping their power suits for overalls.
The eye-opening and moving ITV show feels particularly poignant at a time when firms are facing huge battles to survive, following lockdowns and financial difficulties due to Covid-19.
In episode one, we meet Alfie Best, a self-made millionaire who is founder and CEO of the largest residential park home operator in Europe, Wyldecrest Parks.
The company employs 380 people, and with the pandemic meaning more people are going on staycations, business is actually booming – especially as Best has spotted a gap in the market for creating affordable housing too.
Here, Leicester-born Best, 51, discusses his experience filming the show and his plans for world holiday park domination.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU WERE APPROACHED ABOUT BEING PART OF UNDERCOVER BIG BOSS?
“I was unsure, when I very first got asked to do it, because delving into your company as somebody else has as a flip side; are you trying to trick your employees? So, that was one of the things that went through my mind. I try and run a business that is based on trust.”
SO, WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO DO IT IN THE END?
“As a company, we have been bursting at the seams a little bit. Sometimes, you can only really find out what’s going on when you’re not getting the ‘yes sir, three bags full’ because they know who you are, and they want it to be perfect for you.
“I’ve done a couple of other TV programmes before, but they’ve not been like this, they’ve been more reality programmes.”
YOU’VE BEEN OPEN ABOUT YOUR HERITAGE AS A ROMANY GYPSY. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT?
“I was born in a caravan, and I suppose that’s why I have such a passion for this business. Who better to buy a caravan from?
“Being a gypsy, it does come with a stigma, it does come with the stereotype, and the bar, for me, is higher. I accept it with broad shoulders and I don’t start screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘It’s because I’m a gypsy’.
“Certain derogatory things are always going to get said… But you can either take that abuse and let it hurt you, or you can make it grow you, and that’s what I’ve chosen to do.”
IN THIS SHOW, YOU TRANSFORM INTO WILLIAM FINNEY, A DRAINAGE ENGINEER TAKING PART IN A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT CHANGING CAREERS…
“I genuinely felt like somebody else. I had a big old tattoo right down my neck, a nose piercing, earrings, gold teeth. It was a good transformation. Forgive me for saying it, but I looked like a thug.
“When I went out, I got treated differently. I went to a restaurant with a friend of mine, and we were denied access. There were tables there. The excuse was ‘We don’t have enough tables because of Covid’ – and they weren’t reserved.”
DID YOU ENJOY GETTING IN THE DRAINS AND GETTING YOUR HANDS DIRTY?
“It gave me a sense of achievement. When you finish a task that you’re given, you’ve actually done something you can physically see, it gives you a sense of self-worth. And it did take me back 30 years.
“I made a commitment to myself that when I was going to do this programme, it wasn’t going to be half-hearted. It was going to be all in, show all, see all, and learn from it.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN YOU REVEALED TO YOUR EMPLOYEES WHO YOU WERE?
“It was emotional. I’m an emotional person because I believe in the word ‘team’. I come from a gypsy family, so family is a big thing, but we also have extended family – our friends that are classed as family. That’s how my businesses is, and I like people to feel part of that. That’s why we use the word the ‘Wyldecrest family’.”
DO YOU THINK ALL BOSSES SHOULD GO UNDERCOVER?
“I don’t think it’s for everybody. But I think everybody should know their business. You certainly shouldn’t go into business if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing. It’s putting people’s lives at stake.
“We seem to be living in a country now where we’ve reverted back from the word ‘career’, and we now start using the word ‘job’. I hate the word job. You’re going home and the wife says, ‘Can you do the dishes? Can you put the rubbish out? – it’s a job. Whereas I actually think we should all be working for our passion, for a career, what we want to do – and live that.”
TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE FUTURE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING AT WYLDECREST PARKS…
“I know we are the solution to affordable housing, and we are going against the grain. And the reasons that it works is there’s no stamp duty, there is no land registry fee, council tax is band A, and the park homes are 50% like for like of a bricks and mortar bungalow. People can sell up their house, downsize, and have 50% in the bank.”
Undercover Big Boss starts on ITV on Thursday