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San Diego State University

Fowler College of
Business Administration

Undercover Boss Visits SDSU

Stephen Cloobeck

Stephen Cloobeck, the founder and chairman of Diamond Resorts International® and the only boss to appear on the CBS television show, Undercover Boss, twice, visited the San Diego State campus on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Unique Customer Experience

Cloobeck's host at SDSU was the director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, Dr. Alex DeNoble, who met Cloobeck in an unusual way: When DeNoble and his family visited the Diamond-managed resort in Sedona, Ariz., last year they had problems checking in. The resort manager was not only able to accommodate the family, "he was able to make our weeklong experience really special," said DeNoble.

Cloobeck, who created "The Meaning of Yes®" as a concept of customer service excellence, has his picture with his e-mail address near the front desk of every Diamond resort. When DeNoble e-mailed his experience to Cloobeck, he was pleasantly surprised to see that Cloobeck had personally responded with his telephone number the next day.

Reality Television Star

It was his devotion to creating a climate of utmost satisfaction that led Cloobeck (along with repeated requests from the president of Diamond Resorts, David Palmer) to do his first episode of Undercover Boss. The episode aired January 15, 2012 showing Cloobeck, donning a wig and glasses and working with four different employees at Diamond Resorts. The experience led him to make several upgrades including the equipment used by the company's painters.

When the company acquired new properties during the year, Cloobeck went undercover again to see how the transition was going from the perspective of a guest at the resort. This episode aired on November 30, 2012.

group shot: students meeting with Stephen Cloobeck

Business and hospitality students met with Stephen Cloobeck (center) at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center on March 28, 2013

Sharing the Keys to Success

Cloobeck discussed his experiences on the show – along with his transition from a would-be surgeon to a successful real estate developer and hospitality executive – with a small group of business and hospitality students at SDSU's Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and, later, with a larger group of business students in Dr. Beth Chung's organizational behavior class (Management 350).

One of the key elements to business success, according to Cloobeck, is treating the staff as the company's most important asset. "Without them, I can't deliver my product," he said.

Of course, the other most important element to business success, says Cloobeck, is the climate of outstanding customer service, which is why his e-mail address is readily available to each client. "I've gotten about 200-400 e-mail messages a day since Undercover Boss," he said.

Good Insight

While Cloobeck may receive hundreds of messages a day, the message he gave the SDSU students of working hard and striving for excellence was one that left an indelible impression on them.

"It's not often you get an industry heavyweight like Mr. Cloobeck to take time from his busy schedule to offer his expertise to our top business students and for that, we are truly grateful," said DeNoble. "But even more importantly, the students are left with first-hand knowledge on how Mr. Cloobeck's dedication to his customers, his staff and to his profession have made his resorts the best-of-the-best and they are qualities which the students hope to emulate as they embark on their own careers."

In return, Cloobeck was happy to share his insight with the appreciative and eager rising business stars.

"It was an honor to spend the day with some of San Diego State University's brightest young leaders," he stated. "While it's always a privilege for me to work with young professionals and empower aspiring entrepreneurs, this experience was particularly noteworthy as I was surrounded by an ambitious group of individuals who shared my passion for hospitality, which was truly something special."