DOWNERS GROVE – Whether it’s good publicity or bad publicity, giving the business reins to employees and letting them decide whether their co-workers should be fired, docked pay or disciplined in front of reality TV cameras is bound to draw attention.
That’s what Dema Barakat, founder and president of Velocity Merchant Services in Downers Grove, did in the winter.
FOX TV cameras filmed the business over the course of a week in December, the results of which is the premiere episode of FOX’s new reality show “Does Someone have to Go?” airing nationally May 23.
Inviting cameras provided a shakeup for employees, although Barakat said she didn’t think the office had a “toxic” environment before the show, just the gamut of typical inter-office problems.
“Our company has grown tremendously,” she said. “With every company, there are growing pains.”
During the show, all employees’ salaries are made transparent, and co-workers talk candidly about each other before deciding whether anyone should be fired, docked in pay or even sent to receive anger management.
Barakat said there was tension in the office when the cameras left, especially over salaries.
“I had a meeting with everyone after the show (filmed),” she said. “I said, ‘This is nothing personal; this is to help the business grow, to make you guys stronger as a team and make tough decisions.’”
She said the experience gave some workers a new perspective on their jobs.
“It just allowed people to take a step back and realize if they’re passionate about what they do,” she said.
Barakat and FOX representatives would not say if anyone at VMS was fired as a result of the show. The series devotes two episodes to each of three businesses it profiles in its inaugural season.
Barakat said she incorporated VMS when she was 21. The business installs credit card processing hardware and software at new businesses. Sixteen years later, the multi-million dollar company has about 85 employees, she said.
After the show filmed, VMS’s revenues have continued to grow, and she thinks the publicity on a national television series should help further grow the business’s profile.
But she was noticeably nervous with how the publicity might be received by some.
“I care about my business like I do my … child,” she said. “It’s not about the money or being wealthy. It’s about continuing to watch this baby grow. So I’m hoping for the best. I’d be devastated if anything bad happened.”