Kevin Sheehan, the previous CEO and President at Norwegian Cruise Line, starred in Undercover Boss. Listen in to find out what valuable insights he learned from his employees at the time.
Overview of Kevin’s Undercover Boss Experience
From CEO to Crew Member
In January 2010, Kevin Sheehan embarked on two Norwegian flagships, Pride of America and The Epic, not as the beloved CEO that everyone knew, but as an incognito new hire. Having grown a beard for the production and undergone morning makeup appointments to disguise his identity, Sheehan was jolted into the world of a crew member. He ate with the rest of the crew during their designated breakfast, lunch, and dinner times and slept in the same crew cabins as fellow employees. The show commitment lasted two weeks but provided many meaningful insights that impacted lasting changes for the betterment of the crew.
Sheehan Juggled Four Crew Jobs
While aboard both ships, Sheehan tackled a multitude of different tasks to get an all-encompassing taste of what it’s like to live and work as a crew member on Norwegian.
His first job on Pride of America consisted of working in the engine and deck compartment of the ship, where his appointed boss, John, warned him that if the job of prepping the deck from flaking paint wasn’t done well the first time, he’d have to repeat the work again.
While on Norwegian’s Epic, Sheehan was pushed outside of his comfort zone by being cast as a performing crew member for the evening’s “White Hot Deck Party”. Here, Sheehan learned the dance steps in preparation for the big night. Sheehan stated in past interviews that out of all the four crew tasks he was given, the dance performance proved to be his greatest challenge, as dancing is not his forte.
He experienced another challenge serving as a member of the waitstaff crew in the Epic’s Manhattan Room restaurant. Sheehan recognized the intense concentration it takes for Norwegian waiters to both entertain and serve guests, while also focusing on getting from point A to Z in the packed dining room.
Finally, the job of preparing the make-shift “ice skating” rink was one that practically broke this business man’s back – literally. For only a few hours, select members of the crew were tasked with retrieving highly durable plastic sheets from a storage unit and plastering these sheets together with rigorous rubber mallets. After the make-shift rink was lubed up, they then waited for hours in the sun for only a handful of cruise guests to show up for the activity. This not-so-popular, yet incredibly physically taxing job, caused a light bulb to go off in Kevin’s mind – “Why are we doing this?”
Making Strategic Changes to Norwegian
As a result of Kevin’s Undercover Boss experience, Kevin Sheehan returned to the executive suite at Norwegian and executed a slew of procedural changes to increase the crew’s job satisfaction. He removed the laborious, unnecessary ice rink activity altogether; he allocated $100,000 to Norwegian’s crew enrichment program, which pays for crew members’ activities, entertainment and events; and he enhanced their living arrangements. Kevin Sheehan didn’t simply spend two weeks of his time going undercover for the fun of it; he did it to make an effective difference in the way crew members were treated and the way systems and procedures are run on Norwegian’s ships. And that is exactly what he did–make a difference to how the company was led.
A Note About Kevin Sheehan
Executive Leadership Summary
Kevin Sheehan is a senior executive leader known for expertise transforming global companies from good to great. He has significant experience leading effective and results-oriented senior leadership teams, directing noteworthy financial turnarounds, leading operational excellence, implementing mergers and acquisitions, igniting entrepreneurial start-ups and most importantly, improving employee culture.
- 20 years of Board of Director experience at global companies
- CEO and President at Scientific Games and Norwegian Cruise Line
- Chairman and CEO of Avis, Budget, PHH Fleet Management and Wright Express
- Strong financial acumen – CFO Cendant and Avis
- Entrepreneur – Part of inception through deliver teams for Sega Channel and Telemundo Group
- Significant private equity experience including Apollo Global Management, TPG, Cerberus Capital Management, Clayton Dublilier & Rice and Fortress Investment Group
- Experienced thought-leader, as noted in the News And Media section of this website
Paved The Way To Success At Scientific Games and Norwegian Cruise Line
Kevin Sheehan, the current Senior Advisor, Board Director and former Chief Executive Officer of Scientific Games in Las Vegas, successfully transformed the company. He did this by sharpening the business focus, rallying the leadership and enhancing the culture. He successfully integrated siloed companies, drove accountability and change, and guided the company’s shift to digital, with its successful acquisition of NYX Gaming Group. These changes led to ten consecutive quarters of financial growth, which enabled the company to complete three refinances that saved over $125 million in interest annually, shifted bond pricing from being traded at steep discounts to being priced to call, restored investor confidence, which helped market capitalization soar from $700 million to $5.6 billion and the stock price increase from $8.00 to $60.00, and generated record top-line growth and significant margin improvement in each of its four divisions.
Prior to becoming an executive at Scientific Games, this business legend took the lead as the CEO and President of Norwegian Cruise Line Corporation Ltd. for seven plus years, where he executed his playbook to be a first-mover in the industry. Sheehan successfully acquired and integrated Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, added amenities and services that were otherwise nonexistent on board, expanding the cruise line’s European presence and shook up the C-Suite to represent fresh perspectives with a mix of executives from both inside and outside the industry. Kevin Sheehan transformed Norwegian’s business model, shifted its brand position to the premium category and significantly improved the guest and employee experience. During his tenure at Norwegian, Sheehan transitioned the company from massive losses to industry leading margins, revenue per day per guest and return on invested capital, while equity valuation increased from under $1 billion to $11 billion.
It’s no wonder that Kevin Sheehan operates with a strategic and financial mindset. His executive leadership, experience and success are unrivaled. He served as Chairman and CEO at Cendant for its Vehicle Services Division, which included global responsibilities for Avis Rent a Car, Budget Rent a Car, PHH Fleet Management and Wright Express. Under his leadership, each business unit achieved record results, generated meaningful organic revenue growth, margin improvement and EBITDA growth. Sheehan completed 100% initial public offering of Wright Express at a multiple of over 30 times its acquisition cost.
Creating points of differentiation, executing a disciplined financial strategy, leading a team of top-notch executives and fostering a supportive employee culture are hallmarks of Kevin Sheehan’s leadership. His success is a result of his tenacity, stellar work ethic from early on in his life, and a passion for his team and employees. This is in his DNA.
The About Kevin Sheehan section of this site offers readers a more comprehensive understanding of the pathway Sheehan traveled to become a business legend, using all of the lessons learned from his childhood in New York City, to his time at Hunter College, a NYC city college, to a taxi driver, professor and one of the most successful business leaders of today.
Why Kevin’s Story is Worth Listening To
What’s the point of talking on and on about Kevin Sheehan’s financial and corporate expertise without sharing the valuable lessons he’s learned along the way? Sheehan’s story is worth noting for the main reason that he has transformed million- and billion-dollar corporations from good to great, over and over again. This success is a result of his experience significantly increasing market capitalization as CEO and CFO for many global companies, his twenty years of board experience, and his private equity firm experience. Kevin Sheehan has proven success making the impossible – possible, as he transformed companies and took them from good to great.
Knowledge of this sort shouldn’t be capped, but it should instead be shared with an eager audience who has the desire to apply what successful business people have learned in their own careers. Whether you’re just starting off your career in business, or have decades behind you, there’s certainly a golden opportunity of knowledge you can take from the career path Kevin Sheehan has followed. Do you crave the excitement and brilliance that comes with entering into the travel and entertainment industry? Or do you simply wish to learn from the leader of various C-Suites? The Kevin Sheehan Blog is the best place you can visit for regular posts on key business transformation tips for corporate executives.
Some topics you can expect to read about in our blog:
- The best financial investments corporations should make to create value and skyrocket profitability
- The differentiating factor between a good and a great leader
- How to enhance employee morale and satisfaction
- The successful practices of mergers and acquisitions
- Methods to gaining synergies within departments
The Creators of this Site
In all transparency, it is imperative to disclose that this site is fan-based and has no direct relation with Kevin Sheehan and his team at Scientific Games nor Norwegian Cruise Line. We’re simply a team of avid business students and entrepreneurs who love to analyze the successes and failures of renowned business people. Please feel free to contact us via the Contact tab if you have any recommendations for other business legends you’d like us to analyze for our next website project.