In this exclusive interview with Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BELFOR Holdings, Inc., we learn about BELFOR’s third-annual survey on disaster preparedness which found that American home and business owners remain unprepared for man-made or natural disasters.
Franchise Chatter (FC): For those unfamiliar, please tell us about yourself, BELFOR Franchise Group (BFG)’s relationship to BELFOR Holdings, Inc. and what makes you most proud to work at BELFOR.
Sheldon Yellen (SY): My name is Sheldon Yellen and I’ve proudly served as the CEO of BELFOR Holdings, Inc. for more than 30 years now. BELFOR Holdings, Inc. is the parent company to BELFOR Property Restoration, the world’s largest property restoration company, and BELFOR Franchise Group (BFG), its multi-concept franchise division.
BELFOR Franchise Group (BFG)’s nine franchise companies – 1-800 WATER DAMAGE, Chem-Dry & Upholstery Cleaning, Delta Restoration Services, DUCTZ International, HOODZ International, N-Hance Wood Refinishing, PACKOUTZ, The Patch Boys, and Z PLUMBERZ – are some of our nation’s strongest service-based franchises for home and commercial cleaning and restoration, and offer franchisees industry-leading training, support and equipment, turnkey business models, and ongoing coaching and business development.
Above all, I am most proud of our company’s cohesive culture – in fact, I refer to my team members as “the BELFOR family.” Regardless of brand or service, the BELFOR family works around the clock to help homes, businesses and communities across the globe overcome devastation presented by weather events, everyday disasters and even the unexpected and unimaginable, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
I am beyond grateful to work alongside the dedicated BELFOR family members who are committed to helping others every single day. No matter what, we will be there for our customers and communities when and where they need us. That is humbling every single day.
FC: BFG recently released the results of a survey on disaster preparedness ahead of National Preparedness Month in September. Why does BELFOR conduct this survey annually?
SY: For the third year in a row, BELFOR commissioned a national survey in recognition of National Preparedness Month to gain insight on Americans’ decision-making around emergency preparedness and to learn how we can better educate and prepare our communities for disasters of all kinds. Each year, our hope is that these results shed light on the importance of disaster preparedness – prompting households, businesses and communities to take action sooner rather than later, create emergency response plans and know what steps to take before, during and after a disaster.
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As we’ve seen in 2020, emergencies can take many forms including natural and man-made disasters as well as health crises. National Preparedness Month is timely for family members, friends and colleagues to educate and re-evaluate disaster plans. You can never be too prepared!
FC: Did you find any results to be alarming?
SY: Yes. Year-over-year results from our survey show that homeowners and renters aren’t improving their mindset when it comes to disaster preparedness – and we want to change that! Some of the most shocking results from this year’s survey include:
- 75% of respondents across America do not feel that they are well prepared for natural and man-made disasters.
- Nearly 70% of respondents have not created a disaster preparedness plan.
- COVID-19 has made 41% of respondents more aware of cleaning needs within their homes, but many haven’t been influenced or taken action to buy emergency supplies or create or update a preparedness plan with their household.
FC: According to the survey results, there’s an increased need for deep cleaning services from home and business owners alike due to the pandemic. How are BFG’s family of brands adjusting services to support the current demand?
SY: During the pandemic, our network of service-based franchises has relied on existing, established resources while simultaneously expanding our service offerings to better adapt to these unforeseen demands. Currently, our franchises are providing cleaning, disinfection and restoration services to residential and commercial facilities, including hospitals, schools, fire/police departments, arenas and more.
As a result of redeploying services, we’ve undertaken a number of unique projects requiring creative solutions. For example, franchises like 1-800 WATER DAMAGE and Chem-Dry utilized existing equipment to disinfect first responder transportation vehicles – a unique yet essential task to help keep first responder and healthcare heroes safe!
The safety of our employees and customers are – and always have been – our top priority. To date, we are continuing to reinforce safety procedures that comply with or even exceed industry standards and CDC guidelines. This includes practicing social distancing, wearing proper personal protective equipment and sanitizing areas once services are completed.
FC: As employees begin to return to work, what advice do you have for franchise owners prior to reopening?
SY: To successfully reopen, employers must ensure that their offices adhere to strict cleaning guidelines and effectively establish a consistent sanitization protocol to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, workspaces should be restructured to reflect the current guidelines set out by the CDC. Within our franchise locations, we have partitioned individual workspaces and restricted the size of gatherings in communal areas.
Once a secure workplace environment has been established, franchise owners should develop safety standards and educate employees on best practices to ensure as seamless a transition as possible from remote working back to the office. Above all, employee safety must remain the chief concern – let your work family know they have your support! Establishing all of this helps instill peace of mind for employees, customers, families and the communities surrounding them all.
FC: With a busier-than-expected hurricane season and other severe storms taking place across our nation amid a global pandemic, how can franchises in the restoration industry provide support and comfort to their communities?
SY: Education and communication are key. Taking the time to provide preparedness tips or sending a simple “I’m here for you” message to your community via social media or in person will go a long way. When possible, encourage households and businesses to create an emergency preparedness plan and share step-by-step insights on how to actively respond to various disasters.
Additionally, ensure that team members are up to date on the most current news surrounding the pandemic and hurricane season. By maintaining constant communication and demonstrating leadership, BFG has tried to instill confidence in our franchisees, so that they can support and respond to their local communities’ needs during these unprecedented times.
In my 30+ years in the restoration industry, providing education and communication with a healthy dose of kindness has never failed to help comfort and support communities in need. Throughout the years, the most inspiring thing I’ve witnessed time and time again after disasters is always seeing people banding together and doing the best of things in the worst of times.
FC: What tips do you have for business owners looking to create and practice an effective emergency plan so that they know how to respond when disaster strikes?
SY: This year’s findings showed 53% of working respondents think it is important to have an emergency plan at work, but it was shocking to discover that only 40% were familiar with such a plan at their workplace. Preparedness in the workplace is just as important as in the home!
A strong disaster preparedness plan starts with identifying emergency scenarios that could put your business at risk. Once this is achieved, develop a response plan and establish a team dedicated to overseeing the plan’s objectives. This team will be responsible for assigning roles, educating employees on emergency response protocol and leading the company to safety when disaster strikes.
FC: You’ve been involved in the recovery and rebuilding efforts following some of our nation’s most historic disasters – from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina to the Camp Fire and more. For franchisees who may be facing a number of business or personal challenges during this unprecedented moment in history, what would your advice be to them?
SY: As we learn from past events and prepare for upcoming ones, we want to encourage people to be CEOs, or “Cheerleaders, Enthusiasts and Optimists in Chief” of their own worlds. This stems from our company-wide belief in the power of positivity and hope to help overcome some of life’s most challenging situations.
Because of our involvement in numerous high-profile disasters, and the “everyday” ones like burst pipes or kitchen fires that can also be equally as devastating to individual homes or businesses, we’ve seen time and time again how heroes emerge in the midst of trying situations. It’s important to remember that everyone has a little bit of “Hero” in them and we will get through this together!
FC: Overall, what is the most important takeaway you hope our readers remember from this year’s survey findings?
SY: Although National Preparedness Month only happens once a year, disasters can strike at any time and it’s important that we educate ourselves and others to be as prepared as possible for the unexpected. We hope the results inspire businesses and communities to rethink their emergency plans, and drive awareness about the importance of being prepared for any type disaster.
FC: If someone is interested in learning more about BFG’s services or opening a franchise of their own, where can they find more information?
SY: We are always looking to grow our BFG family. For over a decade, BFG has been empowering entrepreneurs to own businesses that are not only designed for growth, but also provide a meaningful service to their communities. We would love to have you on our team! If you are interested in learning more, visit our website: www.belforfranchisegroup.com.
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