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Challenge: My Dad Hero

5 Life Lessons from My CEO Father

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For me, this Father’s Day will be unlike any other. It will be the first Father’s Day since my wife and I learned we were expecting a baby girl and would officially become parents on June 19th – a date that is now quickly approaching.


As a soon-to-be new dad, I have been putting deep thought into the invaluable lessons I’ve learned over the course of my life and which of those specific values I’m hoping to impart onto my daughter. Fortunately, my CEO father – Sheldon Yellen – is a remarkable man who has turned his struggles and his successes into valuable words of wisdom for me, my brother and literally thousands of others around the world!

Before becoming CEO of BELFOR Property Restoration, my dad faced a life full of adversity from being raised on welfare by single mother in Detroit to dropping out of high school to work multiple jobs that could help support his brothers. Despite the odds being stacked against him, he grew a $5 million family business into the now $1.7 billion global leader it is today. My father’s secret to success? Leading BELFOR based on core lessons rooted in the importance of fundamental principles: family, loyalty, commitment and integrity.

Here are a few my dad’s lessons that I’m hoping to instill in my daughter, and ones that I think can benefit everyone.

  • 1. Doing the Right Thing. From as early as I can remember, my dad has always preached the mantra of “DTRT” – Doing The Right Thing. This can come in many forms, but what stands out about my dad is that whether he’s interacting with executives, employees, friends or total strangers, he always treats people equally. One of the most impactful messages he has conveyed over the years is that it’s easy to DTRT when everyone is looking, but it’s even more important to do so when no one is watching.

  • 2. Remember where you came from. If you walk into my dad’s office in Michigan, one of the first things you’ll notice is that there’s nothing hanging on the walls. This isn’t a lack in decorating skills! He has many personal items throughout the room from family photos to customer thank you letters to BELFOR team memorabilia, but he prefers not to hang anything up. When my dad comes into the office every day, it reminds him that he needs to EARN his job and his place within BELFOR, and to never fully-settle in or get complacent.

  • 3. “No” Can Be More Valuable Than “Yes”. As a businessman and as a father, my dad has had plenty of experience saying “No”. What he’s taught me is that “No” isn’t always bad or negative, in fact, saying “No” can often lead to positive and more valuable outcomes. Having the conviction to say “No” means that you’re able decide what’s worth your time, energy and money. It’s also important that you deliver a “No” in good faith with honesty and courtesy.

  • 4. Be NICE!: Being NICE is the most important value for my dad and the BELFOR family. It’s the best four-letter word in the dictionary and it’s FREE! Every morning, my dad makes it a goal to make AT LEAST five people smile that day. He truly believes small, random acts of kindness can make a difference. And my dad certainly walks the talk. Every year, he handwrites a personalized birthday card for each of BELFOR’s 8,000 employees. To his surprise, this past January on his 60th birthday, he received more than 8,000 birthday cards in return from BELFOR team members, family and friends. For me, this moment confirmed that by setting a good example, kindness will spread! You never know how that person’s day is going – and small gesture may spark a domino effect.

  • 5. Family Comes First. No matter how busy he was running a 24/7 restoration company, my dad always made a point to have dinner as a family every Sunday night. It’s a tradition that we still carry on to this day even as our own families grow. The locations and cuisines vary – it’s not uncommon that we embark on a short road trip to get our favorite ribs – but his devotion to his family is very much the same. By bringing the same attitude to his role of CEO, his company’s culture is one focused on family, compassion and care for one another.

This Father’s Day, take a moment to thank the father or father figure in your life for the many lessons and laughs that they have shared with you. And to all of the fathers – old and new – Happy Father’s Day!

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