'Undercover Boss' offers advice to students - Purdue Exponent: Campus

'Undercover Boss' offers advice to students

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Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 10:00 am

Helping people put their lives back together after disasters is what makes the restoration business great, according to a CEO who spoke on campus Monday night.

Restoration company Belfor’s CEO, Sheldon Yellen, spoke Monday night to building construction management students, offering personal insights, encouragement and advice.

“You get to actually build and rebuild and be part of a process that puts people’s lives back in order,” said Yellen, whose company specializes in restoration after disasters. “We’re really in the helping people business.”

Yellen is best known for his recent appearance on the CBS show “Undercover Boss,” where he posed as a new hire learning from and interacting with existing employees.

Yellen spoke about his experiences on the show and gave insights into his philosophies on business, human relations and the importance of distinguishing yourself from the crowd.

One of Yellen’s quirkier management philosophies is his refusal to have titles on business cards.

“When I was born my mom didn’t call me CEO,” Yellen said. “I believe it’s important not to have a title on a business card. A leader does not need a title; a leader leads by example.”

For Michael Mattern, a sophomore in the College of Technology, it was Yellen’s view of leadership that inspired him the most.

“The biggest thing that I saw from him is that he has power but he does it with care,” he said.

Randy Rapp, associate professor and coordinator of the disaster relief and restoration management concentration in the building construction management program, said it was important for students to observe Yellen’s unusual perspective of leadership.

“I hope that they take away the human side of this business,” Rapp said.

Yellen said that while he thinks he had a good grasp of this personal side of business before the show, since then he has gained a greater appreciation for the “power of people.”

“We have a higher level of knowledge now,” Yellen said. “What we do affects people in such positive ways and we have a responsibility to be even better.”

It’s this message Yellen hopes the students take away. Though Purdue is the first university where he has spoken, he hopes to continue speaking with students.

“To be able to see young people and knowing that they have the ability to go out into the world and make a difference and they’ve got all that energy just built up ready to go, it’s really exciting for me,” Yellen said. “I’m envious when I come onto a college campus because I didn’t have that opportunity personally. We’re honored to be here at Purdue.”

For more information about Belfor's charity work as a company, visit belfor.com/sites/BELFOR/AboutUs.aspx.

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