If you work for a big corporation, you may be accustomed to getting a template birthday greeting signed by the company’s head honcho. Sheldon Yellen is CEO of the property restoration company Belfor Holdings, and slapping his electronic signature on a generic card feels way too impersonal for his tastes. Instead, he personally writes a birthday card for each of his 9,200 employees.
He started the practice in 1985, when he has hired at the company by his brother-in-law. Back then, he didn’t want his co-workers to think he was simply a beneficiary of nepotism who didn’t deeply care about the company. He also thought it would be a good way to get his fellow employees to see his genuine intentions.
When he eventually rose up the ranks to helm the company, he continued to write out handwritten birthday cards, in addition to personal notes for anniversaries, holidays, sympathy cards, thank-you notes and more. The company gave him a shout-out on Instagram and showed him hard at work on another nice note.
“It’s also something that doesn’t have to cost a thing,” Yellen told Business Insider. “When I learn of random acts of kindness being performed in the field, I take it upon myself to, again, reach out in writing, and send a thank-you card so that person can know they are appreciated and that their efforts don’t go unnoticed.”
In 2018, Yellen’s employees — who are collectively called the Belfor family — returned the favor and surprised their boss with more than 8,000 handwritten birthday cards for his 60th birthday. He was touched by their kindness.
“The Belfor family continues to amaze me and I’m overwhelmed by this incredibly heartfelt gesture,” Yellen told Detroit’s WDIV-TV. “People say to me all the time that the customer comes first. But I’ll say, ‘I’m sorry, but my people come first.’ And I truly believe that.”
Yellen’s unique style of management was featured on an episode of CBS’s “Undercover Boss” in 2011 and he was widely praised as a generous and caring leader. I guess he wasn’t just showing off for the cameras!