Undercover Boss Sheldon Yellen Could Be the Most Generous Ever

sheldon yellen ladder BELFOR CEO Sheldon Yellen probably has the most caring and supportive employees ever featured on 'Undercover Boss--and it appears he gave them more compensation in the end than has ever been given away before. BELFOR may be comprised of roofers, painters, plumbers, cleaners and carpenters, but it's important to note that BELFOR is the world's largest disaster restoration company. Employees are dealing with people who have experienced great (often tragic) loss, on a daily basis.

BELFOR employees go into people's homes to erase signs of damage and sometimes death. "It's very emotional," says Yellen. "Our people are trained to deal with people who have suffered great loss. Employees spend as much time dealing with emotion as they do with construction."

Yellen has been building the company since 1984, and BELFOR now operates in 29 countries, providing post disaster relief and reconstruction services after fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters. About 6,000 employees assist both residential and commercial customers with losses from the small, like leaky roofs, to the major, like those caused by Hurricane Katrina. BELFOR employees are about to have their work cut out for them in Australia (as soon as the flood waters subside) -- but in the meantime, Yellen tried his hand at some lesser jobs for 'Undercover Boss.'

Into the trenches

For his first job, Yellen worked with Joe, a demolition supervisor on a house in Norfolk, Va., where where roof leaks had damaged the walls and ceiling. Yellen got a taste of dealing with death when he had to remove a animal that fell down through the ceiling and expired after it couldn't get out of the wall. To get the job done, they started by removing the homeowner's furniture and other belongings, and Yellen wasn't as careful as Joe would have liked.

sheldon yellen dust mask Yellen was surprised to learn that Joe is 50 years old and the father of two, and has to do side jobs to make ends meet. This reminded him of his own experiences growing up poor and having to work 40 hours a week, starting at age 11, to help support his family so they could rise above the poverty line.

To keep Joe and his sons from having to suffer like that, when Yellen revealed his identity as CEO he promoted Joe to project manager so he wouldn't have to do any more work on the side. Joe also received $10,000 to help him with his debts, and was advanced $10,000 on future commissions.

Restoration hardware is hard work

Next stop was Denver, Colo., where Yellen worked with Drew, a restoration carpenter. "I was pitiful," he remembers, explaining how the fake glasses he was wearing obstructed his vision and made him unable to use the electric drill properly. Not only that, but hanging dry wall was much more difficult than he'd anticipated. Drew didn't feel like the two of them were connecting as a team and let Yellen go so he could finish the job by himself, but not before he revealed that he had an MBA and a mountain of debt to show for it.

Later, when the two met again at company headquarters, Yellen did his best to help Drew with that debt by giving him a check for $15,000 and referring Drew to the marketing department for a possible promotion and raise.

Yellen did a better job in Indianapolis, Ind., where he worked as a cleaning technician removing smoke damage -- although his attempts to follow his mentor's jovial customer interaction fell flat. He made the mistake of asking which of the two white-haired women in the house was the mother and which was the daughter -- never a good idea with females.

Despite his faux pas, Brenda, his supervisor, felt at ease enough with him to confide that she used to be homeless, has been working full-time since she was 15, and never got a high school degree. Writing has always been a challenge for her. This information brought Yellen to tears, and when the time came, he gave her $10,000 for an education fund for her grandchildren, a $15,000 bonus check, and promised her special help with her water damage certification.

AOL Jobs Asks
Undercover Boss Sheldon Yellen
5 Quick Questions

1. What was your first job? Working 40 hours a week at a hamburger restaurant at age 11. My mom would drop me off.

2. What inspires you? Watching successful people and learning that "right is might." Doing the right thing will get you out of the dumps.

3. What is the most important trait needed to succeed? Doing the right thing, even when nobody's watching.

4. What is your biggest challenge? To make sure the employees know they are valued, cherished, treasured and respected.

5. What is the best career advice you ever received? Stop thinking and go to work.

In a tight squeeze

Last but not least, Yellen worked with Jen, a water technician in Chesapeake, Va., to repair water damage. Part of the job required slithering through an extremely tight crawl space; not only did Yellen put his mask on upside down, but his complaining also drew an admonition from his female supervisor to "buck up!"

She told Yellen that she started as a cleaning technician and was "promoted" to a water technician nearly a year ago, but got no increase in pay because "corporate says there's a raise freeze." "I put that pay freeze in place to protect everyone -- to save their jobs and to keep from having to lay anyone off during the economic crisis," Yellen told AOL. "I didn't mean to hurt anyone."

He was so moved at the time that he revealed his true identity right then and there and told her she would get that raise. He later made good on his promise, giving her a retroactive raise, a week's paid vacation, and a check for $15,000.

Yellen began his 'Undercover Boss' journey at the encouragement of his son, who watched the show for the first time with his roommates and immediately called his dad to tell him he needed to get involved. Yellen did, and he has no regrets.

Although he was humbled, Yellen says he couldn't be prouder of the passion of his employees. "I was so impressed by their customer awareness," he said. "These are people with lives and challenges of their own, yet they go to work with an attitude of 'my problems are my problems, and I have to leave them at home and I have to give the homeowner everything I've got.'"

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Grace Akoh

I was overwhelmed when I watch this program. I knew there are still some people with good heart.i saw how emotional you were . May God give you the strength to continue with your good job.

February 23 2015 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can tell you, I am not very pleased with the company and wish Sheldon would come down to my house to get these issues straight. Over a year of back and forth with the company and still not getting anywhere. We are very upset with the company and they are going to have to do our job over properly and we are going to have to move out again.

July 25 2013 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Really? Where was Sheldon when an employee took his own life at a company office? Where was Sheldon when everyone in the office was struggling with the grief of losing a co-worker and friend. Where was he when they walked in and closed the office so they didnt have to deal with some compliance issues? Thanks for putting numerous good, honest, hardworking people without employment.

January 15 2013 at 10:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jessica Robinson

Just watched the episode and it brought such tears to my eyes! I really wish that all CEOs would put themselves out there beyond the smoke and mirrors and realize that their company is built on people doing the low jobs... like Mr. Yellen did. Sometimes we ignore reality because it's easier to pretend things that since things are great in our own lives, they must be for everyone else too. We need more people like him... people who care and still have a heart :)

July 05 2012 at 4:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Success is ? Raising yourself up as high as you can? or Raising up as many as you can, as high as you can. Beware of the banks.......................................................

July 05 2012 at 12:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ive worked for years, for what i would say are some Very wealthy people. 1 individual in particular was making $5000.00 a week when i started working for him. He asked me to go look at an apartment building with him { i was 22 yrs old} & tell him what i thought of it, as he was looking into getting out of the food business, & into the recovery business. We did & He bought the old { cockroach etc, twilight zone style roaches} building & gave me a job gutting it. It was 2 storys, 20 rooms & disgusting. I emptied & gutted the building on my own, { and was happy to have a job, & have always been happy to have a job to do, i wish i was on a job now ! } the restoration was done by myself & 3 others on the team. After that, i continued on & have done multiple properties for this person. He went from $20K Net a month, to $500K a month Net. & bragged about how, he paid less tax than myself { @ $15 Hr} I was considered his Right hand man..... I saw him buy the mansions, cars, rolex watches, & more multimillion dollar pieces of real estate........I have been always loyal to him. Though i was promised health insurance many times { especially dental...} I never did receive any health insurance {of any kind} in all the years i worked there.
To this day, i dont defame him. I wish him well. But after seeing how these wealthy people treated me, i think 99.999999 are full of crap & they wouldnt know loyalty if it bit them on the ass.


July 04 2012 at 11:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wish to GOODNESS I could hear some of the great things said by Mr. Yellen where I work. Now I wish I was working for him instead of where I am, which is in Michigan too btw :)

July 04 2012 at 8:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Honestly? Yellen was a fraud. Watch the show again and pay attention to degrading comments that he makes about the work being done. It was embarrassing. Telling the young man it was "stupid" in the way they were hanging sheetrock and cabinets. He went on to blame the young man for his ineptness. I could never have any respect for a CEO who is totally disengaged from the work being done in the field. Really, he couldn't operate a drill / screwgun. The money he offered were the equivalent to bribes. He knew he looked like an a$$. Did anyone pickup on when he threw the customer items into a box and when advised it was the incorrect way to do it, he asked if the customer was home to see it. I challenge those of you who think he is a good person to watch the show again and really listen to the words he chooses to use in these different challenges.

April 08 2012 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Clifton Gilbert

it's the date of 04/08/12 and i just saw the show undercover boss,it's 2:13 am and i got out of bed to tell you Mr Yellen that what you did brought tears to my eyes.and to see you cry and feel the love that you have for not just your workers but anybody that's working hard and trying to make a better life for their family,Mr Yellen my name is Clifton Gilbert from memphis tn and i do'nt want any gifts from you i just want to meet a man of your caliber be my undercover boss.lol

April 08 2012 at 3:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Betty L Tooley

I think Sheldon Yellon is a wonderful person, he has a heart! Not very often does a Boss care as long as the work gets done. My hat goes off to him,and it's ok to have a HEART.

March 06 2012 at 10:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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