Alan Jaffa, CEO, Safeguard Properties LLC
In what ways is your company an innovator in its industry, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
Our business is called mortgage field services. We inspect and maintain defaulted and foreclosed properties for lenders, mortgage service companies and investors. We are the largest in our field, and we grew by listening. We don’t believe in innovation for its own sake. We believe in innovation to respond to the changing needs of our customers. We follow a simple motto: Customer Service = Resolution. We listen to our customers, understand their challenges and evolve our services to meet their growing and changing needs. Many of the practices we put in place have become standards that the rest of the industry has followed.
How does your organization make a significant impact on the community and regional economy, either through charitable contributions, volunteerism or setting an example for other organizations & leaders to follow?
By protecting and preserving vacant and abandoned properties, Safeguard is committed to stabilizing neighborhoods and communities. Much of our philanthropic and charitable work supports this commitment. We support efforts to help keep homeowners in their homes. We support community development organizations that work to revitalize neighborhoods. We support education as the best path to a life of solid employment and homeownership. And we support our employees in their own charitable participation through walks, food drives and other fundraisers that we promote in the workplace and incent by matching monies raised.
Give us an example of a business challenge your organization faced during its growth, as well as how you overcame it.
In our business, recruiting and training a network of qualified contractors to inspect and maintain the properties in our clients’ portfolios is critical. As a national company, we must assure that all of our 10,000 contractors follow our own policies and procedures, as well as the individual guidelines of our clients. We met that challenge by investing in a strong vendor management program. The recruitment process is rigorous and extensive. We created an annual Vendor Conference where we invite our contractors to hear about changes in procedures and guidelines. This event draws more than 1,000 contractors a year to Cleveland, and more recently we added a West Coast conference. We developed Web-based training, with videos, that our vendors can access 24×7 to remain current on procedures and share with their new employees for training purposes. We expanded our quality control process to include random national site visits to check on the work performance of our contractors in the field. And we developed a vendor diversity initiative to expand our pool of qualified candidates among women, minorities, people with disabilities and military veterans and assure that our contractors reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. We also developed mobile technologies to help our contractors work more safely and efficiently in the field. As a result, we have the strongest contractor network in the industry, with relatively low turnover. Even in the midst of a mortgage crisis that has significantly increased the volumes of properties we service, we have met and exceeded our clients’ service level expectations for quality and on-time performance.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a business leader, an entrepreneur, or as an organization, and how have you applied this lesson toward fostering growth?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you don’t mess with success. Safeguard’s success is rooted in that simple business motto developed by our founder Robert Klein: Customer Service = Resolution. The genius of it is that it challenges us to listen, to think, to innovate, and to be creative for the benefit of our clients. When we do that, we grow.