Birthday boss

In 1985, when Sheldon Yellen joined the company he now leads, it had a single office with 19 employees. To strengthen new relationships, he started a tradition of writing personalized birthday cards for his colleagues every year.

More than three decades later, a few things have changed.

Today, Yellen is the chief executive officer of Belfor Holdings, a Michigan-based corporation that specializes in disaster-relief and property-restoration services. It has 350 offices in more than 30 countries, and its workforce has grown from 19 to 9,200.

What hasn’t changed is Yellen’s commitment to handwritten birthday cards annually for everyone employed by the company.

The considerable 34-year effort requires the support of three staffers, and it means Yellen always travels with a suitcase full of stationery and addressed envelopes.

“The cards are on my mind constantly,” said Yellen, who tries to stay up to two months ahead of impending celebrations. “I can be in meetings talking about an acquisition, or on a sales call, and I’m also thinking about how many cards I can get done that day.”

He devotes 10-14 hours weekly to penning birthday messages, as well as cards and notes for anniversaries, holidays — even well wishes for employees facing adversity such as disasters in their own communities and family illness.

“I’m a pen pal to a lot of kids fighting cancer, unfortunately,” Yellen said.

All of this correspondence — from happy to hopeful — gets mailed.

“I love the stamps we choose from,” said Yellen. His current favorite, given the nature of Belfor’s business, is Honoring First Responders.

Though his writing task can be arduous at times, Yellen has no doubt it has paid off in the form of a compassionate company that values gratitude.

He’s thankful himself for rising above humble beginnings: being raised by a single mother on public assistance and dropping out of high school to support his family.

“To think that I have the opportunity to sit where I sit and guide a 9,200-employee organization,” said Yellen — who eventually earned his diploma, he points out, at age 54. “I’m so blessed and honored that I’m in a position to be able to send these cards.”

Sherie Tuttle, one of Yellen’s assistants, recalls her initial reaction to his correspondence commitment: “I thought he was crazy!”

But after years of positive feedback and anecdotes about the cards, Tuttle said, “you really understand how important it is to have a leader who cares so much about every single one of us.”

She added, “It’s what makes us Belfor-strong and drives us every day to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.”

Senior Estimator Bruce Cook, a longtime Belfor employee at a field office in Sterling, VA, has saved 30 years’ worth of birthday, anniversary and thank-you cards from Yellen.

“I am proud to look back and witness all that we have accomplished, and it makes me feel proud to know I have a leader who cares,” Cook said.

Although Yellen is certainly no stranger to receiving birthday cards, when he turned 60 in 2018, he was genuinely surprised to come into his office and discover that several staffers had marshaled the Belfor troops to send in greetings for him, to the tune of some 8,000 cards hung from the ceiling, walls, furniture — and stacked in bundles wherever there was space to spare.

He chokes up as he recalls the sight.

“Talk about humble and grateful,” Yellen said. “These were sent by the greatest people on Earth to me — the men and women I work with. For all the time I put in, it will never be anything compared with what I get back in return.”

Dress warmly

The Postal Service wants employees to dress warmly when working outside during winter weather.

Here are some tips:

• Layer up. Each layer provides insulation and acts as a barrier from the cold to help retain body heat. Avoid pure cotton, linen or similar materials because they retain moisture and can cause you to become colder.

• Protect your extremities. Wrap a scarf around your neck and pull it over your mouth and nose to guard against cold air. Wearing a winter hat can protect your ears and head, while gloves or mittens can keep your hands warm.

• Stay dry. Adding a knit sweater or sweatshirt and a waterproof or water-resistant top coat, hat and shoes will help ensure you stay warm and dry.

Employees should always dress appropriately for the weather and notify their supervisors immediately if they experience any weather-related issues.

The Resources for Safety and Health website has additional tips on preventing cold stress.

News Briefs

Tuition discounts

New discounts. The Postal Service is offering a new higher education discount for employees and their immediate family members.

Champlain College is offering a tuition discount of 16 percent for undergraduate degrees and 50 percent for graduate degrees.

The college, based in Burlington, VT, offers online associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

The Employee Deals LiteBlue page has more information on higher education tuition discounts available to USPS employees.

Racing report. Central Plains District is leading the Race for a $Billion campaign, the latest report shows.

Through Race for a $Billion, a campaign organized by the Small Business Sales team, USPS is encouraging employees to submit leads through the Customer Connect, Clerks Care, Mail Handlers, Rural Reach and Submit a Lead programs.

The goal is to raise $1 billion in estimated annualized revenue before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The Sales Blue page has the latest ranking of all 67 USPS districts in the campaign, as well as more information about each lead generation program, including instructions on participating.

Service alert. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake that struck Puerto Rico this week has affected USPS operations in some locations.

The organization is monitoring conditions and continuing delivery and retail operations where it is safe to do so. The Service Alerts page has more information.

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