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CEO takes the time each year to write birthday cards for all 9,200 employees to promote gratitude

CEO takes the time each year to write birthday cards for all 9,200 employees to promote gratitude

CEO takes the time each year to write birthday cards for all 9,200 employees to promote gratitude.
CEO takes the time each year to write birthday cards for all 9,200 employees to promote gratitude. Credit: Sheldon Yellen

As human beings, we all ave at least one thing in common – we all have 24 hours in a day. So when you see someone “spending” their time to enhance the lives of others, it usually tugs at your heart strings a little.

If you happen to sit next to Sheldon Yellen on your next flight, chances are he’ll be writing birthday cards — lots and lots of them.

Yellen is the CEO of BELFOR Holdings, Inc., a disaster-relief and property-restoration company. And since 1985, long before Yellen was chief executive, he has written a birthday card to every employee of the company every single year.

Today, as CEO, he says he handwrites 9,200 cards annually — one for every employee.

“There is an inside joke with acquisitions that I ask prior to closing: ‘How many more people?'” he told Business Insider’s Chris Weller in 2017 — meaning, How many more birthday cards do I have to write? — “since I am constantly calculating that in my mind rather than ‘What is the EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization]?'”

Yellen started the practice in 1985. He says he started doing it after he was hired by his brother-in-law, since many of the current employees felt he was being given special treatment. If nothing else, the birthday cards would encourage people to stop by his desk to say thank you, he thought.

“And it worked,” he said. “It got people talking, we started to communicate more, and I like to think it helped me earn respect within the company.”

Fast forward to today, and Yellen is now bringing suitcases full of stationery with him on every plane trip he takes.

CEO takes the time each year to write birthday cards for all 9,200 employees to promote gratitude.
CEO takes the time each year to write birthday cards for all 9,200 employees to promote gratitude. Credit: Sheldon Yellen/Elaine Cromie

But the practice isn’t just for the thank you — Yellen writes thank-you notes, anniversary cards, holiday cards, and writes to his employees’ kids when they are sick, company director of marketing communications Alexandra Gort told Business Insider.

Yellen has found taking the time to write out a card for each and every person has created a culture of compassion through the whole company.

“It’s also something that doesn’t have to cost a thing,” he said. “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.”

Yellen, for one, said his gesture made for a more compassionate, gracious workplace. Some managers have even taken up the habit themselves to write cards for their team members, clients, and loved ones.

CEO takes the time each year to write birthday cards for all 9,200 employees to promote gratitude.
CEO takes the time each year to write birthday cards for all 9,200 employees to promote gratitude. Credit: Sheldon Yellen/Elaine Cromie

You can also read about the time when Yellen’s employees returned the favor by writing over 8k birthday cards to him on his own birthday.

It’s often the little things that mean the most – kindness is usually free, but it also has the greatest impacts.

So we guess this makes another strong argument for the old saying of “the best things in life are free”.

Think about this the next time you think some small act is a waste of time – you might be surprised how it changes your own life.


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