Community and Service: Values That Translate to Restoration Industry Success
Ricardo Herdan, co-owner of three PuroClean locations servicing the Miami community, launched his business alongside David Shiffman just five years ago as a newcomer to the industry and having recently migrated to the United States. Ricardo opened his first PuroClean franchise in 2018 – PuroClean of Aventura. Since then he has opened two more PuroClean locations, PuroClean of Davie in 2020; and PuroClean of Downtown Miami in 2021. Despite the obvious challenges of establishing a new business in a foreign country, Ricardo achieved success by focusing on exceptional customer service and community involvement. He discovered in the restoration industry not only a satisfying second career but also by giving back to his community, finding a pathway to a better life for his family.
Ricardo was born and raised in Venezuela in a family with deep Jewish roots and values. His parents, Holocaust survivors originally from Romania, instilled the values of education, English proficiency, and a commitment to community service during his upbringing. “Community service has been with me all my life,” he said. As an adult, Ricardo became a systems engineer and a partner in a company that provided IT services to a variety of industries. He married and raised three children, and he and his family actively participated in the local Jewish community until 2017. Unfortunately, due to the political uncertainty and insecurity they experienced living in Venezuela, along with the arrest of one of his business partners based on political affiliations, Ricardo and his family decided to leave Venezuela abruptly. In a bid for safety, he made an unplanned trip to the U.S., hoping for a respite from the turmoil back home.
Finding a fresh start
During his stay in Florida, Ricardo began exploring business opportunities and, for the first time, considered a life beyond Venezuela. His eldest son was on the cusp of attending college in the United States, and Ricardo discovered that investing in a U.S.-based business could secure him an investor’s visa, allowing him to reunite his family in the U.S. Among the potential investments he researched, PuroClean stood out due to its family-like culture. “They foster a collaborative atmosphere among all franchises, emphasizing cooperation over competition. They maintain consistent service levels and branding, ensuring that everyone benefits from the franchise system’s good reputation,” he explained. Ricardo was also drawn to restoration as an industry because it’s a service-focused business that is recession-proof and insurance-based, offering more payment guarantees.
Though new to the U.S., Ricardo did have some connections in the Jewish community in South Florida, one of which was David Shiffman. David was born in Miami but lived in Venezuela for many years, a member of the same Jewish community there as Ricardo. David was living back in Florida when Ricardo approached him with the opportunity to open a PuroClean franchise together as partners. “I had a background in customer service and technology and running a company,” Ricardo explained, “But David’s background is in civil engineering, so he understands the building codes and construction side of the business.” David agreed to the partnership and the two went through PuroClean’s training academy and opened their doors at the end of 2018. “We chose Aventura for the location because we had many connections with the Latin American community and Jewish community to begin the business.”
Ricardo noted that the most challenging aspect of starting the business was navigating the cultural differences between the U.S. and Venezuela. “Understanding how the country works is still a challenge,” he said. “The speed of things is different, and the way people see things. I still think in Spanish then translate to English which adds an extra step to every interaction. Everything is new, a new way of doing things.” Ricardo explained that in business, the U.S. is much more competitive and high-pressure than Venezuela. “The competition moves very fast, and you must react very fast to changing scenarios.” He also said that growing up in a smaller country like Venezuela and being an active community member meant that he was well-known and trusted. Moving to a new country, he had to start building his reputation all over again, and he noted that in America, “trust is harder to earn and easier to lose.” Despite having some community connections, it was six months before Ricardo and David booked their first job. “It was really challenging to wait and wait for business, to overcome that frustration and continue going on,” he said.
Ricardo said they were lucky to be invited to join some networking groups that helped them learn how business works in the U.S., including strategies for fitting into the new culture as a highly qualified company despite being from out of the country. Ricardo reflected that they learned to be patient, to talk with people and tell their story, to give great service and build trust slowly. “I tell people where I come from, what my values are, my background in community service. I’m honest and transparent and that has slowly built success.”
Ricardo also noted that PuroClean franchisees benefit from a good network of support, regional conferences, conventions, and impact groups where franchise owners from around the country meet to evaluate their businesses and share best practices. “There’s a strong relationship with corporate,” he said. “Nobody wants you to fail—success begets success within the franchise.”
Finding success with service at the center
With three locations today and 12 fully trained employees, Ricardo and David’s PuroClean locations offer water damage mitigation, mold remediation, fire remediation, and biohazard cleaning services with most revenue coming from water and mold jobs. The company also frequently partners with other PuroClean franchises on large jobs and responds to CAT events all over the state. What Ricardo enjoys most about the work he does is being able to assist people when they are distressed and have a problem he can help to solve. “I can put them at ease and do whatever we have to do to repair their property and get them back to their normal lives.” Ricardo explained that the service culture of their company is of primary importance. “We believe that 99% is equal to zero; we go for 100% and if we have to go the extra mile, we do. It’s not about the money; it’s about customer satisfaction,” Ricardo said. “Every time we get a good comment or review, we immediately share it with our employees so they know the job they are doing is being recognized. That’s what differentiates us from everybody else. The equipment is the same—we want to be an exceptional vendor.”
Looking to the future, Ricardo and David have plans to continue growing the business by adding locations outside of Florida. Florida presents unique challenges due to its high risk for storms and flooding, causing many insurance carriers to exit the state or impose stringent policy limitations. Diversifying to other states provides a safety net for the business, as well as another strategic location to respond to CAT events that occur outside of Florida. Regarding his children’s involvement in the business, Ricardo shared that, so far, they have pursued their own career paths, and he fully supports their choices. “They are building their own careers in their own names and I’m proud of them. This is what I hoped for them when we came to the U.S.”
When asked what advice Ricardo has for those just entering the industry, he said: “This is a billion-dollar industry, and we are just scratching the surface. There are jobs for everyone. As long as you are a service person and have empathy, it’s simply a matter of training and certification.” Ricardo continued, “If you do the right things and provide good service, that will be returned to you with success. You’ll get rewarded for that. Be patient. Be a team player. Call on other franchises for help when needed and they will call on you.” It all comes back to Ricardo’s core principles of community and service.