How Jaffa Doubled the Growth at Safeguard

Smart Business recently published an article about CEO Alan Jaffa doubling the growth at Safeguard.

Staying true to the core – How Alan Jaffa has doubled the growth at Safeguard Properties

The recent real estate crisis has left cities, towns and neighborhoods with real potential as well as real problems. Alan Jaffa and Safeguard Properties see both the potential and problems as growing business opportunities.

Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein, Safeguard Properties has grown from a regional preservation company with a few employees and a handful of contractors performing services in the Midwest to the largest mortgage field services company in the country today.

“I’m not going to dismiss the fact that the housing crisis had an increase in our volume,” says Jaffa, who became Safeguard’s CEO in May 2010. “Some have said, ‘Wow, Safeguard. You got into this business at the right time.’ We’ve been in this business 24 years and we’ve seen growth every year. We’ve seen growth over the last handful of years due to new clients, an acquisition and an increase in volume because default rates have gone up.”

Providing services in all 50 states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Safeguard employs 1,700 people and is supported by a nationwide vendor network trained and qualified to perform a full range of inspections, property preservation services, maintenance work, and repair and rehab services.

The more than $1 billion company sits atop its industry, and Jaffa is continuing to find ways to keep the company in the No. 1 spot.

“The timing of the shift of me becoming CEO was an interesting time in our industry,” Jaffa says. “Safeguard has always had phenomenal growth, but during the mortgage crisis our growth certainly spiked. A year ago we did an acquisition that gave us substantial growth as a company that continues what this business was really built on, staying true to the core of what it is that we do.”

Now Jaffa is building off that momentum and looking toward the future.

Find new opportunities

While Safeguard was anything but lacking growth, Jaffa knew there were chances to grow the company in new ways. In 2012, Bank of America offered Safeguard that chance.

“Bank of America, through its Countrywide Financial Corp. acquisition in 2008, acquired a field service company that conducted similar processes to what we do, but strictly for Bank of America,” Jaffa says. “BOA has been divesting itself of many of those acquired affiliates, and we purchased their field service company, Bank of America Field Services, in September 2012.”

Bank of America needed to ensure that it was partnering with the right buyer, since the deal would be a long-term relationship.

“BOA viewed us, as others do, as the industry leader,” he says. “When it came to protecting and preserving their assets, they wanted a partner, and hence sold their field service company to the industry leader.”

From a volume perspective, gaining Bank of America as a client has almost doubled the size of Safeguard.

“The acquisition created a buzz and energy in this company that was different than what our typical growth has created before,” Jaffa says. “Now that we’ve done this acquisition, and it has doubled our business, we can’t lose focus of Safeguard Properties and what it is that we do here.”

The Bank of America acquisition was the first that Safeguard has done. The company has built its growth through customer service, relationships and organic growth.

“Our growth has been through the reputation that we have built for ourselves and gaining additional clients,” he says. “That is how we have continued to see growth. Of course, we have expanded our services. Twenty-four years ago, the services may have been a lot smaller in scope of what we do today for our clients, but we are still very focused on the property and preserving and taking care of that property.”

Like anything else, the needs of Safeguard’s clients and of this country when it comes to housing have grown. The company continues to support those needs while determining what it needs to do next.

“It comes down to surrounding yourself with the right people, and people who are smarter than you are,” Jaffa says. “This company would not have had the growth that it has had without having the right people in place.”

Jaffa says another key is staying true to your core values. Despite how much Safeguard has grown, Jaffa isn’t straying from those values.

“We’ve become a large company,” he says. “Walking in here every morning and leaving at night, I never let it get to my head that we’ve become so large. I know I am the same person walking in here every morning, and I’m the same type of person walking out as I was 19 years ago. Sometimes you see too many executives who let that get to their head, and you can’t let that happen.”

Growing pains

Despite Safeguard’s ability to grow each year and work its way to the top of its industry, the company has still faced challenges. With so many of its employees out in the field, technology has been one of its biggest.

“Technology for us has been phenomenal,” Jaffa says. “However, every six months technology becomes outdated, and keeping up is a challenge. As a company we have been extremely aggressive in our budgeting and spending to be in front of technology, because it is a huge driver for us in order to continue on the path we are on.”

Technology can be your biggest friend or your biggest challenge. It’s all on how you attack it.

“We can’t get our job done unless the people in the field get the work done,” he says. “The days of paper are long gone. We are in an environment today where we expect responses from people at properties in the field. The mobile technology is tremendous in our space. Real-time data from the properties is what we’re working on, and some of that is in place today.”

Safeguard’s mobile technology enables the company to get quicker responses from the field, quicker responses to its clients and quicker reactions from investors, which ultimately protects and preserves a property.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Jaffa says. “The old days of you telling me a condition and it bouncing around to different people could have been a 14-day process. We’re in an environment where neighbors, cities and our clients want real-time resolution, and the only way you’re able to do that is if we’re able to communicate from the field.”

Staying on top

While Safeguard has done the things to make it No. 1, its position in the industry means others are biting at its heels trying to dethrone the company.

“Every industry has competition,” Jaffa says. “You stay No. 1 by staying true to what you set yourself out for. We didn’t become No. 1 because of our looks. We became No. 1 because of our creative thought process, being in front of issues before they became issues and giving our clients the level of service that they required.

“Competition is healthy. It keeps everyone on their toes. We’re in an environment where everybody wants options and we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and our competitors are going to keep doing what they’re doing. As long as we stay true to what we started this company out as we’ll be fine.”

One of the differentiators is how Safeguard has partnered with and built relationships with local communities where the company works.

“Our competition continues to try to follow that model, but it’s more reactive from their standpoint rather than proactive from our standpoint,” he says. “Some of the largest cities in this country know us and know they can pick up the phone when there is an issue at a property and that we’ll take care of it immediately.

“People think it’s just foreclosures, but we’re really protecting neighborhoods against vacant blight, against unsecured, unsafe properties around this country. If we weren’t around, the country would be in a lot worse shape than it is with the horrible housing crisis that we’ve had.”

According to Safeguard, tens of thousands of dollars in home value, up to 30 percent of the value of the home, can be negatively impacted by a vacant property on the street. When those properties have problems, it can negatively impact the tax valuations and become a bigger burden on the municipalities.

“When these homes are protected, it upholds the value because it doesn’t negatively impact the surrounding properties and cities aren’t sending someone to cut the grass or deal with the code enforcement violation,” Jaffa says. “It lessens the financial burden on municipalities’ budgets.”

As the housing crisis continues to fix itself, Jaffa and his team at Safeguard are once again looking for the next growth opportunity.

“One of the things that we are very aggressively contemplating is doing additional acquisitions,” he says. “Between our people, systems and our network there are a significant amount of opportunities for us to take advantage of and diversify.”

Takeaways

  • Take advantage of opportunities outside of organic growth.
  • Tackle challenges head on and always be looking at what’s next.
  • Build your business by staying true to the values it was founded on.
     

The Jaffa File
Name:
Alan Jaffa
Title: CEO
Company: Safeguard Properties

Born: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Education: He took college courses but did not earn a degree.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I ran a freight elevator at a Wall Street building that my uncle managed. As a 16-year-old kid, I had the fortune to interact with a lot of business people. What struck me was that some of the most powerful people were also the most humble. They took the time to talk and show respect to everyone, regardless of their role or status. That’s always stuck with me.

What is the best business advice you have received? Surround yourself with the best people and trust them to do their jobs. Nobody knows everything, and the more you can rely on smart and talented people, the more successful you’ll be.

What do you see as the most important thing Safeguard does for a property? What happens to one property happens to the neighborhood and community in which it exists.  When we protect the value and condition of one home, we protect the value and quality of the neighborhood. 

If you weren’t a CEO, what is something you have always wanted to do? What I enjoy is talking to budding entrepreneurs who are looking for guidance to start or grow their companies. We have a lot of talented people in this community with good business ideas. It’s gratifying to offer some perspective, and I find I learn a lot too.

Learn more about Safeguard Properties:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Safeguard-Properties/142091379162518
Twitter – https://twitter.com/safeguardprop
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/SafeguardProperties1/videos?view=0&flow=grid
LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/company/56505?trk=tyah

How to reach: Safeguard Properties, (800) 852-8306 or www.safeguardproperties.com

Please click here to view the online article.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders,  and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website: www.safeguardproperties.com.

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.

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Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.

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CHEIF INFORMATION OFFICER

George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.

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General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.

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Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.

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AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.

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AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.

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AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.

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AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.

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AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.

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AVP, Mobile and Analytics

Jason Heckman

Jason Heckman is the assistant vice president of mobile and analytics for Safeguard. He is responsible for both Safeguard’s mobile development and strategy as well as the company’s data warehousing and business intelligence. Jason oversees the design, development and release of all Safeguard’s internally developed mobile applications. He also oversees the development and delivery of operational and analytical data technologies throughout the organization.

Jason joined Safeguard as manager of mobile in 2012. During that time he led the development and integration of Safeguard’s mobile applications across the company’s vendor network to provide real-time data from the field. In 2014, he was promoted to director of mobile applications and named assistant vice president in 2017.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Jason was the director of application development and business intelligence for Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana.

Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

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AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.