Barry Swidler is a fourth-generation owner of American Fire Restoration, a family business that began in 1917 and is celebrating 100 years in business in 2016. Swidler is a former ASCR president and a non-practicing attorney who remains active in managing both American Fire Restoration and Long Island Carpet Cleaners. He is currently the president of American Fire Restoration, LLC, in Queens, New York.
1. WHAT WERE THE MAIN BUSINESS LESSONS YOU GLEANED FROM THE ASSOCIATION’S FOUNDING FATHERS THAT HELPED GUIDE YOU WHEN YOU ASCENDED TO ASCR PRESIDENT IN 1995?
Work hard, do the right thing, give back to the industry, get educated and associate with the leaders in the industry. If you do all those things, success will follow.
2. HOW HAS THE RESTORATION INDUSTRY EVOLVED DURING THE PAST DECADE? WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FACING TODAY’S RESTORERS?
The industry has changed in so many ways. The most significant is the professionalism expected compared to years ago. Today, restorers are expected to be certified in their trade. Process and documentation has become the norm. Insurance companies use programs to distribute their work. In New York, where we are located, mold remediators are now licensed. The key challenge for us today is purchasing insurance at acceptable rates. Controlling losses is key, and moving risk to others is imperative to purchase insurance at a reasonable price. Laws are stacked against companies like ours. Finding ways to purchase proper insurance at a fair price is extremely challenging and crucial to our business. I see opportunities for those companies that dot their i’s and cross their t’s. With our litigious society, those who do not get trained, follow process and do it “by the book” will not survive. Those who do will grow and prosper. Process and training separates the “men from the boys.”
3. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF RESTORATION PROFESSIONALS STEPPING INTO LEADERSHIP ROLES AND NAVIGATING A CHANGING LANDSCAPE?
Be flexible. What is accepted today as the standard way of doing business may not be in 10 years. Those who adjust will thrive, while those who refuse to change and yearn for the “good old days” will fail. Be open to modifying business processes to satisfy the demands of the industry, while keeping your standards high.
4. WHAT PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?
Being elected president of ASCR in 1995 was a tremendous honor for me. To associate with a group of peers who were so knowledgeable and proficient in our industry and be asked to lead that group was the shining moment of my career.
5. WHO ARE YOUR MOST INFLUENTIAL MENTORS IN THE INDUSTRY?
Don Bragonier and Walt Legenstein.