“Look inside, and you’ll see a smile on the kids and the teachers, and then you’ll understand what we do.” These are the words Ricardo Herdan told his team of technicians as they walked through the hallways, peeking into the classrooms of a local school that just two weeks before was flooded with water. Their team had worked through the holidays, including New Year’s Eve and Day, to get the school ready for the kids’ safe return. Seeing the impact their work had on so many people was a pivotal moment for both Herdan and his business partner, David Shiffman; this was the moment their success became visible.
For most people, moving to a new country, acclimating to the new culture, and growing roots would take many dedicated years. However, David Shiffman, 36, and Ricardo Herdan, 54, have made quite the ripple in their new locale in a short period. An unwavering commitment to their employees, customers, and community helped these two unassuming men rise up and turn some heads in the process. In the less than five years that they have lived in the United States, they have built two successful PuroClean franchises in the Miami area, and they just recently signed on for a third store.
PuroClean is a Tamarac, Florida-based company acting in the little-known but crucial restoration industry. With 360 locations throughout the US and Canada, they handle everything from water and fire damage restoration to mold remediation and biohazard cleanup. PuroClean is founded on the principle of servant leadership and helping those in need. They understand how property emergencies leave their clients in a helpless and volatile position. This type of work attracts helpful, empathetic, and compassionate people, ready to be local heroes, day after day, one property at a time. Their mission and values embody everything Herdan and Shiffman believe to be important in life, and they knew PuroClean was their chance to give back and help their community. When you know, you know.
Albert Einstein once said, “Failure is success in progress.” Failure is just part of the process; the important thing is learning from failure and making changes in the future. In 2020, Shiffman and Herdan learned a hard lesson that helped shape their business today. When a massive storm struck Lake Charles, Louisiana, they loaded up three PuroClean trucks, three pickups, and 24 people with just an hour’s notice and started driving North to assist. Shiffman took off ahead of the crew to survey the necessary work and the conditions in the area.
As his team continued their long drive out of Florida, Shiffman arrived in Louisiana and made an unsettling realization: the work wasn’t what they had expected, and with two dozen people involved, the risk was just too much. They had to turn around and head back. The ride home was spent reflecting on the situation and how they could make improvements going forward, but when everyone arrived back in South Florida, the regrets and disappointment were set aside – it was right back to work in their own community. Herdan explained, “you have to learn from your failures and stand up and be better. That’s what you learn when you fail.” Though they aren’t accustomed to failure, when it does occur, they know how to use criticism and lack of success as an opportunity to improve and grow.
In February 2021, with the lessons from Louisiana fresh on their mind, Shiffman and Herdan had a chance to implement the improvements they had made when they were called to Texas to assist after a polar vortex. This time they were prepared with the right equipment, team, and knowledge to handle everything. They drove to Texas and jumped right in, successfully helping 28 families, only stopping when they eventually ran out of time and resources. Each family they supported and each restoration they completed was meaningful, but it was a particular minor job that stuck with the team the most.
Connections that Last a Lifetime
While completing one of the jobs in Texas for an elderly woman, her neighbor asked for help because another restoration company kept giving her the run-around. Although they had already maxed out on jobs, the men and their team knew they couldn’t look the other way when a person was in need, so they took on the job and restored both homes. The women were beyond impressed by the professionalism and compassion shown by Shiffman, Herdan, and their team.
When the devastating condo collapse in Surfside occurred a few months later in July, Shiffman received a text from the women in Texas, checking on their team. They had heard about this disaster in Miami, and their very first thought was to check on their friends David and Ricardo. The small act of kindness from February was not forgotten, and neither were those who performed it. Shiffman shared one of the texts from the conversation, which read, “You guys made such an impression when you were here, we could not forget about you.” This type of personal connection that transcends distance, age, and all other separations, Herdan says, is “the definition of success.” And once again, their success was visible.
Building a Team
Shiffman and Herdan came to the United States from Venezuela with a dream, but without a specific plan to achieve it. Herdan, a systems engineer with decades of experience in retail banking and technology, arrived first in June 2017 with the idea that he would like to be his own boss in a field that gives back. He looked at around 60 different business opportunities but eventually decided on the restoration industry and owning a PuroClean franchise. Herdan contacted his friend from back home, Shiffman, a civil engineer who had worked construction his entire life, who could help understand and lead on the more technical aspects of the business.
The two friends teamed up and bought their first PuroClean location in 2018 and opened as PuroClean of Aventura in February 2019. A little over a year later, the second store in Davie opened, and their third location will be in Downtown Miami. The three stores are strategically located across the greater Miami area to serve customers across the metropolis as quickly as possible in an emergency.
Through their many successes in life and especially with PuroClean, the men recognize the team effort involved; their achievements are because they surround themselves with the right people, and they encourage those people to always reach for their own dreams. Shiffman remarked, “I want us to be successful, but I want everyone to be successful, and I mean that.” In the three years since they first opened, they have built a small but dedicated team of eight full-time employees and a pool of about 40 others ready to assist with specific jobs.
They consider their employees like family, even attending each others’ weddings and special events, and are highly selective when they hire, preferring only to hire people they know personally and through referrals from friends and family. As they see it, when people retain their company, they are putting a lot of trust into allowing strangers into their homes. Shiffman and Herdan understand and appreciate their trust and need to feel comfortable with the people they are sending to represent them. They want their employees to take care of their customers, and they, accordingly, always take care of their employees.
Serving the Local Community
Treating their employees like family is only the beginning; Shiffman and Herdan treat everyone they encounter in life with authentic amiability. The duo realize the vulnerable state that many of their customers are in when they come to them and always strive to be transparent and project genuine empathy and compassion. Many of their customers have, in turn, become friends.
Shiffman recalls a man who called their company three separate times with problems. Insurance denied the first claim, but that didn’t stop their team from completing the work and returning to complete the other two jobs. Money has never been the driving factor for them; what’s most important is that they’ve helped someone in need above all else. A similar story happened with an uninsured couple whose air conditioning went out. They knew when they accepted the job, it would be pro bono. When everything was complete, the wife sent champagne and whatever she could to show her gratitude, but Shiffman and Herdan had been compensated in a better way just by helping.
They got into the restoration industry to serve their community, and they give back in big and small ways every day, often taking on pro bono projects. When a local orphanage found mold in their building, the team was called to complete the job. Though the orphanage planned to pay for the work, Shiffman and Herdan decided to do it unpaid. They even put together little bags for the kids with special goodies. The team also stepped up to assist their community during the pandemic. They worked with the local police departments and assisted living facilities to offer free deep cleaning and sanitation services.
Recognition and Beyond
Although they measure their success based on the people they serve, they’re occasionally recognized publicly, too. After just their second year owning a PuroClean franchise, Shiffman and Herdan were named to the President’s Circle, a distinction awarded to the top 10% of PuroClean’s franchise owners, and they also received the Hot Shot Award, given to franchises that exhibit the most significant growth. Humble as ever and not expecting to take home any huge awards, Shiffman and Herdan showed up to the award show dressed down in their PuroClean button-ups and jeans. They were shocked when they heard their names called for not one but two of just a handful of main awards.
It would be easy to look at how far they’ve come and how much they’ve accomplished as individuals, but they consistently point to everyone around them who have helped them become successful. “It’s not just [about] us. It’s all the people around us,” Herdan said. They prefer to speak about the customers and relationships that have been created through their business, the accomplishments that have only been possible because of a team of hard-working individuals, and the people who they haven’t reached yet, but are ready to help when the call comes.
As Shiffman and Herdan walked their team through the newly restored school building, they could clearly see their success in the form of happy teachers and children. This was just one job for the team, but in the larger scheme, this was also a visual representation of the achievement of the American Dream. Though they came to the United States on a mission to work hard and serve others, they’ve achieved an elusive goal that has enticed many determined immigrants for decades in a much quicker time than most. But if you ask them, they’ll probably just say there’s a lot more work to do and more people to serve.