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Home | DALLAS / FORT WORTH | Spotlight | Spotlight - Suzie Saffell and Darrin Saffell, Olympic Restoration Systems

Spotlight - Suzie Saffell and Darrin Saffell, Olympic Restoration Systems

image Suzie and Darrin Saffell

DALLAS/FT WORTH - Olympic Restoration Systems just won the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics. It’s an accomplishment that holds great meaning for Owners Suzie and Darrin Saffell, who run their business in line with their values and faith.




Share about your background.
We both attended and graduated from Oklahoma Christian University in 1989. We were married when we graduated, side-by-side.
    Darrin: I earned a degree in mechanical engineering. I then went to work for IBM at its Engineering and Scientific National Support Center, which turned into an IT job for five years. One customer, however, was Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad; they offered me a job and I worked there for five years.
    Suzie: I earned an accounting degree and went to work straight out of school in the tax department for Ernst & Young in Fort Worth. It was not for me, so I went to work for Outdoor Trails, a hunting and fishing show. I was their accounting and office manager. I really loved that; I knew my niche was small company accounting. I did that until I started having kids, stayed home with them until preschool, and then I was the finance director for their preschool.
    Darrin: Then, I wanted to move to Colorado. When I had asked Suzie to marry me, I included, “Will you move to Colorado with me one day?” I always wanted to live in Colorado; I love the mountains. We had lived in Texas for 10 years and our daughter was 5 and our son was 3. I realized if we were going to move, it needed to be then. It was only going to get harder as the kids grew up.
    We tried to sell our house before and it didn’t. She said if I got a job offer and sold the house, we could move. Within a month, the house sold and I had a job offer back at IBM in Colorado.

Was moving to Colorado what you had hoped?
    Darrin: I loved Colorado. However, we have a really strong church family here and we didn’t really have the same church connection in Colorado.
    After we were there for a while, Suzie said we should move to Texas to be closer to family and our church family. But, it was 2003, and the IT market experiencing a downturn. Thinking it wasn’t even a remote possibility, I said, “If I get a job in Texas, we’ll move back.” A friend from BNSF called to tell me they just outsourced its IT to IBM, they needed a manager for some departments and that he had brought up my name. I thought, “Oh …that’s really….nice. Do I even tell Suzie? I really don’t want to move back!” But, we moved back in 2003 and I worked for IBM at BNSF.

How did you transition to business ownership?

    Darrin: I worked for IBM for a while, but I was working long hours. The more I worked there, the more I started thinking that if I’m working this hard, I should be doing something for myself. I had an entrepreneurial spirit, so we started Olympic Restoration Systems in 2005. Suzie called it my “mid-life crisis” because I was 40. I told her that there could be worse mid-life crises.
    Suzie: It was his mid-life crisis! I was not for it. I didn’t want him to leave the financial security, benefits and insurance that he had with IBM. He wanted to be able to try, though, so we went for it.

How has the business evolved?
We initially did water, fire and mold remediation. Then we realized that a lot of water and fire restoration went to companies that had national agreements with the insurance company. We were not on the insurance referral lists, so mold remediation became our niche specialty. Performing mold remediation in crawl spaces led us to the Basement Systems network of dealers in search of products and services to prevent water issues that allow the mold to grow. We signed up with Basement Systems (now Contractor Nation) in 2009 and these services became our core services. Initially, the dealership was only available in Houston, so we agreed to cover that area. Later, the DFW area became available, so we jumped on the chance to take over the DFW area as well.
    After 8 years of spending half the week in Houston and half the week in DFW, I was getting frustrated because I didn’t feel I was able to place enough focus in either area to get the kind of traction we really wanted. So early this year, we decided to stop looking for new customers in Houston. We didn’t shut down our business, but we significantly reduced staff. We service existing customers and take business that falls in our laps, but in Dallas-Fort Worth we are really focusing on growing our business and seeing results from that.
    Suzie: When we moved back from Colorado, I did not work for the business the first couple of years; I returned to the preschool as finance director. Darrin did everything, and it kept growing. Then it became obvious he couldn’t do it all himself. I took over the accounting side for our company. We’re at 15 employees, but we need more. We’re hiring!

Who has influenced you in business?

    Darrin: We got involved with the School of Entrepreneurship; the owner of Contractor Nation started this school. He is an amazing business leader; he has personal businesses that focus on customers who need residential home services and contractors who provide similar services. His businesses generate revenues more than $100 million per year. In The School of Entrepreneurship, he teaches business owners how to grow their businesses by being better leaders. Suzie and I have been attending these classes for about two years. Roughly every eight weeks, we go to Connecticut and spend two days in class. It takes us away from our business, but it helps us regain focus on the things we need to do to make the future better. We learn from the material that is presented, but we also learn by talking with other business owners who are at different stages in their business.
    Suzie: The School of Entrepreneurship has been amazing for us; it has gotten us on the same page as far as our vision and our mission and what we think needs to happen for our company.

What is it like to work together?

     Suzie: We’ve been married 30 years. We balance each other out really well. Our core values are the same but the way we approach things is very different. He comes from one point of view and I come from the other and we meet somewhere in the middle. Sometimes it’s difficult separating our work and home life. When you work in the same job, you come home and talk about work, which makes it seem like you’re working all of the time! That’s the life of an entrepreneur though.
     Darrin: She does the administration and obviously is very detailed and I’m more visionary and the details evade me sometimes. It’s one of those situations where each of our strengths is probably what drives the other one crazy but makes us good together.

What do you enjoy about your work?
     Darrin: The mechanical engineer in me loves that we solve problems many companies can’t. I also like working with our employees, in particular our production employees. Some have a rough background in which they’ve never been respected or encouraged; I enjoy seeing them grow through having somebody appreciate their service.
     Suzie: We love to give back to different causes; to me, that is the best part of business ownership. We feel called to give back so we give a certain percentage of our total revenue to people and non-profit organizations that provide badly-needed services in the community. Sometimes we give money to our employees to share with the people they come in contact with throughout the week. Also, if an employee needs extra help, we love being able to help them. We also try to be a part of the things we give to. For instance, we sponsor The Honor Connor Run, but it’s also a personal thing; Connor Gage was our godson who drowned in a terrible accident, and so we help with a charitable run every year. The money raised helps The LV Project.
Describe your family and free time.
    Suzie: Our daughter, Courtney Schaffner, is a nurse in Southlake and our son-in-law is an engineer in this area, too. Our son, Ross Saffell, is doing sales for us – and is knocking it out of the park! – and his wife is a nurse. They just graduated in April from Oklahoma Christian University, moved here, and live five minutes from us.
    We love anything outdoors. We enjoy the mountains, and then in the summer, we are in the boat. We love to waterski. The six of us hit Eagle Mountain Lake almost every weekend; we love it. It is time with them and we can relax.

What are your plans for the future?
    Darrin: We plan to continue to grow, hire more people and provide new services. Our direction is always going to be things that help our customers have healthy homes and lives. We have no expectations, but we hope our son will continue to be involved and eventually take a leadership position in the company.
    Olympic Restoration Systems offers crawl space repair, mold removal and radon mitigation. –mjm

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Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net