SFS History

By the mid 1990’s Nick and John Paolella at Jon-Don had been in business for almost twenty years. But Nick and John didn’t just sell equipment and chemicals. They “got down in the trenches” and worked side by side with their customers. However, the Paolellas quickly realized that while many cleaning and restoration contractors worked hard, did a great job and were wonderful people … many of them just weren’t building a “real business”…

John and Nick discovered that their customers craved a company that runs smoothly … with or without the owner constantly being there. They realized that if they helped their clients become more successful … likely Jon-Don would “come along for the ride” and prosper right along with their customers.

So Nick and John came up with a revolutionary new concept- an educational program that had NOTHING to do with the technical side of cleaning or restoration! Instead, this program would focus on helping Jon-Don’s customers grow their company! (And yes, of course hopefully Jon-Don would grow too!) The Paolellas named this seminar Openings to Opportunity (OTO) and it truly was. The program had sections developed by accountants and attorneys and business consultants- all areas where the typical hard working carpet cleaner tends to fall down in!

However, Openings to Opportunity suffered from one glaring fault. None of the extremely smart people that developed it had ever spent time “down in the trenches” as a carpet cleaning or restoration contractor! So while the seminar was packed with good, basic information it wasn’t tailored to our industry. And frankly, many of our attendees struggled with adapting and implementing the new concepts that were not tailored to them.

Jon-Don instinctively knew that they needed to develop a program that “made it easier to do it right than to do it wrong” for the average person in the cleaning and restoration industry. (This deceptively simple saying later became a “core concept” of the SFS program.) So they started to look around for an industry veteran who not only had “been there-done that” BUT also had the time, circumstances and desire to throw themselves into an epic adventure- developing an industry-specific educational and support program that would be much more than a seminar. Instead, it would be a “life-transforming experience”!


Meanwhile, by the mid-1990’s I had been retired for several years and was happily immersed in my full time, unpaid volunteer work in the Dominican Republic with my family. (For more on my life click HERE.) Then one day the phone rang. Jon-Don wanted me to come teach one day of the OTO program so off I went. (I later learned this was a trial run on their part to see if I had “fork marks all over my face”!)

Nick Paolella picked me up at the airport, gave me a tour of their brand new (and very impressive) office/warehouse and then of course Nick and I had a great Italian dinner. The following day I presented a one day overview of the “Value Added Service” philosophy that had made my company so successful. I liked the “transform your business and life concept” of the Openings to Opportunity seminar and I REALLY loved the creative, hard working but very family oriented atmosphere at Jon-Don. Evidently the feeling was mutual because that afternoon after I finished teaching Jon-Don made me an offer that I just couldn’t refuse …

Big Billy
Big Billy

That’s right, Nick and John offered me the chance to develop a targeted program focused on being truly successful in the cleaning and restoration industry.  I jumped at it! I first wove my Value Added Service concepts  throughout the seminar. Then I took many of the basically good nuts and bolts of the OTO seminar and converted them into specific procedures designed just for the cleaning and restoration industry. Then we brought in two very talented individuals, Chuck Violand (to learn about Chuck click HERE) and the inimitable “Big Billy” Yeadon, to assist me in developing and teaching the class. (Billy shares more than you will ever want to know about his life story HERE!)

Nick Paolella 90w

Two other key people on our SFS team are the father-daughter team of Angela Buege and Nick Paolella. Angela has been with us right from the git-go as our SFS Coordinator. This might be her official title but in reality Angela is the “mom” of SFS, working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that 40 to 50 attendees are taken care of beautifully over the five intense days of our SFS: Business Transformation seminar. I could never have taken SFS to where it is today without her efforts. (More about Angela HERE.)

And last but never least we come to the absolutely incredible Nick Paolella. As any SFS member will attest, Nick truly is a legend in his own time! Nick and John Paolella started Jon-Don way back in 1978. Fortunately for all of us, Nick’s success over the years hasn’t changed his fun-loving approach to life that he developed back in his humble beginnings. (Click HERE to learn more about Nick.) Even now Nick so loves meeting his customers that he personally travels to each and every one of the SFS: Business Transformation seminars we present. (Or maybe Nick just still doesn’t trust me even after all these years!)

Actually, Nick and John had been giving “Value Added Service” to their customers for many years before I came along. (They still do!) I just put a name to the culture that Jon-Don had developed instinctively!

Recently thanks to the COVID pandemic we’ve moved SFS concepts and our famous SFS: ‘Business Infrastructure’ to a much more accessible online SFS: LIVE platform. But our core SFS philosophy of partnering up with you to get your ‘toughest job’ done remains the same.

Jon-Don has given me the resources to transform the lives of 1,000’s of our SFS graduates and in the process change an industry. I’m grateful to Jon-Don and once you attend one or more of our SFS LIVE seminars my guess is you be will too!

Steve Toburen