Severe basement flooding, rural brush fires, storm damage, uprooted landscaping; the best-laid plans of women and men too often go awry. Life happens, and emergencies do not discriminate—be it weather-related crises or spontaneous environmental events. At the intersection of unexpected and unplanned is Dan Cassara, president and chief executive officer at DKI Ventures, the leading disaster restoration contracting organization in North America.
Disaster Kleenup International (DKI) was founded in 1974, and now, with more than 400 contractors, it is one of the largest and oldest property restoration companies in the United States. Under Cassara’s leadership—and oversight of all companies under DKI Ventures—DKI provides a full range of services, including water damage, fire and smoke occurrences, tree removal, mold remediation, catastrophe response, reconstruction, storage, and cleaning for inadvertent incidents.
In his role since 2012, Cassara oversees all company operations and strategy implementation for the business. On a corporate level, he acts as a direct communication liaison between the DKI board of directors and company management. Cassara, who formerly served as vice president of loss services and vice president of sales and marketing for DKI Holdings, defines his responsibility not only as a standard CEO but also as a role model for doing things as a company in the right way.
“I personally believe that my role entails four critical components at DKI: developing and communicating the company’s vision and mission, being a steward of exemplary leadership, ensuring my team stays on course, and living our core values,” he says.
The DKI team is divided into a two-tiered leadership group; the company’s chief financial officer and chief information officer collaborate with Cassara on strategy, while the extended leadership team consists of sales, operations, and marketing staff who support the underlying management and ensure mission execution. Company operations are continually streamlined with the talented, hard-working team.
“We are constantly striving to better the organization by continually thinking outside of the box and looking for ways that we can outsmart the competition,” he says. “Finding the right people for the right seats is key; all of my team members bring very specific skill sets and experience. It is critical that these folks complement each other for efficiency.”
Cassara embodies his aforementioned principles, particularly when considering new franchising clients. Traditional franchise model approaches welcome individual companies without industry experience. Traditional models work for industries such as QSR businesses, “but in my eyes that is not how I hire,” he adds.
Rather, DKI treats this process quite differently: the company only considers existing businesses consisting of highly skilled service people with successful records in their industry. This licensed model (as opposed to a franchise model) allows DKI to vet more established contractors. Such measures not only benefit the business, but also speak to Cassara’s passion for exceptional customer care.
“To me, being a father of a daughter and having a wife at home, it is critical to trust every single person coming into my house,” he says. “I feel safe about the DKI approach and think it is a great differentiator for our company since we assure families we are helping them and also ensuring their safety.”
The protection factor is not lost on Cassara. The DKI tagline is “restoring lives one home at a time” for good reason: the disaster call industry is not only concerned with restoring property.
“If you are affected by a flood or fire, it takes an emotional toll whether on a business or in people’s homes. It is not something we take for granted,” he says. “I very much strive to teach franchisees they not only have the ability to go in and do work with home and business owners, but it is also an honor to enter into someone’s life by helping them.”
Hospitality has always been at Cassara’s core—he worked in the food and beverage industry prior to DKI. He entered into the disaster restoration realm unplanned and brought forward that hospitality perspective with several company initiatives.
In fact, DKI Ventures has a concierge group department that solely functions to help employees in the company call center. Each client and worker is treated as if he or she is the only customer at DKI. It’s a high touch that Cassara prides himself on.
This attention to detail serves DKI well. In the last three years, Cassara has grown the company five times over and is currently setting his sights on further global expansion (the company already has outposts in Canada and Europe). DKI hopes to continue momentum for future growth since the industry is constantly changing.
“We operate in a very exciting industry that allows us to restore homes and businesses each and every day,” Cassara says. “It is exciting to be a part of an organization whose culture is continual growth and innovation, coupled with the alignment with the very finest property restoration contractors on the planet. When you know you are a part of a winning team, failure is nonexistent.”
Cassara’s steadfast, modest professionalism and determination also speak to his career philosophy. “I found that this role not only humbled me significantly, it made me realize it had nothing to do with me and more to do with what I can do for other people,” he says.
During yearly meetings with new staff members, Cassara makes it a priority to reiterate this adage. “Starting in this business, many want to help people,” he says. “I tell young people to never lose sight of that.”