Founded on Veterans Day 2013, VetCor LLC, a 24/7 emergency restoration company, focuses on water damage mitigation, mold remediation, and other related services and is committed to providing a level of service that can only be achieved by employing the brave men and women who fought to protect our country. Guided by Paul Huszar, president, majority owner and retired Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Corps of Engineers, VetCor has seen explosive growth and, as a result, is becoming the go-to company for insurance carriers seeking a reliable, dependable and quality service provider. Huszar shared the journey from when he first came on-board to VetCor's rise to prominence and their aggressive plan to expand throughout the state and potentially beyond.
"After I retired from active duty and moved to Tampa, I got connected with David Howard, the original founder of VetCor," Huszar said. "I went into the interview thinking it was for an engineering position, but David understood my background and organizational leadership skills and offered me the position of president. I accepted and immediately called a friend, retired Army Sergeant Major Scott Walden, and offered him a position as COO. He accepted, moved to Tampa in January of 2014, and we got to work building our team. We bought equipment, hired personnel, set up training procedures and started earning revenue by April of 2014. David, who had previously served in senior leadership positions in the insurance industry, helped us form some of those early key relationships.
In October of 2014, I bought the company from its parent company, COR Holdings, and became the majority owner and CEO, with David Howard remaining as a minority owner and strategic advisor. We re-invested in the company and opened a second office in December of 2014 to service the southwest part of the state. At that point in time, we became the preferred provider for several major insurance carriers and by February of 2015, less than a year after earning revenue, we were profitable." Shortly after, VetCor opened a third office in Davie, allowing them to service Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
Today, VetCor's three offices allow them to cover 15 counties. Future planned expansion will give VetCor a solid footprint throughout the entire state. Huszar is very bullish on future growth, and much of that optimism and confidence comes from the trust that he has in his teammates to provide a service in a way not easily replicated by other companies.
Keeping a competitive edge
"What sets us apart is our workforce," he said. "As veterans, we're wired differently. When a technician shows up, he or she is on time, polite, fit, in uniform, treats everyone with dignity and respect, says 'yes sir or yes ma'am' and they do what they're supposed to do. Believe it or not, this paints a stark contrast from nearly every other service industry. We're honest, we take responsibility for our actions and we provide quality services at a fair price. Like any mission, we get in, get everything done, get out and, as a result, we save our customers and our clients time and money. They're happy and we get more business. It's about building relationships not increasing transactions. We now work with over 40 insurance carriers and four third-party administrators (TPAs) throughout the state. There's a science to what we're doing, but it's not rocket science."
Despite their impressive growth and reputation, VetCor faced your typical early startup challenges including developing processes and procedures, marketing, finance and cash flow. Huszar had zero experience running a civilian company, but he did have plenty of experience managing and leading teams. He put this training to use as he worked diligently to build VetCor's reputation and effectively manage teams across
the original six county region. Huszar shared another challenge, not faced by VetCor itself, but by the men and women leaving active duty and entering the civilian workforce.
"Most of these people don't get their credentials when they retire from active duty," he said. "There are 12 different occupational specialties in the Army Corps of Engineers. These men and women are highly skilled and highly trained individuals, but those credentials don't carry over to the civilian world. Scott and I saw this as a real problem and both thought that, since the credentialing process for restoration folks was relatively low, VetCor could do its part to curb this trend. Scott developed a 90 day training program that all of our technicians go through. That's followed by a three-day industry standard certification course. We pay for the training, assuming they agree to stay with us for at least a year. Helping our veterans get trained and into sustainable and meaningful career is our mission. It's what drives us. We want to provide outstanding service while creating employment for our Nation's heroes."
VetCor currently has 32 full-time employees throughout its three offices. Each office has a Project Manager, a Deputy Project Manager and three teams of two technicians. Since VetCor is a 24/7 service company, each team is on call once every three weeks. The corporate staff, based in Tampa, includes project coordinators, estimators and administrative personnel. The workplace culture of VetCor is based on the culture, norms and values of the U.S. Military. Huszar leads the company similar to how he led his battalion. There's a strong sense of camaraderie and leadership truly cares about the lives of the employees and their families. Advancement in the company is encouraged, even if it takes an employee to an opportunity outside of VetCor.
Notable community support
In terms of philanthropy and community involvement, VetCor heavily supports the veteran population through several different organizations. They support the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program, sponsor pitch competitions, participate in the Vet to CEO online training and Huszar has been a featured guest speaker at several events and trade associations around Tampa highlighting the value that veterans can bring to a team. VetCor also works with the Office of Veteran Success at The University of South Florida, where they review resumes and help with networking and interviewing skills. On a personal level, Huszar is a mentor for The Veterans Treatment Court of Hillsborough County, a program that works to help veterans erase their minor criminal records through a significant treatment program overseen by the mentors, and in partnership with the VA, prosecutor’s and public defenders offices, and other organizations.
What it means to be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
"It's a validation that we’re doing the right thing and heading in right direction," he said. "This award, along with others from Bright House and the Tampa Chamber, help to shine the light on why we’re succeeding. For us, it’s about hiring vets and focusing on our mission to create new opportunities for them. I'm so eager to tell our story. It really lights my fire.
In terms of why we were selected, I think it has a lot to do with our business model. The model really suits us because it's all about helping to sustain the legacy of service. Whether it's helping after a disaster or cleaning up after an A/C unit that overflowed, which is a disaster for that family, we're there, we're on time, we're extremely professional and we get the job done with quality results and a real sense of pride. We're a company with a mission and a cause. That's what fuels us."
Looking ahead, Huszar and team have their sights set squarely on the franchising model. After speaking with several retired senior officers out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Huszar realized he needed to do something for the high-ranking officers looking to get back into the civilian workforce. What he discovered was the franchising model, not only as a way to employ these individuals and give them an opportunity to run their own businesses, but also as a way to grow VetCor. Franchising, with its training, processes, standardization, operating procedures and packages is an ideal fit for veterans retiring from active duty.
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
What advice does Huszar have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "You'll need twice the amount of capital you think you're going to need," he said. "I'm a planner and a risk manager. As such, we really focused on planning and putting risk mitigation measures in place. You also succeed based on the talent that's around you. Our teams are comprised of vets, guys and girls that are life-long learners with a tremendous amount of work ethic. Form your team around people that have similar values and who you can rely on. Hiring vets is a good way to go."