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Why the CEO of a $1.5 billion dollar company doesn't use a smartphone

Man texting mobile phone
Sigrid Olsson | PaloAlto | Getty Images

Sheldon Yellen manages a $1.5 billion company that operates in 31 countries and employs 7,000 people … all without a smartphone.

The CEO of Belfor, a privately held property restoration company, told CNBC why he only uses a flip phone — and it's not to be trendy.

"You can't show and feel emotion, compassion, passion or intent through a smartphone, through text," Yellen said.

Having a flip phone encourages phone conversations, the CEO said, which he strongly prefers to texting.

"If someone has something to say to me, they know they can pick up the phone. I'll answer their question," he said. "I am approachable, and I can't convey that through a text."

Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Belfor
Source: Belfor
Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Belfor

One business encounter in particular solidified his view.

"I don't like smartphones, and I'll tell you why," Yellen said. "A young kid was trying to get a meeting with me and sell me a product. Finally after three months, he got his appointment. He's sitting across from me, and three times during the first 10 minutes this kid looks down at his smartphone and starts texting."

Yellen was done.

He told the young man: "I'm not trying to be rude or arrogant, but I think you're going to have to go. I'm not asking you get down and bow, but you just spent so [much] of my time texting someone when you're sitting with me. You gotta go, and one day you're going to thank me."

"I want people to talk to me." -Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Belfor

Smartphones are not allowed at Belfor company meetings. There is an unspoken rule that no one brings in their phone.

"My thinking is: Let's have our meeting; let's get on with it," Yellen said. "In a lot of situations, we have a basket in the room or outside the room for cellphones."

Yellen, who was featured on "Undercover Boss" in 2013, said that he considers his employees to be family.

"I want people to talk to me," he said. "I want them to hear my passion."