Growing up, who influenced your life most and in what way?
David Seruya: My dad, Ronnie, was the nucleus of my life, and by extension, the biggest influence in my life. He was unrelenting in his pursuit for success; he worked six, and at times, 7 days a week just so that he could make that extra coin. And yet, he still planned his time well, so much so that he was ever present in my life when I needed him. He shuffled between his retail business and my then child-like demands such as being our club’s scoutmaster and our weekend league games. I aspire to mirror his great example of fatherhood and warm family-wise.
How did you start your business?
David Seruya: In 2005 a college friend of mine and I discussed at length about a major player in the industry who was minting millions in this niche since the 70’s. Propelled by a genuine need to partake a piece of that cake and the thrill of trying something risky- I was 25 years old- we decided to get into the fray.
At the time, I was working as a mortgage broker. I quit. We found out that business wasn’t as simple as we had initially thought. We made rookie mistakes that all first-time entrepreneurs make when they dive into the deep. As the common adage goes: if you haven’t failed at anything then you’ve never tried anything new. The good thing about failure is that it provides a ground on which you can improve your mistakes.
It’s good that you have touched on the subject of failure. What’s your biggest failure and most agonizing failure and what lessons did you pick up from it?
David Seruya: Four years after we begun operations, my first home warranty business faced a lawsuit by the New York Attorney General’s Office. It was quite a challenge but it gave us the valuable insight into the areas in our business model that need improvement, illuminated the loopholes and directed us on how we could fix them.
Through that experience, I learned that I should do my best and delegate the rest. While that business eventually closed shop, I was lucky enough to rebuild, rebrand, and start over again.
What’s the biggest common mistake made by leaders?
David Seruya: The biggest mistake lies in trying to do everything, even those you aren’t good at. It is easy to fall in that trap that is commonly fueled by the saying: if you want something done right, then do it yourself. This does not always work out.
A great leader is one who acknowledges that they can’t wear many hats. They then proceed to hire the best talent and create a conducive environment for his employees.
How do you hire and attract the best talent in your field?
David Seruya: I rely on referrals from their past employers and business partners because a person’s resume doesn’t cut it for me. Well-meaning past employers are great at giving objective and accurate information. I must also admit that I have, in the past, hired employees based on intuition and gut feeling.
We all have skills or traits that distinguish us from the next person. What’s yours and what importance do you attach to it?
David Seruya: I have always been creative since my formative years. It is my forte, my bread and butter. However, in those years I loved drawing, architecture and interior design; this made me receive a bit of stick from my mother when I decided to venture in the home warranty business. Even so, my creative process is still in useful in my line of work. Whether it’s remodeling my house or designing my business’ websites, my work still has my creative watermark.
Knowing how hard you work, how do you ensure you don’t burnout?
David Seruya: Weekends are exclusively for spending time with my family. I understand the importance of resisting the temptation to respond to emails when I am resting. If you don’t allocate time to unwind and meditate, you risk burning out. I am a father or three children; each one needs love and care. There are no better ways to enjoy your time of rest than to take your kids to the museum or your wife out for a romantic dinner.
What are you currently working on?
David Seruya: We, at Total Home Protection are dedicating resources to AI technology that will bring down labor costs and telephone hold times. I think all calls should be handled within the country and not outsourced to overseas call centers. This technology will provide more transparency in our business operations, uphold high customer experience standards by reducing human error, and help us scale the company.
Kindly share your most favorite quote. How is it applicable in your life (especially in terms of leadership)?
David Seruya: It’s one by Brad Lea which goes: You’ll only regret what you don’t do. It is important for entrepreneurs to take calculated risks or end up working for the person who did. Failure is an impending possibility but so is success.
Finally, what’s on your bucket list?
David Seruya: I love travelling. That way, I get to see different cultures, enjoy native cuisines and experience the serenity and calmness of natural spaces. In that regard, I would love to take my family to the Amazon or on an African Safari. I also fancy sailing to Greece, Italy and other parts of the world.