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David Seruya reflects on preventing burnout and learning from your past mistakes

David Seruya is a well-known business owner and entrepreneur. Having worked in the home warranty space and as a mortgage broker, David knows a lot about leadership burnout and workplace stress. Throughout his career, vital entrepreneurial skills have come naturally to him, which is why he has been so successful across a plethora of industries. Like so many business owners, David has had to put in long hours and long weeks to get where he is today.

Fortunately for us, David was able to take some time away from his work and answer a few questions we had.

Hi David, who has been the most important role model in your life, and why?

When I was growing up, my dad was probably my most important role model. I think that’s where I got my hard-working ethics. My dad used to work 6-7 days per week, which is rather common in the retail industry. He was also highly dedicated to his job, yet despite this, he always remained a constant presence in my life. He showed his compassion for me through a variety of things, like being our cub scoutmaster. He was a great father to me, and his style of parenting is something I hope to replicate with my own family.

What would you say are the critical skills that differentiate you from other business owners?

I have always loved architecture and design, which I think has ensured that creativity is one of my core capabilities. When I was younger, my mother said I should be an architect. While I eventually gravitated to the home warranty industry, I still find that my creativity is instrumental in what I do. It could be anything from designing corporate websites or re-decorating my home. Having a keen eye for detail is an essential entrepreneurial skill.

When and how did you start your business?

I entered the industry in 2005 with a college friend. According to him, there had been an established business (since the 1970s) in the area making millions of dollars a year. We reasoned that we needed to get into this industry and start making money ourselves.

At the time, I was only 25, which is rather young to be starting your own business. But my reasoning was simple – this was the best time to start something new, especially if it had a bit of risk. What did I have to lose? So, I left my job as a mortgage broker and moved forward with the new business. After a while, my partner and I realised that we had seriously underestimated the challenges of the industry. Naturally, we made every mistake you could make when starting your first-ever business. However, in my view, these mistakes were a core part of the learning experience, and ultimately, getting better at what we wanted to achieve.

What would you say is the most crucial mantra in your life?

“You’ll only regret what you don’t do.” Brad Lea. I think this quote perfectly embodies my philosophy as an entrepreneur. Taking risks is part of the profession; however, what is even more important is learning how to minimise those risks. You can’t be perpetually scared of failing. You need to embrace those failures and learn from them, like any strong-minded person who needs to navigate the obstacles to reach the top.

How do you prevent burnout?

For me, it comes down to one simple thing: weekends are for the family. No matter how much work you might have, you must turn off your work phone and ignore emails over the weekend. Everyone needs some form of downtime or relaxation. Mindfulness activities are significant and easy to fit into your schedule, especially if you are prone to stress. As a husband and father of three, spending time with my family is my form of mindfulness. It has helped me prevent burnout, while also streamlining my focus when it is time to work again.

What would be your worst ever failure? What were the key lessons?

In 2009, I was sued by the New York Attorney General’s Office. Think of it this way – I was just 29 years of age, and I was being sued. It was a humbling experience and a wake-up call that I need to improve. Indeed, there were specific components of our business model that needed to be refined and changed completely. The biggest takeaway for me was to learn how to delegate. No matter how skilled or experienced you might feel you are, you need to know when to pass the work on to someone else. Do what you do best and then give the rest to others. While that business closed, I was able to start again with some nifty re-branding and changes to the business model.

How does your business ensure your intake of employees remains strong?

I rely on references. For me, perusing resume and asking questions to a potential candidate only gives me a piece of the puzzle. I think the most critical information comes from their past employers. How do you work? How do you think? These questions help provide me you’re your overall cultural view, and more specifically, where you can fit in. I have hired people based on little information and more of a ‘gut feeling.’ Sometimes it can backfire, but I prefer letting someone show their worth.

What are some of the more exciting things your business is focusing on?

We are creating new AI technology designed to lower labour costs and telephone wait times. Our developments in artificial intelligence are essential for our business to grow and adapt; however, our tech could also be critical for companies wanting to strengthen the standard of their customer experience and teleconferencing, without having to rely on outsourcing. Our new solutions will minimise human error and increase business transparency.