Before Randy Davison entered the entrepreneurial world, he spent over 25 years in the insurance industry. Randy's career started with a position as a commercial lines underwriter for the Tokio Fire and Marine Insurance Company. He joined National Reinsurance's casualty facultative department in the early 90's and quickly rose to the rank of branch manager in their flagship NYC branch.
In 1997, Randy was hired to open up the Philadelphia casualty facultative/Program office for the St. Paul Reinsurance company. There, he was able grow the business to be the third largest branch in the company. In 2002, Randy joined a start-up Program organization, Sirius America Insurance Company, to develop and manage new Programs. There he thrived in the small company environment and contributed to the building of a successful franchise that ultimately sold for a significant multiple of EBITDA.
From 2006 to 2010 Randy broadened his leadership experience by managing four teams for the Praetorian Financial Insurance Company. Shortly after, Praetorian was acquired by QBE Insurance Company, and Randy was recruited by Torus Insurance Company to create their Program department. In the course of three years, Randy established the department, gained recognition in the insurance industry’s Program segment as a viable market, managed nine teams of department representatives and generated nine profitable Programs.
In 2012, Randy opened Hudson Premier Physical Therapy and Sports in Union City, NJ with his fiancé. Hard work, and the application of the knowledge Randy learned over his career, made the clinic profitable after only eight months. HPPS is currently looking to open another office in an adjoining town.
Randy decided in 2013 to leave the insurance industry to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams. He joined a start-up team of other entrepreneurs at AssureLease as the Senior Vice President of client and insurance company relations. This company created a platform for property owner to replace the flawed system of security deposits. The AssureLease product benefits both the property owner and the tenant. For the property owner, all losses are paid for and they are allowed to keep the additional unapplied premiums. The tenants benefit by having a barrier to entry removed for a minimal upcharge fee. Randy is also part of SPOKE, a sister company of AssureLease, that provides an exciting new high-end bicycle insurance program using independent bike dealers and the internet. The program is scheduled to launch on June first. Randy, with his vast knowledge of Programs and his extensive insurance relationships, was a key member in facilitating the Program. His ongoing responsibilities will focus on the insurance aspects and will continue to develop over time.
EPN Exclusive Interview:
Congratulations on being selected as EPN's Entrepreneur of the Month. ~ Tell us about your Entrepreneurial journey? What did it take to get to where you are today?
Thank you! I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit; even when I was in corporate America. It just took a little longer for me to act on it. I, like a lot of undergraduates coming out of a school, didn’t know what I wanted to be. So, I took the first job offered to me and spent the next 25+ years working in the insurance/reinsurance industry. Now, anyone who knows insurance companies, would surely agree that they aren’t exactly conducive to change. But I’m the kind of person that is always looking to create a new opportunities from what I see right in front of me. While at my first reinsurance company, I introduced the very first program. A program is a homogeneous block of business that is underwritten to a specific set of guidelines and rates and it is a great way to grow business quickly. I did this successfully over and over throughout my career. In late 2012 I was presented an “anomaly” program, AssureLease. It wasn’t just taking “like, kind and quality” insurance risks and bundling them together. It was a whole new way for the real estate industry to do business and it used the insurance program platform as its engine. I knew this was going to be a winner. In record time, we signed contracts and AssureLease began doing business. Six months later, my employer went through a sale and the inevitable “downsizing” occurred. In the exit interview with the president, he gave me the “If there is anything I can do for you speech”. I decided to take him up on it right there and I asked if he would put a good word in with the president of AssureLease. He picked up the phone and made the call. Now, I am pursuing my dream as an entrepreneur.
Do you have a history of entrepreneurship in your family?
(Laugh) Not unless you consider Eliza Davison’s son “family”. My mother was a teacher and my father an analyst. They always encouraged me to take chances and live my own life but they never pushed me one way or another. They would teach me by telling me interesting quotes that still resonate. They would say things like “You are a smart kid. Figure it out. It won’t help you, if I just give you the answer.” And my favorite, “If people think your idea is crazy, and you’ve given it a lot of thought, you are probably on the right track. Keep working at it.”
So, what keeps you motivated?
Fear, and opportunity. The last thing I want to do is go backwards. Leaving the corporate world was very liberating but also a little scary. I would be hard pressed to go back now. The fear of that is a huge motivator but I can’t live my life in fear. The opportunity of making a difference in the world is what drives me forward. Every day, since I stared with AssureLease, I wake up and say, “God, if this works people will no longer have to pay a security deposit. That will make a real difference in the world.”
What do you love most about your business?
I love the fact that this product has never been done before. It IS the anomaly. It is an incredible feeling to be part of something like this. All of us at AssureLease are bringing our experiences and knowledge and apply them to every day’s decisions. There is a heightened sense of excitement every day because we can see the product catching on and the company growing.
What will AssureLease look like in five years? Ten?
I know what I don’t want it to look like! None of us at AssureLease want it to turn into ta bureaucratic juggernaut. We’ve seen when companies grow that they can crush the creative entrepreneurial spirit. We want to foster an environment that supports creativity with a “get it done right, now” attitude. Hopefully, in five years we will still be in a heavy growth mode domestically as more property owners see the value of the product and tenants demand it. In ten years I would hope that we have offices all over the world but let’s not get ahead of myself.
Did you encounter any obstacles or skepticism when you first launched AssureLease?
Anytime in history that a new idea/product comes out, it is met with skepticism and resistance. I always like to paint the picture of a meeting that might have taken place at a luggage company when someone suggested putting wheels on their product. I can only imagine the comment against doing it. “It will tip over. It will cost too much to manufacture. Who will want to drag their luggage in an airport”. We are often told “We’ve been doing business this way since WWII. Why should we change?” and “How do you know it is going to work?”. The reality is that their current way of doing business loses them money every year. There isn’t a property owner in the US that doesn’t lose money by taking security deposits. This product works and we now have proof of concept. This January our first client completed their first year with the product and in their words the said “AssureLease provided the greatest percentage return of any of their investments in 2013”. In the end, we just need to keep proving that the product works.
According to your bio, you started a physical therapy clinic with your fiancé. Tell us more about that venture.
I think that it goes back to that advice about “crazy ideas and you’re on the right track”. It has been a fantastic experience for both of us. We were able to turn a profit in just eight months. Since this was my first attempt at owning a business, I really didn’t know what to expect. We learned early on that there needs to be clear roles and responsibilities, we needed to know the other’s strengths and weaknesses, to trust each other decisions and most of all, to communicate. Things are a lot better since we keep focused but I don’t kid myself, my fiancé is the real boss because she is there making decisions every day. I am just the one that takes care of the books, raised the capital, does the cost estimate analysis for investments, tracks results, orders the toilet paper etc.
What is the biggest risk that you have taken thus far?
That is a really good question. I don’t know if I can pinpoint one big risk because they are all relative. I like to think about risk and rewards in terms of how I got there. I was told a long time ago that success or failure is achieved determined through a series of good or bad decision. For me, risk is how many decisions I had to go through to get there.
Who is the most influential mentor in your life?
That is an easy question, my family. Though I didn’t realize it when I was young, or maybe I was just not willing to admit it, my parents and grandparents were incredible role models. They were very engaging and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Even to this day, when I talk to my folks about the businesses, I always walk away with new pearls of wisdom.
What is the most important advice you can give a young entrepreneur looking to start up a new company with a brand new idea?
Wow! No pressure here! I would give them the same two pieces of advice I live by, “Most success is achieved through having a really great idea and working hard at achieving it” and “keep making a series of good decision”.
We couldn't have said it better! 🙂 - EPN