Greg Schaefer – Founder & President, SEI New York

Greg Schaefer, founder of SEI New York, has been licensed in the insurance field for over 15 years. He holds licenses in Property & Casualty, Life & Health and has obtained distinguished designations as a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and a Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA).

Greg founded SEI New York to help business owners save money on insurance without compromising coverage or customer service. His business model has always been successful because it is based on a deep understanding of the needs of customers, both personal and commercial. This is true from the initial inquiry to long-term relationships.

1. How do you define success?
I have a tremendous drive to achieve whatever I set my sights on. As a young person, I remember observing my dad and his reactions to people, as well as to situations around him. In doing so, I learned all I could about the world at large, including business etiquette, what it meant to be a man, a father, and a worker among workers. Success, for me, is about being content, having fun, following my dreams, being responsible, and not hurting others while making my place in the world.

2. What is the key to success?
To always keep moving forward and to learn from every setback. The greatest entrepreneurs did not become successful overnight. I like to dream big!

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
I always knew that I “wanted” to be successful, that I was willing to work at being successful and that when I want something, I am willing to stay the course, no matter how arduous the road toward attaining the desired objective becomes.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I love the “chase” and I also love strategizing about how to achieve my goals. For me, it is similar to solving a puzzle. As I build on each success, I can see the entire picture taking shape. At that point, I know what I must do to achieve the success I am longing to acquire.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
In 1998, my father gave me a secretarial job at our family’s insurance agency. He paid me a very nominal salary and encouraged me to learn the business from the ground up. Once I garnered an understanding of the value of our products, I started quietly selling policies on my own. When my father saw what I was doing, he became my greatest supporter. He promoted me to the role of producer and paid me a commission on all my sales. He encouraged me to open my own business. In 1999, on the premise that it would broaden our family’s sphere of influence in the insurance industry, I opened Schaefer Enterprises, Inc. Never once did my father worry that I might become his biggest competitor. To his credit, and my hard work, within five years my organization created a $5 million book of business, much of which I have managed to maintain despite the ever-changing and challenging insurance marketplace. We also have been recognized for the last two years (back to back) by Inc. Magazine, in 2014 and 2015, as one of the “Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.”

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spending time with my wife and family, watching my boys grow and develop, working out at the gym, socializing with my friends, bantering with my staff, laughing, and generally enjoying life!

7. What makes a great leader?
Someone who never asks anyone else to do what they, themselves, wouldn’t do. Someone who is loyal, has integrity, and recognizes these traits in others.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Take your time, do a lot of different things before you settle on your choice of a profession and make very sure that whatever you do, you love doing it!

This interview is an excerpt from Never Give Up by Jason Navallo.

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Interviews are conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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