Stu Durland was born in Washington D.C., but within a year moved to Warwick, N.Y. where his dad, Kenneth L. Durland, joined his grandfather, Harry S. Seely, in the family independent insurance agency.
Harry S. Seely started his career in insurance at Travelers in 1912, beginning a family legacy in the industry that would last more than a century. In 1934, what would become Seely & Durland Insurance opened in Warwick, N.Y.
Stu Durland, grandson of Seely, attended Bryant College (now Bryant University) in Smithfield, R.I., as a finance major. It was at Bryant where Durland met his wife, Cal.
“I graduated from Bryant in 1978 and Cal graduated in 1980,” said Durland. “It was during her graduation weekend that I asked her to marry me!”
Durland admits that at this point, he had no clue what he really wanted to do. To him, insurance was not even close to being in the cards. Durland sent out many resumes and did plenty of interviews.
By accident, he ended up following in his grandfather’s footsteps and took a management trainee position at Travelers Insurance company in Hartford, CT.
“The Travelers offer was too good to turn down,” said Durland. “The starting salary $11,700 at the time!”
It was a technology position where he worked at a data center filled with IBM mainframes
“I was an interface between the data center and what they called the Systems Division,” said Durland. “Basically, the software developers.”
There, a fascination with computers began. Travelers rolled out the new IBM XT and AT personal computers for the team to use.
In the early 1980s, Travelers decided to build a second data center for backup in Norcross, Georgia.
“They were looking for volunteers to move to Georgia,” said Durland. “Cal and I decided it would be a great opportunity and made the move to Lilburn, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.”
Durland spent three years in Georgia helping to get the new data center up and running.
“We made great new friends and had the best of times,” said Durland. “But our destiny was not to stay in the south.”
When the project was complete, Travelers transferred the family back to Hartford, CT. It would be another five years before their next big change occurred.
When speaking about the most impactful moment in his career, Durland thinks back to the time when he’d made the decision to leave Travelers and move to the family insurance agency.
“I had numerous meetings with my dad and brother Garrett who had joined Seely & Durland in 1980,” said Durland. “And we decided it was the right time to venture back home.”
The agency was about to be in the midst of a big change. Though their business was relatively automated, the agency was ready to advance with a new agency management system.
“They asked me if I’d head up that project and then implement it,” said Durland. “It was a tough decision because I was moving up at Travelers, but quite honestly the bureaucracy for getting things done in a huge corporation was getting the best of me. So, we made the move!”
At the time, the young couple also had a 3-year-old son, Bryan.
“We moved into the third-floor apartment at our office, were soon expecting our second son, Eric, and looking for a new home,” said Durland. “It turned out to be the best decision ever!”
When asked what he loves most about the insurance industry, Durland reflects on the longevity of his career and lifetime friendships.
“There are so many career options,” said Durland. “Technology, financial, legal, and yes insurance! We’ve also made so many long-lasting friends in the insurance industry.”
This is the way Stu Durland works.
Work in Warwick, N.Y., live in Sugar Loaf, N.Y.
We sold our business to Acrisure in September 2018, and I became a managing partner with my brother Garrett and longtime employee Tammy Artusa. My role has not changed much. My concentration is operations. So, I’m involved with our agency management system, finances, marketing, industry networking, and all other things technical.
One word that describes how you like to work:
Current mobile device:
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Dell XPS 15 9570 Laptop, 5 gig SSH, 16 gig memory
Project(s) you’re currently working on:
I seem to have continuous ongoing and pop up projects! But the key one now is coordinating a major hardware change to include all PCs and our VOIP phone system by the beginning of the second quarter. I’ve been working on a new 401k transition. I’m involved with security testing to meet New York cyber security requirements. And, we are working on increasing implementation of our CSR24 mobile app to clients.
Accomplishments you’re proud of:
I’d say becoming President of the Applied Client Network (the national user’s group for Applied Systems). Because of my industry involvement we received the Rough Notes Agency of the Month designation. I received the Robert J. Uplinger Distinguished Service Award with the Warwick Lions Club for exceptional leadership. And, receiving the Applied Client Network Chair Citation award.
More specific to Seely & Durland, I’m proud to be part of a fourth-generation agency that’s been successful for 85 years. We’ve been an IIABA Best Practices agency for seven years, where we have a team of professionals that put the client first. And, being actively involved in our local community.
From a family perspective, our three sons. All have taken different career paths. The youngest, Justin, married his high school sweetheart Abbey, and still lives in the New York area as he studies to be a doctor. We enjoy a little fun rivalry, as fans of the Patriots and the Jets.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
One key business goal is to transition our office to new computers and VOIP phones. Another is to help our agency reach lofty growth goals through careful expense management. A third is to provide information required to maintain our Best Practices status in 2020. Personally, my goal is to start seeing the country in our new RV! It will of course be set up with technology to let us work almost anywhere we are!
What are your biggest professional challenges?
I’ve been an advocate of technology for independent agents for years. I’m actively involved with ACT (Agents Council for Technology) and AUGIE Group, Applied Client Network and IVANS. The challenge is coordinating agents, vendors and companies to implement much needed technology quickly and en masse.
What do you like most about your job?
I love projects and working with technology. I truly enjoy our location in the beautiful, vibrant town of Warwick, N.Y. I can absolutely say I’m never bored!
Aside from your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
This probably changes daily! But most recently I’ve really gotten used to two gadgets which I’m not sure how I lived without them. One is the Rabbit automatic wine bottle opener. It is so easy! And the other we recently installed was a Wi-Fi extender. We were having such a problem getting a good signal in our finished basement where the elliptical is tied in with iFit. But, you need an internet connection for it to work. With the Extender we can use wireless devices anywhere, including on the patio!
What technology, apps or tools can’t you live without?
We travel a lot (and it will be more with the new RV!). Waze is a wonderful tool that I have found to be extremely accurate, including reroutes if traffic starts bogging down. It also includes warnings for cars stopped on side of road, potholes, animals in road, and the all-important police warning. We also installed security cameras in our home. The system is called Arlo from Netgear. It’s very flexible, the cameras work great during the day and night, and our plan provides unlimited the cloud storage. The app works great, and the when the Arlo doorbell is rung, my phone immediately rings and shows me who’s there. We plan on using a camera when we start our RV travel too.
How do you manage your to-do list?
Kind of two-fold. For very specific Seely & Durland tasks, I use the activity system built into Applied Epic. For other things, I use Microsoft OneNote. It’s very flexible, and I love that it links to my other devices.
What’s your best time-saving tip or hack?
Manage you email inbox! I’ve been diligent about removing myself from emails I don’t really need, marking others as spam, and setting up rules to move less important or personal emails to other folders. My favorite is my read later folder. These are all the weekly and monthly emails and newsletters you get inundated with daily. At a certain time, I can go through them and read or delete in bulk.
What’s the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Turn on the Keurig coffee machine!
Favorite social network?
I tend to scan Facebook a lot (No politics). Our Marketing
person Director does a great job of posting on our business page. LinkedIn next. And personally, I like YouTube. We have become RVers and the wealth of information by other RVers is amazing!
Night owl or morning person?
Both I guess … in bed by midnight, up at 6 a.m. I know I should be getting seven to eight hours so that’s my New Year’s resolution!
What are you watching on Netflix right now?
No series at the moment. But recently finished The Ranch which was great starring Sam Elliott, Debra Winger & Aston Kutcher.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Up at 6 a.m.; 45 to 60 mins on the elliptical or rowing machine; cook breakfast for Cal and I; try to be to work by 8 a.m., check emails, home by 6 p.m., cook dinner (I am the chef in the house), work on the slew of projects we have going, watch a recorded show, in bed by 11:30-midnight.
Who are your business idols and why?
I’ve been fascinated by Elon Musk. I know he’s quirky and eccentric but what he’s done to revolutionize the electric car and space travel is amazing.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
This is very specific to my progression in my world of technology and industry involvement. It was very simple, and obvious, but it may have been the push I needed to ultimately help a lot of our peers and to meet so many awesome industry people. I was the president of the New York Hudson Valley Users Group for Applied Systems. I invited the current director of our region and board member of Applied Client Network, Dana Beals, to our meeting to talk to the group. At the end of the meeting we talked and she simply asked if I would be interested in running for her position because she was moving up to the executive committee. She saw what I did to grow the user group and believed in me. It was a simple ask, which opened a door that would have never been opened otherwise. I earned that board position through an election, moved up through the executive committee and became President. I got actively involved with industry associations, made long lasting friends, and indirectly helped our agency grow! All because Dana made that simple ask.
Stu Durland, pictured center, and Dana Beals pictured fourth from the right.
If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?
I’m stumped on this one. I know of specific jobs that would be fun, but I really like where I am and how I got here!
Who would you like to see in a future This is the Way post?
Brian Bartosh, Jim Rogers