A Non-Zero-Sum Game

In a zero-sum game, one participant must lose in order for another to win.

But that’s not Daniel Huckabay’s ’03, philosophy with regards to the surety bond insurance business.

“In our business in order to be successful, everyone needs to work towards achieving the same objective. I want the other person to do well too. It’s a business where everyone’s interests are in line. That’s appealing to me.”

And that collaborative spirit is what has kept Huckabay, 31, president/owner of Commercial Surety Bond Agency, in the business for so long. He started working at the company in 1996 when he was 16 years old. Commercial Surety Bond Agency, which is based in Orange, Calif., ensures about $600 million in projects a year and has eight employees.

Being second youngest in a family of five children, Huckabay knows about competition.

“My brother and I are very close but he’s always been extremely competitive. I went the opposite way. I consider myself competitive but not in the same manner as other people…. I’ve always viewed my only competition as myself. I have competitors but I try to pay attention to my own efforts with my team and doing the best we can. I enjoy trying to do my best rather than me winning and others losing.”

And so it may be a fortunate stroke of serendipity. Huckabay’s wife was working at a competing agency, her father’s, when they met at a trade association meeting. They married last year and have two dogs.

Huckabay shared his thoughts about ethics, business, and careers to an early morning class at CSUF’s “Professor for a Day” event in which professionals are invited to share their experience with students.

“Business ethics and relationships are the foundation of our business,” Huckabay told about 40 Mihaylo students. “You can’t separate the two. I wouldn’t be able to do business if I didn’t have relationships. Our business is built on trust. If I can look everyone in the eye and go to sleep at night, that’s more important than more money in the bank.”

Huckabay encourages students to find a mentor. His father’s good friend and business partner, Ralph Eidem, became his mentor after his father died when he was 14. Eidem retired and sold his business to Huckabay in 2003 but they still chat weekly about everything from business and the state of the economy to marriage and life in general.

“I was a troublemaker in high school,” laughed Huckabay. “He was the first to show me that there is a path in life we choose to take and that I had a decision to make. I could be angry at the world for screwing me over or I could go to college, work hard, and be a good person. The decision was in my hands.”

So Huckabay started working part-time at Eidem’s company, Commercial Surety Bond Agency.

“When I got into college, it was a second start for me.”

Huckabay attended Orange Coast College and excelled. He decided to transfer to Cal State Fullerton after he discovered the Business Honor’s program.

The program, which had small cohorts, gave him more personal attention and a stronger connection to the college. He graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a concentration in finance. He was distinguished as the number one graduate in his class by the CSUF Executive Council graduating summa cum laude.

Despite Huckabay’s success in business and school, he remains humble and enjoys working with self-made clients.

“Clients we work with represent everything about the American entrepreneurial spirit. Most are people who come from nothing and built up their business. That’s the backbone of our country.”

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