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The Power of Perseverance

Alumnus Recounts the Importance of a Strong Mentor
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Dan Huckabay was 14 when his father, a surety underwriter, passed away. A year later, Ralph Eidem, one of his father’s business associates and friends, offered Huckabay a part-time summer position doing odd jobs at his business, Commercial Surety Bond Agency (CSBA).

“Ralph became a much-needed mentor and father figure in my life and showed me that if I worked hard, I could achieve anything,” says Huckabay. “I decided to put that to the test both in school and work. I was soaking up everything I could.”

While completing his undergraduate business administration-finance degree at Cal State Fullerton, Huckabay took on new responsibilities and was determined to learn as much as possible. “Ralph guided me in real-life business while I acquired new skills at CSUF,” says Huckabay, a 2003 summa cum laude graduate.

“It came down to a few simple things – sacrifice, discipline and perseverance. But there is no magic formula,” says Huckabay, who traded playing sports and some Friday night socializing for studying and working. “Perseverance was probably the hardest one to learn. I think it’s difficult for anyone to get knocked down and get back up, but I’ve had to do that many times, and the better I get at picking myself up, the more success I’ve had.”

The year he graduated, Huckabay’s determination was rewarded when Eidem suggested Huckabay buy him out. The terms included a small salary and half of the company’s profit, which Huckabay would put toward the purchase over several years. “It was a really nice position to be in, because I had a lot of options for other jobs,” he says. “But I was able to choose what I wanted to do most, which was to own a business.”

He also knew that Eidem would be there to guide him along the way. “One of the best pieces of financial advice Ralph gave me was to not adjust my lifestyle as I started to earn more money,” says Huckabay, who kept his life simple and steered the company through the nation’s financial crisis with a firm adherence to prudent financial decisions.

“During the recession, I didn’t have to adjust too much. I didn’t cut employees. I didn’t cut pay, and we continued making retirement contributions, paid bonuses and kept everyone’s health care,” he says. CSBA currently includes 10 employees, four of whom are CSUF alumni, and one is, like Huckabay many years ago, a student. “We have a strong team-based culture, but I run a tight ship because what is at stake is important,” he says. “It’s partly my competitive side, but more so because I care about the people we work with.”

In 2014, Huckabay received Cal State Fullerton’s Vision & Visionaries Recent Graduate Achievement Award, and he supports his alma mater as president of the Executive Council (the council awarded him the Outstanding Student Award when he graduated). He also is co-founder of the 35/Thirty-Five program, which provides guidance and networking for Orange County’s young business professionals. He impacts current students through the Professor for a Day event, the council’s mentorship programs and supports CSUF Guardian Scholars.

“In an age where all you hear about is the struggling middle class, how expensive college has become and how much debt students are racking up,” he says, “CSUF and Mihaylo College give people like me, who come from humble beginnings, the opportunity to be whatever we want to be.”

Visit the Mihaylo Blog to learn more about surety bonds and employment in the industry.