Insurance is all about risks.
Mark Lauria started in the insurance business at the age of 21, and developed a solid career while working at Liberty Mutual and Allstate. Realizing he was limited in ways to help his clients, he decided to take a risk and start his own company.
Although he had to start from scratch, he forged ahead in 1979 with Mark Lauria Associates Inc., with two employees — including his wife and registered nurse Laura, who is still on board after 40 years — in a small office in the Greenridge Shopping Plaza.
“My wife, Laura, thought I was crazy. She said, ‘We have three children, and they like to eat every day’,” laughed Lauria. “It took me about four months, but I finally had one company give me an account because I couldn’t take the accounts that I wrote with Allstate.”
The gamble paid off.
In his first few years in business, the insurance broker achieved great success and saw the need for expansion. Lauria — who also had a land development company — didn’t have to look far as he rezoned, developed, and erected a new office building on property he owned on Richmond Avenue. Completed in 1990, the office building became the current headquarters for Mark Lauria Associates Inc., at 2043 Richmond Ave. in Bulls Head.
“We grew here and built ourselves up to 15-16 employees, and we were doing some really nice insurance work,” said the 72-year-old. “I had good specialty areas that people would refer to me.”
Buoyed by that success, the company started to appear on the radar screen of investors. Lauria turned down those overtures until 2017, when he took another risk and merged with World Insurance Associates LLC, an independent agency headquartered in Tinton Falls, N.J.
“World Insurance has literally exploded in growth. When I joined them, I was their fifth office and their largest acquisition at that time. They had about 36 employees,” said Lauria, who joined World Insurance as a partner of the firm. “Today, we have 335 employees and 36 offices in nine states. It’s been an unbelievable success story with this agency.
“I’m pretty excited because now I’m an owner of a national company which just jumped into the top 100 brokers in the country,” continued the Todt Hill resident. “I can bring all that expertise to the Staten Island client. That’s what excites me. That’s why I haven’t retired yet.”
Lauria has developed a reputation for putting his clients’ needs first. That stance started from the very beginning when he first created his company.
“I wanted to fight for the client. So, this is what I told a prospect: ‘Give me a shot. Let me earn your business. Insurance is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s a long relationship, and I’d like to build that with you. Sometimes, I’ll be a little more expensive, and sometimes I’ll be a little less expensive. But on the overall run, you want stability. You want someone who will stand behind you and fight for you.’ And that’s how I got those clients,” he recalled.
“The price is what something costs. The value is what it’s worth. That’s why I always sold value and not price,” added Lauria, who possesses an associate’s degree in risk management.
While clients know they can count on Lauria, his employees are also aware that he’s watching their backs.
“Over a three-year period, we had at least 10 companies that came our way. I passed on all of them because after interviewing with them, I knew my employees would be gone. The team that I met (at World Insurance Associates LLC) and decided to go with, let me keep all my employees. And we even added a few more. That was my main concern,” said Lauria. “The customers loved my employees. I would go out and make a promise, and they would keep it. So, I wanted to make sure they were protected.”
For his accomplishments, Lauria is being honored with a Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Award, which he will receive in the Established Businessperson category. The awards — which are presented by the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Advance — honor the memory of Louis R. Miller, a businessman and West Brighton resident who was also a community leader.
Lauria’s leadership and mentorship are not just reserved for his clients and employees.
While serving on the board of directors at Notre Dame Academy for six years during the mid-1980s, Lauria helped raise money and conduct strong fundraisers to support the school. The Grymes Hill institution also increased tuition to match rates of nearby schools and introduced a new position — the president of Notre Dame Academy — to better merge the elementary and high school and oversee finances for both.
Lauria and his wife have contributed funds for new equipment at Eger Lutheran Homes and Services Inc. and have been a “major supporter” over the last 15 years at Staten Island University Hospital with donations for the new emergency room, the Women & Newborn Center, the dental clinic for mobile equipment, and a video gaming system for kids with cancer. A plaque of the husband and wife hangs in the ER saluting them for their generous contributions.
Lauria’s affiliation with Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden dates over 20 years, starting with his joining of the board in 1997 and his current role as chairman of the board since 2004. The Livingston cultural institution faced a major fiscal crisis a few years ago, but Lauria said the institution currently has $33 million worth of capital funding approved for major projects, such as the construction of the Music Hall ($18.5 million), HVAC systems ($6.5 million), and electrical repairs ($5 million). Lauria continuously fought for funding by holding several meetings and tours with former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the former commissioner of the city Department of Cultural Affairs, Tom Finkelpearl.
“I grew up in Randall Manor, and I walked those grounds, so I know those 83 acres are the glue for the North Shore,” said Lauria. “The grounds are magnificent. Snug Harbor has history, culture, wetlands and a farm that supplies vegetables to about 20 top-shelf restaurants in the city.”
Recipients of the Louis R. Miller Awards are recognized as effective business leaders, and for their outstanding contributions to the local community. Awards are given out in four categories: Emerging, Established, Master, and Not-For-Profit. The honorees will be recognized during the annual Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Awards Breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 13 at LiGreci’s Staaten. For tickets, visit www.sichamber.com or call the Chamber at 718-727-1900.
Below, Lauria shares more about his goals, job and life:
Current occupation and title: Insurance broker and founder of Mark Lauria Associates Inc. and partner at World Insurance Associates LLC
Hometown: Randall Manor and Todt Hill
Past occupation/s and titles: Construction worker in family-owned business and insurance broker.
Community involvement: Notre Dame Academy; Eger Lutheran Homes and Services Inc.; Staten Island University Hospital; Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.
Some of my life goals include: To leave the world a better place.
The best part of my job: Correctly protecting assets.
The most difficult part of my job: Dealing with insurance companies.
My life philosophy: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
I am most proud of: My family and their accomplishments.
The quality I like best about myself: I look at the glass as half full.
Personal interests and hobbies: Golf and landscaping.
I laugh at: Myself.
I am really good at: Putting people together in business and reading people.
I admire: People who give of themselves.
Some important things I would like you to know about me: I am grateful to be where I am today. And I always tell people if you believe in yourself, there’s really nothing you can’t accomplish.