Tom Rusin | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Tom Rusin


HomeServe USA, based in Norwalk, is part of British-based HomeServe plc. The U.S. arm has been operating since 2003 and covers 48 states. It has more than 3.5 million home repair service plans with 2.3 million customers, helping mitigate the costs of electrical, heating and cooling, and plumbing repairs. It partners with more than 50 utility companies in the U.S. and Canada.

Thomas J. “Tom” Rusin, who became CEO of HomeServe USA in July 2011, grew up in Stamford and is a 1986 graduate of Fairfield College Preparatory School. He received a bachelor’s of science degree in marketing from the University of Connecticut in 1990. He lives in Wilton.

The Mistake:

Not having a not-to-do list.

I think when you come into any business there’s the desire to branch out. It’s very easy to look at different opportunities just outside the core business and say “that makes sense for us” and “that’s going to give us faster growth.” But what those things really do is slow you down.

When you have a very strong core business with a high customer satisfaction rate like ours the temptation is very strong. You’re presented with opportunities and every one of those might work. Some of them might work very well. We could sell our services through banks and financial institutions. But it would require us to learn a new business and that takes time and diverts expertise.

It’s harder to say 'no' to something than to say 'yes' to something.

The Lesson:

Stick to your knitting. It’s harder to say “no” to something than to say “yes” to something. Initially, we did a lot of different tasks that spent a lot of management time. But it wasn’t productive in the ways that it should have been. They were successful but not as successful as our primary business.

The core partnerships with utilities and municipalities has been great for us but we could have gone with other arrangements that would not have worked so well.

There are so many great ideas. There are so many things we could do. You have to decide the phase of business that you’re in. Staying within our core business is a much less time-consuming and more profitable way for us to grow. But it takes discipline.

We have to sit around the table and ask the right questions and the first one is always, “Should this be on the not-to-do list?” If something doesn’t fall within the confines of our main business then we’re not doing it. Time is something you can’t get back and everything comes with an opportunity cost.

Follow HomeServe USA on Twitter at @HomeServeUSA.

Photo courtesy of Tom Rusin.

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