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Getting to Know you: George Russo, Multiple Small Business Owner

George Russo was born at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, and raised in Ozone Park, Queens, New York City.

George spent a large part of his formative years immersed in the hospitality industry. His father opened a small Italian pizzeria in 1954, and over the years, expanded into a full-service restaurant, then an extremely successful on-premises catering facility, all the while George spent a good deal of time assisting  with all facets of the business and its operations. 

In 1982, George Russo graduated from New York Law School, and was admitted to the New York State Bar the following year. He accepted a position serving in the Office of the District Attorney for Queens not long thereafter. After completing his tenure as a prosecutor, George began the solo-practice of law, which he continued until his retirement from the profession in 2019.

Currently, George keeps busy as the owner-operator of his family’s catering business, Villa Russo, where he spent much of his youth. He also owns and operates the United American Title Agency. Both of these businesses are located in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Over the years, George Russo has been very active in community, civic, and philanthropic affairs. He has served on the District 27 Community School Board, Community Planning Boards 9 and 10, and the New York Racing Association. He is currently the President of South Queens Boys and Girls Club and serves as a Trustee of the Queens Public Library. He also routinely donates his time to  charitable organizations including Angels on the Bay and HourChildren.

When not managing his companies and volunteering, George Russo enjoys playing with his grandchildren, watching movies, and reading.

What do you currently do at your company?

I have two companies, one is a family owned, full-service, on-premises catering establishment and the other is a title agency.. I am the owner and operator for both and I act in a managerial capacity. I manage others, set policies and priorities, and make sure the business is moving in the proper  direction .

What was the inspiration behind your business?

Regarding my family’s food service  business, my father started it the year I was born, so from a hospitality standpoint, I was born into the business and continued my involvement over these many years. Then I went to college and law school and practiced law for more than 20 years. The inspiration behind my title business occurred  while I was practicing law. I saw the title insurance business was a better fit as a business model for me. With my practice of law, it felt like I was in the weeds working on client transactions, fielding emails and questions, and personally presiding over closings. I saw that the title business was more in line with my strengths, which are managing other people and working on instead of in the business.

What defines your way of doing business?

I’m in the service and hospitality business, born and raised, so my  business approach  is defined by bringing value to others through service. Whether it’s within the title or the catering business, it all basically begins with  servicing the needs of my clients.

What keys to being productive can you share?

To me, productivity comes down to focusing on a goal, time management, and the daily process put in place after setting the goal. It’s important to establish how you’re going to reach that goal and then simply do the things that you need to in order to achieve it. I’m a list maker, so I list my goals, then I list the daily tasks that will hopefully allow me to reach those goals.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career.

My long-term goal is to grow my businesses every single day and meet new potential clients, whether that’s in the real estate  or the catering field. I want to grow and develop my business, as well as myself personally.

How do you measure success?

There are so many different measurements for success. In my opinion, success is working positively towards a goal that you’ve chosen, doing something you’re gifted at and  you have a passion for. My measure of success is growth. Are you growing? Is your business growing? Are you personally growing & developing? Are you working every day on the challenges you face andimpediments to your goal? In my version of success, improving one day at a time is a crucial element. Goals change as the years go on, but success is achieving those goals and growing as you do so.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned throughout the course of your career?

Being nice, respectful, kind, and understanding of others. It’s kind of biblical; just treating others as you want to be treated.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

Think about what your strengths and weaknesses are. Know yourself. We all have a special gift. What is your’s. Work on it, set your goals based on your gift, and use discipline to achieve it. Follow your energy and your passion. Find something you love to do, set your goals, and be disciplined while working towards those goals.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

Reading, watching movies, and playing with my grandchildren.

How would your colleagues describe you?

Diligent, hard-working, personable, and people-oriented.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

That’s a daily chore. I’ve learned to do that better as I’ve gotten older. When you get a little older, you’ve generally learned some lessons and you’re a little more stable in your life. In my case, I’m better able to balance and manage my time wisely. I’ve learned what my priorities are. The wisdom that comes with time allows me to have a better work life balance. I suppose, if I could go back and do it all again, I would’ve spent more time with my children as I was building my business.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

My basic Google and Outlook setup. It’s of course a calendar and a communications system. These platforms really help me with outreach to others and time management. There’s  so much information that you’re exposed to and expected to retain each day, it’s very difficult to stay on top of everything without assistance.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

Usually when I talk about difficult obstacles, it’s about myself and how to get myself out of the way—get past my own inefficiencies and detrimental personal habits. I’ve been my greatest obstacle. I continue the attempt to overcome this situation through personal growth and taking a long, honest look at my liabilities.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My father was a great role model. He was a hard worker, a gentleman, and he respected others. He kept growing his business based on treating people the right way and servicing them. He believed in taking risks and doing what you enjoy. He also believed in always reaching high and making sure that you’re being of service to others. It was a simple equation, but he did it day-in and day-out.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

Just keep working hard. Work through the obstacles. Life is going to give you challenges and it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you.

What does success look like to you?

Success looks like going from disappointment to disappointment without losing your enthusiasm.

What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with?

Follow your dream. Dream big. Visualize where you will be , and work hard toward it every day. Understand that achieving it is not going to be easy. Develop a mentality of persistence and stay positive.

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