Bruning Speaker Series: CEO builds companies, helps people
Danny Persaud remembers the day he became a builder of businesses and uplifter of people.
He was 7 years old and on the street with his family of five, who months earlier had immigrated to the U.S. from Guyana, in northern South America. He recalled the despair, uncertainty and biting chill of that winter night.
“That’s when an entrepreneur was born,” he said. “The look I saw in my parents’ faces, especially my mom’s, I vowed that day we would never go hungry. We would have everything we wanted. I would make it happen, whatever it took.”
To a conference room full of students, Persaud shared insight about his businesses, his leadership style and the way in which his childhood experiences continue to influence his philanthropy.
He sits on eight boards, including ones at Florida State University and other nonprofit organizations. His College of Business presentation featured an organization that he called one of his favorites: Wheelchairs 4 Kids. He mentioned his father as a person with a disability.
Persaud also recently made a significant gift to name a classroom in Legacy Hall, the future home of the College of Business.
Receiving from giving
“Giving back to the community, for all of you entrepreneurs out there, you’ll see: It’s the most fulfilling, most rewarding thing than any amount of money that you can make,” he told the students. “Being a kid who didn’t come from much, I’m very passionate about helping people who don’t have much.”
Persaud founded MidFlorida Armored & ATM in 2001, after about a decade in the armored transportation services industry. He trumpeted MidFlorida as the country’s largest minority-owned armored-car company.
Persaud carries “a long track record of successful management and an extensive knowledge of current economics and social and regulatory issues,” Michael Hartline, dean of the College of Business, said during his speaker series introduction. “He is adept at formulating creative solutions to business problems and has demonstrated an ability to build qualified teams of professionals to bring these solutions to fruition.”
MidFlorida stands alongside seven companies in Persaud Holdings, an entity that owns interests in cryptocurrency, financial services, commercial real estate and hempcrete, a construction material made from the hemp plant, among other products and industries.
“You cannot stay stagnant in whatever you do,” Persaud told students. “If you do, somebody’s going to catch up to you and run over you, and you’ll be out of business.”
He pointed to his own pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic. A widespread decrease in the use of cash -- the hallmark of his armored and ATM service – significantly affected MidFlorida’s revenue.
Persaud said that prompted the company to immediately seek new ways to make money.
“And Bitcoin was the answer,” he said.
Persaud said his company has installed many Bitcoin automatic teller machines in Florida and sees continued growth in that business.
“Whether you believe it or not – and I’m not here to push cryptocurrency on anybody – it’s catching on,” Persaud said of Bitcoin. “It’s catching on all over the world, and someone, somewhere, has to understand it. Someone, somewhere, has to build these machines. Someone has to fix them. Someone has to install them.
“That’s our pivot.”
The strength of hemp
Persaud also touted opportunities in hemp, including in fuel, paper, textiles and building materials.
He emphasized the strength, durability and low carbon footprint of hempcrete, which he says he’s using to assist some Caribbean countries in rebuilding, at cost, after hurricane devastation.
“We deal with the fibers because we think they’re much more valuable,” Persaud told students. “The CBD oil space is a lot more costly.”
He also shared thoughts on, among other things:
- A mission statement. “Make sure people see it, understand it.”
- Taking care of employees. “If you work for MidFlorida Armored and you’re going to college, we’re going to pay for it. Simple as that.”
- Company culture. “Every day we try to have fun in what we do.”
- Networking and expertise. “Surround yourself with really smart people, and don’t think you’re a know-it-all. If you’re a painter, and you painted that wall wrong 10 years ago, what are you doing today? You’re still painting it wrong. No one’s ever corrected you because you know it all, right? Don’t be that person. Seek advice.”
In response to a student’s question, he said, “Find out who the players are in the industry and get to know them. Make it a point. Take them out to lunch or breakfast, a sporting event -- whatever you can afford. Be there and talk. People who are successful love to share knowledge -- they really do.
“Probably half of them are not going to respond … but one response, that’s the one you need, right? You can’t give up.”
-- Pete Reinwald