I have spent much of my life as an entrepreneur; starting, building and selling companies; from a tour and yacht cruise company to a technology company and a few in between. Some of these ventures were successful, some not. So goes the life of an entrepreneur. Since I have sold some of these ventures, this also means I have spent much of my professional career working for the companies to which I sold, for when you sell, you often come with the deal. Some of these companies were bootstrapped and some were backed by outside investors; VCs, Private Equity, etc. I’ve also had executive positions at companies, large and small, public and private. In the end, I’m just as comfortable being CEO of a small company as I am being EVP, SVP, VP or even President of a division in a large public company.
I have also spent some time consulting for a living for both for-profit and non-profit organizations. I’m human, so my experiences in those consulting roles have influenced my opinions.
Throughout my career, I have also spoken at many conferences and seminars, and in some instances, I was paid to present. Being a travel / technology / media / consulting guy means I have a long messy list of clients, employers, fans, followers, and sponsors. With this Disclosure, I’ll do my best to explain these relationships as best I can.
In March of 2010, I led the efforts to sell VC backed Tripology.com (where I was CEO) to Rand McNally and I was then employed at Rand as SVP/GM of Digital Strategy & Travel. In June of 2012, I left Rand to become President, Travel Media Group at USA TODAY. Most recently, I was Managing Director, Mercantile at Brush Creek Ranch, the nation’s #1 voted luxury resort, located in Wyoming. There, I started a new division focused on luxury retail of goods and perishables. With this background, you can imagine, I’m pro digital, technology, maps, navigation, media in general and all things travel, especially the luxury category. As hard as I try to stay neutral, my experience working for a variety of travel, technology, map, navigation, and media companies certainly influences my opinions about these topics. Further, I often post about current promotions, products or programs in which I’m involved at my day job. So, has my paycheck influenced my posts? Sure.
Early in my career, I co-founded a company called Zeus Tours & Yacht Cruises, a tour and cruise company focused on selling wholesale tourism (to consumers through travel agents, consortia and other tour operators) to destinations like Greece, the Mediterranean and other really neat places around the world like Argentina. I sold Zeus to FAR&WIDE Travel Corporation, became the VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships and we eventually acquired another twenty tour operators.
I’d also like to mention that I’m a proud Greek-American and come from a huge “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” family. I mention this because while I have been lucky to travel around the world as an international tour operator, I’m partial to Greece and the Greek Islands as a tourism destination and you’ll see many references to Greece in my posts and comments.
I do a lot of blogging in the travel and technology fields and on business topics like Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. Since I have spent much of my life making money by selling services or products to travel agents, I’m a big fan of the distribution channel. If you follow me, you’ll see I often mention specific companies (Southwest comes to mind). If you follow me, you’ll also see I don’t hold back. What you see (okay, read) is what you get. However, be clear my involvement in the travel industry shapes my opinions about travel.
I have been paid to speak and consult for a variety of clients. For my presentations, I always choose my own specific topics though I’m sometimes given some rough overall segments from which to choose. I’ve never been asked to “take it easy” on anyone or any company or to skew my opinion. I’m just not that kind of guy and I’d simply never do it.
My blog, as of right now, does not include advertising and I currently am not being paid by any advertiser. If I review a product or hotel, what I experience is what you get. While very rare, if I review a product or service that I have received for free, I’ll let you know in the post. If I tweet about such a product or service, I’ll endeavor to point some of the related tweets to a post that will disclose the relationship.
I served proudly as an unpaid board member for the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic when I worked in the area. Given I’m in tourism with national contacts, I also coordinated efforts with Make-A-Wish National Office. Truth is, my niece has special needs and I’m passionate about helping children, especially those with special needs. I also served as an unpaid board member of the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME) and as such, did quite a bit of speaking and moderating for them. I’m *always* posting about my presentations. I also served as an unpaid Advisory Board Member for the US Travel Association and was also a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. I have also served on other boards in the past (for things like associations, startups; funded and not). Needless to say, all of these experiences influence my position and my posts.