I’ve had fun in almost everything I’ve ever worked on. I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve started companies, and I’ve even sold a couple of them. I’ve conceived of, and implemented, some amazing strategic partnerships and promotions. Here’s a list of some of my most successful, and fun projects.
USA Today – Experience Travel / Road Warrior Voices
Position: President, Travel Media Group
Project Overview: How do you get more advertisers to fork over more budget when all you have is the same, limited, generic products? Well, you develop additional, focused products that make it impossible for clients to pass up the offer. In this case, Experience Travel. If you go to a hotel in Las Vegas and tell them you’ve got a new product called “Experience Las Vegas” they are instantly interested. Each Experience Travel title had a website, an app, and a print and digital magazine. The opportunity for more titles was endless. Experience Las Vegas. Experience Cruise. Experience Food and Wine. We had a dozen. We even did one for the business traveler community called Road Warrior Voices, quickly garnering nearly 4 million frequent travelers.
The result? Advertisers loved the platform, and it was an instant success. Check out USA Today’s Travel site.
Brush Creek Ranch: The Mercantile
Position: Managing Director, Mercantile & Strategic Partnerships
Project Overview: If you’ve not heard of Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming, you’re not alone. But guess what? For years, it’s been voted best resort in the USA, over and over again. It’s one of the best kept secrets in tourism. You MUST see this resort (www.brushcreekranch.com). Located on 35,000 acres, Brush Creek Ranch is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Brush Creek Ranch wanted someone to run retail. They liked my startup background, and after one lunch with one of the coolest bosses I’ve ever had, (ok, and four more interviews with senior leaders and a bunch of critical thinking assessments) I was hired. Next thing I know, I’m flying one of the corporate jets to the ranch. At $1,500 per night, per person, you can bet this place is truly magnificent. To run retail, I focused on finding some of the most luxury partners I could find, all of whom would create exclusive product, just for us. From Kyle Bunting, who makes the most amazing hair-on-hide rugs, to Clint Orms, who is one of the finest silversmiths in the country, we signed dozens of vendors. The concept was simple; if you saw something at the ranch and liked it, you could buy it and “take a piece of the ranch home with you.” Pillows, throw blankets, rugs, not to mention limited edition pocket knives, alligator belts and much more. Did you like the steak knives at dinner? You can buy a set of four. Need matching chef knives? You could get a complete set. Like the Wagyu beef at dinner? You can order that to be shipped to your house. This was one of the most fun professional experiences I’ve had. It’s a great company with a great product.
The result? A very successful retail launch. Go to their site (listed above) and click the SHOP tab, or heck, book a stay and shop while you’re on property! Brush Creek Ranch is an amazing experience. If you want to read more about Brush Creek Ranch, see my post on visiting the ranch HERE.
Rand McNally – Best of the Road
Position: VP/GM Digital Strategy & Travel
Project Overview: When the CEO walked into my office and asked, “Hey, how can we get people talking about Rand McNally again?” I said I needed a little time to respond. I then challenged the team to think differently. “Let’s not TELL people about anything. Let THEM tell us. And let’s all have fun. How about a Road Rally?” The idea? Forget big cities. Focus on small towns across the USA. Let the small towns compete, to earn titles like “Best for Food,” “Most Beautiful,” “Friendliest,” Most Patriotic,” and others. In a short amount of time, we had over 700 small towns enter the contest. They had to garner votes to get selected and be in the final 30 towns. And, here’s the fun part… we also got teams of bloggers/videographers to compete to be one of 5 teams that would drive across the US (using Rand McNally GPS – get it?), to visit the towns and be judges in each category. I created partnerships with USA Today for the promotion, Travel Channel for a one-hour special of the promotion, Honda gave us all the cars, Choice Hotels accommodated the teams around the US, and Fleetwood RVs, who gave us a beautiful RV, so our hosts and video team could drive from one side of the country to the other and document the event.
The result? Over 1 BILLION media impressions in 6 months, all talking about Rand McNally. Mission accomplished.
RCI / Wyndham / Cendant: The Bulk Buy
Position: Vice President, Business Development
Project Overview: How do you sell vacation rentals in French Lick, Indiana, when the only thing partners really want is Hawaii? Here’s how.
Selling vacation rental inventory to wholesalers is tough. All they want is peak weeks in Hawaii. And, if that’s all you had to sell, it would be easy. But when you are running business for the Open Market Rental division, you have to sell a ton of other inventory. So, here’s what I did. I had my analyst team build me a spreadsheet with ALL of the available inventory. As partners bought the less popular (sorry French Lick) inventory, the Hawaii inventory would open up. So, you want Hawaii? Well, you need to buy a lot of other inventory to get access to the available weeks in Hawaii.
The result? Multiple deals totaling millions of dollars in revenue and everyone was happy; the partners got Hawaii. Corporate sold an appropriate amount of balanced inventory. And, I got the revenue credit. Cha-ching!
Zeus Tours & Yacht Cruises: The Private Label
Position: Co-founder & President
Project Overview: How do you grow a tour company? Short answer – it isn’t easy. This was my first startup. I loved this company. My partner and I, over a period of 15 years, grew the company to be the #1 tour and cruise company to the Mediterranean. We did this by conquering and dividing. He would build yacht cruise vessels in Greece (i.e. the product) and I would get the customers in the USA (i.e. the distribution). But finding customers in the USA wasn’t easy. Direct to consumer advertising was prohibitively expensive. So? I decided to partner with other major travel companies (retail travel agencies, consortia, and even other wholesalers). All of these companies would sell our products to their customers and they’d make a commission. That’s not the unique part. I took it a step further. I signed private label deals with companies like Liberty Travel, Gogo Tours, Carlson Wagonlit and others. So, when a customer walked into one of their retail travel agencies, they’d see my Greece brochure, but with a Carlson cover. Even with me paying for the brochures and for the co-op advertising and the training, etc. we still did very well. How did we handle paying for everything? Well, I got plenty of that reimbursed by the Greek government. Everyone was happy. The retailers got product branded with their name. The Greek government was happy because they got American visitors. The passengers were happy because they got a great product. And, most important, my partner and I made money, to build more ships.
The result? We successfully sold the company in 1999.
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