Interview with Sal Esposito

1. How has your career path changed up until now?
My education, and my interest was always in the area of sales and marketing. I worked in consumer products after leaving school but always had a love for aviation which eventually led me to work for many different carriers in local, national and global capacities in sales and marketing. It was there I became aware of broader opportunities for innovation on the distribution side of travel. I saw a  narrowness and generalization in offered services which led me to leave the airlines and create new businesses and forms of distribution which I knew were needed by consumers.

2. Did you have a mentor who helped you get to where you are now? If so, what would you say is the most important thing you learned from your mentor?
At the time I came into the airline business, essentially sales and marketing roles were only filled from within. I needed that one person to simply give an outsider a chance which was not a very popular decision for them to make at the time. I found that person at Eastern Airlines, someone like me from a working class background who was looking for competence over making the popular decision. He taught me to always hire the most qualified person, especially if that is an unpopular thing to do in the organization.

3. What advice would you give to those pursuing their first business venture?
Think things through and develop the value proposition you and your venture bring to the marketplace. You have to be convinced that by starting a new venture you will make consumer’s lives better or offer them an alternative that they haven’t ever seen before. Look hard at the pros and cons and be honest with yourself about what it will take to get it done.

4. How do you overcome risk when it comes to making business decisions?
You never overcome risk, you calculate expected returns and then weigh the value of the resources required to capitalize. If you try to mitigate risk entirely, you won’t ever start a venture.

5. Why did you decide to become a mentor/ investor for the Hospitality Innovation Hub Incubator?
In my opinion we have tried to dehumanize the hospitality industry to a great degree. Technology and big data can teach us a lot, but it can’t teach how it feels to create a business and suffer the pains, and enjoy the highs, and what it really takes to achieve your personal goals. It is strange because so many of us have worked in many different roles, our personal contacts have become a key element for whatever success we might experience, yet, I feel after all these many years that many feel there is little value in that experience and simply forge ahead repeating mistakes we could help them to avoid altogether.  Also because Richie asked me.

6. What book are you currently reading?
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson

7. What is your favorite vacation destination?
I love the beach, and I love cities, so I don’t really have a favorite.

8. What is your favorite movie?
Field of Dreams

9. Any last words you would like to share....
A really wise man once told me, “You help people because you can, and for no other reason”. The hospitality industry is a dynamic and fragile thing, I want to help ensure the next generation of leaders gets that opportunity for success that I was given so long ago.

Sal Esposito