Most people would be surprised to know that I’m a street kid from Philly. I grew up in a Clifton Heights-row house along the Philadelphia Main Line and spent much of my childhood running free in the neighborhood. I got in a few fights along the way, and most of us had to fend for ourselves as kids, but the experience taught me a lot about loyalty, community and the importance of tenacity and grit.
My parents came from tough Irish Catholic stock and were products of the Great Depression and World War II. They saw life’s tragedies and toughest moments as opportunities to overcome. They believed respect – and everything else worth having – was earned. My dad was with the Navy for 40 years, working literally up to a few days before he passed away from cancer. Mom was head nurse at Philadelphia General Hospital and the youngest person ever to hold that job. After my brother was born with phenylketonuria (PKU) – a disorder that can create all kinds of developmental problems if you don’t catch it and treat it early – my mom fought the medical establishment for proper care. Today, and because of her, every baby in the United States gets a blood test for PKU a few days after they’re born.
When I grew up I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. I ran track in high school and dreamed of representing my country someday. While I didn’t make it quite that far, it was a track scholarship that let me attend Villanova University. That experience, learning how to work with others and developing critical thinking skills, set me up for success.
My business philosophy is: Doing anything great, really anything worth doing, requires a huge amount of courage and curiosity. The most successful people are constantly learning and asking questions like, “Why does it have to be this way? Is there another way to look at this? What can we do that nobody’s done before and, most importantly, what do our customers want and how are their needs changing?” Great business leaders don’t look at what’s in front of them, but at what’s possible, and are brave enough to go after it, even with no proof it will work. Under the guidance of a strong and passionate leader, however, it usually does.
What led me to my current job is when I met John Bartoletta and George Beardsley, and I was blown away by their vision for UNATION. They’ve tapped into the experience economy in a way no one else has, and they’ve developed exceptional data technology that lets us target, understand and engage with consumers in a way that’s never been done before. The UNATION model is not only redefining marketing, but making it far more efficient and cost effective. I couldn’t resist being part of this and I’m thrilled to help them build this incredible business.
The most rewarding part of my role with UNATION is making a profound difference in people’s lives. More and more, consumers are turning away from “stuff” and toward experiences. They want to do things they love, be part of communities that share their passion and interact with brands who get them. That’s what UNATION makes possible.
The most challenging part of my job with UNATION is balancing speed with execution. This business is primed to take off and has everything we need to scale. We’re built to move quickly, but we also need to make sure we’re executing in every new market we open and across every platform and brand we serve.
Many of us could write a book on what we learned in 2020, but I’ll narrow it down to two things. First, I learned just how much human beings crave and need connection. As we come out of the worst of the pandemic, we’re seeing huge pent-up demand. People want to get out, have experiences and build bonds with others who share their interests. Second, a crisis is often the best time to grow. At UNATION, we spent the time when the world was shut down to build and strengthen our business model, our tools and our organization. As a result, we’re hitting the ground running and are set up for phenomenal growth.
My favorite place to visit is Spain. I worked for some time in Spain and my daughter spends summers in Madrid. It’s a beautiful and interesting place, and the people are unusually warm, welcoming and tight-knit. My favorite thing is a big, loud dinner with a bunch of lively Spaniards.
When I travel, I always shut up, watch and listen. Exploring how people live and the norms they follow is fascinating, and it’s absolutely vital to understand the culture and how to work within it whether you’re in another part of the U.S, or another part of the world. I always take time to see how people interact and learn as much of the language as I can. I also love to find the places locals visit.
When describing the Tampa Bay area to friends and family outside of the area I say that Tampa is a great blend of a laid-back beach town and a vibrant metropolitan city. It’s diverse, has a rich culture, the people are kind and there is always something great to do. The weather’s not bad either. Tampa has been a great place to start and build UNATION, and we’re now bringing what we learned here in Tampa to multiple new markets.
I’ve been lucky enough to check a lot of things off my bucket list, but the one thing I’d really love to do is be a grandfather. I hope my kids are reading this. I’ve received track and field medals, had buildings named after me, and been on all kinds of lists, but bar far and away the biggest honor of my life is being a dad to my four children.
If I’m by myself, the music I’m listening to is a little bit of everything, but after many years working in Spain and Mexico, I do love salsa music.
My specialty when cooking for family or friends is a great steak. I like to think of myself as fairly good behind the grill and I love cooking for people. It’s one way to show love.
Leading companies for decades, along with raising kids, doesn’t leave much time for hobbies, and I’m not sure if it’s a skill, but people are always surprised by my energy. Everyone, including me, is expecting me to slow down as I get older, but it hasn’t happened yet.
My greatest luxury is traveling the world. I feel lucky to be able to spend time in some of the world’s greatest cities and most beautiful places. I love meeting new and interesting people and traveling is a great opportunity to do that.
If I could wake up tomorrow with this quality/skill it would be that I wouldn’t mind being good enough at golf to go pro.
I believe my best quality is generosity. I’m good at finding great people, helping them grow and supporting them through the ups and downs of careers and life in general. I don’t leave people behind or let them down, and that builds a great deal of trust and creates lifelong friendships and business relationships.
My perfect day would be a day with all my kids all together.