Thursday, March 10, 2011
Sal Guarino was the man who hired me out of a hotel and into the Chicago regional office for Hilton’s franchise division. In 1980 I was 25 years old; a graduate of Northwestern University, with four years of hotel operations experience. I wanted the job of Regional Training Coordinator so desperately that I accepted a pay cut (from slave wages of $14K/year to $13.5K) for the opportunity. During the interview, Sal tried to talk me into taking a job as his Administrative Assistant instead, but I declined – insisting that I didn’t type well enough. The Training Coordinator position was mine, and I started my career with Hilton Hotels Corporation.
Sal became my mentor for the next two and a half years. Our office was small (nine people in all); a tightly-knit team that really did feel like a family. It was a different work climate 30+ years ago. We all wore suits every day – no casual Fridays. It was unheard of to work from home – you commuted into the office if you weren’t traveling on business. Our offices were in the Hilton Chicago the first year, and connected to the Palmer House after that. One of our perks was a “free” lunch in the hotel. Those couple of years with Sal and his staff were special to me.
Some specific memories:
• I once lamented that I didn’t have enough money for out-of-pocket travel expenses. Instead of offering me an advance on my expense account, Sal said, “Well, I guess that you can’t travel this week.” So much for whining.
• Sal yelled at me for a high expense account once, demanding to know who I treated to an expensive dinner in a Hilton in Cincinnati. He didn’t believe me at first when I insisted that it was only my meal, “You can’t have eaten that much!” I was a scrawny young thing at the time.
• We enjoyed several lovely holiday dinners hosted by Sal, accompanied by spouses/significant others. (Those days are gone, aren’t they?)
• Once, the entire team was once invited to Sal and Marie’s suburban home in Westmont, IL for a summer cookout. I’ve never had another boss who has done that.
• Because of Sal, I was invited to cocktails at the home of EVP Lloyd Farwell in Woodland Hills, CA, We had a lovely visit with Lloyd and his wife, Grace. Then the four of us went out to dinner. That relationship with the Farwells proved to be important to my career.
In 1982, I accepted a promotion and transfer to Dallas. Sal was very supportive of the move. Over the years, we stayed in touch. The last time I saw Sal and Marie was in the late 90’s, when we all lived in Las Vegas at the same time. Once again, they were the consummate hosts, and this time Ron and I were able to reciprocate at our home.
I will never forget the life lessons learned from Sal, and the experiences provided. My heart hurts for Marie and the rest of Sal’s family. He will always be in my memory.