Greg Geronemus is a graduate of Harvard and the Harvard Business School, and was working at Goldman Sachs, heading the Footbridge Partners investment firm, but his first love was travel. In 2013, he left the job to follow his passion. Today, at 30 years old, he is the CEO of smarTours, a travel tour operator that has taken over 150,000 customers to 40 destinations/tours all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, Israel, India, Nepal, Australia, South America and on river cruises.
According to the United States Tour Operators Association, a tour is a trip taken by a group of people who travel together and follow a pre-planned itinerary. A tour operator puts together travel "packages" involving a number of different elements: airlines, ground transportation, hotels, restaurants, local guides and other services for one or more destinations. These packages are sold to the public, usually through travel agents. We asked Greg to answer a few questions about his career and the skills necessary to do the job. You had a career in finance. How did you get the skills necessary for a career in travel?
My business partner, David Rosner, and I both had finance backgrounds and a passion for travel. We got connected to the founder of smarTours several years ago, and we learned that he was looking for the next generation of leadership for the company. We arranged a mutually beneficial transaction where David and I bought into the company and started learning the business with the plan of ultimately taking over.
Eventually, after years of learning under the founder, we took over as co-CEOs and overall responsibility for the company. What is your day like?
As co-CEO, I am responsible for the overall strategy and direction of smarTours. My primary focus is on sales and marketing, and I am also intimately involved with new product development. What kind of skills do you feel you brought to this job?
The most important skill or trait that I brought to the travel industry was my work ethic. I've always had a passion for travel, and I was extremely motivated to get up the learning curve as fast as possible, so I worked tirelessly to consume as much information and learn as much as possible. I would also add creativity and organization to the mix, but work ethic was the key.
What kind of skills do you feel that you learned on the job?
I think I learned patience and how to stay calm on the job. With long haul international travel, you deal with inevitable flight delays, cancellations, natural disasters, etc. Early on, it was hard for me not to get overly excited about these types of events. Over time, I learned to approach these situations with a steady hand and to take them very seriously without overreacting.
What tips would you give someone who is going on an interview for a job in the travel industry?
Express your passion (if you have it) for the travel business. Describe your work ethic and willingness to jump in and learn as much as possible.