Anyone else with more than 20 years of hospitality experience might choose to rest on his or her laurels. But Matt Pizzuti, deputy director of the Oregon Convention Center (OCC) in Portland, is still looking for ways to expand his expertise. And much of that continued growth, he says, can be found in helping others in the industry.
“If you’re not mentoring someone every day, you’re kind of missing out on one of the most important roles you have,” says Pizzuti.
Pizzuti understands the impact of mentorship firsthand, recalling the time he asked the director of sales at the Hilton in Portland to take a chance on him. “I’d been in operations; I’d never been in sales,” Pizzuti says. “I said [to her], ‘You’re hiring me. I’m going to make this happen. I can be a sales guy.’ She assigned me to shadow one of the best sales guys I ever worked with. After about a year I was the top salesperson. She had faith in me, and that gave me a lot of confidence to go forward.”
Earning a degree in physical education, Pizzuti never anticipated his love for, and career in, hospitality, but once he landed his first gig at a hotel, everything clicked. “The skills I learned from being a teacher and a coach were transferable to guest service,” Pizzuti says. “Your kids are kind of your customers when you’re a teacher … although it’s probably easier handling adults than sixth graders.”
The OCC is undergoing a $35 million renovation, which is scheduled for completion by summer 2019. In addition to managing the renovation, Pizzuti oversees the convention center’s daily operations and assists with admissions and food and beverage. So he recognizes the importance of being a team player. “As I’ve gotten older, I understand the power of having your teammates succeed,” Pizzuti says. While he would agree that guests always come first, his staff is a close second. “To be in this business you have to have that service heart. You have to care that people have what they need—that your team has what it needs. There’s a balance between taking care of your staff and taking care of customers. You can’t lose sight of either one.”