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After twenty-two years in the Navy and eighteen years in the hospitality industry, Tony Mendez shares how he found the right current to success
Tony Mendez, VP, Risk Management & Safety, MasterCorp Inc. Photo: Chad Christopher/Plateau Creative
By KC Esper, Hispanic Executive
Tony Mendez has always been drawn to hospitality. But before entering the corporate world, he served in the US Navy for twenty-two years—an experience, he says, which shaped the rest of his career.
“I wanted to serve my country and be productive in a way where it shows what the country has given me,” he says. “Throughout the process, I ended picking up a career as an intelligence specialist, which supports mission planning and logistical intel processing—allowing me to interact with different types of units and individuals to prepare and present intelligence briefings and materials for reconnaissance missions. That’s where I really found a passion for being hospitable and providing support to others. My mission was to make sure we provided for our fellow sailors’ needs with respect to each operation.”
Hooked on hospitality services, Mendez found a current that weaved him through the industry. Of Guatemalan descent, he moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico, after he left the Navy and lived there for about twelve years, finishing up his university studies in law enforcement and biology. Quickly, he fell in love with Puerto Rico because of its affinity for and closeness to the sea. It was a resource for tourism, both aesthetically and economically.
Naturally, the tourism industry is where Mendez landed as he gravitated toward positions that focused on surveillance and hotel safety and security. During his studies, he started at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino, San Juan, as its director of safety and security.
“I was working the graveyard shift at the Embassy Suites Hotel, going to school during the daytime and working at night,” Mendez says. “That experience really convinced me that this is truly where I wanted to be.”
“The structure, discipline, and integrity that comes with being in the Navy allowed me to excel in the hospitality industry and be a mentor.”
When Mendez left Puerto Rico in 2004, he carried his congenial spirit to Orlando, Florida, where he worked in the safety and risk management sector of several other big-name hotel brands and franchises, including Hilton and Wyndham. Throughout his journey, Mendez was guided by the lessons he learned in the Navy.
“The structure, discipline, and integrity that comes with being in the Navy allowed me to excel in the hospitality industry and be a mentor for individuals now and in my positions previous,” Mendez says.
Today Mendez stands as the vice president of risk management and quality control for MasterCorp, Inc., a world-class hospitality services supplier for the global time-share and resort industry. As a third-party partner in the industry rather than a full-service brand, MasterCorp, helps fulfill the overall management of a resort or hotel operations by providing comprehensive turnkey, service-select, preventive-maintenance, janitorial, and staffing-solutions services. With a MasterCorp partnership, property managers can both outsource for more time to focus on hospitality and up-source to the performance of world-class services. MasterCorp has been a leader in cleanliness since 1981, partnering with premier resorts and developers nationwide. Its more than nine thousand associates provide innovation, high quality results, and great customer satisfaction.
In addition to serving its customers with the upmost hospitality by way of their resorts, MasterCorp also takes care of its colleagues and clients at home through its own emergency fund network called People Proud Fund.
The reserve goes toward helping associates who are experiencing personal challenges or have been affected by natural disasters. Team members at all levels donate monthly to the fund, which is managed by a neutral, third-party accounting company. Already, the company has seen the fund change lives by bringing solace to more than forty employees who lost their homes to a devastating hurricane in Panama City, Florida.
“We want our associates to feel proud to work at MasterCorp,” Mendez says. “People Proud Fund shows them we’re there by providing safety and security, and helping them get back on their feet.”
Within the risk management department, Mendez and his team assess, control, and minimize workers’ compensation claims, prevent accidents or hazards, and eliminate unacceptable risk to ensure that each company they serve is provided with phenomenal customer service. Their work bolsters the experience of each guest at every resort while measuring internal and external satisfaction experiences with quality- and loss-control inspections. If there’s a safety accident, Mendez’s department is the first to get notified.
“First, we try to figure out what the root cause of the accident was,” Mendez explains. “Were they using the right tools? Were they following procedures? Did they understand their job duties? Then, when we find out what the cause was. The goal is to eliminate the hazards and ensure that type of accident doesn’t happen again.”
“If we fail, we fail together. But if we succeed, we won together. That does so much to build our culture.”
In sticking to the pillars of structure, discipline, and integrity he learned during his Navy years, Mendez has duties as a mentor that enforce the importance of transparency. He aims to ensure that his crew accomplishes its tasks efficiently and effectively. “It’s difficult to accomplish goals when we don’t work together,” he says. “If we fail, we fail together. But if we succeed, we win together. That does so much to build our culture.”
Mendez’s mentality not only unites his team, it makes it more connected to his mission. He says that one of his greatest joys is witnessing young mentors fulfilling their potential. For many of MasterCorp’s Latinx workers—comprising 80 percent of the company’s workforce—Mendez’s leadership provides them with an aspirational sense of belonging and motivation.
“I am very proud to call our workers my associates and partners,” he says. “Many of them come from different Spanish-speaking countries. I always give examples of when I wanted to give up during my early years to let them know that even when they think no one is helping them, think again. Someone out there will guide them to the right answer and will motivate them to stay on track.”“In time, they’ll be led to happiness and success. I get to have honest conversations with my associates that gives them fuel to keep going forward. And when I see our associates become managers or supervisors—or even regional directors—that’s what I call passion for the industry.”
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