I value my family, my friends, and living a good life!
Through this personal website, I’d like to document influences that helped me grow along the way. Those who have an interest will learn how a principled, disciplined path helped me advance from what some may describe as a “disadvantaged childhood” into a productive, law-abiding, contributing citizen.
Now, at this stage in my journey, I’m enthusiastic about an opportunity to build The God’s Gift Foundation, my new nonprofit. More on that later.
I’m 100% transparent, and I’m open to questions, too. It’s my hope that others will see me as a servant leader—a man who strives to live as a good person.
On September 20, 1976, my mother gave birth to me in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I love my parents very much, and I’m incredibly proud of what they’ve become. It wasn’t always easy for them.
My parents fell in love when they were in high school. When my father finished high school, he began working in the construction industry. He and my mom had their first child—my older brother Michael—five years before me, on January 17, 1971.
Again, I was born on September 20, 1976.
Unfortunately, the challenge of raising two young boys proved too much for our parents. As frequently happens for young couples, pressures drove them apart.
When our parents split up, I was about two years old and my brother was seven. For many years, we shuffled through several schools as we settled in different houses. When I was about five, my stepmother brought my younger brother, Daniel into our lives. My family meant the world to me back then, and it still does today.
Yet it was difficult growing up without much in the way of resources. A perceived lack of stability influenced the choices I made. Since I didn’t like school, I created opportunities to ease my way. In fact, I remember faking my way into a program that would allow me to participate in the “Special Education” program. My reason for manipulating my way into Special Education classes was that I didn’t want to be burdened with too much school work.
Instead of learning, I focused my attention on racing BMX bicycles, skateboarding, and starting little entrepreneurial ventures that would allow me to buy the things I wanted–that my parents couldn’t afford.
For example, I would mow lawns or pick up trash. I raked leaves. I shoveled driveways. I caddied. Later, I would buy candy in bulk, then sell the candy in pieces to kids at school. I derived a sense of pride in earning money and paying my own way.
One of the greatest jobs I had, and best life experiences, was a job I had at the Plainfield Country Club. I was a caddy. I learned a lot about “hustling” while I was there. What do I mean by hustling? I mean developing a great work ethic and using critical thinking skills.
For example, I had to get up early to be on the first loop. I had to put in my “pine time.” That means I had to sit on a pine bench, waiting for an opportunity. I’d show up at six in the morning, and wait on that bench until six in the evening, just for an opportunity to caddy for old people.
I had to get on the caddy master’s good side, building credibility. I wanted him to see that I was for real. Through that effort, he put me in front of people who weren’t as serious about the job or opportunity.
The more I worked, the more trust I built. As I built trust, the caddy master put me with higher profile players. As a young boy, I met superstars like Doctor J, Lawrence Taylor, Billy Ard, and others. Those experiences inspired me to work harder and gave me the confidence that with hard work, in time, I could become a member of a country club.
I learned a lot through work experiences in my childhood.
After finishing high school in 1994, I began working in sales. I remember how honored I felt when a manager at Rockaway Bedding chose to hire me. I remember the owner asking me what an 18-year old could possibly know about selling mattresses. I told him that I didn’t know anything at the time. But if he gave me a start, I pledged to be the most knowledgeable sales person in his store. He liked my commitment to learn, and okayed me to begin working.
I learned the differences between foam mattresses, innerspring mattresses, adjustable air mattresses, and others that the store carried. I learned about the relevance of coils, of lumbar supports, and box springs. I could recite the warranty of each mattress, and speak knowledgeably about sizes, value, and customer support.
Those preparations allowed me to service both the customers, and our team well. Within a few months, I became the top-selling mattress salesman for the company. The owner made me a manager, and boosting my earnings to more than $80,000 by the time I was 19. With those earnings, I was able to both contribute to our family and also splurge around town.
Before long, offers for new employment opportunities began to roll in and I became intrigued when I learned about opportunities in the timeshare industry. To qualify for employment, I studied for a real estate exam, wanting to join the industry. After passing my real estate exam, I began working as a timeshare sales person in January of 2000 for The Manhattan Club. Strong performance led to even more recruitment offers. Over the next decade, I sold timeshares for Fairfield, then the Cendant Corporation, and then Wyndham through 2010, where I ran teams of sales professionals as a manager.
By selling timeshare, I learned a great deal. For the first several years of my career, I considered it gratifying to help families sign up for vacation plans that the timeshare industry offered. My career took me from New York, to Washington DC, to Sedona, Arizona, to North Carolina, and then to Atlantic City. I earned a substantial income—especially considering my lack of formal education. Besides the income, I felt pride in my work. But that all changed in 2010.
Prior to the recession, when the economy was doing well, timeshares basically sold themselves. People appreciated the opportunity to purchase vacation time that they could count on with their family. Times were good, and the value seemed reasonable. When the recession began to threaten stability for millions of Americans, vacation time became a luxury—a luxury that relatively few people could afford.
I noticed trends in the timeshare industry that didn’t sit well with me. Rather than offering vacation opportunities that families could appreciate and see value in, I started to see people in the timeshare industry using manipulative, coercive practices. Despite efforts I made to change those practices, I couldn’t fight the trend. Instead of feeling pride at my industry, I began to feel as if I were part of something dirty. Although I was earning an exceptional income, I couldn’t feel at peace with myself. When I realized that I could neither change nor ignore the manipulations and unethical sales practices that were becoming standard in the industry, I resigned from my job—walking away from a job that paid me more than $300,000 per year.
I just couldn’t be a part of timeshare any longer.
From a friend, I learned about different opportunities in the travel industry. Although manipulative sales tactics in the timeshare industry turned me off, I knew that people loved to travel. Instead of following the timeshare protocol of burdening customers with tens of thousands in debt—at extortionately high interest rates—I learned about travel clubs. Travel clubs offered members opportunities to take advantage of massive discounts.
Basically, the vacation club industry filled a need in the marketplace. I learned that resorts need to fill rooms. If a room goes empty, the resort doesn’t only lose revenues from the empty room. The resort also loses money because fewer people are patronizing the restaurants, the clubs, the gyms, and all of the other offerings. As a result, they partner with fulfillment companies. Those fulfillment companies purchase space in bulk from hotels and resorts. Then, the fulfillment companies sell vacation spots at a discount to members of vacation clubs. The industry is like a “Costco” for vacationers. People would pay a few hundred dollars, to a few thousand dollars per year to take advantage of travel discounts. Those memberships would yield enormous savings to members of the travel club.
When I learned about the industry, I decided to go into business for myself, starting my first company. Although I squeaked through high school as a “Special Education” student, I became an entrepreneur, launching Global Travel Solutions. I was 34 years old, and I really considered the opportunity as being one that could allow me to stay in the travel industry—but ethically. I could provide enormous value to the customers I served.
Up until that time, I was pretty a much “a company man.” What I mean is that I always had a big team around me. The timeshare industry was truly a multi-billion dollar enterprise, with layers and layers of corporate support. As an entrepreneur, I would not have a human resources department, a marketing department, an advertising department, an accounting department, or a legal department. I wouldn’t have operations or support staff. Instead, I would need to put everything together on my own. The one thing I knew was that there was a lot that I didn’t know—and in retrospect, I know that I made some mistakes. Rather than hiring all of those people, or trying to put together all of the resources I would need, I outsourced everything.
I signed agreements with fulfillment companies, with lead generators, and with marketing companies. My only role would be with hiring people to help me present the opportunities to buyers. I enjoyed motivating people, teaching people, and helping customers understand the value our products could provide. We contracted with local hotels to rent ballrooms, then we invited people to come listen to our presentations. Over the course of a year, our customer base grew rapidly. More than 1,800 people purchased our product, generating more than $4 million in taxable revenues during our first year.
But when I looked at the financials, I saw flaws in our business model. On the sales side, we did exceptionally well. But on the profit side, I could see that we were not doing so well. Despite the strong sales, after a full year of operation, in December of 2011, I realized that it would be best for me to close Global Travel Solutions, the first company I started.
After closing Global Travel Solutions, I transitioned into a new career—which focused on helping people who wanted to cancel timeshare contracts, which I’ll elaborate on below.
Despite closing down Global Travel Solutions in December of 2011, problems that I didn’t know about lingered. Throughout the life of the company, and even after I closed it, I employed my brother Daniel as a customer service representative. After all, we had 1,800 customers and we were committed to servicing them well. At all times, we believed in the value our products provided and we wanted to make sure that customers felt the same.
Yet in April of 2012, I received notification that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office had launched an investigation against the company I started. In the letter, I learned that seven customers had filed a complaint. Rather than contacting us, those customers asked the Attorney General’s office to intervene on their behalf. When I received the notification, my inclination was to refund the customer’s money. During that political year, however, the Attorney General insisted that we do more than refund the $25,000 that those seven customers had paid our company. The AG wanted us to pay an additional $625,000 in penalties and costs.
The entire situation was extremely upsetting to me. My intention was always to do the right thing by my customers, and it saddened me that there wasn’t any avenue for me to make things right. Embarrassed and humiliated, I hired an attorney to help me settle the matter. Rather than being able to pay the $25,000 back to customers, I had to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees, and another $350,000 in settlement fees to the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney general gave me 20 years to pay off that debt.
It pleases me to have paid off the debt in full in November, 2016.
Simultaneous to the time that I worked to settle all matters with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, I began building the next phase of my career. Earlier I mentioned how disgusted I became with the manipulative sales tactics of the timeshare industry. When I began working in the industry, I took pride in both the product we were presenting to customers, and the manner in which we offered timeshares to customers. Yet during the recession, timeshare sales slumped. Corporate directives began to encourage timeshare sales teams to use manipulative and unethical sales practices.
Every day that I went to work in the timeshare industry, I felt more disgusted with the types of exploitative practices that I saw being used. Salespeople were tricking people into signing contracts that the customer’s did not fully understand.
Since closing down Global Travel Solutions in 2012, I’ve worked to assist people who wanted to unwind their obligations to timeshare companies. It pleases me that over the past six years, I’ve played an instrumental role in working with customers that wanted to cancel their timeshare contracts. Through those efforts, teams I’ve built have presided over the cancellation of more than 3,000 timeshare contracts.
Conservatively, I estimate that cancelling those contracts resulted in saving customers a cumulative total of more than $50 million!
Besides saving customers money, I’ve employed more than 200 people and generated taxable revenues of more than $10 million. Taxes that my company generates each year fund police departments, fire departments, school districts, hospitals, and so much more. Wages that our employees earn support neighborhoods and small business. Nothing brings me more pride than to live as a contributing American citizen. This is how I do my part to make America a great place to live, work, and contribute!
I am now 42 years old, and much more experienced than I was when I launched Global Travel Solutions. Although I didn’t have too much of a formal education, I’ve overcome. Rather than going through “formal education,” I earned my Ph.D—a public high school diploma—and then earned my chops by working and developing human relationships.
I learned a great deal about working with people and about running businesses. Besides paying my debt in full to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, and settling with customers who filed a grievance against the company I started, I’ve worked consistently to redeem the bad decisions I made that led to those problems; they were made from inexperience rather than from an effort to deceive anyone.
In time, I hope that others will see me for the type of leader that I’ve worked hard to become, and not for the bad decisions I made when launching my first business.
Besides creating jobs, paying millions in taxes, and contributing to local businesses, it pleases me to make regular donations to Christian organizations, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and children’s athletic organizations that teach leadership through sports.
Now, the most exciting project in my life is building The God’s Gift Foundation. It’s an ongoing project that I’ll be writing more about regularly. Follow the YouTube channel I’m creating, the website, and the Facebook page for my new charity. I intend to build relationships with major corporations and raise funding that we can use to sponsor mission trips. It’s my way of proving worthy of the many blessings that God has bestowed upon me.
Life is a journey. I’ll always strive to make good decisions going forward!