Osvaldo Ramos has been with TravelStore, Inc. for more than two decades, working first as the sole member of its accounting department, and now as its EVP and CFO. His journey to TravelStore began at 21, when Ramos was transferred from his native Buenos Aires to Los Angeles by his then-employer Argentine Airlines. He was supposed return to Buenos Aires after four years; instead, he stayed, which eventually led him to TravelStore’s doorstep. Almost brushed off as overqualified, Ramos convinced the company to give him a try, and he’s been instrumental to the company’s 30+ acquisitions and tremendous success over the past 20 years.
After working for my dad throughout high school I became the “office boy” for a construction equipment company. I did a great deal of work for them, but my title and pay didn’t reflect that. One day I found myself soaking wet, waiting in the rain for my bus thinking, “What am I doing here?” I asked for a promotion and they said no, so I left and found my way to Argentine Airlines, where I earned the highest score of all of the interviewees. I worked in the accounting department before being transferred to Los Angeles. I was just 21 years old and acting as second in command, so I grew a beard hoping to be taken more seriously. This experience of working for an airline was so important because it taught me how to negotiate and how to work with people.
I’ve been supervising and managing people since I was 21. I have success stories and failures, but both have taught me how to communicate with people. I started from the bottom, which many kids don’t do these days. I didn’t just show up with a college diploma and apply for a top position. I’ve been in all levels of this industry and this organization; I’ve learned from the bottom to the top. I remember how frustrating it was to be a lower-level employee and have great ideas, but being unable to tell them to upper management. Now, at TravelStore, we just don’t listen to our employees’ ideas; we implement them.
TravelStore’s founder, Wido Schaefer, is my boss, my mentor, and my friend. Much like me, he came to the United States as an immigrant and was supposed to return to Germany, but decided to stay. We had both been in the airline side of the industry and together, we grew TravelStore through many acquisitions—33 to be exact. I was personally involved in 30 [of those acquisitions], and have always been the main negotiator, as I was in our biggest acquisition of a travel company that did $30 million a year in business. I consider these negotiations my biggest achievement in the company. We didn’t even use a lawyer.
Currently, one of our biggest challenges is the misconception that our industry is disappearing. A few years ago people began to use the Internet to book their own flights and plan their trips, so not only are we in need of new blood in the travel industry, we also have to change the mind of the public. TravelStore offers free travel-agent classes and we invest in attendees we believe are promising. We provide one year’s compensation with no expectation for results. We’re basically depositing our trust in their abilities.
Trying to change the mind of consumers is going more smoothly. If you want to have a great trip, you need to consult with an agent who knows the destination and the product. Talking to a knowledgeable person who’s been there is always better than clicking around a website. It doesn’t cost you more, there are more benefits, and if your trip goes badly, at least you have someone to blame other than yourself.