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Walter Isenberg's First Job

Denver Hotel

We asked Sage Hospitality CEO Walter Isenberg, whose company owns and operates hotels and restaurants in 23 states, about his first job. (Not everyone came out of the womb with an LOI in his hand.)


The summer after his freshman year of college, Walter was a management trainee at the Alameda Plaza Hotel in Kansas City, mentored by Phil Pistilli. Phil asked Walter one evening to meet him the next day at 5:30am (a time most 19-year-olds don't know exists). He asked me if I knew why. "Of course, I didn’t have a clue." Phil told Walter that they were going to talk to the night auditor, who would be off shift around 7am. "You need to realize we're in a 24/7/365 business," he said, "and that every associate working here is important. They need to see you, know you, and know you care about them and what they do."


Later that morning, Phil said he and Walter (who now owns assets like the Oxford Hotel in LoDo, above) would have doughnuts and coffee with the housekeeping staff. "On the way down, he asked me if I knew what a housekeeper had to look forward to every day at work," Walter says. "I said no." He replied, "16 dirty toilets." Phil knew every housekeeper by name, and asked them not only how they were doing at their job, but how their families were doing.