Luxury Hotel Exec Travels Globe But Uses Home Office as Base

Who: Mario Sarafraz, executive vice president of global operations & managing partner of The Luxury Group, which provides fine luxury hotel and spa accommodations.

What: In charge of acquisitions of new clients, managing the marketing staff. Job involves traveling to hotels around the world and visiting the properties and meeting with the management of hotels, as well. Current clients include the Hotel Ritz in Paris, France and the Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco.

Where: Sarafraz’s home office is San Rafael, CA, and Cannes, France. He works in an extra living room which has been converted to an office. His office work is all conducted from home, while he attends meetings and hotel trade shows worldwide. Sarafraz is currently traveling through central Europe, visiting hotels in Prague, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Geneva and Florence.

When: Since Sarafraz is in the international luxury hotel business, he tends to work odd hours at times, but generally works from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., then takes a three- to four-hour break for lunch, then relaxes before working for a couple more hours at night, if needed. He said there are times when just as he’s about to turn off the lights, a hotel in Bhutan needs a contract, so he extends his hours, since he doesn’t like to keep buying clients waiting.

How: After working in the American corporate world for more than 12 years, Sarafraz always knew that he wanted to be his own boss and that he didn’t want to spend life 9-to-5 in a cubicle with two weeks off per year. Sarafraz worked in various sales jobs, but when he got hired by a Swiss company marketing their hotel guide to the American and Canadian market, he says, “I knew I had found the industry I love.”

“So I set out to start a business operating in the industry that I loved and knew about as a result of my extensive world travels.” That was the hospitality business. Sarafraz focused on the luxury end since “that is most fun.”

Why: Sarafraz said he was frustrated by the “incompetence” and other failures he saw as part of the problem of he corporate world.

“When you see foolish decisions made by often incompetent managers over which you have no control, then that is enough to get you motivated,” he said. But Sarafraz said the turning point for him was when he was working for a company where the president of which placed his brother-in-law in a managerial position “which he clearly knew nothing about and was grossly ill-fitted for.” The company soon went under and Sarafraz says he was let go for being vocal about his opinions, “a trait of mine my co-workers always admired -- but not my superiors.”

Day in the Life: Sarafraz is usually up around 7 a.m., and works until 8, then he eats breakfast and works until 2:30. He said he breaks for lunch and exercise and other non-work related activities, then works for a few more hours in the evening. He travels internationally about six to eight times per year for business and pleasure, or a combination of both - visiting hotels, staying at them and actually meeting the people that he has exchanged e-mails with. Having an iPhone with WiFi capability is “a necessity and has been a life saver as it allows me to connect with clients and co-workers worldwide even while in a safari camp lodge in Botswana, a cafe in Prague or on the beach in the South of France,“ Sarafraz said.

Pros and Cons: Sarafraz said there’s not much he misses about working a “regular” corporate job.

“The only thing missing is the fun you have with your co-workers in the office,” he said. Office parties are replaced with hotel dinners and trade show parties worldwide. He said he is invited to some kind of party or restaurant opening at a hotel nearly every week, but getting to all of them when they are located around the globe is tough. Though Sarafraz said he always tries to show up and promote his business. “It’s hard to attend a dinner and cocktail bash at a hotel in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, when you are in San Francisco, but when I am around I do attend,” he said in an e-mail. “I am writing this to you now from Prague, Czech Republic and I am attending a hotel party in Salzburg, Austria tomorrow evening.”

“I have closed deals on cell phone sitting on the beach in Cannes, France, and I have woken up at 4 a.m. to send a contract to New Delhi, India,” Sarafraz added. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is where I belong.” regularly features profiles of people doing business from home, and making it work.