How does a New England boy born outside Boston in Woburn, Massachusetts, find himself as vice president of sales and service for a destination in Louisiana self-described as “where Cajun meets cowboy”?
“Let me give you a quote my father gave me,” said David Bradley in a phone interview in January. “It doesn’t matter what you do in life; make sure you know everyone around you.”
The maxim has proved to be the road to success for Bradley, who propelled himself with only a high school diploma to where he is today at the helm of sales for a historic Southern city.
“When I got into this business, all we had were phones connected to houses and businesses,” said Bradley. “Sales is a face-to-face business; it always has been, and it really always will be.”
Bradley got his start in the industry in 1976 when his older brother Jim became the CEO of Beacon Hospitality. He told Bradley to take a job, any job, at a hotel for a year, and if he could cut his teeth there, he’d find his way in the business. Bradley did just that, starting as a desk clerk at a Holiday Inn.
He was then hired on to his brother’s company, where he spent seven years in sales. From there, he went on to work at various hotels in both sales and operations for over a decade.
The first opportunity Bradley took on the destination side of the table was at the convention and visitors bureau in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The new challenge was a welcome change, and the destination industry proved to be a great fit for Bradley’s combination of skills and relationship-focused personality.
After more than a decade in Valley Forge, Bradley moved south to the land of fried catfish, thick accents and hot summers: Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana. The twin cities, which sit on opposite banks of the Red River, hug the border of Texas in the northwestern part of the state. The area boasts a unique cocktail of flavors, influenced by the cattle country to the west, the Cajun lands to the south and the traditional Southern culture to the east.
Four years into his new role, there’s just one thing Bradley says he hasn’t quite adjusted to: “the heat of August.”
Otherwise, things are trending up and to the right for both Bradley and Shreveport-Bossier. Bradley reported that sales are up 50 percent since he took the position.
“We know that if we do our jobs right, a lot of people get to work,” said Bradley. “So we want to do it right.”
One of the team’s biggest accomplishments since Bradley began his tenure was bringing the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants to Shreveport-Bossier — the first time both pageants had ever been held in the same city during the same year. Faced with a seemingly impossible task of putting the events together in nine weeks, Bradley was blown away by the support of the community.
“There’s something about the South,” he said. “I have never seen the amount of volunteerism to make what we do happen. They come out of the woodwork.”
Beyond his work life, Bradley has made himself at home among the area’s beautiful natural surroundings, where he likes to fish, bike and hike; enjoy the mesh of Southern and Cajun cuisine; and seek diversion in the cities’ richly storied past. When he’s not on his bike, you can find Bradley doing rounds at local estate sales and antique fairs, looking for interesting relics to buy and sell.
With famous visitors such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash in its history, you never know what treasures might turn up in Shreveport-Bossier.
Name: David Bradley
Title: Vice President of Sales and Service
Organization: Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau
Location: Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana
Birthplace: Woburn, Massachusetts
Education: High school diploma
• Started as a desk clerk after high school at the Holiday Inn in Summerville, Massachusetts, and worked his way up to the catering department.
• Left to work for other hotels independently for more than a decade, eventually becoming general manager of the Omni hotel in Philadelphia.
• Worked in sales at the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, CVB.
• Joined the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau as vice president of sales and service in January 2015.
Tips from David Bradley
• If you don’t have a mentor, find one.
• Be willing to learn other ways of doing things rather than the way you’ve always done them.
• Be honest and fair to everyone you deal with.