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Meeting Leaders: John Cychol

“It’s not just rates and space — it’s people who really make the place.”

John Cychol, vice president of meeting sales at Visit Fort Worth, is confident of his destination’s personality. In a city that has a lot of people — nearly 1 million — that’s a strong statement to make. However, despite Fort Worth’s being the 15th-largest city in the country — and expected to gain three spots to No. 12 by the 2020 census — Cychol insists the metropolis still feels like a small town.

“We’re the Texas that people think of when they think about Texas,” he said, noting the twice-daily cattle drives still held downtown. Seeing people dressed head-to-toe in chaps and riding gear everywhere from the grocery store to the city’s fine-dining restaurants, he said, is a common occurrence.

Based on Cychol’s passion and enthusiasm for the central Texas destination, you’d never guess he’s not a native Texan.

“Texas was supposed to be a short stop for us,” he said, “but my wife and I have had two boys here, who have now grown up here, and we can’t really imagine ever leaving now.”

Cychol’s migration south began after high school in Illinois, when he went to college at Arkansas State University on a scholarship. There, he thrived in his fraternity and rose to a leadership position, organizing meetings and events for his chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon. He enjoyed the role so much that he transitioned to a full-time position with the fraternity at the national level after graduation. He learned the business of hotel sales and built relationships on the customer end, which ultimately opened the door for him to work in hospitality.

Cychol’s first hotel sales job was in Dallas.

“Dallas to me was different,” said Cychol, “and I was at a point in my life where I figured, why not try it?”

The Lone Star State stuck.

Cychol moved up the ladder through several hotel sales positions, taking the helm of sales at properties such as the Loews and the Fairmont hotels in Dallas. After four years with the Fairmont, a colleague pointed Cychol toward a position on the destination side in Irving.

“I threw my hat in the ring, and out of 100 candidates, they picked me,” said Cychol. “I’ve never looked back.”

Working in destination marketing, Cychol said one of the things that motivates him most is that he sees a direct connection to the work he is leading and the greater good of the community. “You have so much more influence on the entire economy of a region, not just the profits of one hotel,” said Cychol.

“Our role is telling a story and developing relationships with local businesses, and making sure everyone feels like we’re on the same team when it comes to increasing tourism and the impact it has on our economy,” he said.

Like many of America’s cities, Fort Worth is undergoing a bit of a renaissance. Building on its roots as a cattle town, the city is finding a new identity in farm-to-table eateries, co-working spaces in renovated warehouses and revitalized neighborhoods full of bungalow-style architecture.

For a glimpse of the city’s old-meets-new flavor, Cychol recommends checking out brunch at the Cat City Grille or the vegan comfort food at the Spiral Diner. Both are close to his family’s home in the up-and-coming Southside area, and you might just run into him at either place on a Saturday morning, cup of coffee in hand.

Executive Profile

Name: John Cychol

Title: Vice President, Sales

Organization: Visit Fort Worth

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Birthplace: Phoenix, Arizona

Education: Marmion Military Academy and Arkansas State University

Career History:

Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity after college

Registry Hotels and Resorts in Dallas, beginning in 1984

Loews Anatole, Hyatt and Fairmont, all in the Dallas area

Irving CVB beginning in 1997; Visit Fort Worth, since 2007

Tips from John Cychol

If you’re going places, failure is just part of the deal.

In sales, ask customers what their wants and needs are, and start from there. Too many people want to start selling from the beginning. I remind my team to think of themselves as consultants and to sell features.

• Listen, listen and listen.