Humberto “Burt” Cabañas ’76
- Founder and Chairman, Benchmark Hospitality International
- Bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management
- Director, FIU Foundation Board
- 2015 Alumnus of the Year
- 2006 Torch Award Recipient
What is your secret to success?
I have a sixth sense about people, and in the hospitality industry it’s all about people — your guests, your employees and the owners of the properties you manage. In general, you are only as good as the people who work with you. They must feel good about what they do, support their team and know that they will be held accountable.
You have been in the same industry for 54 years. How does one remain enthusiastic and relevant for the long term?
Love what you do. It is not a nine-to-five mindset. It is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment. As soon as you finish a task, think about how you can make it better next time. Do not measure success with money. I see my success in how I impact others.
Was there someone who influenced you early on?
I have had many mentors. Having lost my father when I was 7 years old, mentors served a key role in my life. At FIU, Professor Michael Hurst, who taught several food and beverage management courses, was a big influence on me. When I took his advanced course, I was an assistant manager at a hotel in Miami, and he referenced my experience in class to help other students understand the industry. He also made clear that he had very high expectations for me. We lost a great professor when he passed away in 2001.
You were among the first students to graduate from FIU. What changes have you most appreciated about your alma mater?
My pride in the changes that have taken place does not come from the buildings FIU has built, but a commitment to being the best at everything FIU does.
You serve on the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management as well as the FIU Foundation Board. Why stay connected?
I continue my involvement to support any and all activities that help take FIU to the next level of accomplishment, both domestically and internationally.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy golf. I try to play 50 rounds per year. Fishing in the Keys with friends gives me great peace of mind. And constantly thinking about how to give back keeps me energized. ♦