Vinay Patel is a man who dreams big. As the founder and President of Fairbrook Hotels, Patel is responsible for developing and implementing the vision and strategy for the hotel development and management company. At the age of 8, he worked in housekeeping at his family’s motel and since then he has climbed to the top of the hotel business with over 30 years experience.
Patel believes in giving back to the hotel industry with involvement on numerous levels. He presently serves on the Board of Director for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Franchise Advisory Council for Carlson Hotels Worldwide and is the founding President of the Herndon Hospitality Association.
WashingtonExec had a conversation with Patel about the future of the hotel industry and his personal success.
WashingtonExec: What is the essential leadership quality to run a successful hotel and why?
Vinay Patel: One of the essential quality is the ability to motivate and influence people The hotel business is a people business and you deal with people on a regular basis, you have employees that deal with customers and you have customers that deal with our sales people, so on many different levels you have many people involved so it is very important for the leader to be able to influence the people around them. They have front desk agents, to housekeepers, to salespeople all whom are equally important in the success of a hotel manage and motivate.
WashingtonExec: What do you think will be the biggest challenge hotel companies will face within the next ten years?
Vinay Patel: The biggest challenge for hotel companies is the finding the right people, even with the unemployment being high; it is hard to find the “right” people. This will be a long term for the hotel industry because there are not too many specialized training facilities or schools and many young people today don’t say that when they grow up they want to be in the hotel business, they gravitate towards other industries such as engineering, medicine or technology. Many people in the industry are accidental hoteliers where they happen to work in a hotel and liked it and moved up. As an industry we need to do a better job in recruiting people at a young age and introduce them to the benefits of being in the lodging business.
WashingtonExec: How does Fairbrook Hotels remain innovative to provide a unique experience for its customers?
Vinay Patel: We try to differentiate ourselves through superior service and that may seem like a common answer but we take it to a different level. We franchise our hotels and we have basic standards we have to follow, but all of our hotels go above and beyond what is expected. We expect all of our hotels to be in the top 10% of all the hotels in the respective brands and also strive to be ranked high on Trip Advisor at each of our hotels. Also with me being an owner-operator I know all aspects of the hotels, I have cleaned toilets to going out and doing sales, so I know every little minuet thing counts and I expect that from everyone that works at our hotels.
WashingtonExec: What is your favorite part about working in the hotel business?
Vinay Patel: It’s a great business to be in and I love interacting with people. You get to meet all different kinds of customer from all over the country and world. With my role as CEO I don’t get a chance to do that as much I did in the past, but I still make it a point to visit each of the hotels on a regular basis and I will work the desk with the front desk and talk to customers or hangout in the laundry talking to housekeepers and it feels good to see the pride each of the employee takes in their respective role.
WashingtonExec: What book has made the biggest impact on your life?
Vinay Patel: I don’t get a chance to read too many books but one that sticks out the most is “The Spirit to Serve” by JW Marriott and Kathi Ann Brown. It resonated with me because it about starting from scratch and making it based on hard work and perseverance and listening to the people that work with you and for you. I think it embodies what entrepreneurship is about and that you can do anything as long as you work hard and take care of and respect the people around you.