Young, driven, and in charge

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Young professionals share what it means to reach goals and define their own success

by Monique Roy

Being young, professional, and successful in the hospitality industry is filled with great opportunities, but the job isn’t always glamorous. In fact, it can be quite difficult to succeed, requiring a lot of hard work and long hours.

SUCCESS IS SUBJECTIVE

According to Neel Parikh, director of acquisitions at KPG Hotels, which owns and operates more than 35 hotels primarily across the East Coast, each person should define success in their own way. “Success follows accomplishing goals and objectives we set for ourselves, and a good work/life balance is also very important,” he said. “An individual should work hard to achieve personal and professional success.”

The hotel industry is a 24/7 lifestyle, involving weekends and late nights. However, it takes more than just long hours. Being successful also involves adapting to the fast pace of the industry and the ever-changing landscape.

“Emerging technologies force you to analyze your goals continuously, and you need to adapt to these changes constantly,” Parikh said.

Keeping up also involves analyzing economic trends, which forces you to re-evaluate your own objectives. It is important to gather nuggets of information by talking to different people in the industry who may have a better understanding of certain challenges and situations. Parikh added that taking time to read is also critical to learning and gaining new perspectives.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT PATH

Many hoteliers would agree that success cannot be measured by how many hotels you own. “Success is relative to each individual,” Purvi Panwala said.

Panwala currently serves as AAHOA’s Young Professional Director Eastern Division and is the president and CEO of Purvi LLC. Her recent experience includes management of Hotel BPM, a boutique hotel in Brooklyn, NY; repositioning and management of The Lincoln, an independent hotel in the Philadelphia market; and development of a franchised asset.

“To me, success happens when you have a specific goal, whether it’s business, personal, or spiritual, and you are able to achieve that goal for a favorable outcome in a sustainable way,” Panwala said. “No goal is too big or too small, but you can only achieve success if it’s realistic. If you’re able to create a plan and implement it, I believe you are one step closer to being successful and defining your success.”

Panwala, who was born into the hotel industry, grew up seeing how much hard work went into building the family business. After realizing that she wanted to pursue other things, Panwala decided to attend college instead. After graduating, she started her career working at other jobs, but she was always drawn back to the industry and the family business. She eventually figured out that the family business was the right path for her, so she began to learn about creating structures and efficiencies in the business.

Panwala joined AAHOA to educate herself on the industry. By combining resources, all the young professionals involved have a chance to grow together. “When you have the right people surrounding you who share the same vision, companies are then able to create and work toward common goals to bring that vision to fruition,” Panwala said.

One of the biggest challenges many entrepreneurs face in the hotel industry is being able to clearly communicate their vision in a way that everyone can understand. Another challenge is finding those key people you want on your team to help water the garden you’ve planted.

“Having the right systems and people in place to balance a company’s growth is extremely important,” Panwala said. “In my opinion, it can make or break your growth.”

Something Panwala has always mentioned to others is the word “luck.” She explained that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. “Always prepare yourself with knowledge and position yourself for the opportunity to create your own luck…or success,” she said.

Panwala says networking is key. Figure out gaps in your business and link with people who can help you.

FOUR-FACTOR SUCCESS

Bijal Patel, chief operating officer of Coast Redwood Hospitality and a third-generation hotelier, explains there are four factors to achieving success.

  1. Take responsibility. If you make a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  2. Respect others. Business partners need to be respected to establish your credibility.
  3. Establish priorities. Working in the hotel industry is extremely busy, and things can get muddled with work and family time. Carve out time for yourself to avoid burn out.
  4. Work hard and be persistent. It takes lots of hard work and persistence to attain success and survive in the industry.

As vice chairman of the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CHLA) and soon to be the first chairman under 30 years old, Patel may be young, but he has the depth of experience to provide sound advice. He suggests young professionals work toward defining opportunities before competitors do. The hotel industry can be a complex business and it’s always changing. New markets open and old ones close.

“You have to be quick, confident, and you have to do your homework,” Patel said. “You need to have a strategy, and execution is a key part of it. You also have to accept failure and be willing to take great risks. You have to put your bottom on the line.”

For Patel, success was not an easy road. The start of his career was marked by pain and a lot of hard work. The loss of his mom to pancreatic cancer 16 years ago and wanting to assist his father catapulted him into the industry. He didn’t have a lot of time to learn the ropes. He had to lead half of his family’s business in an instant, overlooking a big property renovation and a repositioning at only 18 years old while he attended college three hours away. Nothing could prepare him for this situation.

“Being a young professional in the industry is difficult, but the industry accepts us, those who are second- and third- generation hoteliers,” Patel said.

Working in a fast-paced industry and living in a tech-savvy world has made our patience shorter. “We live in an instant-gratification society, and we don’t always look at the long term,” Patel said. “Success in the industry is a long-term game. Individuals need to focus on hard work and dedication, and it takes a long time to build success. Young professionals should focus on growing in the industry at a sustainable pace, not focusing on capturing homerun deals.”

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