AAHOA Past Chairman (2013-14) and Chairman and CEO of NewcrestImage utilizes a “building tomorrow today” leadership style in both business and community
by Peter Mathon
Many companies have mission statements, but Dallas-based NewcrestImage goes a step further – it has a purpose statement: “To genuinely care for people so their lives are enriched.”
That philosophy guides the company not because it is inscribed on wall plaques, but because it is instilled in the mindset and behavior of every employee. Setting the tone and leading by example is Mehul Patel, AAHOA Past Chairman (2013-14), who serves as chairman and CEO of NewcrestImage.
“Our company’s purpose is to positively impact the lives of our guests, our associates, and the communities where we do business,” Mehul explained. “We manage our properties as well as our relationships in a way that allows our guests to build memories, our employees to build a career, and our investment partners to build value.”
The results are dramatic. NewcrestImage operates in 10 states with 28 distinctive owned-and-managed hotels plus another 15 properties under construction or in development. The company’s more-than 1,300 associates served 1.9 million guests in 2018.
While those statistics are impressive, even more important are the values by which Mehul and NewcrestImage are known: bold innovation, versatile intelligence, and industry-leading solutions.
PUTTING WINGS ON DREAMS
Mehul’s perspective on business – and on life – is grounded in his experience as an immigrant.
“I came to the United States at the age of 14 with my parents – Bhikhubhai and Shardaben Patel – along with one brother and five sisters,” said Mehul, who was born and raised in the Valsad district of Gujarat. “We settled in the Dallas suburb of Garland, Texas, to pursue the American Dream of a better life. I never forget those beginnings,” he said. “It’s why I always try to give wings to the dreams of others, so they can fly like I have been fortunate to do.”
Two years after coming to the U.S. – while still in high school – Mehul bought a bulk mailing company, increased sales five-fold, and sold the company. Those funds enabled Mehul and his brother Sanjay to buy their first hotel. It was the property where his parents worked, a 46-room independent hotel near Love Field Airport.
The brothers rebranded the property and sold it, and then repeated the process of renovation, repositioning, and resale with almost 30 hotels. There were challenges and setbacks, including a major fire at one hotel; hundreds of bank loan rejections; and a time when Sanjay directed operations during the day, while Mehul worked as the hotel security guard in the evening and attended college classes by day.
GROWING THE GARDEN
Imagination and persistence prevailed. In February of 2013, Mehul and Sanjay formed NewcrestImage as a partnership with two other sets of Patel brothers – Chirag and Daxesh, and Yogi and Mital – who had all known each other since high school and who all were involved in various aspects of the hospitality industry. In fact, Yogi and Mital had grown up at a 37-room motel in Longview, Texas purchased in 1977 by their family.
“By joining forces, the six of us were able to offer a much broader range of services under one umbrella,” Mehul said. “The whole was greater than the sum of its parts, and that’s still true at NewcrestImage today. Every associate contributes individually, but our work and our results improve because we work together as a unified team.”
While NewcrestImage is among the country’s largest and fastest-growing hotel management companies, the feeling of a small family business prevails. How? With features such as:
- A flat organizational structure where senior executives are easily accessible and where they can conveniently seek out the opinions of all staff
- General managers at hotels are empowered to operate as if they own the property, while having available to them the depth and resources of a strong centralized organization
- Comprehensive ongoing training for all associates so they understand and perform their responsibilities properly and embrace the attitudes of service excellence in all areas of operation
- Aggressive employee award and incentive programs, which enable NewcrestImage to achieve an associate-retention rate that is among the best in the industry
“We invest heavily to make our properties trendsetters, but we also invest in our people. They are among our most important assets,” Mehul said. “Educating front-line staff is essential to achieving strong guest relations and elevating the perception – and the value – of a hotel.”
Mehul’s commitment to proper hotel management was prominently on display when he and his associates hosted AAHOA’s first “How to Form a Management Company” education workshop at NewcrestImage’s headquarters in 2016.
According to Mehul, “While third-party management is often discussed as handling assets owned by others, it actually has a much broader meaning. It is the concept of properly handling all your business relationships so you effectively create value and enhance operating efficiency at your property.
“We build our portfolio with bricks, stone, and glass, but we build our company with people – people who have solid skills and sound experience, and who are also unmatched analytical thinkers, problem-solvers, and decision-makers.”
Mehul elaborated further: “I describe it as ‘growing our garden’ because what we do at NewcrestImage is similar to what my family does in our garden at home. First, we carefully select what we want to grow, then we plant, we nourish, we work hard, and eventually we harvest.”
Growth is very much on Mehul’s mind these days. In July, he launched an ambitious nationwide expansion for NewcrestImage that intends to double the company’s assets. As part of this initiative, two veteran lodging and finance executives were recruited whose responsibilities will focus on raising and investing $250 million in new equity from both institutional and noninstitutional sources for investment in lodging properties.
Emphasizing the importance of these new executives and their role is that they have joined NewcrestImage’s C-suite team, which now consists of eight people (see photos).
“Our expansion will come from acquisitions, new construction, and historic conversions, especially of lifestyle properties,” Mehul explained. “We will continue to emphasize innovation, not just by thinking outside the box, but by building a new box, a different box that can set the trend for our industry.”
Examples of this strategy include groundbreaking for two major projects during the first week of September:
A 199-room, 13-floor AC Hotel by Marriott in the heart of downtown at Arizona Center, a million-square-foot mixed use site that features shopping, entertainment, dining, and prime office space; and a four-property “hotel campus” called SilverLake Crossings as part of a 52-acre multi-use community located in Grapevine, Texas, 2 miles from DFW Airport that will include a 152-room Hilton Garden Inn, a 300-room Renaissance Inn, and a 250-room dual-brand hotel featuring a 135-room AC Hotel and a 115-room Element by Westin.
Clearly, Mehul’s style is unlocking the potential of both property and people. For example, when NewcrestImage acquired a portfolio of 25 LaQuinta hotels in 2013 from The Blackstone Group, the properties were promptly lined up for brand conversion with such companies as Days Inn, Super 8, and Motel 6.
The 25 hotels were then sold to people who were anxious to acquire their first hotel property and start their journey toward achieving the American Dream. Mehul made all the transactions happen within 180 days.
Mehul was similarly committed during his term as Chairman of AAHOA to help members “make money, save money, and protect their investment.” In the process, he achieved numerous noteworthy “firsts” for our association, including:
- Membership growth to above 12,500, the highest level ever
- Opening a permanent lobbying office in Washington, D.C.
- Enhancing member support with record amounts invested in staff expansion and in technology infrastructure
- Reaching the highest levels ever in Lifetime Members, Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions, professional education course graduates, and association revenue and profit
“Building tomorrow today” is Mehul’s leadership style, not just at NewcrestImage but also in the community. It’s why in March, he and two fellow NewcrestImage executives – Chirag Patel and Mital Patel – acquired American Bank as part of an independent business venture.
“We understand firsthand the challenges and priorities that owners of small and medium-sized businesses have for fast, local bank decisions without bureaucracy,” Mehul said when explaining his plans for the community bank, which is located in North Dallas and has assets of almost $55 million.
According to Chirag Patel, who serves as the bank’s chairman of the board while also maintaining his responsibilities as chief financial officer of NewcrestImage, “We will maintain the highly personalized service that customers have come to expect from American Bank. In addition, we see a tremendous opportunity to introduce new banking services, such as the sophisticated, forward-looking solutions that young entrepreneurs and startup companies expect.”
Yes, the history of Mehul Patel and NewcrestImage is powerful, but it’s a history that is still being written.
“We are just getting started,” Mehul said. “We don’t know what our ceiling is as a company. We have plenty of potential left. The same is true for every person who is reading this story. You don’t know what your personal or your professional ceiling is. Success is not one specific decision or strategy, it is a process. The sky is your limit, so get going and keep going.”
Learn How to Form Your Own Hotel Management Company
Are you interested in learning how to form your own management company? The AAHOA HOTEL OWNERS ACADEMY™ routinely hosts the “How to Form a Management Company” two-day intensive workshop at different locations throughout the country.
In fact, one is taking place in Maryland later this month. Visit aahoa.com/managementworkshop to learn more.