Seizing the opportunities granted to him, Visions Hotels CEO Arun Patel extols the virtues of giving back to others
Although this often is a live-in-the-moment industry, it can be helpful to look back once in a while to gain perspective and appreciate the progress we’ve made. For example, Hemant Patel, my partner at Visions Hotels, and I joined together in the early years of our hospitality careers and have grown as a team through countless acquisitions and new developments to ultimately own and manage 57 hotels. Taking a moment to appreciate all we’ve experienced and been through together can be a powerful motivator.
At Visions Hotels, like many of our colleagues, we’ve worked hard to build and strengthen our relationships with key stakeholders, team members, investors, brand partners, and lenders. And like many of you, providing the highest quality guest experience possible and creating a motivating work environment for our team members remains at the core of our efforts.
“At Visions Hotels, like many of our colleagues, we’ve worked hard to build and strengthen our relationships with key stakeholders, team members, investors, brand partners, and lenders.”
But, at the same time, we’ve maintained a continued commitment to give back to the communities in which we operate, as epitomized by our annual Santa’s Vision events. Organized every holiday season, we work with volunteers from Visions Hotels, our properties, and these communities to host a 100% free, fun-filled day at our hotels where children and their families can take pictures with Santa, go on pony rides, eat delicious food, and much more. Santa’s Vision includes 20 communities, in which our hotels are located, touching 20,000+ children annually. This has been an amazing way to give back to these communities and boost the morale of our Visions Hotels team.
FIND THE WHY
I also felt it was important to give back to the community where I grew up in India. Twelve years ago, I visited my village school in Kuched Gaam, India, but the school was in terrible condition. The playground was unsafe, restrooms were in bad shape, and fewer than half of the children were attending school. Along with my cousin, Mahesh Patel, I decided to see how we could improve the school. The first thing we did was to get support from local residents. Together, we built a new garden, renovated the playground, added new restrooms, and constructed new facilities – including an assembly hall, computer room, and science lab. We also started providing children with previously unmet necessities such as a breakfast, uniforms, and school supplies. The environment of the school changed and 100% of the children began to attend school regularly. This was the spark that kicked off Tiny Smiling Faces, with the goal of providing schools in India with similar support, ensuring that more children have basic necessities and better access to education. Tiny Smiling Faces has now grown to support 157 village schools in India and has received $2.6 million in contributions during the past decade. At each school we support, we ensure that children have access to uniforms, school supplies, health checkups, computers, resources for teachers, and field trips. We do this by encouraging NRI and locals in India to personally take leadership in supporting the school located in their village.
Beyond supporting village schools, we’ve partnered with fellow nonprofit the Siksha Foundation to help rebuild residential hostels. Many remote villages in India don’t have schools, and children from those villages must stay in an ashram to get access to education. Because a majority of ashrams were built more than 75 years ago, many are structurally unsound and inhabitable. With the Siksha Foundation, we’ve built three ashrams in India with plans to build three more this year.
“Look beyond profit-and-loss statements and explore ways to use your talents and resources to benefit others by incorporating a giving-back culture into your business.”
DEFINE YOUR SUCCESS
As an executive, a key component of my responsibilities is focusing on profits. However, giving back to the community is also an important aspect of operating a successful business, because “success” is defined at least in part by what you do for others. Investing in future generations ensures the greatest possible chances of continued success for everyone whose lives we touch. As the Greek proverb goes, “A society grows great when people plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” I would strongly encourage you to look beyond profit-and-loss statements and explore ways to use your talents and resources to benefit others by incorporating a giving-back culture into your business. Whether that means supporting village schools and helping kids with education or another venture, I hope the next time you’re approached by a member of your community requesting assistance, you will ask yourself, “Why not?”