I have not published anything on this platform for six months. I have nearly ten drafts of different hospitality-related topics that need to be reviewed and edited, yet I cannot bring myself to get it done.
I know. It’s completely on me.
To be honest, I am in a state of pain and grief. Four months ago, I lost my grandmother. I spent 21 years with her. Her passing has been extremely difficult to cope with.
Whenever I proclaim myself as a third generation hotelier, it comes from a place of pride. The foundation of that pride is my grandparents and the humility and work ethic they demonstrated throughout their entire lives.
My grandfather passed when I was 11. That was difficult for me then too. But I still had my grandmother. I still had one physical thread that tied me to my roots. When she left this past October, I felt as if God had cruelly cut that thread. She had only one wish. The day that wish would come true wasn’t too far away.
What followed after her passing was an immense lack of inspiration in everything. The thing with inspiration is when you don’t have any, you tend to self-reflect. Even if you’re not trying. For the past few months I’ve thought about how I am going to take better care of myself mentally and physically. I’ve thought about how I am going to take care of my family. I’ve thought about the next steps in my career.
Surprisingly, I’ve thought about this site that is just taking up space on the internet at the moment. I created tejalpatel.co because I wanted an informal outlet to share my thoughts about hospitality and maybe other topics.
As I was thinking about my journey so far and those of the two generations before me, I got this sudden urge to write these thoughts. No previous drafts and no second set of eyes to review over this. I guess I’m realizing that one doesn’t have to lose inspiration when they lose a loved one.
“Death is certain for one who has been born, and rebirth is inevitable for one who has died. Therefore, you should not grieve over the inevitable. The spirit is beyond destruction. No one can bring an end to spirit which is everlasting.”
My grandmother will always be with me. And so will my grandfather. They will walk alongside me in this unpredictable adventure in spirit. They have so far. Their love will always be there to support me and keep me grounded. These invisible threads are my strongest ties.
Stay tuned. Those drafts are coming out of hiding.
Verb. to make strong. To strengthen or invigorate (someone) mentally or physically.
When I was born, my mother and father brought me home.
Home was a 30-room, independent property called Bainbridge Motel. My parents owned and operated it. We lived on-property as well.
My brother and I would play with a horse toy in the hallway. I would hide under the swing in the living room. In the seating area, we played with a toy train that ran circles around us. Fly swatters hung from the walls. My mom would give us a swift whack with one if we were bad. It was the simplest time of my life.
As opportunities sprang up in different cities, we started to move.
Sugar Land, Texas.
Owning and operating hotels was a source of pride for my parents. They were immigrants from India and England. They were lord and master of their own domain. I was so proud of them, even as a little girl.
I learned four important lessons from growing up in hotels with my family that are the foundation of my personal philosophy, which I will share later on.
When my folks managed a Quality Inn in Dayton, Ohio, we moved into a house. It had shingles on the roof. A fence. A backyard. A driveway. A place to put up Christmas lights. A front porch to place a pumpkin.
I was four years old. I appreciated those 4 years in the house. My parents had realized the American real estate dream. They came to this country. Worked hard. Had a family.
Bought a house.
But—There was a new buzz in the Asian American community. Houston was the place of opportunity for hotel owners. We would be moving again. My parents bought a 32-room Super 8 Motel in League City, Texas.
Looking back, 1996-2006 were the simplest years of my life. I think about all the lessons I learned observing my parents as they moved from hotel to hotel.
Here are the four important lessons that I learned:
1. Do the work.
As a kid, my friends called me the “Indian Paris Hilton.” It’s because we owned a branded (Wyndham) property. However, that’s where my similarities with the heiress ended. I had to fill in at the front desk when staff didn’t show up. I jumped in on weekends to do laundry and make beds. She was probably watching Saturday morning cartoons.
I was confused. Why did my parents have to do all this work as owners?
“It doesn’t matter if you own the place or just work there. You have to pull up your sleeves and do the work when no one else can or will. Your guest does not care if housekeeping didn’t show up. When your guest arrives, they expect a clean room and good service.”
We sold the Wyndham property last summer. I was still making rooms on days the housekeepers didn’t show up.
2. Pay attention to the details.
Pick up cigarette butts in the parking lot. Pick up any trash in the hallways. Position the bed pillows the same way. Position the corners of the bed covers so they are parallel with the ground. No streaks on surfaces. Put everything back in its place.
I have ADD and I HATED having to attend to all these of details. I did it. The alternative was a tongue lashing from my parents. What was the point? I’m sure the guests don’t notice. I’m sure they don’t care.
My parents would say “This is our home. This is our place of business. We are inviting someone to visit with us. When friends and relatives visit us in our apartment upstairs, we welcome them into a clean space. We must do that with the hotel guests.”
A positive first impression sets the tone for the rest of experience. The details are important. I still get frustrated like I did when I was younger, but I pay attention to the details.
3. Be compassionate.
My mother was super kind to everyone. She would buy gifts for the staff for the holidays. She made an extra plate of food for those working the front desk shift late at night.
I asked my mom, “Why do you feed them? Do they not have enough money?”
The front desk was manned by college kids who worked for pocket money. They left their families behind. My mom took pity on them. “They spend 8 hours of their day here at our home. It is the least I can do to make them feel like at home and show appreciation in my own way. We don’t lose anything by being kind.”
When I came of age and started bringing down the plates of food, I saw the smiles on their faces. “Thank you.”
From observing my parents, I learned to have boundaries with our direct reports. But I learned that compassion goes a long way. It fuels motivation and purpose.
4. Don’t forget your humanity.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina rocked southeast Louisiana. People lost everything. Thousands sought refuge in Houston. Many found a home in our Days Inn.
My parents appealed to local leadership for donations. My brother and I asked friends and school administrators for donations. Soon, we had a room full of clothes, toys, toiletries, and books.
It was evident that many of our hotel guests weren’t going back to Louisiana. My mom provided parents with information on schools are in the area. She stocked the front lobby with new resident brochures.
In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas, folks lost everything. This time, the victims were local. I was the Assistant GM of the Super 8. I knew what to do. I had learned by watching my parents. I extended the same helping hand.
I had learned the value of showing humanity, even in business.
In the end of 2019, I launched my hospitality company during a turbulent time. I was scared. Scared to fail. Scared to compromise. Scared for the worst thing that could happen
However, my mind and spirit were invigorated by the journeys of the two generations before me. They fortified me too.
Hi, my name is Tejal Patel. I am a third-generation hotelier, born and raised in America with Indian roots and a proud kid of immigrants. Welcome to my first blog post.
(Wow. That was such an unmoving opener. I knew this was going to suck the life out of me. Where do I even begin?)
First of all, I love hospitality. It’s in my blood. When my mother’s family immigrated to America from the UK in the 70s, they worked in hotels until they were able to purchase their own. My father arrived in the 80s from India, and shares a similar story. After he met and married my mother, they owned and operated a small independent motel in Bainbridge, Georgia where my brother and I spent our baby years. The rest is history – one of the many different love stories about the American Dream.
My professional purpose is to continue that legacy by choice and that too on my own terms. However, I experienced challenges along the way professionally and personally that I was not prepared for. From a young age we are told that life isn’t fair, nor is it easy, and I believe that 110%. What we are not told is how challenges in different areas of your life could affect you mentally and emotionally and how to tackle them in that aspect. I guess that depends on a lot of things like your family support system, your friends, or your culture. I didn’t know until much later on what to do. I just internalized everything because I didn’t know what to do, who to go to, or because I just didn’t want to. I’m still learning.
So where this whole idea of a blog get conceptualized from? Last week I sat down with my coach (actually I don’t know what she is to me yet, but she’s really badass and encouraging like one) and we had a discussion about publishing thought leadership and owning your voice and the expertise you offer. One thing is definite about me. I have a million thoughts that go through my head every minute, and I am terrible at articulating them. So, she said start a blog where you have a master list of everything you want to write about such as the hospitality industry, mental health awareness, cultural topics, or whatever you think you can share your thoughts and expertise on.
It sounded like a great idea in the moment. Perhaps this will be therapeutic, and the plus side is that I get to learn more about things that interest me or find new interests! Well then, she challenged me to write my first blog post where I introduce myself.
Wait, what. Shit. As usual, a million thoughts went through my head such as:
“Well I’m not interesting enough.”
“I regret asking for this meeting.”
“I suck at writing.”
“What even qualifies me to write about anything”
“Dang, how is she always glowing like that?”
“Is this really necessary.”
“I should’ve just stuck to resharing hospitality-related articles on LinkedIn and double-tapping motivational quotes on Instagram.”
“Man, she kind of sounded stern.”
“Fine, I’ll do it.”
So now, here I am in disbelief writing this at 6 am on the day that I was supposed to have her review this.
(Scratch that, my anxiety got the best of me. I’m writing her an email to reschedule.)
Hi! It’s been a hectic week…,
No, it’s been a trying week. Trying and hectic. Wait no, I’ll just do hectic. Well, what was most truthful?
“I’m sorry, my depression got the best of me for two days so I was in bed crying like a blubbering whale and I was so anxious to write this that I waited until 6 am CST to write this. Also, it’s been a hard week for the region where I live because the hospitals are in a crisis over COVID-19 and the hotel industry is suffering which is affecting my family and everyone I know….”
Never mind. I’ll just stick to hectic.
It’s been a hectic week and I failed to complete my first post. I need a little bit more time, do you mind if we move our meeting to Monday at a time that is convenient for you?
Thanks, ADD. I can always count on you.
Long story short, I will be writing thought leadership on being a female hotelier on my own terms while continuing the legacy and creating my own at the same time. Along the way, I’ll share some thoughts on other valuable topics to me.
Maybe this blog might help someone feel empowered or maybe no one will read it and that is alright with me. However, if someone does come across this particular post, please let me know your thoughts because this is new territory for me and I welcome all feedback.