Mitch Patel, the founder and CEO of Vision Hospitality, has seen his share of storms.
He opened the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Chattanooga in 2001, one month after 9/11. He opened the DoubleTree by Hilton in 2008, one month after the economy crashed into recession and the bottom fell out of the booming housing market.
Patel and his team at Vision have navigated it all — growing the company from a portfolio of eight hotels in 2008 to nearly 30 over the next five years. Vision now has more than 40 hotels in six states, with nine more in development. But everything has changed. Patel has never seen anything like the coronavirus pandemic. No one has.
"Today, we face an unimaginable challenge," he writes in a message to his community and his colleagues. "The Covid-19 crisis has crippled the hospitality industry, with some analysts calling it worse than 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined."
In mid-March, after business plummeted, Vision furloughed 1,100 of its 1,500 employees companywide. Just a couple of months ago, the organization was celebrating news that they had been named one of the area's Best Places to Work.
The company has grown entirely on the strength of its people, and the human-focused service culture they have built, Patel explains.
"It has to start with me," he says. "Every leader in our organization needs to be a type of leader who knows how to make deposits in people's emotional register."
Now, as they work to manage through an unprecedented crisis, holding onto those values while Vision leadership fights every day to move the business forward is their new challenge.
"As a leader in the industry, we want to lead by example," Patel says.
* Founded: 1997
* Employees: 400 remain companywide after 1,100 were furloughed in March
* Why this is a Best Place to Work: Now, more than ever, our values and our mission are what will carry us through. Our goals are to bring back our team members who were furloughed, continue to open our hotels that are under development, and be stronger than ever before.
* Online: vhghotels.com
An open letter from Mitch Patel, founder and CEO of Vision Hospitality
Today, we face an unimaginable challenge. The Covid-19 crisis has crippled the hospitality industry, with some analysts calling it worse than 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined.
Vision is certainly not immune from this storm; while we take great pride in being named one of Edge magazine's Best Places to Work, at the same time, we mourn for the approximately 1,100 associates we had to place on furlough in mid-March.
However, in times such as these, the best places to work do not let a storm change who they are. Now, more than ever, our values and our mission are what will carry us through. Our goals are to bring back our team members who were furloughed, continue to open our hotels under development, and be stronger than ever before.
We are weathering this storm with constant communication and support with our team. We have formed partnerships with companies who need workers and provided private job links for rapid hiring, created a website for resources on how to file for unemployment, rent/utilities assistance, free educational opportunities and much more.
We know the small things matter now more than ever, and we have not lost sight of the fact that so many of our employees are doing those small things that make a big impact. Whether it's the property engineer helping to clean rooms, the hotel general manager making peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for local school kids, or simply dropping off breakfast to someone who has worked 24 hours straight, we are weathering this storm together with positivity.
Many things have changed, but one thing remains the same: the true-blue spirit and our values continue to bring us together. I personally would like to say thank you to all of our extended family for continuing to make Vision not only one of the best places to work, but a company that in the most difficult times has proven we care about people; the ones we serve, our neighbors and our communities.