This year’s U.S. Small Business Administration’s Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year proves that valuing family and working hard is a winning strategy.
Bhupender “Bruce” Patel, CHA, managing principal at Tupelo-based Fusion Hospitality, a turnkey hotel development/management/construction firm, said he was both honored and humbled by the SBA award.
“They say when you love what you do, you never work,” Patel said. “I don’t get up every morning because I want to, not because I have to.”
Patel won the award on the strength of years of hard work and family support. Born in Birmingham, England, he relocated with his family to Alabama when he was 11 years old. His parents operated a single motel beginning in 1981, and he and his siblings literally grew up in the industry. Over that time, Patel did everything from laundry and painting to guest services.
“We lived on the property,” Patel remembered. “There is not a single job in the hotel industry I have not done. My father (Ramesh) taught us the value of hard work. He made sacrifices for us — worked two jobs — and I learned some much from him.”
After studying business and finance at the University of Alabama, Patel relocated to Mississippi in 1999 and worked at a hotel owned by his uncle. Times were tough, and Patel was not handed anything — for three years he worked as the property’s maintenance man.
Finally, Patel was afforded the opportunity to buy his own property in Tupelo in 2003. Patel would subsequently have the property totally renovated, a move that would lead to the birth of Fusion Hospitality.
“We were renovating the property, and the general contractor was hardly ever there,” Patel said. “We thought maybe we could just do this ourselves.”
That started the construction side of the business, led by Bruce’s brother, Barry.
“I’m the pen; he’s the hammer,” Bruce quipped.
That scenario would play out again. Looking for some outside management consulting help, Patel hired a firm only to be disappointed again.
“After about two months, I paid them off and sent them on their way,” Patel said. “We just felt we could do a better job ourselves.”
Today, Fusion Hospitality employs hundreds of workers and offers management, investment, development and construction services. Its properties are scattered across Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and Ohio with one property under development in Texas.
The SBA recognition was not the first. Patel and his Fusion Hospitality team have won more than a dozen awards over the company’s history. These include Rookie of the Year in 2009 for Comfort Suites-Tupelo, Renovation of the Year in 2013 for Holiday Inn Express & Suites-Olive Branch and President Awards in 2008, 2010 and 2012 for Country inns & Suites-Smyrna (Ga.), just to name a few.
Not one to take credit, Patel attributes the company’s success to the support and influence of Barry, Ramesh and Lee Stafford, CPA, executive manager of the West Point-based accounting firm Watkins, Ward & Stafford, PLLC, who Patel said has served as his mentor.
“I have learned that this is not all about me,” he said. “”It’s about the 300 or so employees and their families that depend on me.”
Patel said he is looking forward to going to Washington, D.C., for SBA’s national awards ceremony that will be held next month. When asked if his father was proud of him for being named the Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year, Patel answered humbly, “I hope so.”
For more on Patel and Fusion Hospitality, visit the company’s website at fusion-hospitality.com.
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