Land of Opportunity – Best Western Townhouse Lodge
Neal Khatri – Owner, Six Best Western Hotel Franchises
My Dad and my Uncle started in the hotel business back in 1959 in Oakland. I started in Modesto when I graduated college in 1973. Today, my family and I own and operate six franchised Best Western hotels. One in Turlock, two in Modesto (the hotel downtown on 16th Street and Palm Court Inn on Orangeburg), one in Manteca and two in the Bay Area.
How many employees do you have? Are there any other family members involved?
I have about 150 employees and eight family members involved who oversee everything. I come from a family of three. My two brothers and I have always been very involved, though they’re now semi-retired. We also now have five children involved in the business.
Do you have any particular history that has contributed to helping you achieve your goals?
I have really lived the American Dream. I’m an immigrant from India. I came to the United States in 1964 when I was 10 years old and at the time I didn’t know even one word of English. I’ve been very fortunate to have had so many opportunities. My dad and his brother were in the hotel business and made a decent living while I was growing up. My brothers and I continued his legacy. We’ve reached a very different level now. We’re now the biggest family owned hotel company in the valley. We have now have three generations in this business, and a fourth one coming on.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your professional life and how did you achieve that?
We’re in the type of business where if the economy is bad, our business is bad. That’s been a challenge. But we overcome it by maintaining a very strong foundation. We’re very low leverage or no leverage on all our properties. We watch business closely, and we are fortunate to have very good employees who we trust.
The hotel business is one of very few that never closes. We have no holidays, no time off, we are open 24 hours a day every day. That can be challenging when you first get into the business. Now, I have lots of people on the front line that I can trust to handle issues. In the old days, though, if there was a leak in a room, I had to be there to get it fixed. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. But we survive on our reputation for quality and service.
What are some of the accomplishments of which you are particularly proud?
We have been rated as in the top 40% of hotels with Trip Advisor, and I’m very proud of my employees for earning that award with their great customer service. I’m very fortunate to have gotten to do what I’ve done in my life. We’re very blessed to still be here after 41 years of success and to have always paid every bill right on time. I’ve never had to be late with one bill in my entire life.
What is the single biggest reason that you have achieved the level of success you have?
We’ve put in a lot of hard work. It’s taken a lot of dedication both from myself and from my family, and we’ve given up a lot to get where we are. We’ve made a lot of sacrifices, and so have our dedicated employees.
What do you like about your job?
There’s never a dull moment! I could write a book about this business with all of the things I’ve seen. That’s something you get from a 24 hour a day business.
What are your plans for the future?
We’ve already starting diversifying into other types of real estate. We own commercial property, residential properties and offices.
Do you participate in any community outreach efforts or clubs?
I’m involved in the community quite a bit. I have served as Chairman of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for many many years, and I’ve been a Director of the Chamber twice. Currently, I’m on two committees through Del Rio Country Club. I’m also a Governor of Best Western, so I’m kind of the liaison between the franchisees and the company.
What do you like about doing business in the Modesto community and why do you think this is the Land of Opportunity?
I love this city. I’ve been here a long time and I don’t think I’ll ever move anywhere else. This is my home. The people are great, there are a lot of opportunities. When I came, the city had a population of only 65,000. It was a great time to invest and we’ve benefited from that. The timing was just right for us.