From Humble Beginnings to Successful Hotelier: Sunil Wadhwani

South Texas hotelier Sunil Wadhwani is a success by any definition of the word. He owns eight hotels and has been in business for over 20 years. But you may be surprised to find out that he came from very humble beginnings, the son of immigrants who came to America with only $100 to their name. Thanks to his parents and their determination, Wadhwani is a firm believer there is no secret to success; hard work simply results in plentiful rewards.

When Wadhwani was 6 years old, his parents moved their family from Asia to Dallas, Texas. Wadhwani attended school in Dallas and then in Brownsville, Texas after they relocated again. He was not terribly interested in his schoolwork, instead focusing on soccer and football. During his childhood, his parents struggled and sometimes failed, but ultimately found economic success.

After graduating from high school, Wadhwani was still not sure what path to take in life. He decided to work with his parents at their retail/wholesale shop in Brownsville and began to learn about entrepreneurship. When he was 25, Wadhwani was ready to strike out on his own. He moved to McAllen, Texas, and opened a retail store specializing in electronics and name-brand watches, which grew quickly under his management.

Eventually, Wadhwani expanded into online retail, creating one of the largest internet watch retailers before succumbing to Amazon’s takeover in the industry. He took his earnings and decided to transition to a career in real estate development. Unfortunately, his timing was less than ideal. He became involved in a 20-acre housing development project just as the housing market collapsed, making his career as a real estate developer very short-lived.

Wadhwani changed gears again, this time moving into hospitality. After years of training, at the age of 35, he became one of La Quinta’s first new franchisees. His first hotel was 65 rooms and opened in the year 2000. He has continued to grow his portfolio over the past 22 years, and now owns eight hotels with a ninth in development. He has nearly 1,000 rooms across South Texas and includes the brands La Quinta/Wyndham, Motel 6, and Marriott.

Within his industry, Wadhwani is highly respected. He has been voted Franchise of the Year on multiple occasions within both the La Quinta and Motel 6 brand families, as well as receiving additional praise and accolades. Joining the Marriott family has also been a huge accomplishment for Wadhwani, who had hoped to expand into more prestigious brands for years.

For Wadhwani, being CEO of his company is a full-time job and he never takes a day off. He visits all eight of his properties every day, meeting with his General Managers to discuss all issues and problems as they arise. He gives his management team full autonomy to execute solutions but is made aware of everything that goes on in his properties. Once he has made his rounds, from McAllen to Pharr to Weslaco, Wadhwani stops at his home base office in McAllen to go over finances with his management team there.

As CEO, Wadhwani prioritizes repayment of any loans or financing as a top responsibility. He also works on management development for his team, who he describes as “well-trained” and “focused.” He is consistently looking towards the future and how he can plan for what is coming next. Finally, he and his team work to ensure that his properties remain in top condition so that guests are comfortable and will return. All of his properties receive glowing reviews online, so he can take heart knowing that his guests are satisfied with the product he’s supplying.

In the time that Wadhwani has been in hospitality, he has watched the South Texas market change time and time again. In 2000, the area relied heavily on Mexican travelers crossing the border looking for accommodations. That source of income dried up, only for the area to later become overbuilt and oversaturated with competitors. After weathering those storms, Wadhwani’s portfolio faced the COVID pandemic, which all but destroyed the hospitality industry. Having faced his share of hardships, Wadhwani is currently enjoying his successes.

Wadhwani is still seeking to expand before he eventually slows down and steps away from day-to-day operations. He is striving to own 1,000 rooms overall brands in his portfolio, with a stellar management team in place.

While Wadhwani has achieved a high level of professional success, his greatest accomplishment is his family, who are also his biggest motivators and inspiration. He has been married for 35 years, with four children and three grandchildren. He hopes to spend his golden years surrounded by family and friends.

When asked to give advice to other entrepreneurs and those starting out in the hotel business, Wadhwani recommends that they listen and learn before speaking. Accumulate as much experience as possible, and do it by starting from the bottom up. Nothing can replace firsthand experience and hard work.

With no signs of slowing down, Sunil Wadhwani of McAllen is on track to achieve the next level of professional success, expanding his portfolio both in quantity and quality. Luckily, he has already achieved the personal success that brings him so much satisfaction.

Sunil Wadhwani Links

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