Micajah P. Sturdivant IV, president and CEO of Mississippi-based MMI Hospitality Group, says his household’s 1850s roots in farming are according to its embrace of the hospitality trade a century later. The household farm has developed and expanded into the current day, rising cotton, corn, and soybeans in a vertically built-in, technology-focused industrial operation whereas staying true to its tradition and values. The household hospitality enterprise has adopted an analogous trajectory over its 66-year historical past, progressing to stay related whereas holding true to its rules. Sturdivant, who now represents the third technology on the helm, described for LODGING MMI’s conception and evolution, his path to his present place, and the traditions he strives to keep up.
It was his grandfather, Micajah Sturdivant Jr., who acknowledged each the evolution of the household’s agricultural enterprise and the chance for a transfer into hospitality. Coincident with the Harvard Enterprise Faculty (HBS) commencement of Micajah Sturdivant Jr., President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into legislation the Federal-Help Freeway Act of 1956, which approved building of the Interstate Freeway System. “He noticed how agriculture was altering by way of industrialization and thought of its influence on a spot like Mississippi,” says the youthful Sturdivant of his grandfather. Believing it was essential to diversify and fascinating to grab the second, his grandfather satisfied his HBS roommate, Earle Jones, to maneuver from California to companion because the seventh franchisee within the possession and operation of the world’s thirteenth Vacation Inn.
Sturdivant says his first foray into hospitality was not at a family-owned property however at summer season camp, when, as a junior excessive schooler, he started working within the dish pit. It was solely later, throughout summers and faculty holidays, that he took on the everyday hospitality jobs at his household’s properties—within the kitchen and on the entrance desk.
Figuring out he’d wish to pursue his household enterprise after finishing his schooling, Sturdivant heeded the recommendation of a household pal, who was a College of Mississippi (Ole Miss) chancellor, to solidify his connection to his residence state with an undergraduate diploma from Ole Miss earlier than following the postgraduate path of his father and grandfather to HBS to amass the data and credential to take care of the bigger enterprise group. The choice, he maintains, was a very good one. “Staying in state allowed me to construct on that community my household had established, not simply professionally, but additionally civically, earlier than going to graduate college.”
Between commencement from Ole Miss and heading to Boston for his MBA, Sturdivant labored in banking, gaining experience and forging lending and financing relationships.
Finally, he says, he was “referred to as again to hitch the household enterprise” in 2006, at first dealing with acquisitions, improvement, and administration for the lodge group. He went on to turn out to be president in 2013 and CEO in 2021.
Concerning those that guided and motivated his profession, Sturdivant credit Jones “for what he did to affect the trade” in addition to longtime CFO Mike Hart, who joined the corporate in 1975 and continues to serve in a senior function, for “his selfless and galvanizing sense of possession.” He additionally factors to Hart’s deep understanding of the distinctive enterprise cycles of hospitality.
MMI In the present day
Sturdivant says MMI is exclusive in that it has three divisions: a lodge possession and administration firm with a few dozen lodges throughout the Southeast; a eating programs division that gives meals service to amenities in 5 states; and a restaurant division, begun lower than two years in the past with the acquisition of Primos Cafes, a 93-year-old Mississippi-based restaurant/cafe idea firm.
He wholeheartedly believes hospitality is an working enterprise greater than a category of actual property. “In contrast to different actual property lessons, like workplace and house leases, our leases expire each 24 hours,” he says. Figuring out that, he says MMI strives to stay related by working with house owners to supply friends sure customary experiences throughout a portfolio Sturdivant describes as a “combined bag” that’s decidedly “Southeast centric.”
“Our portfolio right now is a melting pot of properties—franchised and impartial, full-service and select-service, and drive-to and suburban prototypical locations,” he says. What they’ve in widespread is MMI’s emphasis on working carefully with its franchisees. “We leverage the data and the assets of our franchise companions, then plug-and-play the place applicable throughout our franchise and impartial properties alike.” The portfolio consists of really distinctive impartial properties—just like the King and Prince Seaside & Golf Resort, which the corporate has owned for 43 years—in addition to the newly acquired, family-owned Mission Inn Resort & Membership, for which they’re “creating a brand new chapter.”
It’s this mixture of properties, says Sturdivant, that enabled MMI to emerge from the challenges of the pandemic comparatively unscathed. “We had been in a position to deal with it higher than others to an ideal extent as a result of our mixture of properties primarily being drive-to locations,” he explains.
Sturdivant considers MMI true to its roots in agriculture and the Deep South, the place hospitality has its personal particular which means. “As a six-generation household enterprise rooted in Mississippi agriculture relationship again to 1857, our mindset and tradition set us aside. I prefer to say hospitality is in our DNA. It’s largely a perspective—additional heat that comes from having a familial, agricultural background, and a way that everybody is in it collectively, like on a farm in the course of nowhere.”
Whereas hospitality comes pure to Sturdivant’s household and is a part of the rationale for MMI’s success, he additionally acknowledges that the hospitality enterprise isn’t for everybody: “There are glamorous features, however deep down, hospitality is a grind.” Fortuitously, he provides, “there are lots of people who’ve it of their DNA, and people people make the grind numerous enjoyable. It’s a privilege to serve those that serve.”
Backing the Workforce: Going the Additional Mile to Foster Worker Engagement
MMI President and CEO Micajah Sturdivant IV says MMI has by no means overlooked its dedication to its staff members, even through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “At one level, we went from 800 staff members to lower than 80 on the clock in our lodge administration division, however we didn’t terminate anyone. Some had been furloughed till we had been in a position to carry them again,” he relates. “We excelled by that interval, not as a result of it was straightforward, however as a result of we had a staff that was made absolutely conscious of the challenges that had been earlier than us.”
For a number of years previous to the pandemic, he had made a observe of sending all staff members a daily Monday Message, plus a handwritten word about 45 days after they first joined the corporate. In the course of the pandemic, he started emailing updates of “goings on” to everybody’s private electronic mail. As he explains, “We noticed what a distinction staying in contact with our staff members made throughout that point. We made positive they didn’t assume we forgot about them and wished to indicate our real care for his or her bodily and psychological well being.”
Recognition can be necessary, from each administration and friends. He reminds that the devoted work of staff members—even behind the scenes—doesn’t go unnoticed. “When within the dish pit or laundry, the place you’re in a roundabout way interacting with the friends, know you’ve obtained an viewers in your fellow staff members,” he says. “You’re serving them and might take satisfaction in that.”
Sturdivant additionally observes the necessity to help MMI’s dedication to its staff members—greater than 90 of whom have served for greater than 25 years with the group—by remaining aggressive and rising for the sake of the group and its workers. “We have to be certain that we’re at all times pushing ahead, exploring new alternatives in order that our staff members have alternatives to develop and maintain careers inside our group.”