Holiday Inn Express
I grew up in Tuscaloosa and was already in the hotel business working for another chain. I had a foot in the door with business contacts and community relationships. Getting a business license is as easy as blinking an eye. Now, getting a piece of property and getting your zoning -- that's completely different. You can get caught up in politics.
I always say that Tuscaloosa is a unique big little town. There are a lot of deep-rooted families here that have known each other and been friends with each other for well over a century. You really have to get into the area and get to learn the people. They are very, very friendly people and they like new businesses and making new relationships. But they want you to be a part of the community.
I've done Junior League, Leadership Tuscaloosa, Rotary, Red Cross and more. Does it make a difference in whether your business succeeds? No particular one makes a difference, but being seen as an asset to the community does. People recognize you and say 'I've seen them at Habitat for Humanity,' 'they belong to my church,' or 'they helped United Way.'
We're also very loyal. I have 33 employees. Half have been with me since I opened, and a quarter have been with me for more than two years. We're doing well as far as retaining our staff and not having to do a lot of retraining. -Maya Payne Smart
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