"Leadership from the bottom up" may seem to be an unusual organizational structure. Yet at MMI, it reveals a management philosophy proven by over half a century of success and growth.
First, the MMI organizational chart is an inverted pyramid. This ensures that those whose everyday job is guest/customer interaction and service are, in turn, supported by the others below them, in sequence. And secondly, this ensures that at every facility, in every department, in every job, MMI associates have buy-in and authorship in all corporate plans and goals.
Every company seeks to make a profit — a return on investments. In that respect MMI is like any other business.
To MMI, investment means empowerment: resources applied to people as well as bricks and mortar. This investment provides the vision to the future of our industry, the courage to set the goals that the future demands of those who will remain profitable, and the disciplined and creative leadership necessary to reach those goals. To MMI, investment builds a confident partnership. We have been strengthened by over 50 years of commitment to this industry. Thus, we have grown. We are ready for tomorrow.
Founder (1927 - 2012)
Considering business diversification and opportunity in an economy that was quickly changing, Mike Sturdivant has been instrumental in the lives of thousands of MMI employees and families.
A native son of Mississippi, Micajah Purnell “Mike” Sturdivant, Sr. understood many years ago that his family-owned, agriculture-focused business, Due West Plantation, would see many changes. Still a farm with extensive interests in the Mississippi Delta, Due West would see the influence of technology on the labor base and, thereby, regional economy. In response, Mr. Sturdivant acted on an opportunity to enter into the hotel business – an industry on the cusp of great change with the prospect of boosting employment for many across the South.
Over fifty years later, Mike, Sr. serves as Co-Chairman of MMI with Earle Jones – a friendship born out their days as roommates at Harvard Business School. With Mike, Sr.'s continued involvement in the company, three generations of the Sturdivant family are actively involved in the leadership of MMI Hotel Group.
He is a past president of the International Association of Holiday Inns. He is a former chairman of the board of managers for Methodist Health Systems of Memphis and was a member of the board of directors and executive committee at Union Planters National Bank (now Regions). Mike, Sr. served on the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning for the State of Mississippi and Chaired the Finance Committee. Additionally, he was a member of the DISCAL Management Board of the State of Mississippi.
Mr. Sturdivant and his wife, Ygondine, have five children, four sons and a daughter, as well as nine grandchildren.
A true statesman, Earle Jones has had a direct impact not only on his business but also the greater hospitality industry and general community.
A graduate of UCLA and Harvard Business School, Earle Jones has been associated with MMI since the organization’s beginning in 1956. Mr. Jones has remained consistently involved in the affairs of various hospitality-industry related boards and associations including the Board of Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, ultimately being elected to its chairmanship. He is a past president of the International Association of Holiday Inns. For many years he served on the Board of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide including a position as Chairman of the Board of Starwood’s operating corporation.
Mr. Jones combines a busy career with a wide range of charitable and civic interests. He was chairman of the Executive Committee of Communications Improvements, Inc, whose beneficiaries were Public Broadcasting and Tougaloo College. Mr. Jones has served on the board of the Jackson (MS) Public Schools District. Other Board service has included the Arts Alliance, New Stage Theatre, Mississippi Opera Association, Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, and Jackson 2000. Though a Presbyterian, he served in prior years as School Board president of the St. Joseph Catholic School and a board member of the Catholic Foundation.
Currently, Earle is one of five commissioners of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority and a member of the Board of Trustees of Millsaps College. As a result of his long, upstanding career, Mr. Jones was inducted into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame in 2008.
Mr. Jones and his wife, Irene, have three children, two sons and a daughter, as well as five grandchildren.
Leadership from the trenches. Gaines Sturdivant was named President of MMI Hotel Group in 1988 after having begun his career as a management trainee and ultimately serving as a hotel General Manager. Upon graduating from Vanderbilt University, Mr. Sturdivant committed several years to MMI focusing on operations, technical services, and marketing responsibilities before taking a leave of absence to attend the Harvard Business School, completing its Program for Management Development.
Mr. Sturdivant is a Past President of the IHG Owners Association and currently serves as a member of the Past President Committee. He has served on numerous committees of the American Hotel & Lodging Association including its Political Action and International Council of Hotel Management Companies Committee.
Mr. Sturdivant serves on the board of Belhaven College, located in Jackson, MS. Additionally, he is a board member of the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mr. Sturdivant was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow in 2006.
Chief Financial Officer
After graduating from Mississippi State University in 1966 with a degree in Accounting, Mike Hart joined the national CPA firm of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., working in the firm's Jackson, Mississippi, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana offices. While there, Mike was appointed a Computer Audit Specialist in addition to his other audit and tax responsibilities.
In 1975, Mike established his own successful accounting practice in Jackson, Mississippi where he served as principal auditor for three hotel management organizations - including MMI Hotel Group. Recognizing Mike's substantial financial management skills, MMI hired him as its Chief Financial Officer in 1987.
Vice President, Operations
After graduation from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in hospitality management in 1989, Scott Sledge began management training in Nashville, TN for MMI Hotel Group at the Cabot Lodge Nashville. He has served several MMI hotels in a variety of positions including Sales Manager, Front Office Manager and Assistant General Manager. In 1994, he was promoted to General Manager at the Cabot Lodge-Jackson North in Ridgeland. In 1999, Sledge assumed additional responsibilities in a dual role as Regional Director of Operations overseeing MMI operations in Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana. Most recently, Scott Sledge has been promoted to Vice President of Operations.
Sledge is a graduate of the Executive Development Advanced Management Program at Cornell University in Ithaca NY. Honored as a veteran hotelier, he holds the designation of a Certified Hotel Administrator from The American Hotel & Lodging Association. Sledge currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association and the MHRA Educational Foundation. Mr. Sledge has served three terms as President of the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association and in the past he has served the Ridgeland Tourism Commission as a two term president, vice president of the Metro Jackson Hotel/ Motel Association, Ridgeland Chamber of Commerce, and has served on various other boards and committees during his hospitality career. Mr. Sledge resides with his wife, Beth Westerman Sledge, and his two sons, Taylor and Westin, in Madison, Mississippi.
Vice President, Administration
Jim Hart graduated from Florida State University in 1966 with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and received his MBA from Mississippi College in 1994.
He was the General Manager at various Holiday Inns in the Midwest and began his career with MMI in 1974 as assistant innkeeper in Hammond, Louisiana. Steady advancement saw Jim named MMI's Vice President-Food and Beverage in 1978, Vice President-Human Resources in 1982, was made responsible for corporate accounting in 1995, and was named Vice President of Administration in 1996, with duties including personnel, compensation, benefits, training and development, guest relations and corporate accounting.
Jim holds the designation of Certified Hotel Administrator and is a certified Professional Human Resources Specialist. He has served as chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Human Resources Committee, and has been a member of the Dining and Scholarship Committees.
Jim is also a member of the MFHA (Multicultrual Foodservice Hospitality Alliance) and certified by the Society for Human Resources Management as a Diversity Trainer. Jim has also been an Officer of CHART - a national hospitality training organization.
Vice President, Technical Services
Ken O'Keefe holds a Bachelors degree from Millsaps College, a Master of Business Administration degree from Emory University and is a Certified Hotel Administrator. He began work with hotels on a construction crew working at the Holiday Inn in Meridian, Mississippi. He later worked for MMI in various front desk, maintenance, housekeeping and food & beverage positions.
In 1975, O'Keefe was named Vice President-Technical Services, supervising construction at MMI properties across the southeast. Ken developed MMI's preventive maintenance programs and has organized the company's energy conservation and safety initiatives. His responsibilities include coordinating all construction, remodeling and special projects.
Len Shannon joined MMI as Controller in 2004. With a Master of Business Administration degree from Millsaps College, his career in corporate accounting as a senior financial executive spans more than 20 years progressively responsible accounting positions.
Len previously served as Corporate Director of Accounting for ChemFirst Inc., a publicly traded chemical company later acquired by DuPont Chemical. His background includes the supervision of the daily accounting functions at a corporate headquarters, consolidation of financial information, reporting, benefit plans responsibility and internal control review.
He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Vice President, Hotel Services
As Vice President of Hotel Services, Micajah works with the existing portfolio to optimize the relevancy of and experience in each of MMI’s hotels while also considering how additional properties both owned outright and through third party management contracts fit best into the family of franchised and unique offerings.
Outside of MMI, he serves on the Distribution-Reservation Channels Committee for Intercontinental Hotel Group. Prior banking and real estate experience includes time spent in lending at First Tennessee Bank and as an executive assistant to the CEO of an office REIT. He holds a MBA from Harvard University and a BBA from the Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi.
Ron is a graduate of Mississippi State University with a BBA degree in banking and finance. Prior to joining MMI Dining Systems, he held a variety of management positions in the food service industry. Ron joined MMI Dining Systems in 1994 as a Resource Manager and later served as District Manager for the company's Mississippi and Louisiana regions to supervise, coordinate, merchandise and control costs of the food and beverage operations and to insure MMI's corporate standards of quality in product and service.
MMI Dining Systems was founded by Ron's father, Ron Cockayne, Sr., who served as its President for twelve years of dramatic growth and success. When his father died suddenly in 2005, Ron Jr.'s proven capabilities and work ethic merited his promotion to President of, and a partnership interest in, MMI Dining Systems. Ron has continued his father's legacy as he leads MMI Dining Sytems in serving the food service needs of country clubs, retirement homes, free standing restaurants, hotels, schools, colleges and corporate entities.
Director of Procurement
Tom Scott is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi where he earned a degree in Business Management. He held several management positions in the food service industry prior to joining MMI in 2000. Tom was with a regional food service distributor as its District Sales Manager from 1982 to 1985, and it National Accounts Manager from 1985 to 1987.
He later served as Vice President with a contract food service management company where his responsibilities included purchasing, merchandising and menu development. His career also includes finance as Senior Vice President with The American Bank and Vice President of Deposit Guaranty National Bank.
Bob Gilstrap, who majored in management and marketing at East Texas State University, joined MMI in 1984 and is an example of MMI's "promote from within" strategy. Bob had successfully held several positions within the company, from Assistant Manager and Food & Beverage Director, to General Manager and Club Manager. He currently serves as District Manager.
Bob leads a group of professionals dedicated to providing upscale services to the demanding club member market. Attitude and hard work are the foundations his service-minded philosophy that continues to help his team achieve superior results. Additionally, he is involved with the marketing, budgeting, staff training and quality assurance at all MMI club properties.
Dave McEwen has extensive education and training in the hotel and restaurant management field, including studying hospitality management at Bucks County Community College, Newton, PA; casino management at UNLV, and computer sciences at San Jacinto College, Houston, Texas. He has also served in food & beverage management capacities at hotels in Texas and restaurants in Tennessee.
Dave joined MMI Hotel Group in 1988 as the Food & Beverage Manager of the Holiday Inn in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where his skills won numerous awards, including MMI's highest honor: the prestigious Food & Beverage Operation of the year Award in 1993.
Dave is responsible for all food and beverages operations for MMI Dining Systems activities in Florida and Georgia. Dave lives on Amelia Island, FL. with his wifre Susan of 30 years and their son David.
Cynde Houston is District Manager, responsible for College/School, Business/Industry and Healthcare clients of the Mississippi/Alabama Division of MMI Dining Systems.
She majored in Hotel & Restaurant Administration at the University of Southern Mississippi, before joining MMI Dining Systems in 1994 as Assistant Food Services Director for Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. Her twenty-year career in the Food Service industry has included healthcare, catering, retail operations and marketing of food service equipment. Her passion, however, is College/School Food Services.
The key to Cynde's successful management approach is her ability to build relationships with faculty, staff and guests. Her expertise in specialized meals has enabled her to create a food service program that meets diverse dietary needs. An extensive experiences in daily operations gives her the ability to train and support unit managers in developing a staff that can produce 100% customer satisfaction for MMI Clients.
Director of Business Development
Bill has an extensive and diverse food service background and has served in many leadership capacities including General Manager, Director of Food & Nutrition Services, and owner for a number of clubs and restaurants in Colorado. Bill joined MMI Dining Systems in 2001 as Director of Food Services at Menorah Manor, St. Petersburg, Florida. There his leadership and management skills led to his increased role of directing the housekeeping and laundry departments.
In March of 2006, Bill was promoted to District Manager of MMI Dining Systems' southern Florida territory. Bill insures corporate standards in various accounts, meeting and exceeding our client's expectations for quality foods and services.
In 2010, Bill became Director of Business Development. Bill actively seeks to promote MMI Dining Systems and develop new business relationships.
Bill Caldwell holds degrees Industrial Psychology, Business Management, and Dietetic Technology.
Director of Business Development
As Director of Business Development for the western portion of the Southeastern US, Susan’s primary responsibilities with MMI are new business development, sales and marketing. Her experience ranges from operational management and member retention to sales and marketing. Her passion is relationship building. Prior to joining the MMI team she held sales and management positions with VIP Grand Events and the University Club in Jackson, Jupiter Island Club in Hobe Sound, Florida, Riverchase Country Club in Hoover, Alabama and Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point.
Susan is a 1996 graduate of Mississippi State University and she resides with her family in Madison.