The Patel file Featured

5:20am EDT May 19, 2006
Born: India, 1949

Education: Bachelor’s degree, economics; MBA, Columbia University Business School, marketing and finance

First job: I worked for a small apparel company called Corbin, which manufactured men’s slacks. After four years, I was recruited for Hartmarx, and have been here for 25 years.

What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned?
Your word is more important than anything else. Deals and arrangements and agreements are made on people’s integrity and credibility. When you give your word to someone, you better make sure you come through.

What has been your greatest business challenge?
When the rest of the world changed and we were left holding the bag. When people decided to go casual, the suit market was declining 5 to 7 percent a year, compounded year after year after year, and that was our main business. It was very difficult to sort of say, ‘How are we going to get out of this?’

Whom do you admire most in business?
I probably have a great deal of respect for what Warren Buffett has done at Berkshire Hathaway.