SPRING HILL — Andrew Patel grew up traveling internationally. One day, he and his parents figured, he would take over the family's worldwide businesses.
But no one expected Andrew, 18, who just graduated from high school on Friday, to step into the top executive's position so soon.
His father, Sanjay Patel, died unexpectedly this year. Patel, who was of Indian heritage and grew up in Uganda, had willed his portion of the family companies to his son.
Those companies include land development holdings and construction firms in Panama and India, stock investments in Great Britain, and real estate holdings and convenience stores in Hernando County.
From an early age, Andrew made trips around the globe with his father and mother, Maria Patel, a native of Puerto Rico — "every country in Europe, also Africa, India," he recalls.
Along the way, he absorbed the tenets of dealmaking, business law, transportation logistics and product stocking.
The teen has been on hand as construction equipment was assembled for shipping to Panama; for dealmaking with Lloyd's of London; for navigating international business law involving Iran, Argentina and Colombia; and for buying, remodeling, renting and selling residential real estate and for managing convenience stores in Hernando County.
Before his father's death, "the main thing was just school," Andrew said, "but I just learned from Dad by following."
Andrew graduated from Wider Horizons School in Spring Hill with a 3.5 grade-point average. The private school's co-founder, Domenick Maglio, said Andrew "has been a businessman since he was a small boy. He's like an old person in a young body. He has a lot of wisdom for a young man."
While an upperclassman, Andrew managed Wider Horizons' work-experience mini-businesses involving food service.
Since joining his mother as co-owner of the family enterprises, the modest young man says he is giving more advice about their operation.
"Lots of, lots of advice," Maria Patel interjected.
For a time, Andrew considered forgoing college full time and concentrating on his businesses. But he bought a home in Tampa and will enroll at Hillsborough Community College. Then he plans to pursue a four-year degree at the University of South Florida.
Already Andrew is a landlord, taking in a Korean student as a tenant at the Tampa residence.
While some high schoolers will celebrate graduation with leisurely summertime adventures, Andrew plans a working tour of his businesses in Europe, Asia and Central America.
It's something he looks forward to with great anticipation.
"The fun thing now is taking it all over," he said.
His biggest challenge?
"Just what to do first."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.