J.W. Marriot, Jr., Chairman and C.E.O. of Marriott International, Inc., Reveals the Methods and Philosophy Behind His Success in The Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way
It began in 1927 with a nine-stool A&W root beer stand in Washington, D.C. Today, Marriott International, Inc. employs more than 225,000 people and serves more meals (and makes more beds) every day than anyone, except perhaps, the U.S. Army. And J. Willard Marriott's $5,000 investment has grown, first under his stewardship, and then under the leadership of his son, into a $12 billion company that spans the globe.
J. W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr. began working at his father's Hot Shoppes (the successors to that little root beer stand) at the age of 14, and took over the management reins in 1964. His father's hands-on management had shaped the company; Bill Marriott raised his father's style to an art. In The Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way, Marriott and Kathi Ann Brown reveal his methods and the philosophy behind them as they take readers on an insider's tour of one of the world's largest and best-known international hospitality companies.
Emerson once disparaged "foolish consistency" as the "hobgoblin of little minds." But Bill Marriott has not confused mindless conformity with thoughtful standard-setting. Consistent systems and procedures are main engines for the company's success - and at the heart of "Marriott's way":
"At the most basic level, systems help bring order to the natural messiness of human enterprise. Give 100 people the same task-without providing ground rules-and you'll end up with at least a dozen, if not 100, different results. Try that same experiment with a few thousand people, and you end up with chaos. Efficient systems and clear rules help everyone to deliver a consistent product and service."
Marriott's encyclopedic procedure manuals - including a sixty-six step guide to cleaning a hotel room in less than a half hour - reflect more than an obsession with detail. It assures customers of receiving the no-hassle, no-surprise service that is a hallmark of all Marriott businesses, while employees, certain that routine matters are running smoothly, can offer more personalized service to customers. Attention to detail, quite simply, leads to high customer satisfaction, to repeat business - and to good profits and attractive returns for stockholders and property owners.
Putting employees first, another fundamental element in Marriott's corporate culture, stems from Marriott's recognition that providing two of life's most basic needs - food and shelter - requires a special human touch, and that touch only comes when employees feel both confident and comfortable.
Company courses in everything from cooking, computers, and communications to teamwork, time management and Total Quality Management are designed not only to build the skills and knowledge but to give employees the confidence and opportunity to move up the corporate ladder. A host of safety nets let employees know the company supports them both on the job and off.
On the professional side, for example, teams of veterans are on hand to help the staff every time a new hotel opens. On the personal side, Marriott has established an extraordinary service, a toll-free telephone help line that provides information from social workers on potential solutions to childcare, eldercare, substance or domestic abuse, housing, or immigration issues, as well as resources for other common problems employees face. And it does so in more than one hundred languages!
This spirit of helping others has an added benefit: as the anecdotes sprinkled throughout the book demonstrate, it resonates in day-to-day business activities. Marriott employees have lent money to guests who have forgotten their wallets, acted as emergency baby-sitters, ordered (and picked up) contact lenses, and put their mechanical skills to work on conked-out cars. One even lent a nervous guest an entire suit of clothing for a critical job interview.
Standard operating procedures and employee loyalty and commitment assure his company's continuing reputation for quality, but they also fuel increasing sales, improving margins, and higher stock prices. Asserting that "to grow successfully, you must stay true to who you are, even while feverishly working to change who you are," Marriott delves into the ups-and-downs he has experienced in more than thirty years at the helm. The revolutionary decision in 1978 to move from hotel ownership to becoming a hotel management company grew naturally from the company's strengths and had an immediate positive effect on the company's balance sheet.
Experience, combined with intuition, also led to the creation of the Marriott Distribution Services division, which, building on Marriott's matchless expertise in supplying its own properties, is projected to reach more than $1.6 billion in annual revenues by the end of 1997. Other ventures had more mixed results.
Marriott candidly discusses the company's initial lack of success in franchising hotels in the 1960s, the acquisitions and subsequent sales of the Big Boy and Roy Rogers restaurant chains, and the dramatic over-expansion of the early 1990s. He delineates how each episode violated a basic principle - including the often essential change in the corporate mindset.
Illuminating both the challenge and the necessity of nurturing the priorities and qualities that define any successful organization, Bill Marriott not only sets out invaluable groundrules for running a business but reveals an understanding of business and of human nature that will inspire managers at every level, in any business.