My father grew up on his father’s farm, just west of Ogden, in the small town of Marriott, Utah, which was settled by his grandfather, John Marriott after he crossed the plains with the Mormon pioneers. As a young boy, my father quickly learned how to work hard and take responsibility. He and his seven brothers and sisters had to take care of the crops and other livestock. As the eldest son, my dad had primary responsibility for his father’s sheep herd. He spent so much of his time during his teen years tending them on the farm and herding them on the ranges of Nevada and Utah that he never graduated from high school. He was called on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age nineteen, and that provided him the opportunity to leave the farm and spend two years on the East Coast, preaching the gospel from Connecticut to Vermont.
When my dad returned to Utah, he was able to talk his way into being accepted at Weber College without having a high school diploma. In his second year of college, he continued to work hard. He was a salesman and writer for the newspaper, the manager and stock boy for the bookstore, an English teacher, and class president.
After graduating from his two years at Weber, my father transferred to the University of Utah and worked in the food catering business. During summers at the University, he earned a living selling black long wool underwear produced by a Utah woolen mill. Dad would go to the Northwest logging camps and sell this underwear for $20 a pair. That was a lot of money back then, so he developed a special selling strategy. He would find two mean-looking lumberjacks and challenge them saying: “Each of you take a leg of this pair of underwear. If you can pull this underwear apart, I’ll give you a free pair. If you can’t, you’ve got to buy it.” The loggers would then have a tug-of-war but could never tear the underwear apart. Dad earned more than $2,000 in commissions during a single summer and was the most productive salesman in the company.
His hard work ethic was handed down to me. At the time, I didn’t appreciate all the chores he assigned to me and during my college years I worked in the kitchen of the Salt Lake City Hot Shoppe for several days a week. I’ve tried to pass down this strong work ethic to my children. All of my kids worked as entry level associates in a hotel or restaurant. One of my grandchildren recently graduated from Harvard Business School and landed a job as a front desk clerk. My son David worked in the kitchen of the Salt Lake City Marriott. My son, John, worked many years in our Farrell’s Ice Cream Restaurant, in the back of the house here in Washington, DC. Stephen was a fry cook in Roy Rogers, and Debbie worked at the front desk at the Key Bridge Marriott.
Sometimes hard work is not easy to instill in young people. But in our children, they embraced and learned to love it. At Marriott, we’ve been studying Millennials and the culture that often rewards everyone – no matter how hard they work. Parents, who want their kids to have a better life than they did, often spoil their children and don’t teach or encourage them to work. Today some of the boomerang kids seem to never leave home. I’ve learned that hard work matters. It’s something I always looked for when hiring people. Did they cut the grass or babysit? Did they work in a kitchen, wait tables or work in the college library?
As I’ve tried to hand down my father’s work ethic to my children. I’m proud there’s not a slouch among them. Today they all work very hard and continue to do so.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.