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5 posts from March 2012


The Big 8-0

The big 8-0.  So, how does it really feel?  A lot like turning 79.  But obviously there’s more significance to eighty.  These “zero” birthdays are tough.  But once the celebrations die down, I’ll be retired as CEO and entering a new phase of my life. 

Below is a video from a suprise birthday party from my extended family of 1300 GM's and associates.  I was barely able to hold it together.  Take a look.  


I do want to share highlights from my birthday party at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa:

The best part -- I was surrounded by family and every year the family gets bigger.   When the photo was taken, we had 39 people in the picture -- 15 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. The newest arrival is Donna Rae who was named for my wife, Donna.   She was thrilled to have this new little girl enter our family named for her. 

Marriott Rewards

I had a great big birthday cake.  It was a lemon chiffon angel food cake with icing shaped like daffodils.  It may not be what you'd imagined from someone who drives fast cars, but it’s really delicious, especially the ice cream.

A highlight this year was the surprise birthday card I received from Marriott Rewards Insiders.  Your warm and thoughtful messages are very much appreciated! 

As everyone sang happy birthday, I looked at all the faces and couldn’t help but think of my parents.  In 1927, when they drove from Utah to Washington, D.C., they never imagined what they had started.  Not only did they start a business – the Hot Shoppes restaurants – they started an amazing family.  

I’m not a reflective person.  I’m always looking ahead.  I’m also very impatient.  This is sort of becoming a curse, I guess.  But these days, I’m looking in the rearview mirror some more and I think I've done OK.  I’ve tried to hand down the lessons my parents taught me.  All four of our children started out working for Marriott when they were teenagers.  They learned to really work hard.  My dad taught all of us the value of work.  I hope it’s passed on to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.           

So what's ahead?  Much of the same except I no longer have to attend six-hour meetings.  I don’t play golf so I’m going to do many of the things I’ve always done like visiting hotels and working with our executives as Marriott continues to expand around the globe.  My wife, Donna, has told me many times that she “didn’t marry me for lunch.”  So, I’m going to be busy and active away from the house.    

I am an 80 year old who will still enjoy lunch at the office and I'll do my very best to keep this great company that has been my life’s vocation and avocation on the move. 

This is Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move. 

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What I Learned from Starbucks' Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz CEO Starbucks

I recently read Howard Schultz’ book “Onward” about the fantastic turnaround he made as the new CEO of Starbucks. As you may know, he semi-retired, but when the company got into trouble he returned as CEO and made a remarkable turnaround. 

It seems that Starbucks had expanded too fast.  It was having quality problems and was losing customers.  Howard actually closed all the stores for one day to retrain all his employees.  I found his coffee business is so similar to the hotel business.  It’s really all about people serving people.  I think that 90 percent of our associates in our hotels have at least one customer contact every day and some will have over 100 contacts each. 

In his book, Howard Schultz says, “Tell our associates what we need to do and why.”  Our core philosophy is to take care of our associates so they will take care of the guests.  A major part of caring for our people is training and teaching them how to do their job.  We’re sort of like a big university with many different courses and classes.

Starbucks is concerned about every detail and Howard says, “Every little act matters.”  I've always tried to focus on the details – no detail is really too small.  Executing even the smallest detail to perfection is the difference between a great guest experience and a failure.  Howard says, “A store manager’s job is not to oversee millions of transactions a week, but one transaction millions of times a week.” 

At Marriott, we simply say that we sweat the details. 

%22Onward%22 by Howard SchultzI really loved Howard’s quote, “Passion for the future, respect for the past.”  Likewise, at Marriott we are very proud of our humble roots as a root beer stand, but very passionate about the future as we just signed hotel number one hundred in China.

Incidentally, Starbucks has been a great partner for Marriott for many years.  We feature their coffees in hundreds and hundreds of our hotels around the world.

I learned a lot from Howard Schultz’ book “Onward.”  We would do well at Marriott by continuing to emulate his success. 

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move. 

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Welcoming the World

A USA Today headline caught my eye the other day.  It read: "Chinese travelers are seeing the USA in record numbers."  A follow up article said: “NYC’s Marriott Marquis ready for Chinese visitors.”   

What’s happening in U.S. tourism is really exciting.  Barriers are being removed and we’re taking steps to attract the Chinese customer.  And, with Times Square one of the world’s top tourist destinations, our associates at the Marriott Marquis are being taught many Asian customs like bowing to the other party, exchanging business cards the proper way, and saying “hello” and “thank you” in Mandarin.

Marriott Marquis Imperial Suite

There have been some hotel signage adjustments, too, at the Marquis.  The number four is a bad luck number in Asian cultures.  So our largest suites on floors 44 and 45 have been changed to “Imperial Suite” and other non-numeric names to reduce use of the number four.

Other Marriott hotels are also making cultural changes.  Franco Campanello a lead concierge in Boston is taking Mandarin classes and he’s looking into publishing a Mandarin subway map.

Frank Campanello

As our economy slowly recovers, the influx of Chinese tourists will make a big impact on our industry.  Europe is already feeling a bounce.  Last month, according to the World Luxury Association, Chinese visitors to Europe spent $7.2 billion on luxury goods.  Those purchases accounted for 62 percent of all luxury items sold on the continent.

When President Obama signed an executive order easing visa travel restrictions, he declared that our travel and tourism industry is “open for business.”

And wow is it ever!  Arrivals from China are forecast to increase by a whopping 274% between 2012 and 2016. It’s the fastest growth, by far, of any country, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

NYT headline

I’m proud of the way our hotels are changing and adapting their customs to welcome our Asian friends.  

That’s what hospitality is all about.  As the USA Today headline said: Marriott is “Ready for Chinese Visitors.”

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

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Building Bridges to Opportunity

One of my core business beliefs is that great companies exist for more fundamental purposes than just to make money. 


At Marriott, we “open doors to a world of opportunity.”  That phrase connotes how much we want our associates to grow during their careers.   


But “opening doors to a world of opportunity” also applies to the non-profit Bridges from School to Work program. 

My brother Richard runs this program and he’s developed a model that other companies should emulate.  Simply put, it takes kids with disabilities and helps them find a job.

It’s not so simple to execute.  Bridges employer representatives pull a small village together for every student -- teachers, guidance counselors, parents and employers.  Over the course of two decades, Bridges has placed about 12,500 young people with disabilities in jobs with more than 3,500 employers -- companies like Ben & Jerry’s, UPS, National Constitution Center, and Marriott Hotels.

This year’s annual dinner featured Lee Woodruff, wife of ABC News journalist Bob Woodruff.  In 2006, Bob was injured by an improvised explosive device while on assignment in Iraq. 

Lee eloquently described what their family went through after he awoke from a five-week long coma. Hers was a story of stops and starts … of persevering and overcoming. 


That’s our Bridges story, too.  Our Bridges students struggle to fit in.  They persevere, prepare resumes, interview for jobs and –- hopefully -- they get hired. 

Lots of moving pieces have to come together before a Bridges student hears the words “you’re hired.”  Stereotypes have to be erased; self-confidence raised.  Nowhere is ability an issue. 

As one employer said, “There should be no reason why a business should look at a Bridges student any differently than any other applicant.  The Bridges program means opportunity and not just opportunity for the students, but opportunity for the employer.”   

Bridges redesigned its website and produced a series of video profiles. (www.BridgesToWork.org)  The stories show the remarkable transformation in the lives of our Bridges students as they cross the bridge from school to work. 

I think you’ll enjoy meeting our Bridges students --Giana, Alex, Levi, Dana -- and see how they “fit in.”  Leave a comment on which story you enjoyed the most.

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.  

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Living the American Dream

My family has lived the American Dream.  My father started out herding sheep and saw an opportunity and drove cross-country from Utah to Washington, D.C. to open up an A&W Root Beer stand.  That was way back in 1927.

Many of us forget where we came from, but not me.  I was reminded of all this when I recently received the “Keepers of the American Dream Award” from the National Immigration Forum.  The honor is what Marriott is all about: opportunity, no matter where someone is born.   Remarks

At the awards ceremony, I talked about the fact that 50% of our hotel General Managers started in the hourly ranks.  Those are the kind of opportunities our industry offers.   

I also talked about Marriott’s language training program called Sed de Saber, which means “thirst for knowledge.”  We’ve helped thousands of associates improve their English.

I know it’s more difficult than ever for people to realize the American Dream—whether it’s immigrants or native-born Americans.  That’s why I’m hopeful our elected leaders will start making some progress on improving the economy and the job market so they can also start focusing on other important issues like comprehensive immigration reform. 

I haven’t forgotten my family’s beginnings.  And after accepting this award, I’m going to keep doing everything I can to help others achieve the American Dream and open doors to a world of opportunity for our associates. 

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

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