I recently attended our full service General Manager's conference in Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE. With hotels in 73 countries, our general session was like a United Nations general session. We were all there to learn about the innovative things being developed by our brands, to share best practices and in my case to step off the stage as CEO after 40 years.
I saw a lot of familiar faces. Our company has been fortunate to retain its General Managers an average of 25 years. We’ve all grown up together and there’s no group responsible for the success of this company more than our General Managers.
You can’t study to be a hotel GM like you can a doctor or lawyer. It’s a skill set developed through hands-on experience with the most important skill being "people skills." A GM is the mayor of a mini city. It’s a demanding job. Think of all the services it takes to run a city and you get the idea.
There’s accounting, sales and marketing, food and beverage, housekeeping, loss prevention, engineering, event planning, front office, front desk, concierge, room service and much more. All these departments work in concert with each other. A hotel General Manager has to keep the trains running on time: hot breakfasts, clean rooms, well manicured grounds, and -- most importantly -- smiling faces.
There’s a well known business book called Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.... and it’s all small stuff. That’s the hotel business, it's all small stuff. That’s why I visit 250 hotels a year. When I walk into a hotel, I first look to see if the associates look happy. Does the GM know the sous chef’s name or where the employee cafeteria is located? (I once walked into one of our competitor's hotels and the General Manager couldn’t find the employee cafeteria.)
When I took the stage for the last time as CEO, I looked around and couldn’t help but get a little emotional. My parents started out with very little in their pockets and built a restaurant business. I started out working with one hotel and now I have been blessed with many more, almost 3800. I told my daughter, Debbie, “I’m blown away.” I never imagined all this. We grew one hotel at a time and one General Manager at a time.
As I step down off the stage, I have a lot of people to thank for this company’s great success. No group has been more vital than that of our hotel General Managers. I give you all a standing ovation from the bottom of my heart.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.