Letter in a Drawer

September 10, 2012

From Father to Son: Words of Wisdom on Becoming President of Marriott  

Long before Ronald Reagan started the tradition of leaving a note behind in the Oval Office for the next President of the United States, my dad left a letter in my desk drawer when he stepped down as president.  That was way back in 1964.  The hotel business was growing, and we decided to change our name from Hot Shoppes to Marriott-Hot Shoppes.  I was 32 years old.  It was an exciting time and a little intimidating, too.  In fact, it was downright scary.  My father had spent 37 years building the business and establishing our reputation for excellence in restaurants.  I wondered if I could live up to his expectations.

My father was not one to lavish praise, and that may be one of the reasons I treasure his letter.  In it, he told me how proud he was of me and how much confidence he had in my ability to manage the company.  That letter meant so much to me that I’d like to share it with you. Letter-in-drawer-1964The guideposts my father mentions in an attachment to the letter are also very special.  They come from lessons he learned along the way that he hoped would help me in my new role.  One of those guideposts – the most important one, I think – was to always remember that “People are Number One.”  Their development, loyalty, interest and team spirit would be my prime responsibility.  I took that lesson very seriously, and I’ve tried to apply it to everything I’ve done through the years. 

I’m proud that today Marriott is as dedicated as ever to taking great care of people and providing them with the opportunity to grow and build a great life.

My father’s final guidepost has always had special meaning:  “Think objectively, keep a sense of humor – make the business fun for you and everyone else.”

That’s my dad’s legacy … and I hope it will be mine, also.

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

Listen to blog

The comments to this entry are closed.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Wonderful post and sentiment! How fortunate you are to have such a father and letter to "connect with" over the years since its writing. Generational transfer of businesses are complex and unfortunately more often than not do not result in the success you and your family have enjoyed. This is a subject I was just discussing with an editor of a trade publication this past week during a lunch at your Renaissance property here in HK. As a long time Marriott guest, advocate and Platinum member who is in Hong Kong now for the International Lighting Fair, I had the pleasure of watching a recent interview of you on Bloomberg News and found it quite interesting to here that you and your wife live here and that you support Mitt Romney who does not appear to share your model of integrity, honesty and consistency of character. I wonder what your father and Mitt's would think of how he has conducted himself in business and this Presidential election campaign? In closing, thank-you for the consistency Marriott has extended to me in visiting well over 100 of your properties in mu business travels. Sincerely and Respectfully, James Patrick Fleming PS-I knew your brother Paul from Miami and found him to be warm hearted.

Nice article and thank your valuable information and I wish you luck

Hello, Mr. Marriott.

My name is Mishalle Roza and I am a Night Auditor at the Courtyard in West Dundee, IL by Chicago. I wanted you to know how touching the letter from your father was to read. It brought tears to my eyes. It feels good to hear when parents give encouragement and support to their children. It must have meant the world to you to hear that your father was proud of you and how he saw that you were maturing. Patience is probably hard to learn for many men out there. Thank you for sharing this personal part of your life with your employees. All the best to you and your family.


Mishalle Roza

thank you, Mr. Marriott, for sharing such a personal item with us. I am glad you kept the letter all these years. I am sure it made you feel proud at the time, and still does to this day.

I just retired a year ago from teaching 45 years as a junior high school/middle school math teacher. My wife and I use our Marriott Rewards Visa card regularly and we always try to find a Marriott to stay at during our travels. We love your hotels and have had wonderful stays at your resorts in KY and IL, as well as using Fairfield Inns and Suites, Courtyard, and the Residence Inn brands.

In the late 60s, 70s and part of the 80s. my wife and I took junior high students (for 17 straight years) from where I taught in Glen Ellyn, IL to Washington D.C. for their 8th grade trip. These 3 or 4 day trips were quite an experience for the students as well as the other teacher chaperones that I enlisted. We stayed at many nice hotels during those excursions and Marriott was one that I remembered. One things that I really remember well in those early trips was the times we used Hot Shoppe for some of our meals. Because the kids and teachers (including my wife and me also) loved eating at the Hot Shoppes, I almost demanded that my travel agent (with Educational Tours - out of the Northbrook IL area) book us in those places as many times as possible. We all loved the quality and variety of food and it sure "recharged" those kids. Those places were like an oasis in a desert to all of us as we were seeing all the sights in D.C.

I think it is wonderful that your father left such a complimentary letter for you. I am so glad that you shared it with all these readers in your blog.

We are using a Marriott property in MI early next month. Keep up the wonderful work that you are doing. We find all of your employees to be very cordial and very helpful! The "People are Number One guidepost seems to be working well.

Yes, All men can be proud of you Bill, Wise men will nod and say you did right by your own father with Marriot!!

Yes, I am proud of you BILL and you should be proud too!!

I think your concept and vision of Marriott is incredible. Your dad's idea was driven to aim the perfect connection with people from all around the world. I started working for your company and I love it. When I heard the concept and the idea of the company I thought it was brilliant and it made me happy to be in a place which is exactly how I live my life. Working with others in a rewarding and welcoming place. Thank you for sharing your words. (letter)

Mr. Marriott, this is indeed special. I'm so glad your dad was able to relate his feelings for you. Being a Quarter Century Club member of the Marriott family, I am one of the many associates' life that you and your company have touched. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.


It is so great that your father passed all his wisdom to you and you build this great company and big warm family of Marriott !

It is 48 years later and nothing needs to be added or taken away.. Thank you Mr. J. Willard Marriott Sr. and Thank you Mr. J. Willard Marriott Jr. for sharing, could you share all the guidepost..if not thank you for couple you have shared.

Wow - thanks for sharing the letter from your father. I can see why you treasure it. “Think objectively, keep a sense of humor – make the business fun for you and everyone else," is something that I TRY to do. Your blogs are very much appreciated!

I seldom read posts but thought I'd see what you had to say. I'm very impressed. I've found Marriott properties and staff to always be welcoming and that comes from great leadership. Keep up the good work.

Mr. Marriott,

Thanks for sharing that beautiful letter from your Father. What a great legacy to be a part of. I'm sure you are very proud of your children as well, for all they have accomplished. I wish you continued success and thank you for all you have done for this great company that I am privileged to be a part of.

God Bless you and your Marriott family.

I am so honored to be a Marriott associate. Your parents were inspirational to so many people and so are you. I wish you all the best!

This letter is amazing, from a father to his on his accomplishments. What a honor it is to have such a GREAT dad who believes in you 100% and knows that you can accomplish anything if you try.

Thank you for your accomplishments !!

Proud to be a Marriott employee..

Sherry Holst
eCommerce - BAT Quality Assurance Analyst

Aloha Mr. Marriott:

It has been a privilege to be a Marriott associates for the past thirty years. I had the honor to meet and work for your father for one day during the opening of the 100th Marriott Hotel, the Maui Marriott on Kaanapali Beach. He needed an assistant to take dictation and send out letters for him. That day is one of the highlights of my career with Marriott. I have also had the honor of meeting you several times through the years.

The core values of this company have remained the same, to take care of the associates and treat them fairly, providing them with opportunities to grow in their careers. I started as an hourly sales assistant and have been blessed to have had a wonderful career that continues. I now have the good fortune to represent the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa in Ko'olina as a Senior Account Executive.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful of words of wisdom with us. You continue to be an inspiration for all.

Mahalo for your leadership.

Margaret L. Laletin

Mr. Marriott,

Undoubtedly your legacy is secure and If I may be so bold to say that your loving father would tell you that you exceeded all of his greatest hopes and wishes that he had for your success at Marriott.You indeed have more than accomplished, right from the beginning to today, the fine example of a "leader in all things", explained to you in the moving letter by your Dad and shared here.

Wow! I love it! Just Amazing :):) congrats ...