I’ve known Phyllis Hester for 45 years. The first 20, we went to church together. The last 25 were as my executive assistant guarding the entrance to my office. She’s one of this year’s recipients of Marriott’s “Awards of Excellence,” our top honor. Let me tell you a couple of stories about her.
Number one, she’s fabulous. She gets to the office before eight, leaves after five and eats lunch at her desk in spite of my encouraging her to go to the cafeteria or someplace else. She’s a marvelous anticipator, and that’s a quality every person needs when working for a demanding boss like me. She knows what my needs are, she anticipates them, she takes care of them, and half the time I don’t even know what has happened. We’re in sync, and it makes for a terrific partnership.
Another wonderful quality is how Phyllis handles customers. Phyllis answers all of the customer calls and some of them can be a handful. She never wants calls to go to voicemail until after 5 p.m. Phyllis believes that anyone who calls this office should talk to a human. This old-fashioned way of doing things carries over to how she runs the office. I admit to not knowing how to type. Phyllis types my schedule on notecards. (Yes, we have IBM typewriters on many of our desks.) She uses a daily planner calendar penciling in my appointments, and no one is more efficient than Phyllis.
I’ve told this tiny woman from the mountains of southern Virginia that she sometimes strikes fear in people. A phone call or email from Phyllis Hester is instantly returned. I don’t even get that kind of response myself! She keeps all of us on the straight and narrow in the best possible way.
Few people know that Phyllis appeared on CNN last year. A crew came by the office to interview me. I was asked why I was stepping down and told the interviewer that the business was getting too complicated. Later, when the crew was shooting b-roll, Phyllis added, “Well, it’s your own fault, Mr. Marriott. You made it that way.”
What can I say? When she’s right, she’s right!
Phyllis, you’ve made a major impact on my life and on our business. It’s been a real blessing having you in my life as my assistant for 25 years.
I’m Bill Marriott and thank you, Phyllis, for helping me keep Marriott on the move.