There’s a baseball story that I recently found in my father’s diary. It was dated July 30, 1921. It's interesting looking back on this event and what it says about my father.
Dad was very disciplined, even rigid in his concepts. He had a tough time “letting go.” This particular Saturday, he attended a game at the Polo Grounds between the New York Yankees and Cleveland. He was sitting in the bleachers waiting for Babe Ruth to hit a home run. Here's what he wrote, “I was wishing Babe Ruth would knock a home run, and he lifted one right to me. I had my coat and book in hands so couldn’t grab it… Feel like kicking myself for not throwing my coat down, but it came so sudden.”
Most people would have dropped everything for the chance to catch a homer from the Babe. Dad couldn’t let go. He was risk averse. Running a small business during the Great Depression left a lasting impression on him. In the 1940s and ‘50s, our Hot Shoppes restaurants saw fantastic growth, but my dad didn’t want to take on debt to invest in the hotel business. He was still hanging on to that coat and book, not wanting to drop something for the chance to grab a greater prize. Dad’s discipline and hard work built our restaurant business. He toured every Hot Shoppe checking under the stoves for grease. He was tough with hard and fast rules.
But I’ve learned that discipline and hard work can only take you so far. Just like baseball, you must play boldly to win. Over the years, Marriott International dropped many businesses – cruise lines, restaurants, theme parks. It wasn't easy closing the Hot Shoppe restaurants, the foundation of our company, but we freed ourselves up to catch greater opportunities, expanding our hotels globally. My father needed a lot of convincing along the way to take on debt to build these hotels, but I sensed he didn't want to "kick himself" again for not trying to catch a home run. Today, we’re a pure play hotel company, and doing better than ever.
Leave a comment if you've had to take a risk and drop something in order to catch something else.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.