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Building Bridges to Opportunity

Posted:03/12/2012 4:06 PM

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.   

Patricia

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. 

Alex

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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Recent Post

Living the American Dream

Posted:03/05/201210:08 AM

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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World of Opportunity: Chance Encounters

Posted:02/27/201210:50 AM

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After 33 years with Marriott International, Nusrat Mirza learned first-hand how our company can open doors to a world of opportunity.

Nusrat Mirza

Nusrat’s story goes back to 1978, when he became a restaurant supervisor in one of our properties. Today, he’s the General Manager of our beautiful Renaissance Long Beach Hotel in California.

One day, after inviting his housekeeping staff to bring their children to work, Nusrat had a “chance encounter” with a young teenager named Mario. 

When asked what he wanted to do in life, the young boy confidently replied, “I want your job.”  Nusrat encouraged him to come back when he was older and like clockwork, Mario returned a few years later and was hired.  He’s now a front desk clerk known for his unfailing ability to deliver for his guests.  

One evening there was a mix-up when a guest thought she had reservations at the Renaissance, but in fact was booked at another hotel.  Mario reassured the weary traveler that he would help and, of course, quickly transferred her reservation to his hotel.  Way to go Mario!  

Nusrat Mirza with Bill Marriott

It’s great seeing a young person like Mario having success in our business.  He knew what he wanted and found a wonderful mentor in Nusrat. 

These mentorships take place at all of our hotels.  There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing an associate succeed and grow in their job. It’s the “Marriott Way.”

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

 

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More Lessons From A Car Guy

Posted:02/20/2012 2:08 PM

After nearly 40 years as a CEO at Marriott, I love to read about how others lead.  Recently, I blogged about Bob Lutz's new book "Car Guys vs. Bean Counters," which has many lessons from his tenure with General Motors. Bob Lutz

My 13-year service on the GM Board ended about a year after Bob came aboard.  But I've watched and admired him from afar.  General Motors has weathered some tough times lately and I found Bob's commentary about the problems that they have faced as powerful.  So I shared copies of his book with my senior leadership team.

The great concern I have, as a leader of a large corporation, is the risk of losing sight of the customer and their needs.  All too often big corporations think they know all the answers and become arrogant and inward focused. 

Bob understood that.  He had a gut instinct for focusing on the customer.  For example, at my first board meeting with General Motors, one of their senior leaders informed me that Cadillac was such a strong, wonderful brand there was no need to spend much money enhancing the design or improving the new cars.  When Bob came on board, he paid a lot of attention to Cadillac, which is once again the standard of luxury cars around the world.

In his book, Bob stresses the need to follow your instincts and rely on your own experience in making big business decisions.  He recognizes that there is a place for detailed financial analysis, spread sheets and power point presentations.  But they should never be the driving force guiding the company.

Bob Lutz's Book

Before he came to GM, Bob was a Marine Corps pilot and served in a Marine attack squadron at U.C. Berkeley.  He described a change of command when the squadron was taken over by a modest, humble Lieutenant Colonel who received a battlefield promotion in WW II. 

His name was Art Bauer and his day job was Hose Man #2 at the San Francisco Fire Department.  The squadron was composed of ambitious graduate students at Cal and Stanford who were shocked that such an uneducated man would be their commanding officer.  After the Change of Command ceremony, Colonel Bauer called his 20-odd junior officers together and gave the following talk as Bob Lutz remembered it.  

Colonel Bauer said: “I’m going to stay out of your way because you are all more capable than this old officer.  I don’t expect you to respect me for my flying ability, because it’s not at your level.  But I do want and demand your support and respect.  Not for me, but for the uniform I wear and the rank that is on it. You gentlemen, not I, are going to run this squadron and I don’t want you to let me down.”

Bob Lutz said the doubts and snickering soon stopped.  And, in 18 months Bauer’s squadron was rated number one in the entire Marine Corps Reserve.

Bob wrote that in leadership, as in all things, less is often more.  I hope that as time passes, Marriott leaders will remain faithful to a management style of humility and accountability, like Bob Lutz learned from his old squadron commander and from the mistakes that he witnessed at General Motors.

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

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I'm Bill Marriott, Chairman & CEO of Marriott International.

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