Into the Details

October 12, 2014

1965 ca JW Marriott Jr  Sr

When my father asked our Board of Directors to elect me president of our company in 1964, he wrote me a very thoughtful letter describing how I should develop my management style to be an effective executive. 

In a recent interview, I was asked, which item on my father’s list was the most difficult for me to follow?  I replied that at a young age, I was advised, “not get into the details” and effectively delegate to others.  As I thought about this, I realized that my father’s attention to detail had made our company successful. He spent at least half of his time in his restaurants checking on every detail. He inspected clean kitchens, dining room, servers in proper uniforms and much, much more. He insisted on attractive plants and shrubbery. In short, he really was into the details. 

Throughout my almost 60 years in the business, I have visited between 200-300 hotels per year.  The peak was 320 the year before I handed the CEO reins over to Arne Sorenson.

I ignored my Dad’s advice on getting into the details but followed his example of visiting the operations as often as I could. As I look back on all those visits, I know it was the right thing to do. I always learned something on every visit. I would write down my findings on little white index cards I carried in my pocket. I also visited our competitor’s hotels as often as possible and learned a lot from them. Thus, when it became time to select a site for a new hotel, I was confident in the type of hotel that would work in a particular location. And when I was asked to review the drawings and design for a new property, I had a sense for how to make the hotel more efficient and customer-friendly.

My visits through the years have given me a knowledge base that has helped me make the big decisions I needed to make from the home office. Years ago, business professors would often state that if you have executive skills, you can run any business.  I never agreed with this and remain an advocate that the more you know about your particular business, the more successful you’ll become. So my advice is to get out of the office; learn how the business works; and think about how you can continuously improve it to make it better for your customers. If you do this, then, you will be successful.

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

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I love Marriott story. It should be taught in schools to motivate students of the possibilities that come from hard work.
The desk photo is a classic. As a frequent Marriott customer I've seen it in many of their properties.

Dear Mr.Marriott,

My wife & I have visited your hotel in Madrid, AC Santo Mauro recently and stayed there for 6 days. and must say that the layout of the hotel is great, the room is nicely decorated & we love patio and have some fond of memory of our stay. Wonderful staffs & wine is great.

The new Edition in London UK is also great, location is central, our lovely 6 nights staying remain a fond memory to my wife & I, the lounge is lovely & dining was even better. We love every bit of it. Thank you for managing such great hotels worldwide.

I work at one of your reservations center and I've been with Marriott for 6 years. I wanted to let you know that Marriott is the best company I've ever worked for. I admire you and everything that you have accomplished. I really appreciate you taking care of your associates and our guests. I am really proud and thankful for the opportunity to be a Marriott associate. I love Marriott and plan to retire from here. Thank you Mr. Marriott for being a role model and and inspiration.

Great advice for any business concept. You really must know your business details even if you plan to delegate. My father more less showed me how to manage customer service when gathering information from the customer by listening to the details of their concerns. Then satisfying those concerns beyond expectations.

Bill Sir,
I completely agree with your business familiarity philosophy.
Real excellence comes with the capacity to anticipate accurately, and that only comes with top to bottom familiarity.

I am writing to let you know some happy news. Turnaround at the JW Marriott Las Vegas. The property, and more, the attitude, had slid to a low point about 20 months ago.

Carme M. Rubino Jr and his team have not only restored, but have surpassed old levels of hospitality.

He is Mark Hendricks quality, in a Hotel Manager

Thought you would want to know,


Thank you. I have visitied some of your hotels and must say I am personal fond of Marriott hotel Monaco with its wonderful staf.

Although I'm heading a competing hotel company I find Mr Marriott such an inspiration. A man whose impact on the entire industry will be forever lasting! Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, insights - and wisdom! Frank Fiskers, CEO, Scandic Hitels, Stockholm.

Couldn't agree more. When I first became an officer I was told by a senior enlisted member I was doing to much work. I told him I wanted the enlisted to see me working and know I didn't consider myself above doing the dirty work, because the little details make the big picture. I also looked forward to my commanders visiting. I enjoyed them seeing we had accomplished the mission and we worked as a team.

I have been a Marriott shareholder for many years-through good times and not so good times. I have never once ever thought of selling my stock. I just wanted yo to know that it has been pleasure to own Marriott throughout the years. This is probably the one stock that I own that will be handed down in the family. Thank you and your associates for operating such a great company.