A TakeCare Story: Nura Sakati Mendez

June 13, 2018


Every so often I get a letter from a customer or an associate that really touches me because of their positive feelings toward Marriott International and our culture.

Since my father founded this company, our most important and enduring principle has never changed: If you take care of your associates, they will take care of the guests, and the guests will keep coming back. This adage has served as the cornerstone for our tremendous success over the past nine decades.

But this wasn’t just a business strategy to my father — it was the right thing to do; the Golden Rule at work, so to speak.

So, when I reread a letter from Nura Sakati Mendez, who recently celebrated 19 years of service with Marriott, it reminded me of why our puttingpeople first culture is so important.

Nura and Husband in Belgium
Nura Sakati Mendez and her husband, Gerson, in Belgium.

About a year after Nura started at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center in Washington, D.C., she was diagnosed with cancer and would have to undergo six months of chemo and radiation treatments. I can only imagine the fear she must have felt. Just 25 years old and starting a new job; no doubt worried that she’d soon be unemployed.

The property’s Human Resources Director at the time rallied Nura’s supervisor, as well as other hotel executives and managers, and encouraged them to participate in Marriott’s Leave Sharing Program, allowing them to transfer a portion of their available paid leave to Nura. “I never had to go out on disability,” she wrote, “which allowed me the physical and mental outlet of continuing to work, while taking the necessary time off during my treatments.”

The relief and the gratitude she felt was overwhelming, even years later when she wrote me about it. The Marriott community, she said, “assisted in my ability to overcome a difficult time in my life, allowing me to fight the cancer and still have a profession to which I could look forward.”

“I can never thank you enough,” she wrote, “for the company support, leadership, benefits, and everlasting friendships.”

And that’s what our culture is about: treating others the way you’d like to be treated. Going out of your way to make someone feel at home; that Marriott is where they belong.

We believe so strongly in our culture that, in 2010, we started an initiative that we call TakeCare – our elevated focus on associate happiness and wellbeing. This movement is a commitment to helping our associates live their best lives and revolves around three pillars of personal wellbeing: (1) Helping associates feel good about themselves; (2) Helping them feel good about their part in the company; and, (3) Helping them be a part of the company’s role in society.

That’s why Nura’s letter meant so much to me. Her story is a great example of how our putting people first culture has allowed us to maintain an inclusive and engaging environment where all associates – just like Nura – can feel valued, inspiring them to create great experiences for their customers and their community.

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott On the Move!

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Bill Marriott,
The story of Nura's treatment as an employee and a person is heartwarming and, with all due respect to Nura and her story, I want to provide a narrative that diverts from her story but reinforces your statement, "And that’s what our culture is about: treating others the way you’d like to be treated. Going out of your way to make someone feel at home..."

My wife and I have been longtime Marriott customers both for business travel and leisure travel. Our daughters just naturally gravitated to Marriott properties when traveling. Very recently, our grandson, Trevor, has been a patient at North Shore LIJ Hospital in Plainview, NY. Nearby is the Residence Inn by Marriott, Plainview, Long Island. When a diagnostic procedure resulted in complications and caused a last-minute delay in Trevor's release, his Mom was "stuck" with no transportation and no lodging plan. At 9:30 in the morning, she walked to the Residence Inn to book a room for the night. Seeing her distress and her sleepless condition, the front desk found a room and gave her a (very) early check-in so that she could store her bags and get a shower.

The following day, because of the uncertainty of Trevor's release, the Residence Inn held the same room for her so that she would not have to move her bags from place to place. In the middle of a series of texts updating us on Trevor's condition, my daughter sent this text:
"Marriott also made sure I can have that same room. The front desk manager there has been awesome."

Now, these courtesies may not seem like all that much; but to a mother, sleepless and worried about her son, they meant a great deal. Too often, I encounter people in customer service roles who will not look beyond a "guideline" or think outside the box to honor even the smallest request (and let's face it... in the hospitality industry EVERY position, from housekeeper to CEO, is a customer service role).

Front Desk Manager Sabrina Victor went the extra mile to extend every courtesy to a worried mother. She exemplifies "treating others the way you’d like to be treated." It is one thing to use such a phrase as a pithy advertising slogan and quite another to make this a pervasive mantra that guides customer service behavior. Employees must feel empowered to see beyond guidelines and make decisions that lift a guest's spirit. Obviously, Sabrina Victor feels that kind of empowerment! The Marriott "family" should be proud of her!

I am retired and no longer travel regularly. But, Marriott continues to be my "home away from home" when I do travel. I have many good memories of exceptional service and experiences at Marriott hotels. Two happened at different times at the Marriott Marquis San Diego.

The first happened when my wife and our two young children were having dinner. We had finished our meal and our server asked if he could take our children and help them make ice cream sundaes for dessert. "Of couy", we said. He helped them make their sundaes and took them to a nearby table. They had a great time and my wife and I had a few minutes to ourselves. Stellar and caring service.

A few years later we were checking into the same hotel. The front desk associate asked if there was anything else she could do for us. Joking, I said "a bottle of champagne would be nice.". A few minutes after we got to our room there was a knock on the door. "Room service". The front desk associate had sent a complimentary half bottle of champagne. We were blown away! Just blown away!

In both instances I followed up with a letter to the general manager offering my appreciation.

These are only two examples of many instances where a Marriott associate did an outstanding job of taking care of a guest!

Bravo Marriott!