I’m often asked why Marriott International has been so successful over the years. I tell them it all harkens back to my father’s commitment to taking care of the associates, and his endless striving for excellence at every level of the company.
I was reminded of this when I came across a memo from Bill Bailey, who was the district manager of Marriott Inflight Services in Chicago, Illinois, at the time, one of Marriott’s divisions that was sold in 1989, so we could concentrate more fully on our hotels.
Bill was recounting times when my dad came to Chicago to inspect the kitchen facilities in the 1960s.
Bill marveled at how dad treated everyone. “He shook hands with as many of the hourly and management associates as he could” and knew most of their names.
He also noted dad’s attention to details and insistence on excellence, whether it was the way the steaks were prepared for American Airlines, to areas that needed follow-up inspections, or any other aspect of the operation that could be improved.
At one point on that inspection tour, Bill recounts how dad stopped and asked “do you have a good memory?” Bill answered that he thought he did, to which dad said, “you must, because you aren’t writing anything down.”
There was nothing like an inspection by my dad, he said.
“His knowledge of the daily routine needed for a flight kitchen to be successful was amazing,” Bill noted.
On another round of inspections, Bill recalled how after they were done, he took dad to the airport. Dad was so engaged in their conversation about how to improve the business that he didn’t want to stop talking, even after he’d boarded the plane.
“I always tried to emulate and follow the example by this tremendous leader of a great corporation,” Bill said.
So did I. And so have the many other talented leaders at Marriott over the years.
In our business, every detail matters; from the booking experience, to how our guests are treated when they enter the lobby, to the cleanliness of the rooms, the quality of the food, and even how well the elevators are maintained.
It’s a massively complex and endlessly challenging business, and the smallest misstep can send a guest looking for another brand the next time they travel. And it all depends on our associates.
Dad understood that, which is why Marriott has been so successful for more than 90 years.