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J.W. Marriott, Jr. on Family Business

Marriott International celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2002. J. W. Marriott, Jr., the founder's son, serves as chairman and CEO of the $20 billion sales company with 140,000 employees in 65 countries. The company began as a nine-stool A & W root beer stand, expanded into a chain of Hot Shoppe restaurants, an airline catering business and then into hotels. Just eight months after joining the company in 1956, J. W. Marriott, Jr. became manager of the company's first of what are now 2400 hotels.

An interview with Mr. Marriott was published in the May, 2002 issue of The Academy of Management Executive. In it he talked about his family's impact on the company.

Our growth and success have been built on the foundation my father laid. He established the Marriott culture and the Marriott way. The foundation of Marriott's success for 75 years has been our enduring belief that our associates are our greatest assets.

We emphasize several key components:

  • The unshakeable conviction that our people are our most important asset
  • An environment that supports associate growth and personal development
  • A reputation for employing caring, dependable associates who are ethical and trustworthy
  • A home-like atmosphere and friendly workplace relationships
  • A performance-reward system that recognizes the important contributions of both hourly and management associates
  • Pride in the Marriott name, accomplishments, and record of success
  • A focus on growth—managed and franchised properties, owners and investors

My father died in 1985. He pushed me harder than anyone else. My father forced me to think and to present my ideas in a forceful way because he said no to everything everything I brought in for approval  to buy a hotel, build a hotel, grow a hotel business, to change the strategies he'd say no. Because of that, I developed more determination than I would have otherwise. I'm not sure how much of what he did was deliberate in terms of wanting me to develop, or how much was because of his own personality. But I do know that he really did believe in what he was doing and he cared deeply about the future of the company.

From him I learned to work hard, preserve and foster this culture, and know our people. I still travel 100,000 to 200,000 miles a year meeting with associates all over the world. I want them to know that there is a real person named Marriott who cares about them and who cares as deeply as his father did about this company.

I have four children, and all of them have a great passion for the company. For example, John is 41 and serves as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing and is doing a sensational job. When he went to college, he asked me what to study, I said, "I think you should go into accounting because that's the language of the business, so he did." When he got out of school, I got him into sales at Marriott because he was kind of quiet and shy. He had to go out and make sales calls and make sales pitches and do an effective sales job on other people. Once he got that down, he worked his way up the ranks of the hotels as a director of marketing, general manager of a small hotel, and them GM of a bigger hotel. After that he moved out of the hotels to the development side of the business. He spent about four or five years just doing deals. At that point he had experience in the finance side, deals, operations and now marketing. This is the range of experience you need to run a company like this one.

I want the next generation of leaders to see Marriott International as being the best at what it does. To paraphrase, Collins and Porras' book, I want it ‘Built to Last. And that's what we're all about. We're not trying to develop the company and sell our family interest on the open market. We're trying to maintain our long-term family commitment, since whatever wealth our family has is totally caught up in this business. We've devoted our lives to it; my father and mother devoted their lifetimes to it; I've devoted a lifetime to it; and I hope my kids will.

Academy of Management Executive by Hal B. Gregersen and J. Stewart Black. Copyright 2002 by Academy of Management. Reproduced with permission of Academy of Management in format newsletter via Copyright Clearance Center.




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