Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Spirit to Serve - Marriott's Way

 Review by: Jeff Wright

I had seen the red and white paperback in hotel night stand drawers many times before but on one particular trip several years ago I decided to take the time to open it and begin reading. It was longer then the newer version I have seen in Marriott hotels since, this book was longer then I could read on the short business trip so I asked and received permission to take it home with me. This little volume was packed with Marriott history and stories describing the Marriott way of doing business. The book was good enough that it found a home on the library shelves of the professional development library at work. The lessons are transferable so the following short summary was written and distributed to colleagues (fellow consultants) so they could benefit from the “The Spirit to Serve - Marriott’s Way”.

This book discusses the Marriott’s philosophy and how important it has proven in building organizational success. The Marriott empire had its share of hard times and is not perfect, but it has indeed been able to deal rather effectively with the hurdles that have been faced. Marriott has never directly won a “Baldrige National Quality Award” for performance excellence, but it appears from this book that they certainly could meet the stringent requirements. Ritz Carlton hotels, owned by Marriott, has won a Baldrige award in large part because of doing business the Marriott way.

A quote from Jim Collins, bestselling author of “Good to Great”, illustrates the axis on which the Marriott world turns; he says

There can be no distinction between a company’s core values and the core values of its leadership”.

As each of us considers how this statement relates to our own world of work, we must ask ourselves if our respective organization’s core values are internalized within its leaders.   

I would like to highlight another quote from the first pages of the opening section of Marriott’s book that describes some of the activities and progression that are so important to Marriott and other successful organizations.

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there”.
Will Rogers

The Marriott’s opened their first business, an A&W franchise in Washington DC, in 1927. Later, hot food was introduced and the term “Hot Shoppe” was adopted, in time other locations were added. The following story is told by Bill Marriott Jr.

Back in the heyday of Hot Shoppes, the daily menu had more then 300 items on it. My Father insisted that every selection be available--and fresh--at all times. Naturally, this is virtually impossible in the restaurant business, but Dad would not hear otherwise. If he went into a Hot Shoppe and they were out of something, he’d raise the roof. After a few such instances, the managers took matters into their own hands. When my Dad showed up at a shop and ordered something that was not available, the kitchen would call the next nearest Hot Shoppe to see if they had it. If they did, runners from the two restaurants would meet in the middle to rush the order back to my unsuspecting father”.

In 1929 Hot Shoppes Inc. was formed and Marriott stepped into the airline catering business. Following several years of growth, in 1955 Marriott opened their first motor hotel beginning the enterprise that exists now. Over the years there have been hurdles, division of product lines, the buying of new companies and selling of less profitable ones. They even took a shot at theme parks with a Marriott’s Great America Park in Illinois and one in Santa Clara, CA. but eventually the parks were bought by Paramount. Marriott took some time testing the waters in other businesses but eventually decided to stick with those things that it does best. Regarding sales, Bill Marriott says

what we’re really selling is our expertise in managing the process that makes those sales possible. And that expertise rests firmly on our mastery of thousands of operational details.”

Initially Marriott owned most of its hotels and earned a solid reputation for smooth operations and exceptional service. Marriott now focuses on hotel branding and management with many properties being owned independently. The book I read is several years old but as of the late 80’s Marriott managed 7% of all hotel rooms in north America and 2% in the world, however, Marriott owned just 1 in 10 of those rooms. There has obviously been incredible growth since then. The percentage of hotel rooms managed by Marriott has grown significantly, and there has certainly been an increase in the number of properties that they own.

Marriott does a phenomenal job with the aspects in Baldrige category 5, which is titled “Workforce Focus”.

As important as companywide recognition programs are, it’s even more critical to make associate appreciation a daily, ongoing, bone-deep philosophy
- Bill Marriott Jr.

Large customer based operations, like hotels, have very large support operations that go on behind the scenes, Marriott refers to the location of this support as “the heart of the house”.

Every Marriott property has its own way of thanking and recognizing associates, but one of my favorites is the Hospitality Gold Star program at one of our vacation resorts. Each week, three guests are selected at random and asked to identify the Marriott associate who has been most helpful during their stay. Each guest receives a beach towel as a gift for helping out. The associates who are identified by the guests receive a monetary award, plus gold stars to wear on their uniforms. Simple enough, right? But there’s a twist. The three winning associates are then asked to identify three associates in the heart of the house who have been most helpful to them during the week. That trio of associates likewise receives monetary awards and gold stars. Why the second round of awards? The GM at the property knows that the folks on the front lines could not do their jobs and win guest plaudits and gold stars without the support of the people working behind the scenes. The second three awards make sure that heart of the house contributions don’t go unrecognized or unrewarded simply because they’re invisible to most guests

The description of the “Hospitality Gold Star Program” exemplifies the overall message of this book. The sprit to serve is not just about serving customers, it also includes a critical element of positive leadership, serving those who serve the customers.


Jeff Wright

ref: The Spirit to Serve – Marriott’s Way
J.W. Marriott, Jr., and Kathi Ann Brown
Marriott's Way PDF

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