J.W. Marriot and His Leadership in the Hospitality Industry


The American hotel chain Marriott International is one of the largest transnational corporations in the world. According to the statistics, every fourth tourist in the USA has stayed in Marriott International hotels. Marriott Hotel chain is known for its extremely high quality of services and the reputation of one of the best hotels in the world. Today, Marriott hotels can be found on all continents, except Antarctica. A gigantic empire has more than 2,500 hotels around the world. The staff of the company is more than 200 thousand people. Its annual sales have crossed the mark of 10 billion dollars.

Get a price quote
Type of service
Type of assignment
Writer level
Number of pages
We do NOT use AI
to write content

Marriott is a multi-brand corporation. It represents the hotels and inns, covering a wide range of target groups. Marriott brands include some luxury hotels as Bulgari and Renaissance; the middle class hotels as Courtyard Marriott; the hotel chain Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn, and Howard Johnson restaurant chain. Marriott owns 49% of the world-famous chains of Ritz-Carlton luxury hotels. At the same time, out of all the hotels being under the Marriott brand, the founding family rightfully owns only six hotels. Half of Marriott stock hotels is currently working on a franchise; another half also does not belong to it, but is being under its control.

Marriott has had its ups and downs repeatedly, including those ones in its recent history. In 2001, the company had to experience a number of problems associated with the claims from hotel owners of Marriott. Hoteliers have been dissatisfied with the actions of the company in the provision of franchise services. They demanded the revision of contracts. At the same time, the shares of the hotel giant fell to one-third and put Marriott on the edge of survival. However, since 2003, the company has demonstrated a steady growth. Marriott shares over the past five years have grown by half in their price.

The Beginning of Marriott Business

The history of this hotel corporation is a vivid example of the embodiment of the American dream being traditional for several generations of the USA citizens. In this way, thousands of now prosperous American companies have begun their long road to success.

It happened in such a way that John Willard Marriott Sr. started his small business in 1927. The first hotel opened only in 1957. It was only a small step to a huge empire. Thus, this unusual family still had to be built. Familism is the first and main asset of Marriott Clan. It has been standing in the financial crisis, the war and the collapse of a real estate market.

Bill Marriott was an extraordinary man. Yet, at the dawn of his career, being a top manager and a restaurant business owner, doctors found that he had the tumors in the lymph nodes. They considered the disease very dangerous and warned Willard that he had only less than a year to live then. Whether due to the prayers of his relatives or by his own arbitrary decision, the experienced entrepreneur overcame the Aesculapius’ forecast and had lived more than fifty years.

Born in the family of farmers and rural workers, modest Billy did not shy away from the physical labor. From his childhood, he has taken care for animals on the ranch. Being a teenager, Willard grew lettuce for sale, while cultivating the abandoned farm plot. His first profit of 2,000 dollars he received only due to his wit. The independent boy not only profitably was selling goods at the fair, but also he gave the money to his family. At the age of 14, Bill shipped the herds across half of the country. Soon he went to New England with the Mormon religious mission. The travel became a revelation for young Marriott. Since that time, he knew that the country life was not for him. He wanted to study but he had to work. Chasing the "big money", a young entrepreneur missed no opportunity. He did not miss any random side jobs and the reseller’s craft. After receiving the coveted diploma of Salt Lake City University, in Utah, Willard entered into a contract with a manufacturer of the local traditional drink A&W Root Beer on the trade in Washington, DC. During his studies, he met the love of his life, Alice Sheets. They married right after his graduation. As it turned out, Ellis became perhaps the most successful investment in the life of a young Mormon. The woman not only gave birth to two beautiful sons, but also was his companion in all his business endeavors.

And since that time, in 1927, the hottest summer provided the unconditional demand for the carbonated sweet beverage, i.e. root beer (it resembled brew by its taste). A stall and nine bar stools were the whole property of a newly created company. It opened on 20 May, the day of the beginning of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight. Without any exaggeration, the whole country was watching a fearless pilot. On this wave, Marriott’s small investment (6 thousand dollars) was paid off quickly (Appelbaum, 2011).

Ellis’ stepfather was a senator from Utah. Thus, he could protect the interests of the immature family business. Hot Shoppe was the first summer restaurant of the endless chain of the similar ones. There J W Marriott, Sr., used his business strategy for the first time. One of the cornerstones principles of his business was to "do the job properly." This meant the active participation of a top manager in the life of the restaurant. Personally attending the particular restaurant, the businessperson had set a goal to make sure that any meal from the extensive menu was available for a client. These "field visits" scarified the staff. However, the most cunning waiters soon found a way out. If one of three hundred dishes was unavailable in the kitchen, a messenger brought it from the nearest Hot Shoppe restaurant. Any employee, whether a personal assistant or an accountant, had to pass the "basic training" at the restaurant kitchen. What was the need in the personal experience? It was determined by the need that in order even for people being very far from the end-user to have an idea of the restaurant business and the course of its processes (Conrad N. Hilton College, 2007).

The SOP, i.e. the standard operating procedures, is a win-win practice used by such giants as McDonalds. However, Marriott had implemented the SOP in his restaurants long before the first eatery of McDonald brothers began working. This means a clear regulation of the smallest processes of preparation and the presentation of meals, welcoming and customer service, etc. Perhaps, it was this approach that had made the network extremely profitable. In 1929, before the Great Depression, J W Marriott became the owner of three major restaurants in Delaware (Lundberg, 2001).

Unfortunately, the financial turmoil and recession of the national economy had seriously affected the emerging company. All the three catering points had to be sold. However, the former missionary did not give up. For the assets obtained, he bought land for restaurants in the areas with the greatest potential. According to his opinion, they were the neighborhood of a federal highway and major bridges. Rightly believing that the transfer of the bridge was almost unreal, Marriott laid there the foundations for the Hot Shoppe fast food chain.

 In 1937, Willard Sr. took a step towards becoming a pioneer in providing catering for the national airline. This bright idea came into his head at the civilian airport, Hoover, in Washington. There the passengers were ordering breakfasts on board of an airliner. Not holding his breath waiting, Marriott signed a contract for the supply of covenant trays with the Eastern Air Transport, headed by Eddie Rickenbacker at that time. A similar contract with the Capital Company was not long of coming. In 1955, the management of the company signed some long-term agreements for the supply of meals for schools and clinics.

The Birth of Marriott Hotel Chain

The first hotel was built by Willard Marriott and his vice-president Milt Barlow in front of his eatery and positioned as a "paradise for truckers." It was a high-class motel with a swimming pool and a restaurant, a beauty salon and a huge parking. The beauty of this place was in such a fact that motorists could drive up to the reception without leaving the wheel. The staff accompanied the newly arrived drivers on bicycles. 365 rooms, a huge well-maintained area and, most importantly, the commercial potential of the well located facility, brought the fame to it, and the money to its owners (Meyer, 2006).

Thus, in 1957, the Marriott Company opened its first hotel called The Twin Bridges Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. The Motor Hotel combined some features of a luxury hotel and a convenient haven for a night. All rooms were of the high class (compared to what had been offered by the motels of this segment). They were equipped with such conveniences as TV, air conditioning and radio. The territory also contained a supermarket and an extensive breakout area. The price was more than affordable, i.e. only $9 per night. It is interesting to know that the historical building of the first hotel of the famous network has survived to this day. Now it is the Marriott Corporation museum located there (O’Brien, 2003).

The idea was fresh. The first impetus to the development of the hotel corporation had been made. However, the fundamental principle of such business philosophy of Marriott, Sr., became an obstacle to its expansion. The fact was that the experienced businessman was guided by the old Mormon truth: never take a loan unless you can avoid it. Willard did not accept loans. He also instructed his son in the same manner. That is why, in 1953, the company went public with the release of its first block of shares. The securities were sold very quickly. At the face value of $ 10.25, they were sold out in the matter of hours. Now, with the money of investors, the Marriott’s family has become engaged in franchising. Conservative Willard did not like this promising direction as well. He feared that the franchisees did not justify the high confidence of customers that he had appreciated greatly. The founder of the company made sure that the hotels under franchise had differed from those of his own chain. Therefore, the name of franchise hotels contained the prefix “Inns”; and even the architecture was fundamentally different from the typical Marriott’s family hotels.

 Another ingenious scheme of the Willards, a father and a son, was the construction of new luxury hotels for the investors' money. After commissioning, the building was sold; and with the same partner, a long-term contract for management was concluded. Being the professional hotel managers, the Marriotts were not going to waste their time for waiting for the need in their services in case their services would be required somewhere. Instead, they themselves created jobs. "Why wait until you are invited to the dance, when you can build a ballroom and hire orchestra yourself?", Bill Marriott, the eldest son of the founder of the empire used to say.

Since 1973, this practice had been successfully applied by the owners of the corporation. In 1978, the management decided to sell the main part of hotels and retrain the structures solely on the hotel management. This tactic has brought the company the success, i.e. the brand is thriving until now despite the fact that only one hotel per hundred has been owned by Marriott International.

Marriott Market Research

Since 1980, the most creative and motivated employees went into the raid across the U.S. to make their own impression of the economical accommodation market. The young professionals were interested in everything that had been offered to customers by cheap hotels and inns. Having spent few days in each hotel that could deserve more or less of attention, Marriott experts received the information about the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors and got some ideas on how to accommodate the business travelers from customers comfortably.

After three years of the painstaking research, the corporation issued to the public a new project called Courtyard Marriott. This was a chain of mid-priced hotels distinguished with the increased attention to the service and special treatment of customers.

The opening of the first Courtyard Hotel took place in 1983, near Atlanta, Georgia. Next year, J. W. Marriott decided to buy the American Resorts Group. So for the first time, the corporation became engaged in the tourist accommodation. After that, there were many acquisitions that were successful and not very.

Thousands of hotel complexes for the rich, the luxurious five-star hotels and shelters for the second-rate businessmen, timeshares and stylized antique inns – all these were the Marriott’s thirty years ago. In the same direction, the corporation is moving now. Spa hotels and fitness hotels, hotels for business travelers - Marriott executives hurry up to try everything new and interesting.

Failures of the Marriott Corporation

Of course, there were some failures as well. Even the founder of the Marriott Empire, J. Willard, Sr., admitted this. Among such projects, we can mention the Marriott World Travel Company and the cruise company in Cyprus. The political instability in this paradise for tourists had led to the collapse of all undertakings in the first year after the launch. However, the founders did not hurry to give up. For another 15 years, until the 1987, the business had existed without bringing any profits. Until 1983, the Great American Parks, the other badly implemented initiative, had been working. Bill Marriott said on this occasion that the changes for such business had been like the oxygen for life.

Perhaps, one of the most intriguing pages in the company’s history was the failed deal with Disney in the early eighties. The film industry and amusement parks were an unexplored area that the Marriotts, a father and a son, were too far from. It was a rare case when the family had not risked mastering the new industry. The most obvious explanation seems to be that they simply did not have enough equity. They would need more than $ 2 billion to buy Disney. As we have already mentioned this was at the odds with the principles of the patriarch of the family.

Marriott Franchising Activity

In 1981, the company already had one hundred of hotels in its assets (the one hundred part of them was solemnly opened in Hawaii). Its turnover exceeded one billion dollars, and the corporation acquired the Host International, Inc. It enters the timeshare market. The franchising activity of the corporation is extending. In this area, Marriott is out of competition both due to its prestige of cooperation and the requirements to partners. The high tariffs and the many complex conditions that the brand has put before the owners could deter its partners from any other company but not from them. The place of an intractable franchise holder will be taken by dozens of other wishers; and the chain management does not make any concessions. "If you want to get a good treatment from the Marriott, register at one of the chain's hotels as a lodger". This is an ordinary phrase that is attributed to one of the unlucky former partners.

J W Marriott Leadership Style

On the rise, in the period of its rapid growth of the accommodation industry, the founder of the company, John Willard, Sr., died. Shortly before his death, the magnate gave an interview to journalists. During it, he laid a special emphasis on his life goals. "A man should always be a creator ... and leave the light behind." Marriott died of the heart failure in August 1985. He was handing the reins of the empire to his son Bill.

The light emanating from him during his life continued to warm after his death as well. The new Mormon Church in Washington has been built for the company’s funds; million dollars were donated to update the library at the University of Salt Lake City as well as the funding for a health center in one of the educational institutions has left a good memory of him.

The main principle of his leadership style stated that people were the main asset of any successful company. J. Willard Marriott valued his employees and treated them as the members of his family. He visited them when they were sick; helped them if they got in a trouble; and always listened to them if they came to him with some requests. He devoted his own personal time to convince his employees that they were dear to him. Coming into his own restaurants, he shook his employees’ hands. J. W. Marriott, Jr., being already the president of the Marriott Int., recalled that his father had in the staff an employee the sole duty of which was to ensure that all restaurant workers had been satisfied with their work and had been treated as they deserved. People said about him that he had been more attentive to dishwashers than to the members of the Board. At the same time, J W Marriott was very demanding to his employees and managers regarding the highest quality of the customer service. This combination of tact, care and strictness was a key to the long and successful life of the Marriott Empire.

 J. Willard Marriott valued the good location of the facilities. Often he was building restaurants and hotels close to bridges. He was correctly considering that traffic flows could change their "channels", but no one would decide to demolish a bridge.

A fanatical advocate of high standards of the corporate culture, J W Marriott also followed the principle of social responsibility of business. The profit cannot be spent only for the personal gain. Most of it should be invested into the development of the country and the society.

Marriott was renowned for his ability to analyze any situation and to choose the right direction. This was another distinctive feature of his leadership style.

Marriott was a true innovator in the field of marketing. In his restaurants and hotels, he organized some gala presentations, inviting the best bands and entertainers. He sent his servants to busy crossroads, where they popped cards advertising his facilities into the open windows of cars that had stopped at a red light.

According to Marriott, the mission of his company was, "To take and hold a leading position in the hotel services, showing special care to guests, business partners, employees and society." He had built his business on the fundamental ideals of the service provided to customers, employees and the society. These ideals are immutable, unique and make the company great, being the cornerstone for all employees of the Marriott Company.

Servicing Standards

The company has the clear service standards, being common in all countries. They have been developed by a founder, Willard Marriott. In particular, the core values of the firm are expressed by the slogan Spirit to Serve. According to the Marriott policy, quality service starts with employees. "The better the company treats its employees, the better they will treat customers", as J. Willard Marriott explained. With this approach, the Marriott Int. regularly ranks in the ratings of the best employers of The Fortune.

Working with an international chain is beneficial for entrepreneurs. They get a recognizable brand, a global reservations system, and a marketing support. At the same time, the pricing policy is determined by an owner. However, the global brand costs money. The commission makes up to 12-14% of the turnover.

The main thing is that hotels must meet the standards of the Marriott chain. The owners of the brand tightly control this. Once a year, the hotel is visited by a "mystery guest", i.e. an unrecognized inspector. He visits all the services of the hotel and captures the conditions of décor. He notices whether the personnel smile, how many minutes it takes to bring a dish and so on. The inspector has an access to the general computer database, which contains Marriott customers’ feedbacks from around the world. Finally, the inspector removes the mask, introduces himself to the director and gets the access to business premises. Following the visit, the hotel gets rated. It is necessary to score at least 75 points out of 100.

The Marriott training system includes several directions. Firstly, an introductory lesson for new employees takes three days. People are familiarized with the company, its history, the fundamentals of its corporate culture, safety requirements and so on. In addition, during the first three months, the beginners’ adaptation program is implemented.

Secondly, employees are constantly taught at their workplaces. Those involved directly into a guest servicing, study the technology of work in the hospitality industry, stress management, telephone etiquette, and so on. The managers are taught of fundamentals of management.

Besides training, the Marriott staff has another important standard, i.e. a small book of mottos. These are the rules of conduct in relation to the guests and the hotel, designed in the headquarters. The mottos are changing every day. There are 20 of them, one for each working day of the month (for Saturday and Sunday, the mottos are not provided). With the time, living with a motto becomes a habit.

Hospitality is a stressful business, where it comes to services there are always the problems with clients. In order to solve them quickly, there is a duty manager. In special cases, the staff calls straight to a director (Jaszay & Dunk, 2006).

To operate skillfully in some difficult situations, the Marriott Company has its own technology for dealing with complaints. The algorithm is simple and easy to remember. It is called LEARN: Listen, Empathize (or Sympathize), Apologize, React (propose a solution to the problem) and, finally, Notify (inform of the solution). Even if the complaint is unfounded, the employee still has to listen to a guest, politely apologize and explain the situation. The Marriott employees have the authority to resolve a number of problems by themselves. Thus, if the electronic key does not open the door, and the tired guest is forced to return down to the front desk, the hotel employee may, on his own initiative, compensate the guest his negative emotions. He may put some candies into his room or invite for a free appetizer. The amount of compensation is usually small, i.e. not more than 30 euro.


The hospitality industry is one of the biggest fast-growing sectors in the world economy. With the growth of the total number of tourists, the tourism infrastructure and its main component, the hotel sector, has received the considerable development. For many centuries, the hotel business has undergone various business models: from the family ownership to the participation in international hotel chains. An example of the most effective ownerships in tourism is the creation of hotel corporations.

In the work, we have considered the world largest hotel corporation the Marriott International headed by the greatest American hotelier, John Willard Marriott.

After reading the story of the great hotelier, we can draw some conclusions about the role and contribution he has made to the development of the hospitality industry. John Willard Marriott was the man who had revolutionized and made a great contribution to the development of the hotel industry. He brought hospitality to the entirely new level of development. His initiatives have now become the standard for the worldwide.

Get 15% off your 1st order
Use quality15code promo discount code
The Competency-based approach to Management Development The Leadership Experience
Related essays
to use our service and receive 10% from every order they place
Chat with Support