The Spirit to Serve: Marriott’s Way by J.W. Marriott, Jr., and Kathi Ann Brown (1997) tells the story of the Marriott Hotel chain from its humble origin as a simple root beer stand in 1927 to the global enterprise of modern day. In the process it provides a detailed view of the Marriott Hotel corporate philosophy and how that corporate philosophy has contributed to the company’s success.
According to Mr. Marriott, the true test of a company is the kind of manager it turns out. In the Marriott corporate philosophy, the ideal manager is a hands-on manager, who constantly interacts with employees and customers, and keeps up on everything in the hotel. That is the Marriott tradition, started by J.W. Marriott, Jr.’s father years ago, and it is a tradition Mr. Marriott proudly continues in the present day.
Of the many reasons that Marriott’s has been so successful, one of the most important has been its emphasis on perfectionism and systematization. Common tasks at the hotels are dealt with by writing up and using SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures). Such procedures help the business run smoothly on a day to day basis by providing consistency and reliability. Even more instrumental to Marriott’s success, however, is their corporate culture of service to their patrons; there is no SOP for going the extra-mile, but Marriott’s has developed the corporate culture and workplace atmosphere for doing just that.
It all begins with the employees. Recognizing this, Marriott’s has embraced an Employees First philosophy. Mr. Marriott believes that “when employees know that their problems will be taken seriously, that their ideas and insights matter, they’re more comfortable and confident.” In his many years of experience, Mr. Marriott has found that when employees are treated well, they are inevitably more productive on the job. His corporate philosophy has led to a profit sharing program and even programs that helped employees find new jobs when they were laid off.
According to Mr. Marriott, another key to success in business is finding the right balance between change and order. A company can be a leader in change, or it can be a follower. It is a well-known principle of business that companies that do not take risks will fall behind, while those that take too much risk and over-diversify will pay for it in the marketplace. Mr. Marriott has spent many years finding the happy medium.
As a business leader, Mr. Marriott knows that decision-making is the ultimate key to success. One of the most important aspects of decision-making is learning to decide to decide; once a decision is made, one must fully commit to it. One can not waste time ruminating over decisions already made. One must learn to move on.
The Spirit to Serve: Marriott’s Way is a fine read filled with sound advice for business leaders, managers, and others in positions of authority. Anyone interested in improving their own corporate culture and workplace atmosphere will find invaluable insights inside.
 J.W. Marriot, Jr. and Kathi Ann Brown (1997), The Spirit to Serve: Marriott’s Way. Harper Collins: New York. Pp. 35.