Book Review: The Spirit to Serve by J.W. Marriott, Jr & Kathi Ann Brown
Back in 1997, J.W. (Bill) Marriott, Chairman and CEO of Marriot- tInternational, wrote a book titled ‘The Spirit to Serve’. The book traces the history of Marriott International from its humble beginnings as a small root beer stand in Washington D.C. to the international giant that it is today.
More importantly, the book outlines Marriott’s management principles and how they are fundamental to the success of his company. Available in bookstores, the book is also tucked inside every bedside drawer in all hotels under the Marriott brand name.
Ten years later, an abridged version was produced ‒ this time, the focus was on employees, or associates, as Marriott called them. It shares the secret of Marriott’s long-standing success – the people who make up the organisation. The abridged version is filled with stories of how individual Marriot associates all over the world live and breathe the tenet of ‘The Spirit to Serve’. These stories reveal their experiences with Marriott and the roads taken to get them to where they are today.
The heart-felt tales of struggles and successes of these associ- ates reflect how the Marriot organisation had given them oppor- tunities to fulfil their potential and push for greater heights, no matter how high or low their organisational status might be. From a bellman in Rochester, Minnesota to a General Manager in Atlanta, Georgia – each of these employees have their own Marriott story to tell.
The short stories selected in this compilation are by no means predictable, nor out of this world. A homeless substance abuser turned Special Projects Attendant, a Vietnamese escapee turned renowned pastry chef, a room attendant with a develop- mental disability winning various employee awards – these are stories of real people in the real world that relate to the common man. Each of their stories expounds how the Marriott corporate culture of valuing every employee has changed their life.
A few chapters share tales of various natural disasters that the Marriott organisation had to deal with over the years. The dedi- cation of Marriott associates to taking care of the well being of their guests is nothing short of heroic. The bravery of a resident manager in Phuket, Thailand, ensured that no lives were lost in the Asian Tsunami of 2006. The quick and efficient response of the Marriott organisation in setting up command centres and evacuation points during the hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean ensured a faster recovery in the ensuing months. The tragedy of 9/11 saw lives lost taking extraordinary measures to ensure lives saved. The Marriott flag that had flown in the World Trade Hotel is now on permanent display at the Marriott headquarters, honouring the associates who fell.
A brief introduction and 12 rules to success by J.W. Marriott begin and wrap up the book respectively. Succinctly, Marriott summarises the Marriott enterprise as a legacy of stories and family. As such, he does not forget to attribute gratitude and respect to his parents who instilled in him precious values and provided a stepping stone for what is today one of the most recognised names internationally. The company’s corporate culture inspires strong loyalty from its employees and custom- ers alike, and is truly a role model for organisations who wish to not only succeed, but also strive for success built to last. ‘The Spirit to Serve’ is the inspiring voice of the Marriott family of past generations, and for future generations.
Next time, when you happen to stay in a Courtyard, Renaissance, Marriott or JW Marriott hotel, take out ‘The Spirit to Serve’ from the bedside drawer, and enjoy a good read before you turn in for the night.