The spirit to serve

This book is the $50 million to $12 billion story of the Marriott group which started with a hotel, not long ago, in 1957. When this book was written, in 1999, the number of Marriott hotels had grown to 1500. However, as the name suggests its more about the management philosophy that this book talks about.

This book, presumably, is kept in all rooms of the hotel, which is how i chanced upon it-i was on a business tour. I did a quick job of reading the book, however, it deserves a second complete reading. My thoughts here are what i gathered from selected (randomly) readings of the book.

On emoluments, the philosophy is very much akin to GE’s-as i understand it. “We are not willing to dangle outrageous incentive packages in front of talented people” (to keep them on board as long as possible). The reason being there will be plenty of others “…for whom the challenge of the job-the opportunity to be imaginative and to contribute-will be more enticing than money”!! But the explaination that seemed more meaningful to me was “if your company’s structure and corporate culture are both strong, the institution should be able to withstand the comings and goings of ambitious people”

This company had interesting opportunities which in hindsight appear to be misses but it out grew them. The now famous Hyatt residency started with a bang by acquiring the very building which the Marriott rejected for its “unusual design” and “who would want to have two hotels of the same brand in one city”-they already owned a hotel in that city then. J.W Marriott Jr. author and one who lead the group distils years of hard earned wisdom and experience in this book, His frankness comes across in the event where he decides not to acquire Disneyland, after its decline following the death of Walt Disney, because “Disney’s success rested largely on a creative spark that i did’nt feel we had”.

The foreword by Jim Collins says “Like all enduring great companies, Marriott’s lasting success does not come from a single great idea, brilliant strategy…..even if a company has them -does not last forever”. Well, Google was not around when this book was written, but will Google last forever?! The book is as much about the J.W Marriott Jr. and his father as about the company. As rightly quoted in the afterword by co-author KA Brown,”An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man”. The book is 175 pages long and highly readable with many useful takeaways on life and management in general.

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