It’s easier to take care of people in good times, but what about the bad times? Is it still possible (or practical) to take care of people in tough times? As Bill Marriott, chairman and CEO of Marriott International, sees it:

“Business has become softer and business travel has come down, which is a great concern to our industry. This is a very uncertain economy, an uncer­tain world.”

But Marriott has weathered tough times in the past. “All through the 1980s we sold hotels. We sort of man­ufactured hotels to sell. In 1989 we had three or four great big hotels that we had just finished, and we had con­tracts to sell them, but then the real estate market col­lapsed and the buyers went under. So we were stuck with tremendously hard assets―brand-new hotels―and we had no leverage and way too much debt. That was really very hard. We had to lay off 1,000 people ­ thankfully we had coun­selors and placement officers to help them and we were able to find almost everyone a job.”

“But this business [the hotel industry] has consis­tently grown over the years. World travel and tourism are constantly estimated at 6 per­cent growth. We’ve got an emerging middle class in places like India. That’s huge. Thirty-five million people trav­eled outside of China last year, and they estimate next summer it will be 100 million.”

Opportunity for All

What’s most memorable in a lifetime of service? “It’s opportunity,” says Bill Marriott.

“I look back and think about what I’ve done and what the company has done:

Built thousands of hotels. We’ve employed literally hundreds of thou­sands of people. Everywhere I go I meet people who have worked for us, somewhere, sometime, some­place. And we give people the opportunity to learn.

“Giving people these opportunities has just been wonderful, and to continue to do that makes me feel that we have really con­tributed to people’s lives, their livelihood, and helped them advance and grow.”

J.W. Marriott, Jr., was the 2008 Excellence in Communi­cation Leadership

(EXCEL) Award winner, one of the highest honors the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) bestows on a leader, often a chief executive officer, managing director or president, who best exhibits leadership in fostering excellent communication.

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