Notes from Bill Marriott’s ‘Without Reservations’

Here are a few notes and highlights from Bill Marriott’s book Without Reservations. It was a quick and enjoyable read.

All of these notes are direct quotes from the book.


Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your customers” was the daily mantra that my brother, Dick, and I heard from our father while we were growing up.

Dad felt very strongly that the concerns and problems of the people who worked for him were always worth listening to. In his eyes, a successful company puts its employees first.

No institution handles human problems perfectly every time.

Nothing is as important as having managers in place who possess the people skills to support, encourage, lead, inspire and listen to associates. A manager without those skills is going against the grain of the organization and more than 85 years of corporate culture. He or she might be able to make good financial results for a short time, but in the end, the lack of people skills will always catch up.

I’m a great believer in the question “What do you think?” It works wonders. In fact, that phrase might just be the four most important words in business.

a healthy company is a bit like a good marriage. No one has the upper hand, special talents and contributions are respected and appreciated and all concerned know that the whole is worth far more than the sum of its parts.

Associates can lose faith in their ability to make a difference, so they stop trying. Or figure someone else will pick up the slack if they fail to pull their weight.

I invariably return home with stacks of index cards filled with ideas about things that we should be doing or things that are out of whack and need fixing. (Yes, I’m one of a dying breed. I still write notes to myself and my team in longhand.) Those ideas quickly find their way into the hands of members of the team at headquarters who can either solve the problem or spread the word about a good concept that works.

Companies that get into trouble are ones where the CEO never budges from the executive suite, and makes decisions without knowing what’s really going on, because he isn’t out in the field finding out for himself. You can’t rely solely on reports or secondhand information. You have to get out there and find out for yourself.

The whole time we were experimenting with our first few hotel properties, we were also diligently jotting down every idea that seemed to work, slowly building from the ground up not only our hotels but also the systems to run them.

That’s important because our successful track record and experience in managing hotels is what attracts the investors who actually own almost all the hotels that bear our name. And those investors are critical to our growth around the world.

Our intense attention to detail translates into consistent quality. Consistent quality leads to high customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction translates into high occupancy, repeat business and good room rates. Those in turn bring home good profits and attractive returns to property owners and franchisees.

For years leading up to my heart attacks, I had been the walking stereotype of the workaholic executive: too little exercise and rest, too much work and too many heavy dinners too late at night.

“The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.”

(Though Mormons don’t drink, as a businessman, I’m not going to tell others that they can’t.)

Making decisions is a big part of running a business. Not a day goes by in the life of a company that you don’t commit yourself to a particular path, turning down one or more opportunities in favor of another. A few simple rules keep me from getting bogged down by the dozens of puzzles, queries and opportunities that land on my desk every day.

be willing to make a decision. Don’t just kick the can down the road. Not everybody finds this easy. My father hated making decisions, for fear that some better option was just around the corner or the risk was too great.

The second rule for decision making is to do your homework. Remember our travel agency and home security businesses? Our organizational decision–making skills improved markedly after we put more muscle into disciplined study.

Which brings me to my third rule of decision making: Listen to your heart.

the fourth rule of decision making: Don’t waste time regretting, revisiting or ruminating over what might have been. As I mentioned earlier, “deciding to decide” can be liberating.

If you spend time going over the what–ifs of every decision you make, you do nothing but waste time that could otherwise be going into exploring new opportunities.

You can click here to purchase this book on Amazon.

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