The following post was written by junior and Tisch Center social media student worker, Haley Park. Haley is a Psychology Major and Economics minor in The College of Arts and Sciences at NYU.
On Thursday, October 18th, the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of NYU hosted its 24th Annual Stephen W. Brener Distinguished Lecture Series. This year’s event was titled, “On Being a Leader”: Leading in the Disrupted and Consolidating Hospitality Industry and featured David Marriott, Chief Operations Officer of Marriott International, Eastern Region, The Americas.
David Marriott started the conversation by sharing the family journey of the Marriotts’. His grandfather, J. Willard Marriott, founder of Marriott International, was the oldest of eight siblings and at the age of 14, he already knew the value of hardwork. He ran the family farm, working long hours and protecting his father’s sheep. Although David’s grandfather passed when he was only at the age of 12, he shared nostalgic family memories of the time spent with his grandfather in the summer months in New Hampshire.
In 1927, after spending many days working on the farm, his grandfather left Utah and settled down in D.C to sell rootbeer. Prior, David’s grandfather only had a sixth grade education, but during this time, he earned an Associates Degree at Weber State University and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Utah where he met David’s grandmother. David’s grandmother was quite a trailblazer herself as she was the youngest graduate at the University of Utah with a double major in Spanish & English and led the way in terms of the women’s rights.
David’s grandfather’s career in hospitality began with his airline catering in Washington D.C. He expanded this by acquiring different restaurant chains as well as a large amount of land. In 1957, J. Willard Marriott made his first investment in the lodging business, and his son Bill, David’s father, ran the first Marriott hotels, Twin Bridges Marriott and Key Bridge Marriott. Jonathan M. Tisch shared how his own grandparents beared many similarities to David’s. He remarked, “the ingenuity of our predecessors has allowed us to learn so much.” The inspiring aspect of David’s grandfather’s journey was that he founded the business on investing in the people and taking care of the people’s needs: a formula for success which has not changed.
One of the main reasons why Marriott International has become a world-renowned success is due to the genuine care that Marriott has for its people. David shared that even when they’re dealing in such big numbers, “nothing is more important than taking care of the people, empowering the people and making sure they understand that you care.” When asked what David’s viewpoint was on how to deal with issues in the hotel, he retorted, “you have to provide for the workers not only with a paycheck but make sure they’re able to find balance and make other parts of life a priority.” He shared the story of how the event management staff in the Carolinas were required to work more hours than expected, and the decision was made to offer them flexibility to work from home, which was a success. In terms of Marriott’s vision for the future, David stated, the “vision as a company is to be the world’s favorite travel company.”
After a thought-provoking conversation between Jonathan and David, the floor was then opened to questions from the audience. One student asked what luxury meant to Jonathan and David. Jonathan stated, “luxury is a sensibility, it’s making people feel comfortable.” Echoing Jonathan’s remark, David stated, “luxury has evolved and will continue to evolve. Luxury is a mindset and meeting the needs of the customer and being flexible. It’s being able to engage the customer in unique ways that are comfortable and delivered in a way that customers want them delivered.”
The conversation between Jonathan and David was very intellectually stimulating, inspiring and thought-provoking. Two freshmen students, Maya Kwok and Sabrina Urban, thought “Jonathan and David had really good chemistry.” Another freshman, Sara Al-Balushi, said she “liked the fact that Marriott is a people business and how David shared that at the end of the day, you take care of your worker and they take care of your customer.”
The night concluded with faculty, alumni and students mingling and sharing their thoughts about the event. Thank you to everyone who attended!