Rather than give a traditional lecture, J.W. “Bill” Marriott, CEO and owner of Marriott International, sat down on Monday afternoon in Lohrfink Auditorium for an interview with current employee Kathleen Mathews to discuss employer-employee relations.

“Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your customers,” Marriott said.

Marriott explained that his father, J. Willard Marriott, who founded the family business, raised him on this ethos. Marriott’s father was one of the first employers in the District to provide employees with health care benefits by keeping a doctor and surgeon on staff.

Marriott said that he not only felt personally obligated, but also thought it was good business practice to provide quality care for his employees.

“[The hotel industry] is a personal service business. [With] assembly lines, people there would never see the customers. Our people interact with 30, 40, 50, 100 people every day,” he said.

Marriott fielded Mathews’ question on the impact of the recession on Marriott International, making it clear that the recession had deeply cut into the company’s revenue. Executive business makes up about 80 percent of revenue, so when publicly unpopular companies like AIG hold retreats at upscale resorts, it makes it difficult for federally aided corporations to use hotel companies such as Marriott International.

Marriott also discussed changes in consumer tastes. Due to the recession, consumers no longer wanted to be seen as wasteful spenders.

“We had a Harbor Beach Resort, but we had to remove resort from the name, calling it the Harbor Beach Hotel, because people didn’t want to stay at a resort,” Marriott said.

He explained that in order to respond to such shifts in consumer mindset, Marriott had taken measures such as joining with Nickelodeon to use cartoon characters in their hotels to attract parents with young children. Marriott claimed that parents with young children were a growing percentage of travelers and were increasingly bringing their children for trips, instead of using babysitters.

Marriott, born only eight blocks away from Georgetown, discussed his ties to the university and the surrounding area. The Marriott Key Bridge, just across the Potomac River, was the second Marriott hotel ever built. In addition, Marriott served on the Board of Trustees of the university and also received an honorary degree from Georgetown on Dec. 10, 2009. Marriott International also served as the food provider and server for O’Donovan Hall until May 2006.

Filmed by C-SPAN, the event attracted a large crowd, including MBA students, former Marriott employees, and members of various clubs and associations.

Marriott was brought to campus as part of the Distinguished Leaders Series, according to the McDonough School of Business Web site. The series had previously brought speakers such as Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Sanjay Khosla, the executive vice president for Kraft Foods.”

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