J. Willard Marriott’s 15 Guideposts to Success in Life and Business

J. Willard Marriott’s 15 Guideposts to Success in Life and Business

by Your First Million


A great book I have been reading lately is the biography of the legendary hotelier J. Willard Marriott written by Robert O’Brien.  The book is a little bit older; I believe it was written back in 1977.  Obviously the Marriott Corporation (today Marriott International, Inc.) has seen massive growth and success since then, so it does not tell the whole story of the Marriott enterprise, just the beginning.  I am almost finished reading the book and am getting towards the end.  Yesterday I read a section that inspired me and I wanted to share with everyone. 

There came a point when Marriott knew that the company had expanded so much and so quickly, and with him aging and growing tired, that he needed to find a capable successor to replace him as the executive of the company.  His son J. Willard Marriott Jr. had been a vice president in charge of the hotel division for six years and it became obvious to him that he was next in line to take over the company.


On January 20th, 1964, Marriott made the decision that it was time to have his 31 year old son take over as the Chief Operations Officer of their rapidly growing enterprise so that he could step down and take a less involved role in the company.

On that same day, Marriott wrote a letter to his son expressing his confidence in him and he outlined what he called “guideposts” that he had developed over his more than 40 years of business experience to help encourage him. 

(When I started to read these guideposts, I immediately circled them in the book and instantly knew that I needed to share them on Your First Million because the words were like gold!)

Here are Marriott’s 15 guideposts for life and business from his letter (quoted from the book):

  1. Keep physically fit, mentally and spiritually strong.
  2. Guard your habits- bad ones will destroy you.
  3. Pray about every difficult problem.
  4. Study and follow professional management principles. Apply them logically and practically to your organization.
  5. People are No. 1- their development, loyalty, interest, team spirit. Develop managers in every area.  This is your prime responsibility.
  6. Decisions: Men grow making decisions and assuming responsibility for them.
    1. Make crystal clear what decision each manager is responsible for and what decisions you reserve for yourself.
    2. Have all the facts and counsel necessary- then decide and stick to it.
  7. Criticism: Don’t criticize people but make them a fair appraisal of their qualifications with their supervisor only (or someone assigned to do this). Remember, anything you say about someone may (and usually does) get back to them.  There are few secrets.
  8. See the good in people and try to develop those qualities.
  9. Inefficiency: If it cannot be overcome and an employee is obviously incapable of the job, find a job he can do or terminate now. Don’t wait.
  10. Manage your time.
    1. Short conversations- to the point.
    2. Make every minute on the job count.
    3. Work fewer hours- some of us waste half our time.
  11. Delegate and hold accountable for results.
  12. Details:
    1. Let your staff take care of them.
    2. Save your energy for planning, thinking, working with department heads, promoting new ideas.
    3. Don’t do anything someone else can do for you.
  13. Ideas and competition:
    1. Ideas keep the business alive.
    2. Know what your competitors are doing and planning.
    3. Encourage all management to think about better ways and give suggestions on anything that will improve the business.
  14. Don’t try to do an employee’s job for him- counsel and suggest.
  15. Think objectively and keep a sense of humor. Make the business fun for you and others.




O’Brien, Robert.  Marriott: The J. Willard Marriott Story. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1977.  Print.  Page 265-267


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