J. Willard Marriott: from root beer stand to billionaire


John Willard Marriott was born at the turn of the century in 1900, and was born into a strict Mormon family where had had to take responsibility from a young age. He worked on his father’s farm during his early teens.

One day while he was on a trip in Washington D.C. he saw a guy selling soft drinks and ice cream from a tiny push cart. The soft drinks and ice cream that was being sold from the guy with the pushcart would sell out in minutes due to the high demand of ravenous tourists. The seeds of inspiration were sewn as Marriott saw an opportunity to provide a valuable service.

The marketing legend Gary Halbert once stated that if he could only obtain one advantage in business, he would ignore the advantages that many others desired such as: a superior product, great advertising, and so on. The only thing that Halbert would want is a starving crowd that were hungry for what he had.

Marriott also understood this, and after gaining his degree went about the task of making his way in the world. In 1927, after remembering the experience of the pushcart peddler he used savings and loans to secure a franchise in the Washington area. The franchise that Marriott bought was an A&W Root Beer franchise from Roy Allen and Frank Wright (A&W).

Marriott teamed up with his wife Alice to expand the offerings from a root beer stand to cooked meals, and the business expanded to be known as ‘The Hot Shoppe.’ The menu included hot food that would be suitable all year around. This business model would be used as a prototype and Marriott expanded into more restaurants and kept on innovating along the way.

He hired managers and supervisors to make sure that his standards were adhered to, and this allowed the businesses to be scalable and to grow at a significant rate.

‘It’s more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.’
– J. Willard Marriott

They expanded into hotels and other operations to scale the business and Willard’s son Bill joined the company in 1956 and now heads up the company as the executive chairman.

The Marriott International Corporation is one of the largest hospitality companies in the world with over 5,000 properties and over 200,000 employees worldwide. The company has revenues of over $15billion and there are hundreds of future buildings in development now. It is incredible to think of what has been accomplished from the mind of man who was inspired by a pushcart peddler on a very hot day.

Marriott’s journey has been an inspiration to anyone who is willing to see an opportunity and make the most out of it, and he has left a legacy that has left its mark on the world.

‘Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action’ – J. Willard Marriott


J. Willard Marriott Biography – “A Remarkable Man” 1900-1985

Company: Marriott

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