12 Rules for Success that Turned a Small Family Business into a Global Brand

Bill Marriott, former CEO of Marriott International, learned business and leadership by observing his father, J. Willard Marriott. The elder Marriott was one of the most successful startup founders in U.S. history. He turned a small family root beer shop into a chain of hotels in the 1950s.

Bill Marriott joined the young company in 1956 and, nine years later in 1964, his father asked him to become president of the company. On the eve of being announced as the new president, at only 32 years old, Bill sat down and wrote down twelve rules for success.

Using the principles, Bill Marriott led the growth of Marriott International to become a $14 billion company, operating 30 brands, 5,700 properties, and more than 200,000 employees around the world.

Bill Marriott’s 12 rules for success, which he crafted in 1964, are still as relevant as ever today.

  1. Challenge your team to do better and do it often.
  2. Take good care of your associates, and they’ll take good care of your customers, and they’ll come back.
  3. Celebrate your peoples’ success, not your own.
  4. Know what you’re good at and keep improving.
  5. Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action.
  6. Communicate by listening to your customers, associates and competitors.
  7. See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk the talk, make yourself visible and accessible.
  8. Success is always in the details.
  9. It’s more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.
  10. Customer needs may vary, but their bias for quality never does.
  11. Always hire people who are smarter than you are.
  12. View every problem as an opportunity to grow.

Read more about Bill Marriott’s leadership style and the incredible growth of Marriott International in Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew into a Global Hotel Company.

Learn more in my new book, I have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following.

Putting Employees Ahead of Customers

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The best leaders put customers first, right? Not if you are Richard Branson, J. Willard Marriott, Jim Goodnight, or Stephen Covey. They put employees first.

Take a look at these quotes:

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Richard Branson

“Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers.” J. Willard Marriott

“Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.” Jim Goodnight

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” Stephen Covey

What these leaders know is that when you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers. Employees who are respected, appreciated, and are given the chance to grow and thrive will go the extra mile for customers.

At my company, Peak Demand Inc., we have 9 Guiding Principles. The first is, “Creating a culture of respect where employees are safe, they love to come to work, and they are empowered to make decisions for our customers.”

We may not always get it right, but we work hard every day to create and maintain an employee-centric environment. The result is a fun place to work where we respect each other and work hard as a team to satisfy customers.

Take a look at your work environment. What are the written or unwritten priorities? What can you do as a leader to create a more employee-centric environment?

Richard Branson has been incredibly successful as a business leader. His priorities are employees first, customers second, and shareholders third. It seems to work very well for him. He explains that happy employees take care of customers and happy customers purchase more goods and services which keep the shareholders happy.

Branson says, “Effectively, in the end shareholders do well, the customers do better, and [our] staff remains happy.”

If you want to learn more about Richard Branson’s leadership style, read his new book Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography.

If you want to become a better leader, order my latest book You Have the Watch: A Guided Journal to Become a Leader Worth Following.

This guided journal provides daily leadership guidance and reflection for an entire year. Each week, you will learn a new leadership skill. Each day, you will explore a new facet of that skill. As you do the work and put in the reps as a leader, this journal will be your constant companion. By the end of the year, you will master fifty of the most important leadership skills.


Why Entrepreneurs Love when Big Companies Don’t Care

The world was shocked to see a viral video of a paying customer being dragged from a United Airlines flight. It was unthinkable to believe a big company could treat a customer that way.

You know who wasn’t surprised? Business travelers. Those of us who travel frequently have been dealing with delayed flights, shrinking seats, reduced rewards, increased fees, crowded airports, long lines and disinterested employees for a long time. There seems to be little effort or desire for excellent customer service in the airline industry. Even so, we keep flying.

I was thinking about this while I waited 30 minutes in a checkout line at Wal-Mart the other night. There were about 40 checkout stations but only four cashiers working. Our cashier was actually a manager. He was friendly but he didn’t seem to care that we waited longer to checkout than it took us to find the items we were buying. He didn’t care because he knew we would likely come back.

The truth is, big companies don’t care when they know they will get repeat business regardless of service. It’s also true that industries don’t care when they know all the competitors offer the same poor level of service.

While this is bad news for customers, it’s great news for entrepreneurs. Rob Biederman points this out in his article, Ugly is the New Beautiful: 4 Ways to Create an Innovative Company in an Antiquated Industry. He explains that industries with poor customer satisfaction and high repeat business are ripe for disruption. New businesses that can offer a viable alternative to the industry giants without the hassle have an opportunity to change the industry landscape.

“Simply put, if your [customer satisfaction] score is low but repeat purchase is high, your industry is probably ripe for disruption.”  ~Rob Biederman

Think about what Amazon is doing to the retail industry. As I stood waiting in the Wal-Mart checkout line, I realized everything in my cart could be purchased now (or soon) from Amazon without the hassle. So, why should I ever go back to Wal-Mart?

Entrepreneurs have an amazing opportunity to create value for frustrated customers. The question is, how can you identify these opportunities? How can you recognize an industry that’s ready to be disrupted?

In an article called, Shake It Up: How to Identify Industries That are Ready for Disruption, Anna Johansson suggests looking for these three tell-tale signs.

Industry Complacency. When the existing companies in an industry stop innovating, stop caring and begin to take their customers for granted, it’s an indicator that the industry has become complacent.

Customer Frustration. Chronic customer frustration with no end in sight is another indicator. As customers continue to be dissatisfied with the performance of existing companies in an industry, they will “voice their opinions, tighten their wallets, and look for alternatives.”

Tension Points. More subtle than major pain points, tension points are those areas of customer dissatisfaction that, once an alternative solution is presented, will cause customers to move away from existing companies.

When big companies don’t care, opportunities open for entrepreneurs. In fact, this was a leading reason I co-founded Peak Demand. After working nearly 20 years for big companies in the electrical transmission and distribution products industry, I realized the industry had all the signs for disruption. Customers were frustrated with the performance of the existing big companies in the industry but had no place else to turn. Utility and OEM customers were looking for alternatives. They wanted a hassle-free way to buy high-quality products that could be delivered in days not weeks. They wanted on-line ordering system that was easy and reliable. Our team is filling those needs.

There are many industries that are ripe for disruption. Smart entrepreneurs can create viable alternatives to the industry giants and have an opportunity to change the industry landscape. Complacency, frustration and tension are tell-tale signs that an opportunity exists. Entrepreneurs that can identify and exploit these opportunities will be the winners.