Interviews

Bill Marriott: We're seeing business come back in our hotels

Exclusive: Marriott executive chairman on new jobs report

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": All right, we started the show talking about job- seekers licking their wounds today after a new report confirms what a lot of them probably already knew. Companies are in no hiring mood, like they used to be. And I'm talking only a couple of months ago.

My next guest says it really doesn't have to be that way. He would know. Bill Marriott employs more than 300,000 workers. And that was as of last year. He's generally loathes laying off people at any time. It's an exception in the rule that sometimes is pretty much paramount in the financial community.

One of the world's most recognizable brands and hotel groups, Marriott. Now he is hanging up his hat and he's checking in here for his one and only exit interview. The former CEO, the current executive chairman of Marriott, Bill Marriott.

Bill, good to have you. Congratulations.

J.W. "BILL" MARRIOTT, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL: Thank you, Neil. Good to be here.

CAVUTO: Well, what a career you've had, young man.

But let's get into the careers of a lot of folks are worried right now is slowing down, that they're not going to get many opportunities. And your hiring notwithstanding, the environment is suddenly turning inhospitable again.

What do you think?

MARRIOTT: Well, we're seeing good results in our hotels. We're seeing rooms be more occupied than they were since 07'.

And we're seeing business come back. Our transient business is good. Our group business is good. And we will open 15,000 rooms here in the United States this year and we will hire 5,000 to 10,000 people.

So...

CAVUTO: So, what -- you're hiring, but a lot of colleagues are not. A lot of them are hanging onto cash.

It started this earnings period with news that Alcoa was hanging on to close to $2 billion cash, a record sum at the time for them, Apple, of course, famous, legion, for $100 billion in cash and then some, but company after company, the same deal.

Why aren't they hiring?

MARRIOTT: I think they're waiting for something to happen in Washington. I think they're concerned about regulation. I think they're concerned about the policy of our current administration and what's going on in the country.

I think they're just waiting to see what's going to happen to ObamaCare. And all the uncertainty out there is why they're holding onto this cash.

CAVUTO: What do you make of some of them, Republican and Democrat alike, who were earlier saying we've crunched the numbers on this health care thing, and we might drop our plan, pay the penalty, and suck all that up because it's still cheaper?

MARRIOTT: I don't know that anybody really knows.

We keep trying to put a tag on it, but we're not sure what ObamaCare is going to cost us. We continue to push the numbers and try and study it and figure out what it means, but we're not there yet.

CAVUTO: But a lot of your colleagues are.

Now, you're very generous with benefits and coverage. In the hospitality industry, that is most unusual. But surely you must have crunched the same numbers that McDonald's and some of these others did of these different types of groups, I grant you, and said that it really wouldn't be in their interest.

MARRIOTT: Wouldn't be in their interest to...

CAVUTO: Keep it going.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: In other words, to keep offering benefits to let's say even part-time workers because they would need a waiver. They got a waiver. Many others did. Better than a few hundred did.

That must say something about the underlying health care plan that so many opted out or found waivers from it.

MARRIOTT: Well, we've noticed health care costs have not risen as far in the last year or so as they have in the past. I think they're up 4 percent.

And so we're cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to figure this thing out. But we have not made a decision yet on what we're going to do.

CAVUTO: What about the presidential race this year?

Many are saying that Mitt Romney has an uphill battle, and that not the least of which is because a lot of people don't know him or they don't know the whole Mormon thing. I know, as a fellow Mormon yourself, is that going to hurt him? What do you think?

MARRIOTT: I don't think the Mormon thing is a big issue right now.

I think the issue is the economy and the jobs that you've been talking about and what's going to happen in our economy. Mitt Romney is a fabulous businessman. He's been on our board for 10 years or more and got off it, of course, twice, once to run the Olympics and then another time now to run for president.

But he's very competent and very capable, an outstanding leader. And I think he's got a real run.

CAVUTO: I know you abhor cosmetic type things. And you're an executive. Substance matters and all.

But in this world we live in today, we like candidates who are cool, I guess. The president's cool. The rap against Mitt Romney is he's not, not that that necessarily means anything. I'm sure in his day no one would have called Abraham Lincoln cool. But be that as it may, are you worried that the media just will never warm to Mitt Romney and might never give him any fair treatment as a result?

MARRIOTT: Well, that's the big concern, of course, we all have is that a lot of the media are pro-Obama and not particularly enamored with the Republican Party.

At the same time, I think Mitt's got a great chance. The numbers show good for those older people that are going to show up at the polls, and many of them will vote for Mitt because he has the same values they have.

CAVUTO: But then you see these Occupy Wall Street rallies that grew substantially with May Day events, worker events worldwide yesterday, protests in better than 130 U.S. cities.

Some of them in California, as you know, Bill, turned very violent. Many of these largely young people target 1 percenters, like yourself, I guess me by extension, but I think they really go after corporate guys, even though they don't much like Fox News anchor guys.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: And they argue that you have disproportionately benefited, to their expense. What do you say to that?

MARRIOTT: Well, I say we're providing opportunities for people around the world, not only here, but abroad. Fifty percent of our general managers have come from within the hourly ranks of the company. We promote from within a great deal. We started out with one hotel 30 years ago, and we started out -- or 50 years -- and we started out as a company 85 years ago with a root beer stand. Now we have 300,000 employees.

So we're all about hiring and bringing people on board and training them and giving them an opportunity.

CAVUTO: So when you talk about -- I think there was an author we had on not too long ago on the Fox Business Network, Bill, who -- which, by the way, if you don't get, you should demand -- but I digress.

And he was saying something to the effect; service is a lost art in this country. A lot of young people in particular, they don't smile anymore. The cashier doesn't look you in your face, that concierge who doesn't gets back to you. It's not that it's everywhere, but that it's increased to the point where service workers aren't what they used to be.

Now, I know you ride very rough on this issue, as does your counterpart at Disney, Bob Iger. But there must be something to it that so many complain about it. What do you think?

MARRIOTT: Well, our top goal in the company is customer engagement.

And we continue to train our people to teach them how to engage with the customers, to immediately solve customer problems, to meet our customers with a smile and with confidence and do everything we can to get the customer on board and have them return to our business.

Our corporate philosophy is take good care of your people, they will take good care of the customer, and the customer will come back. And as long as we can continue to foster that kind of culture, I think we'll be able to give outstanding service.

CAVUTO: But how would you weed out -- because you're a pretty nice guy, a firm guy, but a nice guy. How do you weed out the lemons you invariably are going to have to be stuck with? They’re either not preaching from your hymnbook or they're just -- they're just losers.

How does Bill Marriott deal with that?

MARRIOTT: My experience is that the lemons weed out themselves. They're not comfortable in an environment where everybody is friendly and they're not friendly. And pretty soon, they get it. They say this isn't for me, and we agree with them.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Then what do you do? What do you do? You show them the door?

MARRIOTT: Let them go ahead and share their -- share their abilities with some other company.

CAVUTO: Is that what you tell them?

MARRIOTT: Sure we do.

CAVUTO: How do you say it? Because you're a Mormon. You're a very religious guy.

MARRIOTT: We say, are you having -- are you enjoying your -- your job here? And they say, not really. And we say, well, why not? And they say, well, we don't like to deal with customers. And we say, fine. Maybe you ought to be in the manufacturing business. Maybe you ought to be in something where you don't have to deal with customers.

And they buy into it and they find something else to do, because we're totally committed to the customer. And if our employees are not on board with that program, then they're going to go somewhere else.

CAVUTO: Yes. A lot of them, I guess, show up at MSNBC. That's so weird.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: It's a joke. It's a joke.

MARRIOTT: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Bill Marriott, always a pleasure. Good luck in retirement. Good luck with anything you try.

MARRIOTT: Thanks, Neil. Good to be with you. Thank you.

CAVUTO: Bill Marriott, the executive chairman, trying to live the example. Not all 1 percenters are evil. I know that's the popular thing to say.

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