Season 3, Episode 4: How Will the Business World Bounce Back After the COVID-19 Pandemic with Host Hotels Chairman Richard Marriott 
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Season 3, Episode 4: How Will the Business World Bounce Back After the COVID-19 Pandemic with Host Hotels Chairman Richard Marriott

Monday June 8th, 2020

On this episode, Jay talks with Host Hotels Chairman Richard Marriott. They discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on the travel and hospitality industries and when Mr. Marriott thinks things will turnaround. They also discuss his career path as well as  the Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation and the Bridges program, which operates with a mission of transforming lives of youth with disabilities through the power of a job.

Richard Marriott and Jay Ruderman in front of a green screen.

Richard Marriott and Jay Ruderman

Guest: Richard Marriott is the Chairman of the Board of Host Hotels & Resorts, the largest lodging Real Estate Investment Trust in the United States. He is Chairman of First Media Corporation, a privately held broadcasting and investment group. He previously served as chair of the Polynesian Cultural Center, president of the National Restaurant Association, and a trustee of both Gallaudet University and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He is a director of the Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation and Chairman of the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities and the J. Willard Marriott and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. In addition, Mr. Marriott is a member of the Federal City Council and the National Advisory Council of Brigham Young University Marriott School.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcription

Jay Ruderman: Well, the COVID-19 pandemic stopped many people from going on vacations, traveling for work or attending a big family event. When we do all get back to normal, many of you may stay at a Marriott Hotel.

Narrator: All Inclusive, a podcast on inclusion, innovation and social justice with Jay Ruderman.

Jay Ruderman: Hi, I’m Jay Ruderman and this is All Inclusive. Our guest today is Richard Marriott, who is the chairman of the board of Host Hotels & Resorts and also co-founder, along with his wife Nancy, of the Richard E. & Nancy P. Marriott Foundation. Thank you for joining me today on All Inclusive. So I’d like to welcome Mr. Marriott, a friend of mine who I’ve known for many years. Dick, how are you and your family doing during this time?

Richard Marriott: These are unusual times, obviously. And we have a family Zoom meeting every week. Where all the grandkids and some of the great grandkids get on and tell us what’s going on in their lives. Quite frankly, we’re having a lot more communication now than we had before we were all sheltered in. If I get a few free minutes during the day, I can jump on my bicycle and I’ve been averaging about 20 miles a day because I live close to the C&O Canal, and I can go ride down on that, and ride endlessly. It’s beautiful.

Jay Ruderman: I know you’re a very active person. You’re a skier, you’re a biker, you tend to keep yourself in great physical activity.

Richard Marriott: Trying. There’s more time to do that when you’re sheltered at home. Being outside is good for you and not against the law here. So yeah, I’ve been doing as much of it as I can.

Jay Ruderman : And I know that you and I are both people of faith, I know that your faith is very important to you. What role has your faith played during this time of pandemic that most of us have not faced this type of reality in our lifetimes?

Richard Marriott: Because of our faith, we have more of a long-term outlook on things. This life is relatively short. If you assume that this is an eternal perspective, and after this life, wherever we’re gone, we’re going to be there forever. And so we want to do during this life, what will get us to a good spot in the next life. And that’s taking care of our friends, taking care of our family, being good citizens, doing what our Heavenly Father would like us to do. We’re thinking about the long-term, not what’s happening next week or next year, that keeps you focused on really working with other people, helping others, helping your family being a good citizen.

Jay Ruderman : Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re well. Your family is one of the preeminent names in the hospitality industry across the world. Can you tell me how this COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the hospitality industry?

Richard Marriott: Well, the impact on the hospitality industry has been unprecedented. We keep hearing that term, that few industries have been affected more than the hospitality industry between restaurants and the hotels. Our business is down up to 90%. That basically means we’re closed up. We’ve been in the hotel business for 63 years, and the restaurant business for 93 years. We’ve never closed the restaurant because of a recession. We’ve never closed the hotel because of a recession. But we have over half our hotels closed right now and almost all our restaurants closed. I mean, this has never happened before. And so it’s tough. I mean, we’ve furloughed 75% of our many thousands of employees. I am very confident we’re going to come back, we’ll come back strong, but it’s going to take a while to come back. People are not going to travel before they feel safe. And they’re not going to stay in our hotels until they feel safe. So they’ve got to travel, they’ve got to feel safe, and then they will start coming back to the hotels and the restaurants. And that’s going to take a while.

Jay Ruderman: I know that your employees are extremely important to your company. And when you talk about furloughs, I assume that when things bounce back, these employees will be back at work. But none of us have a crystal ball. None of us know exactly when things are going to bounce back, exactly when people are going to feel comfortable traveling, does the industry and does Marriott have the ability to maintain everything until things snap back or is there a point where certain properties no longer become tenable?

Richard Marriott: That depends on what happens to the small business people more than any. Marriott and my company, Host Hotels & Resorts are both very liquid, we’ve got a lot of cash and a lot of liquidity. We will make it through this. But a lot of small business people own courtyards and residence inns and small hotel units, and a lot of these folks are on the verge of going out of business. And if they do go out of business that will be tough on our industry and on the people. And so a lot of these folks will need federal help in order to stay alive and hopefully that some of these programs will provide that.

Richard Marriott: But it’s a very difficult time for the small business people. For the hotel business we’ll be back at full strength within the next three to four years. But it’s going to take that long to get back to where we were in 2019.

Jay Ruderman: In terms of the restaurant business, I mean, there’s some restaurant chains and they’re very powerful and there’s some small restaurants. How do you see the future of the restaurant industry?

Richard Marriott: Oh, I think the restaurant industry is great and will be great. People like to get out and eat and do things. There’s going to be a much more penance on to go and carry out and delivery. People are getting used to that right now and they’re liking it. But once we can get out of our houses, they want to mix with people. Hospitality industry is a people to people business. And people want to go out and talk to people and see people and see their friends and see the people in the restaurants. That’s never going to change. I mean, that’s been around for hundreds of years and it will continue on into the future. But it’s going to take a while till people feel safe. That’s the key.

Jay Ruderman: You’ve had a very interesting career path and a very successful career path. Can you talk a little bit about from a young man, starting out to where you are today, how your career developed.

Richard Marriott: Well, I grew up in the restaurant business. When I was a kid, Marriott Corporation was called Hot Shoppes Corporation. And all they had were full service family restaurants. And I grew up visiting those restaurants with my father, when I was a little kid and working in them when I was a teenager. And when I graduated from graduate school up in Boston, I came down to run a Hot Shoppe in Maryland. And so that’s a decision I never really made, I always have been in the restaurant business. And then I worked my way up to the restaurant, part of what was then Hot Shoppes Corporation then became Marriott Corporation, then Marriott International. At one time, I was responsible for over 1000 restaurants. So we were very big in the restaurant business. And that was the foundation for what is today, Marriott International. Anybody who owns a full service hotel will be doing probably a third of their total sales in their restaurants. And so we’re still very much in the restaurant business.

Jay Ruderman: And so how do you move from managing one particular restaurant to a 1000 restaurants or Marriott, from dozens of hotels to thousands of hotels across the world. Obviously, your company has been more successful than most companies in the history of the world. How is that happened?

Richard Marriott: Well, I can remember the day when Marriott passed the $1 billion sales mark and everybody said, “How are we ever going to grow past this? This is so big.” And of course today it’s multiple billions of dollars in sales. And the way you do that is you create a strong management structure with very sharp people. And I found in the restaurant, and in the hotel business, people that rise to the top are generally the people who started at the bottom and work their way on up. And I know in the restaurant business, I am on the board, I’ve been on the board of the National Restaurant Association for many years, and was its president one time, everybody on that board, we’re all millionaires now, all started in the dish room, or waiting on tables, and they worked their way up.

Richard Marriott: And when you get up to a management position, if you know what everybody down the line is supposed to be doing, and you get out and talk to them and see what they’re doing and find out how they’re feeling, you’ll be successful in the business. It’s a detail-oriented business, you got to pay attention to what’s going on in all the operations and have people around you that, you’re always trying to surround myself with people a lot smarter than I am, which is easy to do. So I’ve been very blessed with a lot of great people in management and they’ve made the growth possible.

Jay Ruderman: Well, I think you underestimate yourself. Having known you for many years, you’re a very humble person, but extremely well qualified. But I think the message is loud and clear. It’s all about people. And how do you find those people? Is it just a trial and error, people come in and they either sink or swim? They’re either proving themselves or they’re not? I mean, it sounds like that’s what the process has been.

Richard Marriott: We hired off a lot of people out of the hospitality schools. And we have been a big financial supporter of hospitality schools across the country. There are some really fabulous hospitality schools, who a lot of their students, when they graduate, they want to move right into the executive office suite. And we don’t look for those kind of people. We’re looking for people who will get involved in operations, who are willing to really be trained in every level of operations. In the hotels, we will run somebody who’s been through Harvard Business School or something through the housekeeping department, the restaurants and all that, make them wait on the tables, make them make beds, make them figure out how the operation works from the bottom up. It really pays off when they get to the point where they’re supervising tens of thousands of people, they have much more empathy for the managers down there on the front line. We’re very focused on taking care of our frontline managers.

Jay Ruderman: Another industry which has been really very much impacted by COVID-19 is the transportation, the airline business. And I know that it’s directly connected. You need people traveling in order to come to many of your hotels and resorts. How do you see that industry moving forward in the future and bouncing back in order to help your industry?

Richard Marriott: I think a lot of airlines are not going to survive this. But all the major airlines will, and some of these economy airlines and so forth, in Europe are already going out of business. It’s going to whittle it down to the strong, eventually, air travel will come back. It has to come back. And if it doesn’t come back, the hotel business won’t come back. Because we depend, over 50, 60% of our business arrives by airline. And if we can’t get the airline business, we won’t have the business traffic. Because all the business people travel by air. So it will come back. But I think there will be some losers. It will be a lot of the budget airlines and a lot of the smaller carriers. It depends on how long this COVID-19 thing lasts. Anybody who can last it out, will get started again, will come back. A lot of them just can’t wait till the end of it.

Jay Ruderman: I think you’ve referenced this before, that you think that the government will play a large role in terms of supporting the airlines, the major airlines will not be allowed to fail and will need some government intervention in order to maintain themselves.

Richard Marriott: The government needs to get unemployment down. And you can’t fill the job market and get these people back to work unless they have jobs. And you can’t get the jobs unless people can travel. And you can’t travel if you don’t have an airline. So the government sees the need for strong travel industry and they’re not going to let people go under. They can’t afford it. It will really do permanent damage to the economy if they do. And they know better.

Jay Ruderman: And do you feel that this is the same with hotels and resorts? That the government has a role to step in and make sure these industries also are viable?

Richard Marriott: Most of the large hotel companies are not going after federal support. People that are trying to get loans and direct support from the federal government are the small operators who just can’t, literally, can’t last through extended depression. Marriott isn’t seeking any of these stimulus programs and I know Hilton isn’t and I don’t think any of the major hotel companies are going after the federal stimulus. If it weren’t for their employees… Our concern is that we have thousands of employees who are furloughed, they need help. And we can’t help them all. For those, the federal government has a great program. And I think it’s helping.

Jay Ruderman: Is there a difference between your properties inside the United States and your international properties? And do you feel that international travel will be the last part of the travel industry to recover?

Richard Marriott: Well, my company is Host Hotels & Resorts. We have no properties outside of North America and a couple in Brazil. The long haul travel will be the last to come back. When you say, “What’s going to happen? Who’s going to start doing business and when?” Well, the drive-in traffic, hotels, where people can drive to, lots of hotels in Florida and Los Angeles and San Diego, who have large populations around that can survive on drive-in traffic, that will be the first. Leisure traffic will be next, the last segment to come back will be the group business. That’s the associations and the big meetings that are held where almost everybody comes through the airlines. It’s driving traffic will start. We’re seeing some fairly good occupancy in these small residence inns suites and so forth. But the big hotels in the metropolitan areas really depend on the travel industry.

Jay Ruderman: You mentioned that you were always destined to go into the hospitality industry. Was there ever another direction that you ever thought as a young man that, “Yeah, I’d like to pursue a different direction.” Or was that not something that occurred to you?

Richard Marriott: Well, I get asked that a lot. And as I mentioned earlier, I started, from a little kid working in restaurants and really stuck with it. My father questioned whether or not I really wanted to be in the restaurant industry because I love to work on cars, and I love mechanical things and I love to put things together. I took all these aptitude tests that said I should be a mechanical engineer. So my dad in his all-knowing wisdom said, “Well, I’ve got a job for you this summer.” And it was working for the Hot Shoppe group. They had a project to assemble bun toasters, curb service, where you’re making hundreds of hamburgers an hour. Every bun has to be toasted perfectly. And this was a machine that had a big grill, inclined grill and all these little weights and all this stuff that come down on the hamburger buns and slide them down the grill and they popped at the bottom, they were perfectly toasted.

Richard Marriott: Well this thing had hundreds of parts, lots of little electrical motors and chains. And he gave me the responsibility for assembling these bun toasters. So I worked for three solid months putting together these bun toasters. I had a ball, I just loved putting stuff together. And the next summer, he said, “Well, why don’t we put you with a mechanic and go out to the stores and start working on the dish machines and the conveyor belts and all the things we’ve got in the restaurants?” So I did that and I started getting familiar with the kitchens and the people in there and started really getting more interested in that.

Richard Marriott: Then the next summer, he said, “Well, do you want to work in the kitchen?” I said, “Sure.” So I went to work as a grill cook on the curb service side of The Silver Spring Hot Shoppe in Maryland. And I was cooking over 1000 hamburgers a night for the grill using the bun toaster among other things. And then by the time I got out of college, I was in management training programs. And by the time I got out of graduate school, I was going to be the general manager of a small full service restaurant, about a 300-seat restaurant. And from then on, I was in the restaurant business.

Jay Ruderman: So I know your family has been one of the most successful entrepreneurial families in American history. Your dad, was he a strict discipline guy or what was your relationship with him? He sounds like he was a loving father but also put you through the paces.

Richard Marriott: My dad was a perfectionist. I would go through the restaurants with him when I was a little kid and I would just be terrified. Because anything he found was wrong, the manager got a really dressing down. I mean, he would find any dirt, any temperature in any refrigerator was off, the mashed potatoes weren’t exactly the right temperature, he would just really give it to him. I found out, this is one of the reasons we were so successful. Because everybody loved my father because he really took good care of them. They all knew he was expecting perfection. And I guess when you expect perfection, if you strive for perfection, you’ll find excellence along the way and these Hot Shoppes were really well-run restaurants. So my dad was very demanding, he knew how to take care of people and they loved him in spite of how strict he was.

Jay Ruderman: But your family, in addition, your siblings, your extended family, I’ve met many of your family members, you all seem to get along pretty well. You all seem to be very humble people, very based in your religious upbringing and very committed to each other. Which I think is unusual in today’s world.

Richard Marriott: We have been blessed as a family to be able to spend a lot of time together. We have homes up in New Hampshire, where we have gone every summer. I’ve gone up there since I was four years old. 77 years, I’ve been going up there. And all our families have, all my children have homes up there. So all their cousins get together on a regular basis up there, they all love each other. And it’s been a tremendous thing for our family. We’ve tried to take family trips in the summer, we’ll go to Europe for a week or something. And we’ve always gone skiing for a week, every winter in either Colorado or Utah. We’ve done a lot of things together. It’s really paid off. All our cousins love each other, and they talk to each other constantly and we get together often.

Narrator: You’re listening to All Inclusive with Jay Ruderman. You can learn more, view the show notes and transcripts at rudermanfoundation.org/allinclusive.

Jay Ruderman: Please remember to subscribe, rate and review us wherever you are listening. So how did the family move from the Hot Shoppes, from essentially restaurant business to the hotel business?

Richard Marriott: Well, the first hotel was opened in 1957 right at the entrance to Washington DC by what was called Twin Bridges. It was on the backlot of one of our restaurants, so Hot Shoppe Restaurants. And we got there because President Eisenhower had gotten the Interstate Highway System going and there was a lot more traffic coming into Washington. There were no high class motels at the time, and you had to go down and stay at the Mayflower or one of these fancy expensive hotels in DC. And so my father’s friend said, “Hey, why don’t you, you’ve got this fabulous location right at the entrance to Washington DC on the backside of your restaurant, why don’t you put a hotel up there?”

Richard Marriott: So he did. He built a 300 room seven-story hotel with swimming pools and ice cleaning ranks and ballrooms and barber shops and restaurants and everything else. It was probably the first full service, large scale motor hotel in the country. And it did extremely well. So then another couple of years he was building a hotel on Key Bridge right down the road from the first one. And that was the start of the hotel business for Marriott.

Jay Ruderman: I have a question about, after a successful career, we’re seeing the graduates of 2020. And they’re graduating in a weird time where there’s no real graduations, they’re virtual graduations. But many of them want to head off into the business world, and they’re facing a new reality. What have you learned along the way that you could depart to graduates who are pursuing careers in business? What tip would you give them on how to be successful?

Richard Marriott: I often do a lot of business and visits down to Brigham Young University, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ in Provo, Utah. And their motto is, Enter to learn, go forth to serve. So get all the education you can get, but when you get it, go out and try and help others. There’s an awful lot of things you can do to help others no matter what kind of economy you’ve got or anything else. And the more you help others, the more contacts you make, the better known you get and you’ll find yourself growing in your own business or whatever it is. People will have greater respect for you and you will be able to be more successful.

Richard Marriott: Something that my wife has taught me down through the years is that when we meet all these, what appear to be impossible challenges, she says there’s always a second door. For her, she calls up The Kennedy Center, and wants to get a seat down there for some opera or concert and they say, “Sir, we’re sold out.” Well, within a week, she has found a second door where those tickets magically appear. We all run into impossible obstacles that we think, “I can’t overcome this.” We find somebody that can help us do that.

Richard Marriott: My parents were trying to open their third restaurant, and they had two poor performing little tiny restaurants. One was an A&W root beer stand and another was a Hot Shoppe and they weren’t making enough money to pay the rent. This third one was the key. And this was on Georgia Avenue, right across from Walter Reed Army Hospital. It was a great location. And it was going to be the first drive-in restaurant in the United States, east of the Mississippi. And so my dad got the building permit for that building, which is a little box with just a small kitchen and a few seats in it. But when he asked for the curb cut, The Building Department said, “We have no code for a curb cut other than for a gas station. You can’t have it.” Now without the curb cut, this was not going to be a successful venture.

Richard Marriott: My father went to church the next Sunday and the guy running the church service was the honorable Reed Smoot. Reed Smoot just happened to be the chairman of Herbert Hoover’s Senate Finance Committee. Senate Finance Committee controls all the payments by the government to the Washington DC area. And my father mentioned to senator Smoot, he said, “I really can’t get a curb cut for this restaurant and my future depends on getting that cut and getting that restaurant open.” Senator Smoot evidently went to work, so within a week, my father got an enthusiastic approval of his curb cut and he opened his restaurant on schedule, it was a raving success. And it was really the foundation for the future of the Hot Shoppes and what is today Marriott.

Richard Marriott: We all have a second door that we can find. And one of the keys to being successful in business is find somebody who’s got the keys to that second door, whether it’s a mentor or whether it’s a training class, it’s all a combination of your creativity, your curiosity and your hard work, there’s always a second door, there’s always a way to get around those insurmountable obstacles. And that’s what we do with our Bridges program. The Bridges program is a second door for these young people with disabilities.

Jay Ruderman: You and I have talked in the past about the power of persistence, which is essentially what you’re talking about with second opportunities just to be persistent. In our world, we see a lot of persistence combined with elitism. What’s really impressed me about you and your family, with all your success, you are persistent, but you’re humble. And I’ve never seen you or any of your family members exhibit any elitism. Which is a truly remarkable, I think, thing in today’s modern world.

Richard Marriott: We are from humble beginnings. My father was a sheep herder. He would have never even gotten into college if he hadn’t have had a friend who was his seventh grade teacher who became the president of a local college in Weber, Utah and he led him into college after he had got home from his mission. He was 19 years old, he had no high school diploma, he had nothing to recommend him. This guy knew he was a hard worker and he got him in. He was his mentor. We all need mentors. We all, in all the world where we are today, not because we’re fabulous people, it is because we’ve had good people working with us and helping us along the way. We can’t do it on our own.

Jay Ruderman: I couldn’t agree more. You mentioned the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities and Bridges to Work, hugely successful program that’s helped thousands of young people across the country. I know that your family had a personal connection with disability, like many leaders in our society, whether they are people with disabilities or whether they have been connected through a sibling, a parent, or a child. But can you talk a little bit about why disability really meant something to your family and how you developed the Bridges to Work program?

Richard Marriott: Our Bridges to Work program started 30 years ago, back in 1989, actually, when we got together and decided we needed to focus on something that would be great for business and great for people. And we looked at our own hiring practices, down through the years in our restaurants, in our hotels, and we found that we have hired a great number of people with special needs or special abilities. But we also found that everybody has an ability, the key is finding out what their ability is, and what job they can excel in. Unless somebody is severely disabled where he can’t get around on his own, these people have a place that they can be successful in, in the hotel and the restaurant industry. And that was, really, the priority that we identified when we were founding Bridges.

Richard Marriott: And we’ve helped 25,000 kids get jobs with over five thousand companies. In this day and age, you look at the unemployment statistics and kids, 16 to 25 years old, are massively unemployed. And the kids with disabilities are even worse. 400,000 kids a year leave special education. 70% of them are unemployed and probably will never be employed. They don’t even figure into the unemployment statistics. We just feel that we are doing, not only a favor to the economy by getting people into jobs and off of Social Security Insurance and other welfare programs, but we’re massively helping these young people. We’re transforming their lives to the power of a job and there is no question, one of the greatest things for their well being, for their mental health and for their productivity is to have a job.

Jay Ruderman: I think working is hugely important not only for the paycheck, but also for finding a value and a purpose in your life. And the program has been an amazing success. Do you want to talk a little bit about how disability impacted your family and how it really played a role because I know there are other prominent families in America and around the world where they’ve really taken a leadership position on equality for people with disabilities because they’ve lived it. They’ve seen firsthand the injustices.

Richard Marriott: We have seen in our business, the success that people with disabilities can have. We had this young guy named Stanford who lived in Chicago, he was autistic, he loved trains. He would follow all the train schedules, he’d get out and he’d ride the trains and for years, that was his hobby. He just loved it. Then he got connected with the Bridges operation there. And his employer representative said, “Hey, maybe you’d like to get involved with trains and the Transportation Authority.” And he says, “Yeah, I really like that.” And so he called up the Transportation Authority and he got a job in a department that got on the phone and received calls from people who wanted to know how to get from The Loop to Evanston or from one street to another. And the person on the phone would look it up a little book and then give him instructions on what trains to take.

Richard Marriott: Well, Stanford, he didn’t need the book. He knew all the train stops. He was by far and away the most productive telephone operator they had in the transit system. And pretty soon he was a celebrity. And he got his front page picture on the Chicago Tribune, calling him the train man and just finding the niche, the place where he could shine.

Richard Marriott: And we’ve got this young man named Tim Acton in the Maryland hotels here. He has developmental disabilities. He applied for a job in the banquet department, they put him in the job as just putting up tables and doing stuff and then he started waiting on people during banquets, and all of a sudden they started getting requests from some of the groups that said, “Hey, we really like this young Tim. I mean, he is so personable, and we would love to have him work on our job.” Eventually, today, Tim is a captain in the banquet department, and he supervises several others. And on top of that, he is actually making financial contributions to Bridges.

Richard Marriott: I mean, that is the full circle. Go from being helped, to helping yourself. And Tim is just a fabulous young man. But we’ve just seen success and the impact it has on these people’s lives and on our business. So it’s been very rewarding.

Jay Ruderman: So how do you talk to other corporate leaders, who may not have seen the same success? Who may have not taken the chance and had the experience. How do you talk to them and say, “Listen, people with disabilities are an untapped resource in our country. They have the ability,” especially now where most of us are working from home, if we are working, and there’s no difference between the CEO and anyone else in terms of being able to be productive from home. How do you talk to those people that just don’t get it yet and don’t understand the value of employing people with disabilities?

Richard Marriott: The Bridges group is working with over 5000 different companies throughout the United States. And the primary objective of Bridges is to educate the employer about the feasibility of using people with disabilities. And the fact that they don’t need all kinds of special needs and everything else on the workforce, that they can truly make a contribution. It’s a win-win proposition for the companies and for the young men and women that they’re hiring.

Richard Marriott: And then the way that they really get sold on it, is they hire their first Bridges student. And 35% of all the companies that hire their first Bridges student, hire more Bridges students because they find out how great they are. They show up, they’re positive, they have a great impact on morale. Everybody loves to be with them and be around them. They just really shine. And so it’s hard to completely convince these people until they hire their first Bridges student and then they see. And it’s been a wonderful experience.

Jay Ruderman (33:27):

Do you think that there’s any role on a macro? Because the gross injustice of… I mean, before COVID-19 hit, the unemployment rate was trending below 4% in the United States, but you have for people with disabilities, it was over 70% and that just seems grossly unfair and unjust in a modern society. Is there any role for government in order to prod industry to employ more people with disabilities?

Richard Marriott: Well, I was under the impression that the government had actually put in some guidelines for all government contractors that they had to hire a certain percentage of their employees, people who have disabilities. I’m not sure. I am personally not in favor of having the government start telling me how to run my business and who I have to hire. Operations like Bridges, I think you have a wonderful foundation that works with the awareness about hiring people with disabilities. I mean, we’ve just got to get out and the proof is doing it. And they see how effective these young people are. We just have to keep focusing on the job. There are a lot of people who are out there training and giving them all kinds of skills and everything else but they don’t find them jobs. Bridges is completely focused on preparing these young people to apply for a job, they’ll find a job for them, go with them to the interview, get them employed. Once they’re employed, they do just fine. The whole thing is overcoming the employment process, which is very complicated in this high technology age.

Jay Ruderman: I mean, my personal experience based on our involvement with Bridges, and also a program that we established in Boston called Transition to Work is not only are people with disabilities, great employees, but they also tend to boost the morale of the companies in which they’re working and have a tremendous impact. And I think people who have hired people with disabilities and really made it a priority have really seen the payoff. I also think, we’re at a time now where working remotely, because transportation is often an issue with hiring people with disabilities, but there’s so much work that could be done remotely that a person with or without a disability can do. I think that there’s a silver lining, in terms of employment that may come out of this whole crisis that we may see in the future.

Jay Ruderman: Let me ask you, when you have some time off, I know you’re an avid skier, I know you spend a lot of time skiing in a beautiful part of the world. What else do you like to do in terms of leisure time sports and so forth, especially during this time when a lot of us are locked away?

Richard Marriott: When I was growing up, from the time I was 20 to 50 or 60, I did a lot of raced motocross, motorcycle racing. I played racquetball, I was a very competitive racquetball player, tennis player, golfer, and did a lot of biking and skiing. Now, in my later years, I’m now over 80 years old, I’m down to biking and skiing. My back is probably in bad condition because of all the other things that I did for so long but I can still bike and I can still ski. And I do as much of that as I possibly can. In this COVID-19 shelter in situation has basically left me with biking and I do as much of that as I can. But I spent a lot of time with my family, a lot of time with my kids. And now with the Zoom meetings and all these conference calls, I am having a lot of FaceTime with my children, my grandchildren and even my great grandchildren. So making the most of it. But I’m anxious to get back to work where I can actually go into the office and see people.

Jay Ruderman: I’m sure all of us would like to return to normal as soon as possible. Let me ask you, when you were growing up, was there one particular person that you looked up to and was a role model for you?

Richard Marriott: Well, of course, the obvious answer to that is my father. Accompanying him on visits to restaurants, to church meetings, he was a leader in the church. He was a leader in the community. He did it all. And I saw the tremendous respect people had for him, and I saw how he expected people to do their best. And anybody who wants to be a success in life has to be able to work with people so that they can perform at their maximum ability. And he could do that.

Richard Marriott: Another person I really always admired was president Eisenhower. I’ve been reading a lot of World War II books and a lot of them are about Eisenhower and he was a master at working together with very difficult people. In World War II he had two guys, Charles de Gaulle, and Bernard Montgomery. Montgomery headed up the British forces, de Gaulle headed up the French forces, and they were very difficult to get along with. And they both wanted to do everything their own way and didn’t want to listen to anybody, especially some American, tell them what to do. But he really formed a great coalition with these guys. And as a result, he accomplished one of the greatest military victories in history.

Richard Marriott: So it’s about how you deal with people. And the people that I respect the most are the people that I see how they can relate to people, how they can get the best performance out of people, and how they can get the love and respect of their fellow men.

Jay Ruderman: Well, thank you Dick. It was a pleasure speaking to you, I wish you, you and your family stay safe and healthy. And God bless you. And thank you for all that you’ve done for our country, especially people with disabilities and the role that you’ve really played as a leader in the corporate world on moving that issue forward. So I hope you stay well and I hope to see you soon.

Richard Marriott: Thank you, Jay. Listen, we appreciate all that you do to help folks with disabilities and create the awareness of the need that we have here. I mean, it’s unconscionable, we have 35 to 50 million young people and middle-aged people with disabilities who are unemployed. And we don’t even count them in the statistics. They’re just out lost in space. They really need to be helped out. So thank you for all you do.

Jay Ruderman: Thank you. God bless.

Narrator: All Inclusive is a production of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Our key mission is the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. You can find All Inclusive on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. To view the show notes, transcripts or to learn more, go to rudermanfoundation.org/allinclusive. Have an idea for a podcast? Be sure to tweet @JayRuderman.

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