Marriott Group President Liam Brown
Courtesy of Liam B.

Name: Liam Brown
Position: Group President, U.S. & Canada
Location: Marriott HQ in Bethesda, MD
Dream destination: I love Italy, anything to do with Italy. And Ireland, of course. (Liam is originally from Dublin, Ireland!)
Drink or treat of choice: A Cadbury Fruit & Nut chocolate bar is my favorite. If I get a bar of that, I eat it all. The other two would be Barry’s Tea and Tayto crisps.

In June 2024, Liam Brown, Group President, U.S. & Canada, celebrates 35 years at Marriott. But the Dublin native didn’t originally have plans to stay in the United States for long.

“I always thought I’d own my own restaurant or hotel, and even when I joined Marriott, I thought ‘you know, I’ll get some experience working for (what I thought was) a huge company, stay for a few years in the USA, then go home and open a restaurant or buy a bar or hotel, and do my own thing,’” Liam explains. “And instead, Marriott captured my heart and mind — the most wonderful thing about it is there’s lots of opportunities.

Marriott Group President Liam Brown

Courtesy of Liam B.

Liam has held both corporate positions and on-property roles, with his first being General Manager at the Courtyard by Marriott in Syracuse. And since 2020, he’s served as Group President, U.S. & Canada, overseeing everything from rooms operations and revenue management to food and beverage across the continent’s more than 6,000 properties.

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But despite witnessing Marriott’s growth from four brands to 30+ and nearly 500 properties to more than 8,000 worldwide, Liam says there’s one aspect of the company that’s never changed.

“The People First culture has stayed the same,” Liam says. “And I think the culture of ‘success is never final’ too. It’s always ‘how can we do better?’, ‘how can we push ourselves, work on ourselves, and work on our business?’”

And after 35 years at the company, Liam has perpetuated Marriott’s People First culture time and time again, regardless of the size of his office or job title on his name tag.

How did you find your way to Marriott?

It all started one summer in college when I was offered a job at a really nice, very high-end restaurant. I had been working on the dining cars of the Irish railway system when Barney, the maître-d of the really nice, very high-end restaurant, called my supervisor and said, “hey I need a good guy for the summer.”

Barney told me later that my supervisor had said I was a hard worker but didn’t know much. Nevertheless, Barney hired me, and I went. I ate food I’d never had in my life and learned a ton. And Barney was a great teacher.

Barney knew every customer. He knew that Mr. Murphy didn’t like to see Mr. Collins because they were rivals in business and so he’d put them around the corner and made sure they left at different times, so they didn’t see each other. He was really good. And everybody walking out the door shook his hand and gave him a nice tip.

So at the end of the summer when Barney asked what I wanted to do with my life, I said “I want to be you, Barney. You’ve got a great job, and you do a great job.”

Barney replied “you don’t want my job. I left school at 12. I’ve exceeded all my expectations in life. But you,” he continued, “you need to go into hotel management. I think you’ll do well there.”

Marriott Group President Liam Brown

Courtesy of Liam B.

And so I transferred out of University College of Dublin — where I was studying to be a teacher — to study hospitality at Cathal Brugha Street, which had a hospitality program with Trinity College.

In 1989, I got the opportunity to come to the United States to work for a small New England hotel company called Appleton Inns. And six months after I started working for them, they were acquired by Marriott. The rest was history!

How would you describe your journey with Marriott?

I had no grand master plan in terms of saying “I’m going to be the president of U.S. & Canada.” Instead, with every job I had, I would say I wanted to learn it, understand it, and drive great results, and then see what other opportunities in the company were out there.

I started with Marriott as a Courtyard General Manager and loved it. Being a GM was great because you led a team of your people, and this was your street corner business. A few years into my time at Courtyard, Tim Sheldon called me and suggested I apply for a Residence Inn GM position, and I got the job.

I had the opportunity to learn a new hotel, and it’s only because I did that job that I eventually got my regional job, since I had successfully led two brands and held multiple GM roles.

marriott group president liam brown

Courtesy of Katie D.

Very early in my career when I worked at the Courtyard by Marriott in Syracuse, I remember meeting Mr. Marriott. I was shaking hands with him when I asked him “how does a young fellow like me do well in a company like yours?” And his answer became my guiding principle: “master what you currently do and actively seek more responsibility.”

I’ve always felt that you can learn from every job. I first learned the ability to drive results for one business, the hotel, and then I learned how to drive results for a region. Those experiences opened doors for me to drive results for the Fairfield Inn brand, which led to me driving an entire continent’s results in my last role as President and Managing Director for EMEA as well as in my current role as Group President, U.S. & Canada.

How has the company changed in the last 35 years?

We had 470 hotels when I joined, and we have 8,000-plus today. It’s changed dramatically in terms of size, scope, and complexity, and how many countries we’re in. And in some ways, it hasn’t changed at all, in terms of our culture and how that threads through all the years. Our culture remains powerful and strong; the culture of people first, opportunity, development, and being a great place to work.

Our mix of business is definitely different today. We’re significantly more franchised than we were when I started. We’ve got some great partners in our franchise community. We have great scope and global distribution. You know, we used to talk about being a “global company,” but back then we were a U.S.-centric company with just a few great locations outside the country for many years. I think when you look at our distribution internationally today, it’s just remarkable. And the quality of what we have internationally and in the pipeline is remarkable too.

Marriott Group President Liam Brown

Courtesy of Liam B.

How has your management style changed in the past 35 years?

I worry less about what I cannot control. We can control how we take care of guests. I believe we suffer more in our imagination than we do in reality; oftentimes you worry about things that don’t come to pass or that you have no control over. That’s been the benefit of living a bit.

I think I’m the same person — I mean hopefully I’m a little wiser — but I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the people who do the hard work each and every day, in terms of coming into work and running our hotels. I’ve always tried to listen to what those associates have to say about challenges and needs, because it’s those closest to the guest who know what the challenges are.

When I first went down to HQ, I remember seeing a banner in the Residence Inn section on the second or third floor. The banner said, “What have you done for the field today?” So, it was a very field-centered, hotel-centered environment, with people thinking about what we needed to do for the hotels each and every day. I’ve always tried to ask myself “how do we continue to support them in the best way possible, and how do we listen better?”

Marriott Group President Liam Brown

Courtesy of Liam B.

What advice would you give someone who aspires to become a leader at Marriott?

Hire great people with enthusiasm and a desire to serve — and inspire them to do great work.

Another mantra I’ve picked up through the years is “anytime you’re with an associate, you have to ask yourself ‘what does this person need?’ and ‘how can I give it to him or her to the best of my ability with courtesy and respect?’”

You know, at the end of the day, it’s simple: you just have to support your people.

Here’s what I fundamentally believe: We have certain strengths, we have weaknesses. And I think great leaders take the people they have and mold a great team. They maximize strengths and manage weaknesses. They recognize where people need a little bit of help. They recognize who they can rely on to do a little bit more, who they can inspire to step up, and who they need to develop. And they get a team cohesion and dynamic going that produces exceptional results.

Marriott Group President Liam Brown

Courtesy of Liam B.

When I think about leadership, I believe it begins with the people a leader is accountable for, and it’s the leader’s job to hire great people and make sure they do well. And to do well, they need to know three things:

  1. First, they need to know the mission, and there needs to be clarity around that definition. A leader needs to be able to answer, “what’s the definition of success in my role?”, “What results do I need to drive?”, and “What makes someone successful here?”
  2. Next, a leader needs to provide the tools, support, and training needed to do the job and achieve that success.
  3. And last, a leader needs their team to know that they’re supported and valued. It’s as simple as saying “thank you.” And then at the end of the day, “Thanks for a great job, well done. See you tomorrow.” A little “thank you” goes a long way, and celebrating the wins does too. Your team needs to know that you have genuine care for them.

It’s a very simple business when you think about it. If a guest comes to your house, you’re hospitable, you engage them in conversation, you make them feel welcome and special. In India there’s a saying, “a guest is a god.” A leader in hospitality needs to set the singular mission to drive the best possible guest experience, which can be done with a high-performing, highly engaged team.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

When I look back on my 35 years at Marriott, I feel incredibly grateful for the leaders who came before me; those who saw something in me and in turn, pushed me, challenged me, and provided me with opportunities to grow.

But when I see how well the people I’ve worked with have done for themselves, that’s what I’m most proud of. Seeing people who started in entry-level positions become GMs, Regionals, and VPs has been incredible and has served as a beautiful reminder that if you take care of your associates and encourage their growth, they will do all they can to take care of guests each and every day.

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