When Dublin-native Liam Brown, EMBA ’05, travelled to the United States for a friend’s wedding in 1989, he intended to stay only a few days. But an unexpected job opportunity in the hotel business kept him stateside, where he spent the next three decades rising through the ranks at Marriott International. Now Brown will head back across the pond to become president and managing director of Marriott International’s Europe division, which includes the United Kingdom, Ireland and continental Europe. He shares three leadership principles that have guided his career.
Question everything: Brown takes the reins at a time of tremendous growth in the region for Marriott. The company reports that in the last decade, it has risen from 10th to second for the most rooms in Europe, with more than 570 hotels across 41 countries — and another 206 properties in the pipeline. Brown could sit back and ride the momentum, but he learned a different leadership style at Maryland Smith. “It was drilled into us that the most important question to ask is ‘Says who?,” he explains. “If somebody makes a statement and presents it as a statement of fact, well, who says that’s true? Who says? — that’s the most important question you can ask, and the one I continue to ask every day.”
Sharpen the saw: Brown could be classified as a bit of a growth specialist for the international hotel giant. He spent his first 10 years with the company in general manager roles at hotels in the company's portfolio. Brown says earning his executive MBA at Maryland Smith propelled him to the next level. When he began the executive MBA program, he was running the Fairfield Inn and Suites brand for Marriott. At the time, the brand was experiencing challenges in growth, performance and guest satisfaction. Smith’s EMBA program helped him work through the challenges to rejuvenate the brand. “The most valuable thing about the EMBA experience was the ability to come to the College Park campus every other weekend and sharpen the saw,” he says. “Every weekend helped crystallize and shape my own thinking.”
Stay fit: Brown’s success with Fairfield Inn led to leadership positions of increasing importance at Marriott. From 2013 until his most recent promotion, Brown oversaw all of Marriott's 4,200 franchised hotels in the United States and Canada, plus an additional 425 hotels in the company’s Managed by Marriott division. His executive status comes with VIP treatment at every hotel he visits, which means the best food on the menu every night. Brown could easily gain weight, but he makes fitness a priority. “We work hard in our business. It’s a 24/7 business, and you have to be fit to be able to do it,” he tells podcaster Glenn Haussman in a recent episode of No Vacancy. “It’s important to have a program — the balance between health and wellness and work.”
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.