Motel entrepreneur Chuck Marshall ‘demanded perfection’

Friends and family are remembering Charles Marshall as an intelligent man who used a keen business sense to build the successful Marshall Hotels and Resorts.

“He was really something,” said his widow, Dee, who married him in 1963.

A native of Texas, she met her husband, who grew up in Kansas, at Oklahoma State University, where they studied. Later, they came to the Eastern Shore where Marshall managed the Sheraton in Ocean City, now The Clarion.

About a week before his death on Dec. 27, the 74-year-old Marshall suffered a stroke, and didn’t recover, said his son, Michael.

“He founded the business in 1980,” his wife said.

Mrs. Marshall started working with him in 1989, earned a master’s degree in business administration and was in charge of sales and marketing.

“He loved his kids and adored his grandkids. He was a great husband. We had a good time,” she said about their three children and seven grandchildren, who golfed with him.

 “We have clients around the country. There are over 60 hotels in the portfolio now. We had a feasibility study in Jamaica and a manor in Ireland, but mostly our clients are east of the Mississippi,” Mrs. Marshall said.

The business grew into one of the nation’s largest hotel management companies. His wife credited him for realizing the tremendous opportunity in third-party management.

“We were able to take a hotel from an owner in trouble, put together a business plan, executive it and turn it around. Because of the reputation of the company, they find us now,” she said.

Marshall once praised  third-party management as quite possibly “the best business decision I ever made.”

“The cornerstone of our success is developing a tailored strategy and plan with aggressive, but realistic, budgets, and then sticking to them,” he said.

“The budget is our Bible, and we adhere to it religiously.  We don’t start with the top or bottom line; we begin with what is honest and achievable. We then monitor our budgets daily and adapt to changing market conditions, which allows us to focus clearly on maximizing profits and controlling costs,” he was quoted as saying.

Today, the company is ranked as the 40th largest overall management company in the country and is in the top 10 among third-party management companies, according to information his son provided.

Marshall received awards for operating excellence, including Sheraton’s Manager of the Year and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Franchise Association.

After he retired, Marshall worked to improve his condo association, a golf course in Phoenix and his alma mater in Stillwater, Okla. He received the Distinguished Alumni award in 2010.

Michael Marshall, who bought out his father in 2012, started working for him when he was 15, at a hotel he owned. “He was a hard guy. He wanted to be sure I learned from the ground up, which is how he learned,” he said.

“He was a very competent businessman. He was a good partner.  He knew when it was the right time to buy, the right time to sell. He was just a nuts and bolts guy. He was never able to figure out the computer but on a legal pad he could figure out a budget,” he said with a gentle laugh.

A former employee, Sid Lee of Washington, D.C., who worked for Marshall in the early 1980s, and again later in Lexington, Va., called him “a unique guy who demanded perfection from everybody who worked for him.”

“He was probably the best business mentor I ever had in my life. Chuck always had a smile on his face. He was a terrific guy and in my own way I loved him very much,” Lee said.

Friend Phil Tilghman of Salisbury praised him for helping to rejuvenate the Green Hill Yacht & Country Club.

“We were in deep debt and didn’t know what to do, whether to close the place. He and Dr. Ray Hoy and I sat down and wrote a business plan. I listened; they wrote.

“I listened to how to market the place, how to do this and that and the other thing. We used that plan to raise the million one that we raised from 26 people and bought the mortgage from PNC Bank,” Tilghman said.

“He was instrumental in making the plan that is being implemented now. And, that plan saved Green Hill.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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