Conrad Hilton had an imposing stature. Over six feet tall and dressed to perfection every day, the man oozed hard work and a perceived vision of success. In his late 80s, he was given a life-time achievement award. Pomp, circumstance and an ‘A’ list crowd were all in attendance that evening. The program designed to honor him setup a climactic scene where he was to deliver a speech and share his wisdom on his own success. Hilton lumbered up to the microphone to ruckus applause and waited for the crowd to calm. He looked out over the silent audience, raised his index finger on his right arm and said, “Always tuck the shower curtain into the bathtub.” And with that, he walked off stage.
I love this story. I love the audacity of this speech. I love how simple he makes our job to deliver great service; do the first and most important thing right and then build on that small thing. At the time, Hilton hotels were the top of the line and had great swagger in the industry. This focus on detail was part of the reason they were so dominant.
Recently I was staying at a Hilton property in Utah. I had just turned on the shower when I heard the phone ring and dashed to answer it. It was Laura and Sloan calling on Facetime. I quickly went through the routine of apologizing and promising to call back shortly and returned to the bathroom to find water EVERYWHERE. I panicked. I quickly turned off the shower and grabbed every towel I could find to soak up the water before I flooded the room. I was able to do this – but then had to go beg housekeeping for more towels and ultimately was a bit later than I expected when I arrived at the office.
While mopping up the water, all I could think of was Conrad Hilton in a tuxedo telling a the members of a crowd to “always tuck the shower curtain into the bathtub.” The message must have changed after his death in 1979.