Review: Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp

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Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp, Founder, Chairman and CEO is an autobiography which weaves in the story of the renowned five-star Four Seasons Hotel chain. Isadore Sharp started out as a builder and ended up as a global five-star hotel management magnate.

The Four Seasons created a brand name built on delivering impeccable quality and service, and did so by creating the culture within the company to make it possible while building a brand recognized globally during the process. Their business model is based on those four pillars: quality, service, culture and brand. By following the Golden Rule, which is to treat others as you would like to be treated, the company pust employees first, including frontline workers, knowing that they would take care of the clientele. The company lived the talk. Employees were given the authority and flexibility to make decisions that took care of the customers.

Like the most successful brands and companies that were built to last, Isadore Sharp looked to other companies that were best in class to identify products and services that could be transported to his organization. He looked to other industries and countries for best practices. And he paid attention to the details; the devil is always in the details. He introduced concierge service, an idea he borrowed from a European company. He tested the service first in Washington DC, and it was so popular that he introduced the it in other hotels. Shortly thereafter competitors followed suit.

In 1968, after his wife Rosalie returned from a spa she remarked that spa food tasted better so Isadore investigated to find out what guests eating trends were, and what his competitors were doing.

Also after a brief vacation with Rosalie at Canyon Ranch in Arizona, a premier resort with spa and fitness, he asked two vice presidents overseeing six hotel projects at the time to investigate the feasibility of including spas. Being the first to introduce fitness centers in hotels, the vice presidents reported that the spa would make a good adjunct to fitness.

Over the years, the Four Seasons had many firsts in the industry: bathrobes, shampoo, non-smoking floors, hair dryers, make-up mirrors, healthy cuisine and so on. When he copied what was done in other industries and countries, he made substantial improvements.

Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy is divided into four Parts:

Part I: The Immigrant’s Son

Part II: Starting at the Top

Part III: Community and Culture

Part IV: A Fresh Approach

Part V: Worldwide Excellence

Part VI: In a League of our Own

Part VII: Staying Ahead

And each part includes several chapters that chronicle the journey of Isadore Sharp and those he interacted and worked with as he built a global brand. Sharp provides many examples to demonstrate what his team did and how they did it. He candidly talks about his successes and setbacks. He complemented the skills he lacked by hiring the appropriate people. And he allowed people to do their work by trusting and respecting them.

The organization expanded primarily through joint ventures, which were created by building enduring relationships based on mutual advantage and trust. The company had established such a reputation that deals were constantly presented, which facilitated the rapid expansion of the organization into difficult to penetrate regions. He includes the process of the expansion for many of the regions, the problems the company faced, how they worked through them and the end results.

To become a global brand in the hospitality industry, there are many things which the Four Seasons did a few of which are included below.

Things That Make the Four Seasons Unique

  1. Hire local talent and promote from within.
  2. Each hotel is unique and captures the nuances of the area it is located in.
  3. Each hotel is better in every way than the last.
  4. Have very unique spas.
  5. Hire the very best chefs for a world-class dining experience.
  6. Sign long-term management contracts for impeccable service and business model continuity.
  7. Hire for personality and train for technical skills.
  8. People come before profits.
  9. Leaders and innovators.
  10. The brand presells the hotel, so potential joint venture partners are constantly pitching opportunities.

Five Great Ideas

  1. Do not make judgments and decisions in a vacuum, also look at how they will impact others
  2. Continuous minor improvements when added up over time ultimately lead to major changes.
  3. Challenges and setbacks are often disguised opportunities.
  4. Delivering true value to customers lead to profits.
  5. Be flexible, make decisions quickly and seize opportunities as they arise.

In Four Seasons: The Story of Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp there are countless examples that are duplicable for those wanting to excel through quality and service. To begin the journey, ask yourself the following two questions.

  1. What would the customers consider important?
  2. What will the customers recognize as value?

While reading Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy, I noticed distinct similarities between it and The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence. The similarities make perfect sense since both companies compete on quality and service in their respective industries. For those interested in quality, service and entrepreneurship, below are some previous posts for your perusal.

I recommend Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp because there are many ideas that you can use. And Steve Jobs from Apple introduced Concierge Service at the Apple Store based on the Four Seasons’ Concierge Service.

Source by Avil Beckford

The source of the book

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