“There was no vision, there was no grand dream,” says Isadore Sharp, Four Season’s chairman and
founder. The legendary hotelier shares his more than 50 years of experience in the industry and
explained the culture turned the hospitality operator into becoming a global brand.
The architect-turned-hotelier said that the reason for their success is no secret. “It comes down to one
single principle that transcends time and geography, religion and culture. It’s the Golden Rule.” Sharp
The Golden Rule with a Twist
The rule states that if you treat people well, they too will treat you in the same way. This Golden Rule of service became the basic formula for all of Four Seasons’ employees – treating others as how they want to be treated.
Answering what sets the company apart from many of the other service-oriented hotels out there, Sharp responded, “One way to characterize Four Seasons service would be to call it an exchange of mutual respect performed with an attitude of kindness.”
Sharp added about service on how it was a “consistent thread” that propelled that company upwards allowed them to continually grow globally.
Enforcing what has been Defined
Defining and enforcing the company culture was one of four key strategic decisions made in the formative years of Four Seasons history. “I sat down with our communications experts and wrote down the fundamentals of our culture, which is based on the Golden Rule – to treat others as you wish to be treated,” says Issy. “A lot of companies talk about having a culture, but we knew we had to walk the talk if we expected it to thrive in our hotels.”
In the formative years of Four Seasons’ history, Isadore Sharp remembered clearly on sitting down with the communications experts to clearly write down the fundamentals of that culture of service. As important as clarifying it in writing was enforcing it. “We knew, we had to walk the talk if we expected it to thrive in our hotels”, he added.
“The other key is a focus” Isadore Sharp said when asked further regarding his insights. Instead of owning, Sharp pointed out that their focus is in managing. They only manage medium-sized hotels and these hotels must be of extraordinary quality. This allowed Four Seasons to uphold its culture of service as a distinguishing edge.
When asked how this came to be, Isadore Sharp answered how it was at Park Lane in London that served as a key turning point for him and the brand.
Remembering the time in their third hotel in London on how enormously successful it was, Sharp added “I knew why – from that moment on, I knew we’d only operate medium-sized hotels of exceptional quality, and be the best. And in order to be the best, we’re going to make the quality of our service our distinguishing feature and competitive advantage.” (Gulfbusiness)
Adaptability allows Opportunity
Being flexible while sticking to the core principles of service has helped the company provide underlying stability even against shifting markets and political instability. Being unable to have the similar starting capitals as the big hotel chains, the Four Seasons’ crawled their way up in a different manner as their peers.
“When you start a company, you don’t know what your future will be, but as you gain traction you can make decisions on how you want the company to grow,” says Sharp.
Another of the key elements in the company’s progress says Isadore Sharp is their concept of promotion from within. From selection to promotion, Four Seasons Hotel’s had a very carefully orchestrated process.
Sharp described that there had been many of their employees transferred to other locations as part of them individually developing their own career paths.
Sharp describes how every employee goes through four or five interviews during their hiring process.
When asked why, he replied,” You’re relying on employees to deliver on the promise of this special experience.”
To date, Four Seasons has low turnover rates and is in Fortune’s “100 best companies to work for”. The founder also expresses its positive outlook to the hotel market even pointing out to a fully booked 2019 for its private jet itineraries.
Managing its 107th hotel last December of 2017, this growing hotel chain aims to grow to 50 more hotels in this decade with expansion in Middle East and Africa.
When asked about how he looked at the success of its budding hotel empire, Sharp says “We are still a small company…the best is yet to come.”