"53 Properties, 24 Countries, 1 Philosophy"
November 27, 2005
Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts (FSH) always prided itself on being the choice for a luxury hotel experience. Since its inception date in 1960, FSH expanded its renowned services to include the current number of 67 hotels in 30 different countries with continued expansion in progress. FSH attributed its success to its organizational culture, which did, and continues to embody, the dedication to great service and luxury hospitality. Part of this culture is to recognize that the employees are the key to success, and that in following the "Golden Rule", do unto others, as you would have them do unto you, an atmosphere of fairness, respect, and consistency is established. The success of their philosophy on how to treat employees was, and continues to be, evident in their consistent run on Fortune Magazine's list of the "Top 100 Best Companies to Work For". Furthermore, ingrained into the mission statement was the firm's need for profitable financial planning so that the longevity of its existence and continued service to employees, customers, and shareholders was and is ensured. In the case presented, we look back at FSH's expansion into the French luxury hotel market. The opportunity for this expansion came about with the management and renovation of the historic Parisian Palace, the Hotel George V, one of the six category palace hotels in Paris. Along with the opportunity to expand its European market and support its growth policy around the world, the opening of FSH Hotel George V Paris (hereafter, FS George V), also provided the challenges of incorporating the existing organizational culture with the French culture, laws, and regulations. Although FSH had experience in the global market, French culture and laws provided unique issues to be resolved, particularly in their management of Human Resources. During the development process of FS George V, the firm had to find ways to stay true to its organizational culture and mission to be a financially sound company. The opportunity given to FSH to manage a hotel in Paris was one they could not reject. Paris is considered one of the most preferred destinations in Europe for tourism due to its cuisine, fashion and art. Three main things characterize the FSH culture: Organizational Values, Adaptability and Uniform Standards. Organizational Values (terminal values) not only included the traditional high quality, excellence in service and profitability but also more personal values like modesty, compassion and discipline. The Golden rule was a key factor in the relationship with their employees. People were carefully picked considering their values and attitudes and their fit within the organization's values. On the other hand people inside the organization were treated with dignity and respect; they were valued as the firm's greatest asset and a factor of the firm's success. The statement of beliefs and principles reflects the firm's belief in these values putting them first over the financial goals. FSH was also proud of their ability to adapt to every market they entered by incorporating elements of the culture of those countries increasing their diversity; they want to be perceived not as an American hotel but as an international one and they have used this approach to differentiate from the other hotels as a truly global strategy. However, this does not mean disorder. They created a coherent set of service culture standards or types of desired behaviors that they have applied to all their employees and operations in the world in order to give a distinct and high quality service despite the country where the hotel was located. These rules were strict but flexible in considering local elements to improve the quality of the service. FSH's culture is ever changing due to the continued implementation of elements coming from different cultures. The strong value and...