Four Seasons hotel founder Isadore Sharp has written a book entitled “Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy” on the strategic moves and values that have transformed Four Seasons from a small Canadian hotel into a worldwide luxury brand.  Regardless of what type or size of business you run, Sharp offers lessons that many businesses can take to the bank.

1. Outstanding, reliable customer experience is a competitive advantage.

Four Seasons’ architecture may vary from property to property, but they always strive to offer a platinum lever of customer service.  When they deliver this consistently excellent service over and over again across the world, Four Seasons builds customer loyalty and reduces customer sensitivity to price.

2. Innovation should spring from customer needs.

Four Seasons first introduced many of the amenities that travelers have become accustomed to from premium linens to hair dryers.  In one of his earliest properties, Isadore Sharp is famous for scouting out an innovative showerhead that he thought customers would love.  He figured that since we all take showers, this was an amenity that hotel customers would appreciate.

3. Treat employees how you’d like them to treat customers.

Sharp calls this his Golden Rule and credits it for much of Four Seasons’ success. Each employee should be valued and empowered to help customers – from the maids through to top managers.  Any managers who valued their own ego above letting employees make decisions were eventually expelled from the Four Seasons organization.

4. Don’t try to be all things to all people.

Four Seasons specifically targets luxury travelers.  They design properties with this ideal traveler in mind and don’t try to appease budget travelers with frequent specials or discounts to entice them to try Four Seasons.  For most of the company’s history, they didn’t offer discounts at all.  They’ve since adjusted that rule as corporate budgets have tightened, but they still react and serve the same client base.