Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

free essayEvery successful business entity has its unique story of development and growth. They face different troubles of local and global origin, which raises the need for the invention of individual solutions and strategies. That is why studying the history of any organization allows evaluating the scope of theory and practice standing behind any particular success. It is evident that some companies make mistakes and disappear from the market. However, the others, such as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, manage not only to increase the domestic growth but go on the global market. Such a step is very important in business and may bring enormous profits. However, it may be destructive as well in case the top management of the enterprise has no awareness about financial and cultural challenges, which expect any company with global ambitions. Therefore, there is a need for the analysis of the success of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, a company that has been thriving for over 30 years. Moreover, it attempts to transfer the success of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in France to other businesses. Such an approach gives a possibility to realize the aspects which are important when any business goes to a foreign market. The evaluation of the mentioned features assists in understanding of the details of the management of a company, which has to avoid cultural and financial difficulties in host countries. The obtained knowledge enriches the scope of approaches and management strategies of any future leader and business owner.

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Overview of the Company’s Success

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is a hotel operator company which can be characterized as growing stably for over 30 years. In 2002, it confirmed its position as the world’s leading operator of luxury hotels with 53 properties in 24 countries (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003).

To start with, its activity has been defined as remarkable due to “consistently exceptional service” (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003, p. 2). The company is focused on the provision of high-quality personalized service maximizing the value of the time of the customers. Moreover, the organization’s vision has indicated that despite being presented in various countries, Four Seasons should have a distinctive mark, which adds to its unique existence on the market. The main idea of the hotel network is that the hotels of the operator should have exceptional diversity and singularity. As it is explained by the managers of the company, “While the essence of the local culture may vary, the process for opening and operating a hotel is the same everywhere” (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003, p. 3). However, the business rejects the vision of this perspective as actualized by McDonalds. The universality of the concept implemented in each country in the case with Four Seasons goes beyond the similarity of the design. Thus, managers put a special accent on the organizational process such as getting messages on time, cleaning rooms, breakfast service, a respectable and caring attitude of the staff and other. At the same time, the overall idea of the hotel is adapted to the country’s national environment. Therefore, the staff in the Italy or Turkey has its peculiar style and other aspects which make the client understand that one is in a particular state. The vice president of sales and marketing of the company presents this idea as “we … create a cultural destination without being offensive” (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003, p. 3). Furthermore, the strength of the business lies in its refusal from the focus on its identity. As the management puts it, “It does not scream “Four Seasons” at you” (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003, p. 3). Interestingly, this approach misleads the customers who do not suspect that Four Seasons is not an American company. The top management of the company sees it as a success in local adaptation making the local cultures being more favorable to the operator. For instance, it was suggested to position a company in France as a Canadian, which partially influenced its success there (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003). Such a strategy has no cheating in its actual sense because the company is international, and it takes the best practices of the host countries to introduce everywhere. Therefore, its success was guaranteed by its adaptation to the natural environment of the host countries, profound diversity and singularity as well as exceptional standards of service.

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The Service of the Four Seasons

The provision of high-qualified service of the personnel is one of the crucial aspects for any company. In this sense, the processes of attraction and selection of the employees, their training and retaining deserve special attention.

With regards to quality, the company has its standards of service culture which are included in abbreviation SERVICE and include such components as Smile, Eye, Recognition, Voice, Informed, Clean and Everyone (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003). These aspects oblige the staff to greet clients and communicate clearly in a friendly manner, and make an eye contact with the support of the sense of recognition. Likewise, the voice of the employee should be clear, natural and without any signs of pretension. Furthermore, the workers should have information about their hotel, be ready to solve any issue without referring the clients anywhere. Another important aspect is that the staff should have a clean, well-groomed and well-fitted uniform. The last point is the general instruction that every member of the staff should care for the guests.

Additionally, the hotel had 270 core worldwide standards, which were reduced in a difficult process from 800 in the 1990’s. Such a complexity of rules and exceptions was the result of the gradual international growth, which introduced the need for their correction. The leaders of the company accept that some of the original priorities of standardizing were exceptionally strict but senseless regarding peculiar countries. For instance, in states where no bread is eaten, the rule for a number of bread rolls given for breakfast was useless. At the same time, the French clients regarded the absence of the coffee pot on the left of the table for refilling the cups as the lack of service (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003). Thus, the gradual modification of the standards has led to the fact that all personnel are obliged to learn the core rules, which are applied disregarding the host country. They include the ones connected with the domains of reservation, hotel arrival, messages and paging, guest room service and others (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003). Along with that, the rules adapted to the clients of the host cultures are valid only for the local employees.

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Moreover, the company has a peculiar standard of setting minimum expectations, which attracts its clients and keeps them returning as because of the enlisted above. It means that if an employee can do something for a client that goes beyond the standard, one should do it. This regulation led to such situations as the case with a concierge who brought a client to the hospital and stayed with that person overnight (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003). Such cases not only draw public attention because of the mass media coverage but also indicate that the exceptional service at Four Seasons is not a vague statement.

Furthermore, Four Seasons have strict demands for their employees. The personnel are obliged to meet the defined standards. The company’s management has stated that “Our standards are the foundation for all our properties…talk to me about standards and you talk to me about religion” (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003, p. 4). That is why the requirements for candidates are to be responsible, flexible and empathetic as well as anticipating the needs of the clients. At the same time, the operator cultivates the feeling of dignity and respect to everyone involved in its business. The managers of Four Seasons have introduced the “Golden Rule” of the company which is to treat others as one would wish to be treated (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003). Therefore, the staff is given several uniforms as a sign of respect to its dignity whereas it should treat the clients with appreciation and having clean outlook. Consequently, the outstanding service of the company is created due to the fact that it values its stakeholders and respects corporate and national cultures.

How It Works

Four Seasons and the Role Culture

Companies which go globally as in the case with Four Seasons have to consider the role of corporate and national role cultures. This aspect is important because it directly influences the success of the enterprise. Scholars claim that if a business goes global, it should consider several crucial aspects. Some of them are cultural preparedness, local communication difficulties, and interaction with host nationals, readiness to experiment and being culturally sensitive, and recognition of complexities of the host cultures (R. Moran, Abramson, & S. Moran, 2014).

The analysis of the business activity of Four Seasons indicates that its managers have demonstrated complete intercultural competence as well as created a respectful corporate culture. Thus, the staff of the company is loyal to it and ready to do everything possible to meet the demands of the clients. At the same time, its managers understand that different cultures require different approaches to the hotel business as well as traditions of communication and management. As a result, in the case with France, they discovered that the state’s traditional method of running a business is the delegation of the accountability for decisions and policies to managers. The general manager of the hotel in France explained it saying that “In the French hierarchical system, there is a strong tendency to refer things to the boss” (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003, p. 5). Consequently, as soon as this issue was delivered to the local managers through a set of regulations, the French hotel’s reputation has increased. At the same time, the adaptation of the company does not mean that it changes the accent concerning the peculiarities of its corporate culture. The general principle of Four Seasons is “putting what we all believe in into practice” (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003, p. 4). One might conclude that it is this statement which makes the managers be more attentive to the demands of local cultures. For instance, if the US clients respect personal space, the hotels there meet these requirements. Similarly, Asian hotels have exceptional restaurants, and the Far East ones have lobbies of increased sizes because it is of a high value for the guests. Consequently, the leaders of Four Seasons demonstrate that they have a profound competence in the questions of corporate and local cultures which allows them reaching international success. One of the best examples of this is the experience of Four Seasons when establishing a hotel in France.

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Entering the French Market

The entry strategy of the company when going to the French market can be generally described as careful. The reason for it was that the managing staff was experienced in cultural realities of other countries and awaited certain obstacles based on cultural differences. Moreover, it was ready to meet various legal and other demands since they had to meet the requirements of the host country. However, the actual difficulties were more numerous than expected. For instance, a company was required to follow fire emergency rules, but the regulators were not inclined to check this aspect until the other demands were met. Additionally, the human resource problem was that the local employees regarded the internal policy of the company as unreal to follow strictly and treated it with skepticism.

As a consequence, the leaders of the company decided to cope with the problems through hiring a person who was experienced in both French and American businesses. As a result, Le Calvez, a French person having 25 years of experience working outside France, was appointed a general manager of the hotels in France. This approach had become beneficial because it allowed bringing American and corporate practices to France and adapting them to the realities of the host culture. It is evident the Le Calvez was an experienced person, who was aware of the French mentality. As a result, the newly appointed French general manager traced the basic cultural and regulation difficulties to tackle. This affected the fact that a reopened hotel in Paris had completely new principles of labor and management which benefited the French workers. The 35-hour workweek and the programs of an employee-of-the-month and employee-of-the-year allowed reaching further “de-demonization” of the perception of the US company among the French staff members (Hallowell, Bowen, & Knoop, 2003). Consequently, the French personnel of Four Seasons were surprised with the degree of attentiveness and respect. Therefore, this approach stimulated their loyalty and acceptance of the corporate culture. Thus, the entry strategy of slow and accurate entrance allowed the company to evaluate its first mistakes and fix them avoiding additional expenditures. As a result, Four Seasons established a firm ground in the new host culture stimulating approval, dignity, and devotion of employees and clients.

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Discussion

The analysis of the case study of Four Season’s experience of expanding into the French market indicates a number of strategies beneficial for other businesses. The aspect which may be applied to any company going international or global disregarding its type is that it has to have a solid corporate culture. Likewise, it should be ready to face various cultural difficulties, which are inevitable when entering any foreign market. The reason for this is that different cultures have dissimilar perceptions of business, aspects of time and management as well as many others. Thus, the experience of the company in France might be applied to any hotel business going to other states. However, enterprises other than those working in the sphere of hotel operation may consider the case to reveal the need for local adaptation of their activity. For instance, going to IT or retail market in any country means that a company would have a task of recreating its corporate culture on site. Therefore, it might be useful to hire a prospective local manager in order to bridge the two cultures and ease the possible tension. Consequently, the analyzed case study is an excellent example of desirable strategies for any company which enters international markets.

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Conclusion

Summarizing the presented information, one may come to a conclusion that the analyzed case study is beneficial for the managers who decide to expand their businesses to other countries. The reason for this statement is that the revealed aspects of the case include a variety of difficulties which were successfully resolved by the leaders of Four Seasons. It is important to consider the case because its subject is a company with the sustainable growth for over thirty years. Its exceptional service and understanding of the role of corporate and national cultures serve as a vivid example of success for any other business disregarding its type. Therefore, lessons from the case study are worth considering and putting into practice by the leaders of organizations and businesses. In case the general principles of the entry strategy of Four Seasons are followed by other companies, the probability of their success when going international drastically rises. Consequently, the mission, vision and strategies practiced by the leaders of Four Seasons may serve as a role model for the regulators of other businesses.