Note: Perhaps 30-35 years ago, probably in an article for Harvard Business Review, Peter Drucker said something to the effect, “If you don’t think you’re in the hospitality business, then you won’t have any business. People must feel appreciated before they will buy anything from you.”
The Nature and Value of Authentic Hospitality
This book will be of great interest and even greater value if one or more of the following is relevant to you:
1. You have direct and frequent contact with customers.
2. You personally train and/or supervise those who do.
3. You need to improve your “people skills” in your business and personal relationships.
4. Your organization has problems attracting, hiring, and then keeping the people it needs to prosper.
5. Your organization has problems with others who, for whatever reasons, consistently under-perform.
It is no coincidence that many of those on Fortune magazine’s annual list of most admired companies reappear on its annual list of most profitable companies. Moreover, both customers and employees rank “feeling appreciated” among the three most important attributes of satisfaction. Now consider the total cost of a mis-hire or the departure of a peak performer: Estimates vary from six to 18 times the annual salary, including hours and dollars required by the replacement process.
Until now, I have said nothing about Danny Meyer nor about the restaurant industry so as to reassure those who read this brief commentary that, although Setting the Table does indeed provide interesting information about him and his background, the book’s greater value derives (in my opinion) from the lessons he has learned from his successes and failures thus far, both within and beyond the kitchen.
One of the most important concepts in this book is hospitality. Here’s what Meyer has to say about it: “hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens [begin italics] for [end italics] you. It is absent when something happens [begin italics] to [end italics] you. These two simple propositions – for and to – express it all.” According to Meyer, service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel about the transaction. This is precisely what Leonard Berry has in mind when explaining what he calls “the soul of service.”
Another of the most important concepts in this book is “connecting the dots” which Meyer views as a process by which information accumulated “can make meaningful connections that can make other people feel good and give you an edge in business. Using whatever information I’ve collected to gather guests together in a shared experience is what I call connecting the dots.”
Of special interest to me are those whom Meyer characterizes as mentors to whom he has turned for sound (albeit candid) advice. For example, on one occasion he enthusiastically “showed off” to Pat Cetta (co-owner of Sparks Steakhouse) a new dish just added to the Union Street Café menu: Fried oyster Caesar salad. Cetta’s response? “This dish is nothing more than mental masturbation. You’re clearly doing it just to get noticed by Florence Fabricant [in the New York Times]. And the bad news is that she won’t even like it. I guarantee you that shit is coming off your menu within two months – and if I were you, I’d take it off in two minutes. You know better than that, luvah!” Meyer agreed and quickly retired the dish.
As indicated earlier, I think the lessons which Meyer generously shares in this book, especially those learned from errors of judgment (“the road to success is paved with mistakes well handled”) are of substantial value to managers in all organizations, regardless of size or nature. If there were a rating higher than Five Stars when I reviewed it for various Amazon websites, I would give it to this thoughtful, eloquent, and entertaining book.
Walk the Walk: The #1 Rule for Real Leaders
Portfolio/The Penguin Group
Deutschman’s objective was to write what turns out to be an especially entertaining and engaging as well as informative analysis of “real” leadership, what Bill George would characterize as “authentic” leadership. He explains that aspiring rulers struggle to preserve their positions, stewards focus on strengthening the status quo while preserving its values and priorities, and “lemmings” repeat the same practices and strategies that previously ruined other organizations whereas “real” leaders establish and instill the one or two values “that will be most important for an organization or a movement or a community.” They “talk the talk” (i.e. affirm the right values) and “walk the walk” (i.e. consistently demonstrate those values in their behavior). The exemplars include Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher Martin Luther King, Jr., Wendy Kopp, Ray Kroc, Nelson Mandela, Danny Meyer, Fred Smith, and both Thomas Watson Sr. and Jr. Deutschman differentiates real leaders from those whose behavior (invoking another cliché phrase) “talk a good game” but don’t play it. For example, Mark Fields, Al Gore, Frank Lorenzo, Laura Turner Seydel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There is much of substantial value in this book when Deutschman stays out of the pulpit and concentrates on real-world situations that demonstrate the core values of real leadership. For example, there is some fascinating material in Chapter Two when he first discusses Ray Kroc obsession with cleanliness in every McDonald’s location, Fred Smith’s obsession with FedEx’s punctuality, and Charles Schwab’s obsession with impeccable integrity throughout his entire organization. All of them led by example, working side-by-side with their associates, asking no one to do what they had not already done themselves. Deutschman also discusses several military leaders, all of whom also led by example. In modern warfare, it makes no sense for generals to place themselves directly in harm’s way but Norman Schwarzkopf, Richard Cavazos, and William Latham had already demonstrated their courage in brutal combat on numerous occasions in the past. By the time they became general officers, their reputations for both valor and integrity had preceded them. They had earned – and deserved — the respect and trust of those who served under them.
At the conclusion of the final chapter, Deutschman observes: “The final proof of leadership isn’t having new ideas; it’s pursuing an idea obsessively – with every action, in every moment, with everyone watching – for many years or even for several decades. That’s when you’re a real leader.” All real leaders exemplify in everything they do and how they do it the same values they so passionately affirm.
In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
How do you like to be treated when someone answers your telephone, when you appear at the reception desk of an office, enter a retail store, check into a hotel, or are greeted by the hostess or host when you arrive at a party? Here’s my guess: welcome and appreciated. That is the essence of “hospitality” and, frankly, I am amazed by how many people in business don’t “get it.”
Here are three books that explain how any company can easily create a culture of hospitality:
Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. In October 1985, at age 27, Meyer, with a good idea and almost no experience, opened what would become one of New York City’s most revered restaurants — Union Square Café. Little more than twenty years later, he is the CEO of one of the world’s most dynamic restaurant organizations, with 11 unique dining establishments and each at the top of its game.
Joseph Michelli’s The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Founder César Ritz observed long ago, “people like to be served, but invisibly.” Michelli asserts, “From my perspective, the Ritz-Carlton [customer] experience is reflected in leadership committed to unrelenting quality, respect for all of the company’s staff encounters, and oddly enough, also a great spirit of candor.” Individual initiative is not only encouraged but indeed expected at all levels and in all areas in fulfillment of The Motto, “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
Isadore Sharp’s Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy. The company that was launched in 1961 with a 125-room motor hotel in Toronto now has arguably the most profitable as well as the highest rated luxury hotels in the world, more than 140 in more than 40 countries. Sharp’s leadership deserves much of the credit. As he explains, “The reason for our success is no secret. It comes down to one single principle that transcends time and geography, religion and culture. It’s the Golden Rule – the simple idea that if you treat people well, the way you would like to be treated, they will do the same. There was no vision, there was no grand dream… But there has always been a consistent thread and it propels us forward today, as we continue to grow globally, and that’s service.”
People don’t do business with companies, they do business with other people. If you make all of those who have any contact with you and your company feel that they really, really are appreciated, you will have a decisive competitive advantage. It is also true that a culture of hospitality substantially improves morale and increases productivity because you and your associates also want to fell welcome and appreciated when you arrive at work each day.
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob