[It is my pleasure to once again bring you guest blogger, James Allan. Enjoy this post below! -Seth Kahan]
How are visionary leaders created? What does it take for a person to create, enhance and
maintain a successful global business that continues to innovate and expand?
To answer these questions, I spoke recently with Isadore
Mr. Sharp worked from dawn to dusk in the construction
industry in Toronto, and then drifted into the hotel industry in 1961, at the
age of 30. Since then, he has
spent the last 49 years doing what most entrepreneurs can only dream of. He created a luxury mid-size hotel
brand named the Four Seasons, took it public, and then expanded its reach to
the most exotic and popular business and tourist destinations in the world. All the while, he made it profitable.
He outlined his journey
in his auto-biography, aptly named Four Seasons. Some of his enduring innovations
include shampoo, full-sized bath towels and bathrobes in every hotel room. He also created a company-wide respect
for employees at all levels which did not previously exist. This philosophy, entitled “The Golden
Rule”, has reached every end of the Earth since it applies universally accepted
principles. His enduring respect
for people, both customers and employees, has continually fortified his brand
as the mid-size luxury hotel of choice.
When Oprah Winfrey asked Julia Roberts what’s the best thing she’s ever
slept on, she replied “A bed at the Four Seasons.”
So what did he tell me the foundations of his success are?
got to be able to judge opportunity: When asked if he was better at judging people or
property, he quickly replied, “I’m best at judging opportunity. Each individual has their own
strengths. Engineers and
scientists saw the opportunity for space travel, and they acted on
it. My success has come from
judging opportunity in the luxury hotel industry and acting on it.” He later added, “People in poor
countries like India are born into abject poverty and can’t get out
because they don’t get the opportunity. We are fortunate to live in North America where
opportunity is plentiful.”
things that other people don’t see: He flat out ignored the experts, even his own, when
they told him the luxury hotel market in London was over-saturated. When deep in debt in the 1980
recession, and interest rates were peaking, he asked to borrow more
money. When investors were
plentiful and the brand was strong, he intentionally slowed his company’s
growth. Why? “Opinions are
expressed based on past fact. Ask yourself, ‘What is the future?’ I like trying things that other
people don’t see. You see the risks. You know there will be a possible
penalty to pay. As long as
it’s not destructive, follow your ‘subconscious belief’ – it’s a fanatical
belief – that what you’re doing will work.”
is important: He
contributed much of his extreme self-confidence to his upbringing. “I think how you’re brought up can
help a lot. You should be
allowed to make mistakes, and get on the learning curve. It’s good when you get the support
you need, and sometimes it’s an Invisible Hand.” According to his book, he did not have doting
parents. They encouraged him
to be independent as early as the age of 6, when he would have to find his
own way to school.
in Team Sports:
“Participating in team sports showed me the desire to try your
best, even if you didn’t always win.
You could decide to run your fastest, and you still might not
win. That sort of attitude
encouraged me to not have a fear of failure.”
your Passions of the Moment: “We all really do know what our skills
are, and what we are gifted at.
You’ve got to follow your passion of the moment (passions change
over time). Let the passions
be your guide, and let your skills direct what you want to do. Don’t try to become someone who
you are not…Don’t try to plan your life, rather take opportunities as they
arise. We all have capacity
to do more. Look for the opportunities
that allow you to do that.
Compromise your values:
The current recession has affected the luxury hotel market, but Mr.
Sharp has seen it all before. “In these times, don’t change what you’re
doing. You have to adapt to
the circumstances, but don’t change your values. Stick to the priorities you want to preserve. The recession will be over soon,
and you want people to know who you are and what you stand for. At the Four Seasons, we use the
term ‘control without compromise’.
We have to adapt to the recession, but we are not going to cut
things which may compromise our values.”
Sources: http://www.streethockeymillionaire.com/IsidoreSharpInterview.pdf « James Allan interviews Isadore
About the author James Allan is President of SHM
Consulting, a firm devoted to improving human and organizational
performance. Clients include Cisco
Systems, Costco Wholesale, TD Ameritrade and the Montreal Canadiens. Visit his
website at http://www.shmconsulting.net.