Having opened its first French property in 1999, the Four Seasons Hotel faced a number of challenges in moving its distinctly Americanized hotelier institution to France. The obstacles faced by the management team at the F.S. George V are outlined by Hallowell, Bowen and Knoop in the article “Four Seasons Goes to Paris”, which demonstrates how efficiently organizations must adapt to strong cultural forces, especially in countries like France. In this regard, the Four Seasons Hotel can be viewed as a useful framework for global managers to achieve the key to success by working on the following concepts: global expansion, balancing consistency with flexibility, maintaining management discipline and stressing the importance of customer loyalty. This paper will report on the biggest challenges faced in opening up the F.S. George V and will outline a number of key points that helped the hotelier management team achieve success and recognition over the years. The pivotal question to be answered was: can a company’s success in one country be transported to another country? By assessing French culture, satisfying clientele needs and adapting to French culture in general, the F.S. George V has now become an institution associated to luxury, elegance and refinement.
Key findings and conclusion
Hallowell, Bowen and Knoop (2002) launch into a discussion pertaining to the importance of adapting to a country’s culture. They write that paying attention to culture is important in service companies because of its effect on customer value, employee behaviour and matters that may seem trivial, like facility cleanliness, but are actually paramount to clientele satisfaction. By basing their model of corporate culture on four components that stress the importance of assumptions, values, employee views of management practices and cultural artefacts, the management team was able to incorporate an organizational structure that worked well in France.
A number of key methods were used to promote the F.S. George V image and to attract French and European clients. By telling their employees to follow the motto “treat others as you wish they would treat you”, the management team was able to delegate work by reaching out to the firm’s regional management structure in order to provide excellent service quality. The top management team, with more than 25 years of experience under their belts, were described as cultural chameleons. For example, Antoine Corinthios, President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, sees himself as a world citizen who likes to dabble in languages and comply with cultural standards. The flexibility of the top management team was passed on to other employees, who were instructed to never brag and never offer up excuses. The popular phrase “the people here do not understand”, for instance, was not abided by. At the hotel, every employee was meant to feel like a family member but was also instructed to develop a strong sense of allegiance to the firm. Satisfying customer needs and desires was consistently prioritized. At first, French employees experienced difficulties apologizing and selling items or services. Moreover, they found it difficult to be held accountable for their actions by favouring manuals, rules and regulations. These attitudes had to be changed immediately so as to redress employee modes of conduct towards the Four Seasons clientele. The management team also had to deal with French customs like labor laws, business culture and national mannerisms. Finally, the hotel had to “de-demonize” its distinctive American associations and brand itself as a Canadian company because Canadians are known for their flexible demeanour in contrast to Americans who were typified as people who adhered to the “my way or the high way” attitude.
As such, culture, consistency, and flexibility are key ways that the F.S. George V was able to distinguish itself among other hotels and open up with 100% occupancy on New Year’s Day. By introducing evaluations and recognition awards, promoting customer satisfaction and adapting to French national customs, the management team at the Four Seasons Hotel was able to arrange its organizational culture in a way that adhered to the F.S. philosophy that has been in use for over 200 years and that also embraced to the quintessentially “French” way of doing things.