Ethics of pure gold!
Isadore ‘Issy’ Sharp can take pride in the fact that his Golden Rule philosophy has helped revolutionise the industry.
‘‘Four decades on, I feel a sense of accomplishment, but it’s been a collective effort,’’ he says. ‘‘Our Golden Rule has been an integral part of our success and it has influenced others.’’
Early lessons in life helped Sharp formulate this code of ethics.
‘‘The earliest lessons came from my upbringing and background,’’ he recalls. ‘‘In construction, I worked with people who appreciated having a job and tried to do their best if they were given the freedom to do so. They didn’t have to be told what to do. My experience in sports also taught me that becoming a champion isn’t about being a superstar, it’s a team effort that brings success.’’
He continues: ‘‘My father, who was not proficient in English, once misread plans for a job and offered a quote that was 50 per cent too low, but he went on to complete the job without compromising on quality even though he had to take huge loans. I still believe that even in today’s cut-throat environment the best form of a contract is a handshake and one’s word. The Golden Rule is meaningful to people in every corner of the world.’’
Sharp says that the Four Seasons gets the best out of its employees because it gives them the best environment in which to succeed. ‘‘The Golden Rule is as much about treating our employees as we wish to be treated as it applies to our interactions with our guests. Each of our employees is selected based on their attitude, not just the skills they bring to the job. And we’ve been very successful at finding people who share our values all over the world.
‘‘We provide our employees with excellent benefits and competitive wages, all employees are entitled to complimentary nights at any of our hotels around the world, so they can experience first hand what our guests experience, we give them opportunities to excel and grow in their careers with training and mentoring opportunities.
‘‘These initiatives have earned us the position on Fortune’s list of the best employers to work for each year for the past seven years. We have created an atmosphere where front-line staff can feel comfortable approaching management. Beyond working together, they have lunch together and celebrate successes as a group. In many countries and cultures, this kind of employer-employee relationship is unheard of, so it’s not surprising that when people join us, they tend to stay.’’
But as Four Seasons expands, does Sharp fear he is losing touch with his employees? ‘‘Absolutely not,’’ he says. ‘‘I continue to visit each of our hotels on a regular basis to interact with our staff and when I can’t be there I keep the lines of communication open. We conduct internal hotel audits where employees communicate any issues or concerns they have, which is an effective way for me to stay on top of everything.
And when it comes to forgiving employees, where does he draw the line? ‘‘It’s only human to err and for the most part we can find a solution,’’ he says. ‘‘Where we draw the line is when we find someone whose behaviour goes against the value system that is so important to our business.’’