Europe is different from North America, and Paris is very different. I did not say difficult. I said diffeient. —A senior Four Seasons manager
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts opened its first French property in 1999. This article presents that opening as a case study to illustrate a perspective on how a company with a strong and highly successful organizational culture might approach a new national culture when that cuhure is both distinct and intense, as is the case in France. Managers can henefit from the case by understanding this approach to organizational and national culture, which the authors believe represents a useful framework for global management.
The article begins with a discussion of the linkage between corporate cuifure and competitive advantage for service organizafions. It then describes the corporate support structure and the philosophy that Four Seasons developed over two decades to support its international expansion and to manage the type of challenges its French property posed.
Finally, it describes how the firm went about transforming that property into one of its crown jewels.
The Linkage Between Service Culture and
The enduring success of service organizations such as Southwest Airlines, The Walt Disney Company,
Wal-Mart, and USAA (among others) is frequently attributed in no small degree to their corporate cultures.
These companies have built and maintained organizational cultures in which everyone is focused on delivering high customer value, including service, and individuals behave accordingly. The culture influences how employees behave, which, in turn, shapes the value that customers receive, in part through the thousands of daily encounters between employees and customers.
Corporate culture has been linked to competitive advantage in companies, for better or worse,' and in service companies, in particular.^ Culture is so important in service companies because of its effect on multiple factors affecting customer value, factors as critical as employee behavior and as mundane (but