πŸ“» β€” Notes on (Community) Excellence via Horst Schulze, Cofounder of Ritz-Carlton

Reading Time: ~ 5 min.

Good morning yeniverse!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend, either full of friends, family, and pigskins or maybe you spent time retreating, finding time to recharge and doing some reading or relaxing?

Whatever it is, I hope you enjoyed it… and got the rest and perspective that you really need. Remember: If you don’t rest (your body, mind, spirit, soul)… who’s going to do it for you?

  1. Infinite stories. Tweetstorms. Fae, Figma to React. China & Clubhouse.
  2. M1 as a service. Social bio link. OS color picker. 1-on-1 training.
  3. Organize content world. Class. Or, this class? Backlink monitoring.
  4. Productive team meetings. Sync Google Sheets. Ethical data-sharing.
  5. a16z crypto governance. Host it. Defend it. All the chats. GitLive.
  6. Async video. Eww. Automate marketing. Eww. C-School? Not eww.
  7. Jeff Bezos says bye. Small, private website. Pidgin IM. P2P messaging.
  8. WP + MailChimp + Pico. Community-first with Geneva. Strydal looks cool!
  9. Getting a gig when you’re in college. Want a startup? Sell something.
  10. Too many amazing lessons here. Life from video games.

And, of course, congrats to the greatest US football player of all-time: Brady. What’s most encouraging is this fact. I love that so hard. I start this project well into my late-30’s and it’s hard to keep up with younger folks, mostly because I get tired a lot quicker these days.

But, I also have lived longer so I know things; especially how to not waste time on things that feel important but that aren’t actually important at all. Experience is a teacher, if you listen.

To infinity & community,

β€” john


I’ve been spending a lot of time with my startup team and our community explaining vision, mission, and walking through high-level roadmapping and exercises to help illumine and light our path forward.

As a consequence, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and listening to folks who have build communities and teams β€” at scale β€” without sacrificing the more important parts of the culture and operational excellence.

One of the more obvious examples of extreme excellence is Horst Schulz, a name that isn’t as well-known as it should be, as he’s one of the cofounders and former presidents of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, a multi-billion dollar business focused on people and excellence in customer service.

According to Horst, every CEO, leader, and startup founder wants to fundamentally win and they want to know how to win by doing things well.

His no-nonsense approach has helped me think through even the more subtle parts of leadership in the last few weeks and I wanted to make sure that you, my friends, peers, and colleagues, know about his new book, Excellence Wins.

In fact, the reason why I’m bringing it up at all is because of the obvious and powerful lessons that creators and community builders can draw from Horst as they try to put the starting blocks together on a new project, startup business, or digital community.

The bottom line: Doing things with excellence is a distinct competitive advantage, especially when you’re in the people-business b/c treating your staff and your customers well can build a formidable business.

Here are a few other useful tips that I took from his book this weekend:

  • He gives every employee a budget of $2,000 USD to serve each and every customer. His own partners wanted to sue him for this “crazy” idea. But, it worked as it empowered his staff to go “above and beyond” the call of duty which built him a lasting brand and business.
  • Customers want 3 things: A product without defects, timeliness, and kindness from the person who’s serving them. That’s it.
  • He added 2 more as he grew in experience: Customers want individualization and personalization. Meaning, a little customization goes a long way as well as “calling customers by their name” instead of a number or ID.
  • Customer preferences change. Stay open and listen. Organizations and leaders need to keep adjusting their offering and not get “too far ahead” or “too far behind” on technology or culture. Example is metal keys vs electronic keys.
  • Customer Service is everyone’s job, everyone.
  • A customer’s first four contacts create the entire experience. If they are happy with the first 4 connection points, then, they will be “virtually no complaints thereafter.” Creating systems like the “10 foot rule” is key.
  • 3 steps for great customer service (globally across all teams): Offer a great welcome, comply with customer’s wishes, say goodbye.

He takes a moment to share Benedict’s Rule:

All guests who arrive should be received as if they were Christ.

As soon as a guest is announced, then let the Superior or one of the monks meet him with all charity.

The greeting itself, however, ought to show complete humility towards guests who are arriving or departing: By a bowing of the head or by a complete prostration on the ground, as if it was Christ who was being received.

After the guests have been received… let the Superior or someone appointed by him, sit with them.

Let the Abbot give the guests water for their hands; and let both Abbot and monks wash the feet of all guests.

Saint Benedict (AD 480-547)
  • Deciding the language that you’re going to use when speaking to customers is a real #powermove. For instance: “My pleasure.”
  • Do the work to identify “root causes” in your system. The example of finding the “root cause” for a delay in service was powerful (it was his original fault from years past!).
  • There are 4 “supreme objectives” according to Schulze:
    • Keep the customer
    • Get new customers
    • Encourage the customers to spend as much as possible but without sabotaging Objective Number One.
    • In all of the above, keep working toward more and more efficiency.
  • Some folks are impossible to please. Have a plan. But, solving 98% of the other customers is what they believe they can achieve. The foundation is attitude.
  • The difference between “manager” and “leader” for Horst Schulze is that the leader keeps pushing forward to the four supreme objectives (listed above) while the manager puts more time into “thinking up excuses for not achieving those things.” Ouch! I love how real this is!
  • An organization can’t please every human being every time. But it never hurts to try. The story of the missing wedding band is gripping β€” I’ll never forget how empowered the staff were to solve their customer’s dire issue and how they won a customer(s) for life.
  • When dealing with complaints, here are his 7 steps (at a high-level):
    1. Never try to laugh it off or crack a joke, no matter how ridiculous the complainer sounds to you.
    2. If you get a complaint, own it.
    3. Don’t say “they” or “them”; instead, say “I.”
    4. Ask for forgiveness. Say, “Please forgive me.”
    5. Don’t appeal to the policy manual.
    6. Don’t try to parade your expertise.
    7. Don’t assume the complainer wants money. Most of the time they want to be heard.

The rest of the book (the second-half) relates more to the internal workings of a team and/or organization so the notes are less directly applicable (but no less useful) and so I highly recommend, if you have time, to pick up a copy. I’m grateful for it and I’m challenging many of my closer friends to take a closer look at this small but insightful read.

This man has built a billion dollar business by being kind, customer centric, and empowering his team and community into real ownership which effectively created an authentic and powerful sense of belonging.

I think we can all take valuable lessons away from Mr. Schulze!


Finally, if you want an amazing 2-part podcast series featuring Horst Schulze you can find that here with some amazing materials for you and your team!

Awesome!

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