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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze

I finished this book in April 2022. I recommend this book 9/10.

Co-founder Horst Schulze lays out his blueprint for running the operations at Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. He shares his vision, customer service culture, and practical leadership methods.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • The people you serve want three main things:

    • First they want a product or service or other output with no defects

    • Second they want timeliness

    • Finally they want the person with whom they're dealing to be nice to them

  • Leaders often find themselves attempting a juggling act. They cannot afford to ignore their core constituents, obviously, or there will be no tomorrow for anyone. They must find ways to prove to the external players that this is good business all around. We'll talk more about this dynamic in the coming chapters. But for now, let the main point be clear: understand what means most to the public we serve is essential, even if it is not always easy.

  • 4 supreme objectives for any organization that wants to succeed:

    • 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

  • We can satisfy more than 98 percent of the public if we put our minds to it. It's simply a matter of attitude

  • If you get a complaint, you own it whether you personally caused the problem or not

  • I went up to the flip chart and drew a picture of a cup. "This water in the cup is your current business coming in from customers," I said, But then I added some drops that leaked out of the bottom of the cup. "What are these drops? Customer dissatisfaction. Apparently, there are things they don't like, and so they're moving away from you. Maybe we ought to talk about this, do you think?" In the product itself doesn't hold the customer, nothing else will. If the guest experience doesn't convince them to keep coming back, we must ask ourselves why not.

  • Far better to say to a potential employee, "Do you want to know what our company is about? We are bent on becoming the best in our category. That's our objective. In fact, that's what we dream about. We look down the road three years, and we can see ourselves being ranked number one in this city. To reach this goal, here's our belief system. This is who we are. Is this purpose anything close to what you'd like to join? Do you want to help us get there? It's going to take a lot of hard work from all of us. But it's going to be great!"

  • Well, the first day of a new job is a significant emotional event. It's usually a Monday. The person shows up right on time or even early, carefully dressed and all bright-eyed, eager to get started. For the wise leader, it's a carpe diem moment—seize the day! The new employee's ears will never be quite this open again, even on the second or third day.

  • Eventually, I asked the department manager to stand up. "Here is your leader," I say, "Do you know what his role is? I'll tell you: his role is to help you do the things you've just listed. He will help you achieve the department's objectives.

  • The great business genius Peter Drucker is reported to have said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." In other words, you can write up all the strategies and directives, and systems you want, but if the culture of your organization isn't right, it will devour your best-laid plans. You won't have a living, synchronized team; you'll have only a bureaucracy. But when you create a focused, energized culture—starting on Day One—your organization can thrive for years and decades to come.

  • Good leaders keep their eyes on the goal of having the finest tea experience in town. This requires asking employees to help find real answers for defects that show up. Because of the common commitment to high standards—reinforced on a continuing basis—the organization steadily moves forward.

  • It's easy to forget what the measurements are measuring. Every number—from productivity rates to salaries—is just a device contrived by people to measure the results of the enterprise of other people. For managers, the most important job is not measurement but motivation. And you can't motivate numbers.

  • "Good management is largely a matter of love. Or if you're uncomfortable with that word, call it caring because proper management involves caring for people, not manipulating them." ~ James Autry.

  • I knew they covered every strike in Pittsburgh. By the time the news crews had arrived, my team and I were well underway, serving warm refreshments to the union members. "What are you doing?" the confused TV reporter wanted to know. "These are still our employees," I answered. "The fact that there's been a misunderstanding so that they're missing a little bit of work has nothing to do with the fact that they're a vital part of this hotel, and I love them. It's cold out here. I just thoughts they should have something hot to drink and sweet to eat."

  • Employees yearn for the happiness of fulfillment. Yes, they need a paycheck. But deeper than that, they want to be able to say they have done something excellent. They don't just want to grind through five (or six) days every week being miserable so they can be happy on the weekend. They seek to combine happiness with earning a livelihood.

  • Vision requires decisions:

    • Strive to inspire because employees are important.

    • Don't settle for less. Your vision—own it!

    • Let nothing cloud your vision—Watch out for growth and complexity

    • Always look to improve—find new ways, be more efficient

  • Leadership is...:

    • Understand the vision of your company.

    • Understand what is expected of you and your employees

    • Make a conscious decision that you are going to achieve the vision

    • Clearly communicate this commitment to your employees

    • Execute! Take action and make it happen

    • You must take your plan and convert it into actionable steps

    • Your actions must align with the vision, or you will not reach your goal

    • Maintain focus on the vision at all times

    • We cannot take our eyes off the vision


    • Energize your employees DAILY!

    • Be persistent and relentless in your drive toward excellence

    • Ensure your employees are taking action and moving toward the goal

  • From that day forward, every board meeting began with the reading of the corporate vision out loud. It set the stage for the discussions to follow.

  • To me, trying to lead an organization without taking measurements is like trying to coach a football game without yard markers. How would you ever know how close you were to a first down? How could you ever decide whether to kick a field goal? You would simply be guessing.

  • 3 things to measure:

    • Customer satisfaction/loyalty

    • Employee satisfaction

    • Leading indicators

  • The criteria of a truly fine company

    • Leadership

    • Strategic planning

    • Customer and market focus

    • Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management

    • Human resource focus

    • Process management

    • Business results

  • There's an old saying that goes, "You can't expect what you don't inspect." My vision of that is this: "You won't accomplish what you don't measure." Results don't come from hiding ourselves from reality. They emerge as we measure our realities and make adjustments, and then measure again and keep adjusting. No matter how good you are, you keep looking for hidden defects, and you keep moving a little close to true excellence. The commitment to measuring and adjusting is not a luxury. It is essential to responsible leadership.

  • Key questions:

    • Make a decision about what industry you're going to enter.

    • Decide what market segment of this industry you're going to pursue.

    • Zero in on what customers want in this market segment.

    • Start figuring out how to meet those desires as efficiently as possible.

    • Think about how you're going to let the customer individualize or customize the experience.

    • Meanwhile, how are you going to give your employees a sense of belonging?

    • Plan how you're going to accurately measure what you've set out to accomplish.

    • Finally, a question for you personally: Are you willing to take responsibility for the driver's seat?

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