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Reading Lavenson’s speech, one cannot but wonder about the original concept used to describe the special approach to teaching employees the principles of hospitality. His experience as a CEO of the Plaza Hotel in New York evolved as he was working with the personnel and constantly self-improving. His previous experience in the advertising and marketing allowed him to lead the Plaza in the new direction, changing its overall business path.
Lavenson had 1400 people to work with, and he wanted to change their approach to business dramatically. He did so by introducing personal name tags, so that the visitors and employees could address anyone on the hotel grounds by name. It was a shock at first, but eventually became a part of the routine and helped in improving the hotel’s image in the eyes of the visitors. He also made the employees get familiar with the services they offered to the customers, in order to be able to provide reasonable explanations to any requests.
Next, Lavenson changed the business approach of every single employee. He made them “think strawberries,” using every single opportunity to sell, offering orders, instead of idle waiting and watching after the customers. Income from selling actual strawberries was also a great amount of money, and it was only a part of the overall return, made from implementing a new strategy of the Plaza Hotel. Laverson taught his employees to get the most they could from the hotel visitors, offering them the restaurant, returning options etc., allowing to get them come back again and again.
It was Laverson who made waiters approach the tables before they were called, while bellman began offering the hotel services to the customers. “Thinking strawberries” became a motto, a keyword defining success in anything. Employees were trying to promote the hotel services to get the strawberry patch, which was a symbol of success, and they would benefit from the hotel’s success as well.
Laverson made a good point that should be clearly understood by any employee – the success of the company depends on the overall combination of efforts of all the employees, who become personally engaged in keeping the company running. Every manager or CEO, running the company, needs to use the “thinking strawberries” strategy to ensure the success of the business he is in charge of. I would recommend using the example of the Plaza Hotel for comparison with other similar businesses, experiencing the downturn.
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