I have been reading numerous books to increase my knowledge about how to run an environmentally conscious, service-orientated, financially successful, charitable committed, social media savvy, fun to work for, community-promoting hotel located in an historic building on the oldest hotel site in the country, and employing some of the longest tenured staff in the industry. While writing this, I immediately see not only what a challenge this is, but ask myself, is it even possible? Most of our key staff shudder when I mention another book I am excited about; they know what this really means is not only more work for them, but more effort at gracefully talking me out of whatever new, possibly crazed, idea I want to discuss.
I started my “homework” by re-reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. It was the industry’s required reading when it was published in the late ’80s, and it is still a very viable tool in helping to analyze whether or not you have the right people “on you bus” — and if they are in the right seats on your bus. Although many of the companies Collins holds up as models are no longer in business, or are no longer ones to emulate, the book still provides solid advice to help determine if people are happy in what they are doing, if they are effective, and even if they are in the right job.
Another book I recommend to anyone in a service business is Setting the Table by Danny Meyer. Though he runs many successful restaurants in New York most of his concepts and creative suggestions are easily applied to any type of hospitality business. Our restaurant staff read this book and found helpful hints throughout. Meyer often uses humor to solve some of the thorniest service problems, and couldn’t we all use a lesson in using humor instead of anger when it comes to dealing with conflict.
After reading Groundswell, by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, part of the Forrester Research team, I decided to start this blog. Groundswell delves into the various aspects of social media and helped me understand some of its basic concepts and terminology. It also made me realize that La Fonda had been — and would be — defined in the market by others instead of ourselves if we were not proactive in this area. So, I decided that we needed to be more socially media savvy, and I am taking the time to write this blog. It is a small start and another step in La Fonda’s entry into this vast social media world. I would recommend this book to anyone like me who did not grow up with a computer in my grade school classroom and who has, to date, refused to personally participate in Facebook or Twitter. It certainly brings to light the pitfalls a company can face (not to mention lost opportunities) by not understanding or participating in today’s new social media “groundswell”.
I read Change by Design by Tim Brown this week. After reading this book, I searched the internet and found that the author participated in one of the Ted Talks, so if you are not a quick reader or learn better by listening to a lecture, then save yourself some time and click here to hear his 16-minute synopsis of design thinking. This book is less targeted at service-orientated companies such as La Fonda, and more at those that design and make things. Nonetheless, there are still many pearls of wisdom about applying the art of innovation to a customer-driven organization, as well as using design thinking principles to tackle pressing world issues instead of just redesigning fashion and gadgets.
I also suggest anything written by Malcolm Gladwell, including Blink, The Tipping Point and Outliers. Each of these books will make you think or see something in a different light. Gladwell has an amazing ability to simplify very complicated subjects, making them easy to understand.
The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder is a surprisingly interesting page turner that tells the unlikely story of the Oracle from Omaha. This story continues to unfold since Buffett has not rested on his money-making laurels but continues to put it all on the line again with his recent investment in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.