The book: Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy, by Isadore Sharp; Portfolio; May 2009.
The big idea: Building a five-star hotel brand requires fanatical attention to detail and employees willing to do everything in their power to please.
The backstory: In this memoir, Isadore Sharp's entrepreneurial arc takes him from Toronto's Jewish ghetto to his perch atop the Four Seasons empire, where 24-hour-room-service sushi is just plain good marketing.
Be our guest: Anyone who has ever spent serious money for a room will appreciate the myriad staples that started as gleams in Sharp's eye: nonsmoking floors, fitness centers, little shampoo bottles, and more.
Around the world: Sharp describes Four Seasons's global expansion as a series of learning curves. In Berlin, land deals snagged on claims by Jews whose property had been confiscated by Hitler. On the island of Nevis, the small local work force refused management jobs to avoid bossing around friends or family.
If you read nothing else: Chapter 30 is a master class in the daily huddle. Managers discuss how best to serve VIPs, returning guests, and guests who need special attention and then go over the previous day's mistakes.
Rigor rating: 5 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Aside from archival photographs, Sharp presents few secondary sources to support his prodigious memory.
IMAGE: Anthony Verde
Last updated: May 1, 2009
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan
Editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan writes Inc.'s book review column, The Skimmer's Guide to the Latest Business Books. She also writes company profiles, and columns on leadership and office life. Her work has also appeared in the Harvard Business Review and CIO Magazine. And, yes, early in her career Buchanan edited the TV Guide crossword puzzle.