7 Business Lessons from Five Star Luxury Hotel The Shelbourne

I’m obsessed with five star luxury. So much so, that I literally crafted my brand around it to build “five star businesses”. That’s because while previously thought to be unattainable, it’s possible to give and receive five star service wherever you are in the world.

There is a lot to be learned from the hotel industry when it comes to five star service. If only everyone operated their business like a five star hotel, there would be more millionaires in our midsts.

I love the reality show The Shelbourne Hotel on Amazon. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at The Shelbourne Hotel, one of the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in Dublin, Ireland. It’s like The Plaza of Ireland if you’re from New York.

Lesson #1 Excellence is a standard

A manager sweeps the rooms to inspect they are up to par. He looks for things like a loose thread on a chair or spots on a mirror or glass. He also ensures every item that is supposed to be there is there, like irons, hangers etc.. He ensures they are presented or stored perfectly, with an even space between all hangers.

This attention to detail is commonly found in hotels of this caliber, but not in all service business. Doing the bare minimum is still more than 99% of businesses, but why settle for the least when you can provide the most?

Lesson # 2 Everything is questioned extensively

A lot of thought goes into every decision, big or small. The managers would contemplate where the best place to put a gifted welcome plate with dessert was. On the table? Will they miss it? On the entry table? They continually challenge and question themselves until they have achieved the absolutely best.

In business, you can always do better. By pushing yourself to come up with something more amazing and awe-inspiring, you exercise your creativity. The final result? Something you never would have dreamed up had you just stopped at the first choice.

Lesson #3 Strategic gifting (surprise and delight)

They lavishly spend to make a great first impression. Everyone is gifted with a custom dessert plate upon arrival to their room so they feel like a VIP. The VVIPS get a bonanza of welcome items, all tastefully gifted together. For example, in preparation for Halloween at The Shelbourne, the Head Chef had an idea. He wanted to give a Halloween themed dessert to every single room in October. This is a huge undertaking, because the hotel has more than 200 rooms. But he was determined to do it because of the amazing first impression it would have. He sourced mini pumpkins from a farm and designed the dessert. The kitchen staff cut open each mini pumpkin with laser-like precision and placed a few custom chocolate sweets in each. The result was a little slice of fall, courtesy of the hundreds of pumpkins the head chef took the time to pick himself. This is going above and beyond.

You don’t need to spend thousands on a client, but the simplest handwritten thank you note or memorable gift leaves a lasting impression. I fully support the philosophy of John Ruhlin, author of Giftology that your gift should be “best-in-class” and not generic like a gift card or food. If a client signs a contract with you, don’t wait until you have completed the project or the end of your relationship. Surprise and delight them right off the bat with something thoughtful. Sprinkle gifts throughout your relationship. This is how people remember you.

Lesson #4 Treating everyone the same, no matter how much they spend

Several rooms are open to the public, like their Saddle Bar, tea room and salon. They don’t treat walk-ins any differently than guests, just because they aren’t spending thousands to stay in the hotel. Even if you’re having tea for €30, you get the royal treatment.

When the Irish rugby team stays at The Shelbourne, it’s a mega event. But their other guests are not forgotten, and the staff is just as attentive to their needs.

So whether someone buys your Paid Proposal™, Solution On A Shelf™ or just emails you, they all are treated equally as important.

Lesson #5 Being proactive

Before a guest even knows there’s an issue, someone is already taking care of it. They don’t wait for something to be brought to their attention. The staff’s eyes are always peeled for areas of improvement. Before a client has an issue, you should already be working on it. Sometimes you don’t even need to tell them there was an issue at all, while sometimes it’s nice for them to know you took care of something before it became a larger problem.

Lesson #6 They look the part

All managers are given a suit budget to buy new clothes for work- unbelievable! But during one episode, the hotel hired a famous tailor to make bespoke suits for the managers- even more unbelievable! The managers were beaming and took great pride in wearing such a prestigious and professional suit.

How you look is part of your business’ unparalleled professionalism, the fifth star. This includes how your website looks, how you personally look when chatting with clients and all visual brand assets like business cards and stationery. If you give exemplary service but look like you just rolled out of bed, your whole business suffers. On the flip side, if you look the part and are lacking clients, your image evokes a sense of credibility to draw clients in.

Lesson #7 They charge premium prices

Because they provide world-class service, it’s not affordable. Rooms are $400 and up a night, with the hotel booked out frequently. People pay high prices.. because they expect high level service.

The guests staying at a motel probably won’t consider The Shelbourne as a hotel for future vacations because it’s out of their reach. It’s aspirational, for now. They might see the value in paying more and keep it on the bucket list.. or they may not care about staying in a five star hotel. A great vacation to them is a bed and breakfast, a walk by the beach and spending hours reading.

The Shelbourne isn’t for everyone, just like your business isn’t for everyone. Every caliber of hotel has a market. Every kind of business has a market. The kind of client who quickly buys a pre-made graphic on Etsy for its cheapness and convenience probably isn’t the ideal client for your sophisticated illustration business.

Some people value quality over others. It all comes down to their personal priorities. Don’t get upset if people turn up their noses at your price- they simply aren’t your ideal clientele. Your ideal client will aspire to work with you.


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Nicole Faith