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Recession-Proof Your Business the Ritz-Carlton Way

Are you scared? Do you live in fear of a flattened economy? Do you feel you have to work harder than ever to just stay “even” with the past? I was discussing the down-turned economy with an extremely valued client the other day and we were talking about how difficult times often teach you many valuable lessons on how to tighten your systems, flush out the inefficiencies, and ultimately become more profitable in your business. As a gentleman who has seen several recessions in his 40+year business career, he believes that these downturns provide a lot of lessons that we can use in our business and our life that ultimately lead us to greater prosperity in the long run. I agree and think that tough times force you to do several things:

  1. Focus on our strengths & rely heavily on what you are “great” at.
  2. Be creative with how you attract, market, and run your business.
  3. Focus on creating great customer service that leads to “raving fans” and a unique culture.

I recently had the opportunity to stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Denver, Colorado, two times in the past two months. I never stayed at a Ritz before but was well aware of their impeccable image and legendary fabled customer service. Needless to say, not only did they not disappoint, they over-delivered. It got me thinking about my own business and the industry in which I which I belong. Being a personal trainer and business owner in the fitness industry for many years now, I asked myself the question, “Why don’t we create a ‘Ritz-Carlton’ experience in our training facilities? How do you create that same customer service experience in the fitness industry (or any industry for that matter) that the Ritz is legendary for?

I was intrigued by this so I got talking to one of the employees at the Ritz on one of my stays and I began asking him questions. One of the questions I asked him dealt with something I had heard about customer service: I heard that every Ritz-Carlton employee carries around a credo card with 12 customer service points that they memorize. Furthermore, I heard they recite one customer service point at 2 minute team meetings that are held each day. He conferred and said that yes it is true. I was flabbergasted and intrigued by this concept of getting together as a “team” every day and discussing for 2 minutes 1 point that was critical to their culture and brand. I loved the idea and this guy could tell I was very intrigued as my wheels were spinning. He pulled out his card from his wallet and proceeded to show it to me. I felt like I was looking at the Holy Grail as he showed me this laminated blue & white 3 fold card that was slightly faded. I was pumped to see it and tried to remember as much of the card as I could. I thanked him excitedly and really was happy just to see that.

This is where the story gets even better. Not 10 minutes later, the door knocks in my beautiful hotel room. Room service was delivering me THE RITZ-CARLTON CREDO CARD that I had just seen for me to keep. I was so pumped that I couldn’t wait to hop on that comfy bed and start learning more about what makes this company tick.

This is what it read:

The Ritz-Carlton


“We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”

Employee Promise:

At the Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.

By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.

The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.


The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambiance.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

Three Steps of Service:

  1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name
  2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name

  Service Values:


I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.

  1. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  2. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
  3. I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
  4. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
  5. I own and immediately resolve problems.
  6. I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
  7. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
  8. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
  9. I am proud of my professional appearance, language, and behavior.
  10. I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
  11. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.


I left that weekend salivating for how I could create a card and culture like this at my business, Fitness Quest 10. I asked myself, “Why can’t we create this culture in the fitness industry and make it really special? People love the culture and service at the Ritz. Who doesn’t love to feel special? They do a phenomenal job pampering their guests with extra-ordinary customer service. What can I do to elevate customer service to another level in my business?” I hopped on a plane that night for my 2 hour direct flight to San Diego and contemplated, “How can I create this culture with my staff on a consistent basis where they have some “concreteness” to the whole culture thing with their card, the meetings, and their systems.” I resolved to an action plan that included writing a “10 Point” Customer Service Plan that I can share with my staff and that we can live on. I want to have 10 points that we as a staff could have short meetings also and review. I would love to be able to empower my staff through emails, voice-mails, or words of encouragement. It’s one thing to say it, another thing to do it.

That is where I am at. My “Fitness Quest 10 Card” will go in my wallet as well as each employee’s wallets to summarize our core values, competencies, mission, service values, etc. This card will be laminated and distributed to them at a team meeting. I believe this card will further instill an even stronger culture that would further mimic that of the Ritz. That is a good thing…a very good thing!

My question to you is what are you going to do? Take a look at the Ritz-Carlton credo and service values and see what you can do to borrow some of their principles and make it work for your business. There is a saying that says, “Imagine everyone has a necklace hanging around their neck that says ‘Make Me Feel Special Today’”. What are you going to do to make a difference in someone’s life today? How about you writing your card and joining me in creating a “Customer Service” experience that is unparalleled for our clients and customers. Regardless of industry, fitness or other, customer service is king and will persevere through the good times and the bad.

If you are stuck in your business, looking to get ahead, and you are looking to create loyal, raving fans, start with creating a culture that is special. The Ritz-Carlton is an example of that. It starts with your team. Your team than passes on the culture to each and every client. Establish the systems, teach the systems, reinforce the systems, and allow your culture to be one that is “Ritz-Carlton-esque”.

ACTION STEP: If you are a business owner, a manager, or you lead people, write out your customer service values just like the Ritz-Carlton has. Then, communicate them to your staff and continually teach them and reinforce them. If you want to take it a step further, put it on to a card to be laminated and placed in your wallet along with any teammates. My challenge to you is to set a deadline and get this done as soon as you can. It could mean the difference between success or failure in your business.

Todd Durkin is a 2 Time Personal Trainer of the Year and Founder of Fitness Quest 10 & Todd Durkin Enterprises in San Diego, CA. He trains people from all walks of life, but is best known for the work he does with over 25 NFL Superstars. He trains the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Alex Smith, and Donnie Edwards amongst others. His expert staff of 30 trainers, coaches, and massage therapist/bodyworkers perform over 400 weekly sessions and help educate, motivate, and inspire the world to greater levels of health & fitness. Todd has 17 DVD’s on fitness & sports performance and has been featured in many national magazines and media outlets. His ezine newsletter “TD Times” is his way of connecting clients, trainers, coaches, colleagues, and friends from all over the world. He can best be reached via his websites,, or by using the contact form below: [easy-contact]

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