The Table Podcast

Creating Excellence in the Workplace

In this episode, Bill Hendricks and Horst Schulze discuss leading with excellence, focusing on his story of co-founding The Ritz-Carlton brand. Note: This episode was recorded before March 2020.

Timecodes
01:10
Schulze desire to work at a hotel
07:45
Excellent work is a decision
11:47
Leaders inspire employees to have a purpose, not a function
20:47
How to respectfully welcome a guest
24:11
Deriving satisfaction from serving a customer well
27:37
How to live an excellent life and have an excellent marriage
29:55
A life-changing decision
39:30
The inspiration behind writing Excellence Wins
42:26
Millennials in the workforce
Resources Excellence Wins: A No Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise
Transcript
Bill Hendricks
Hello. My name is Bill Hendricks. I’m the executive director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center. And welcome to The Table Podcast where we consider issues of God and culture. And today it’s my very, very high privilege to welcome Horst Schulze to The Table Podcast.
Horst Schulze
Thank you.
Bill Hendricks
Horst is one of the cofounders of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel brand and has recently put a lot of the things that he learned in that process, and really through his whole career, in a book Excellence Wins: A No Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise. This has his story in it, and laced all through his story is ways in which God has brought him insight into not only business but into people and how life works, and ultimately into what ultimately really matters. And Horst, just thank you so much for being with us today.
Horst Schulze
Great to be with you. Thank you.
Bill Hendricks
So this really all goes all the way back to your childhood, and you somehow got the notion you wanted to be in the hotel business.
Horst Schulze
That’s right.
Bill Hendricks
Now you grew up in Germany in a small town, and, as I understand it, that wasn’t a very honorable occupation, right?
Horst Schulze
No, it was not. In fact, people laughed at me and thought I was doing it. And the parents of the kids that I was in class with that heard that I said it they took it home. The parents went to my parents, you know, “But he said something terrible.”
Bill Hendricks
What’s wrong with your son?
Horst Schulze
What’s wrong with him, yeah.
Bill Hendricks
But you persisted. And to their credit I guess your folks finally relented and actually found out a path, but that meant eventually you went and worked at a hotel, right?
Horst Schulze
That’s correct. I left my village, I left my home when I was 14 and lived in the hotel in a dorm room in the hotel where I worked, which unfortunately was at the time very far away. It was 100 kilometers. Today that is simple with the Audubon. At the time it took a long time to get there.
Bill Hendricks
But it could have been 1,000 miles away.
Horst Schulze
That’s correct, yeah.
Bill Hendricks
But you describe with great – I thought it was very, very eloquent in your book this fellow who was the maître d’ there, Carl Zietler.
Horst Schulze
That’s correct. Yes, that’s his name.
Bill Hendricks
And he made quite an impression on you. Why?
Horst Schulze
He made a deep impression on me. In fact, for my life. He changed my life, first day of work with Carl and Emmanuel. When I was – everybody was laughing, but on the end my parents said, “Now you go and work now in the hotel where we could never go. This is only for very fine ladies and gentlemen.” I was kind of setup at it. I knew that everybody there was important. I was not – I was told that you are not. You’re just a servant and they’re very important.
But Carl Zietler welcomed me on the first, and two other kids to start the same time. He said, “Now tomorrow you come to work at 7
00 here. We show you your work. You clean first, you clean the restaurant.” He said, “Be sure and set you – after the meal service you wash the dishes,” and it was all clear. “And the only work that you can do in rest while the guests is there, clean the ashtrays.”

And then he said, “Now but don’t come to work here. Come here tomorrow morning to create excellence in what you’re doing.” That went totally over my head, cleaning ashtrays, cleaning floor, washing dishes, what’s so excellence about that?

Bill Hendricks
Right, right.
Horst Schulze
But he persisted. He totally persisted and keep on saying excellence in what you’re doing. And slowly over a couple of years started to understand what he meant. He simply meant don’t just do it. Do it with excellence in mind. Not spent more time here, but why create mediocrity if you can create excellence no matter what you’re doing. In fact, if you do it excellent you define yourself as a person of excellence.
Bill Hendricks
Right, right.
Horst Schulze
And he defined himself as – and everybody admired him, every guest, every employee. He was admired, respected, highly respected. Mind you, I mean I say everybody laughed with him and everyone admired him, he didn’t compromise. He didn’t compromise with us as employees. He compromised only his high standard. He was a standard setter, and he wouldn’t have let anything go by that didn’t create great standards. Huge impact on me.
Bill Hendricks
You said you began to define yourself by excellence. You said, “I define myself. I could be a gentleman.”
Horst Schulze
Yeah, well in fact, I had to write an essay for a hotel school. The typical way is you go to a hotel school once a week, and they asked me when I was 16, two years in the business, “What do you feel now about the hotel business.” And it happened that evening when I saw Carl Zietler, the maître d’ – by the way, he would have never come in the restaurant unless he looked absolutely perfect.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
Immaculate. He was excellence, but he approached the table and I realized that I saw it clearly. I kind of saw it before but I never realized it, the guests were proud that he came to their table. And I realized, every guest thinks he’s the most important person in the room, so did we the employees. And wait a minute, this is a reversal. We are supposed to be the servants and they are supposed to be the ladies and gentlemen.

And when I saw that about essay I was supposed to write I thought I’d write about him. And I called that essay, I gave it a name and I called it “We Are Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen,” which eventually I meant this model of Ritz-Carlton. It became world famous in our business.

Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
But I saw that then, so I wrote that essay and I said – and I realized I can either define myself as a gentleman in my work no matter what that work is.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, not the nature of the work.
Horst Schulze
Not the nature of the work, the way I do it defines me.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
Or I can define myself as mediocrity or nothing, so it’s up to me. It’s not up to society, or the world, or the next thing, it’s up to me how I’m respected, or if I’m a lady or a gentleman. Mind you, having been laughed at in school where I came from that I went into this business, that was a discovery for me to show no matter what I’m doing I show you all. I can be a real gentleman if I do what I do right.

And I realized also, and my maître d’ told me all this, if you do things right the rewards will come sooner or later.

Bill Hendricks
Right. That’s fantastic because you’re getting at something deeper than just whatever the nature of the job is. You’re getting at the dignity of the person.
Horst Schulze
That’s right.
Bill Hendricks
That not only the people being served, but the person doing the serving also has dignity.
Horst Schulze
Yes. Yeah, well it’s all of a sudden your work is not just a function anymore.
Bill Hendricks
It’s a purpose.
Horst Schulze
It’s a purpose, exactly, and we all need the meaning, and for me the meaning all of a sudden was I’m creating excellence, and I’m creating respect from my excellence and others. I’m going to be recognized. I’m doing the right thing. I can be proud of myself what I’m doing. I’m not just doing something, I’m not just fulfilling just a function.
Bill Hendricks
Mm-hmm. You have stated that excellence is a decision. Tell me more about that.
Horst Schulze
Well, I feel very strong about that. That in fact everything in life has a decision. Soon we have to make a decision – no, we do it sometimes automatic without knowing that we’re making a decision, but if you turn left you made the decision to turn left. But how about analyzing that a little bit for your life, and people become more conscious of your decisions, everything, even if you believe in God or not.

And I had a discussion with a friend of mine who is a proud atheist by the way. And he said to me in one occasion, “Well, Horst, you don’t know. You can’t prove that there is God.” I said, “But can you prove that there isn’t?” In other words, you made the decision somewhere. Either that evolved, or you came at one moment decision making. Now, as far as I’m concerned I made the decision for God, and at the same time for hope, for knowledge.

Now, the longer I made that decision the more I know I made the right one. In fact, you are still questioning yourself. You guess what he said. No kidding, this was a minute conversation and he said, “But actually I’m agnostic.” Took one minute.

Bill Hendricks
Well, he’s moving.
Horst Schulze
He’s moving, he’s moving. But that’s a decision. I always say in speeches and so on because I want to hit it clear that everything is a decision. I always tell everybody, “Wait a minute, I’m married for over 41 years. I made the decision early on in my life that I would always be in love with my wife. Not just love her, be in love.”

And yet I have friends who said, “We’re getting divorced.” I said, “Why you getting divorce?” “We don’t feel like it.” “Wait a minute, who is in charge here? Are you in charge or is the feeling that somehow comes into the room in charge of what you’re doing?” I made the decision, very clearly, that I will honor and love my wife for the rest of my life.

So in other words, everything is a decision, so you make a decision to be excellent in your life and what you do.

Bill Hendricks
The thing that strikes me so much about your story, Horst, is you’ve been living with intentionality, not just randomly, passively whatever comes along. You’re like a victim. It’s like you’ve made choices and tried to make them to get you towards your purpose, not without a purpose.
Horst Schulze
Correct. And in fact, I don’t think – look at the Bible says, “People will parish without purpose.”
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
And so you have to have a purpose, so what is your purpose? You have to question that, you have to be deliberate about it, and you have to implement the things that get you to your purpose. If you’re a leader of people, there is no greater gift that you can give them at work than making them part of a great purpose. I always said, “Don’t hire employees to work for us. Hire employees to join us. Show them our purpose. Show them that our purpose is a value to them.” This is essential.

I think it’s very immoral how we hire and lead people. We hire people for fill a certain function. Well, the chairs on which we are sitting is for filling a function, and we’re hiring human beings. The difference is they have thought, they have minds, they’re the creation of God.

Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
And the Bible says, “Purpose is important.” If that is true and they’re our neighbors whom we love like ourselves, wouldn’t we give them purpose?
Bill Hendricks
Absolutely.
Horst Schulze
Obviously.
Bill Hendricks
It goes back to just to what you said earlier Carl Zietler told you, come here to be excellent. Have a purpose.
Horst Schulze
Oh yeah, have a purpose right there. That’s right, and it played a role with me all my life, and it was fulfilling.
Bill Hendricks
So unpack that a little bit more because I think I heard you essentially say that the leader’s role is to give people purpose not just a job to work.
Horst Schulze
Yeah. Well, the purpose is if I’m hiring I’m hiring you to join me. I have to show you who we are as a company, what we think as a company, and where we lead as a company. As a leader means I’m a head of a group of people leading them to a certain destination.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
And that destination, if once you are a leader, you establish that destination. In our case, Ritz-Carlton, it was very simply we will be the finest service organization in the world. That was the vision.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
I mean I hired people in the beginning they laughed at me and said, “We don’t even have a hotel yet.” “Well, we will have a hotel, but our purpose will be to strive to be the finest in the world.” But then I also have to give them the motive. But mind you, when I established that vision, as a great leader, after agonizingly asked myself – not just shortly ask and give an answer, no, agonize, “Is this vision good for all concerned?” Whom I am serving? The investors.
Bill Hendricks
Mm-hmm.
Horst Schulze
And the answer after thinking about it and contemplating, yes. Is it good for the customer? Yes. Is it good for the employee? And of course agonize about yes, if we’re the best we will have opportunity. I mean still have opportunity. We will have more guests. That means we will be honored. That means still honored. We will be respected. That means still respected. It all comes together.

You have to question yourself and agonize. And finally is it good for society? If we are the best we’re good for society because we will be an example for the rest. Then once you’re finished with that question yourself, “Would God approve?” And if you do that in that moment you know how to go. You know the answers of what you do. You know the answers to questions that you have. Should I do this or not?

Well, if it leads you to the vision you should do it, if not you should not do it. It’s simple. Should I accept that this employee is not doing the job right? Having been advised, having helped, no, it cannot. I cannot compromise. I have no right to compromise. I have no more moral rights to compromise once I know the vision is good for all concerned and God approves. It’s clear, so how can you work without vision and without purpose with other words?

But be very clear that you understand the motive of your own purpose to yourself and the company, and be sure that it relates to the motives, the general motives of your employees. And let them know, connect them to it. Now they’re part. Now they’re not only having a purpose they’re part of something. And even Aristotle said people to be fulfilled need purpose and belonging.

Bill Hendricks
Absolutely. You’ve mentioned too, I read an interview that you had been in that you had – you trained all the staffs of all the, what was it, 50 Ritz-Carltons or whatever that you’d opened in the first at least three days. And on that third day you would sit each employee down and ask them about their own purpose.
Horst Schulze
That’s right.
Bill Hendricks
And I think the question was [crosstalk] –
Horst Schulze
Well each department, each department, yeah.
Bill Hendricks
You said, “Where do you want to be six months from now?”
Horst Schulze
Yeah, which was a fascinating experience the first time I did it. In fact, the first time I did it it was in Australia. We opened a hotel in Sydney and sat down with them and I said – it so happened in a way that it extended to every department. From there on I did it in every opening and on every takeover clearly with every department.

I said, “So now you’re new here, what do you want your department to be in six months from now?” And the first one I did they said, “Well, we want to be the best.” “Oh, that’s great. What does it mean,” and they defined it for me. In fact, they said things I would have been embarrassed to tell them.

And then I talked to the dishwashers and I said, “What do you want to be in six months?” “We want to be the best.” “Wow.” And I said, “What is it,” and they said things I would have never told a bunch of dishwashers, to be efficient, to be clean and so on. Wow.

Bill Hendricks
There was something in their heart that leaded out.
Horst Schulze
There was something. Oh, when I built it up, but when I said, “So now tell me what you want to be,” they screamed loud, “I want to be the best.” So a few months later one of them is not very good. The question is whose fault is that. He had it in his heart he wanted to be the best. We failed to keep it in his heart. We have to accept that as leaders that is leading people, is helping – as leaders we’re here to maintain that environment.

Now following I did that in every hotel around the world, and guess what they said in every continent, “We want to be the best.” Every department, “We want to be the best.” It never changed. It’s amazing. It’s fascinating. And we are, or maybe me, cynics. Do they really want the work, do they really want to be good? They do. I know it firsthand.

And the role of leadership now is keep that emotion in them and call for – in fact, build it and help them to keep that emotion and create excellence consequently.

Bill Hendricks
So why do you think so many, many businesses – you know the gallop employee engagement statistics, and two-thirds of the American workforce is not engaged with their work. And I think worldwide that statistic is something like 87 percent of workers worldwide are not engaged with where their hearts not in it. What is it that causes businesses to kill that desire for excellence, or to do better at least than we’re doing?
Horst Schulze
Yeah. Well very simple. We hire employees to fulfill a function. That’s what I touched on earlier.
Bill Hendricks
They’re just commodities.
Horst Schulze
They’re just commodity. And so I said, the chairs on which we’re sitting is fulfilling a function. We’re hiring human beings. We’re hiring human beings who want to be part of something. We know that for a fact that has been studied all over. Why don’t we give them a chance to be part of you?

Because we don’t give them a chance to be part they look for being part in something else. They look to being part next door, or with the union or where else. We miss, as our leaders, the problem is. We’re managers rather than leaders.

Bill Hendricks
Mm-hmm.
Horst Schulze
That’s the problem. Instead of leading them towards something excellent leading them, helping them to have a great work environment, et cetera, et cetera, everything, that is our role. Our role is to keep it in them otherwise we fail as leaders. We have to ask if this employee fails after a few months. We have to ask ourselves our mistake. Did we hire them wrong?
Bill Hendricks
Mm-hmm, into the wrong job that they weren’t fit for.
Horst Schulze
Weren’t fit for. Did we not orient them right? Didn’t we align them right to the organization? Alignment is one of those passwords which everybody use and nobody – it’s not happening. Did we align them right? Did we teach them right? Did we handle them right? We have to question where we failed so we can improve our process of that creates good employees.

If we don’t know what we did wrong in that situation how can we improve? Oh, but it’s so easy as manager. Let’s just drum out –

Bill Hendricks
And get somebody else.
Horst Schulze
– and go on and said, “He is what’s not good.” But just maybe you’re the one who was not good. Just maybe.
Bill Hendricks
Well, as you know better than anybody, turnover is a very expensive proposition. And so every failed employee that’s a huge nick against the company financially.
Horst Schulze
Financially because you trained them and the knowledge walks out of the door.
Bill Hendricks
Exactly, exactly.
Horst Schulze
Terrible. Terribly expensive.
Bill Hendricks
And you’ve got to go find somebody else and onboard them.
Horst Schulze
Exactly. By the way, in our industry during my Ritz-Carlton time, now I’m gone, now I’m above years already, the turnover in our industry was over 100 percent. The employee turnover 100 percent a year. Not in 10 years, a year.
Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Horst Schulze
I was in Ritz-Carlton when I left it was 18 percent. It’s still high, but much less in the industry. What is more, because we were respected as a caring organization, we always had people to come in and want to work with us while the whole industry was crying that you can’t have employees. What is the difference? Respect and giving them purpose.
Bill Hendricks
Right. Horst, you took hospitality, because that’s the industry you’re in, but and service to a whole new lever. You basically turned it into a craft, right?
Horst Schulze
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And it’s interesting, in your book you cite Benedict, Saint Benedict and his rule, and some of the policies, I guess you’d say, that he laid down for his monks in the monastery whenever people would come, different things they were supposed to do. Tell me more about that.
Horst Schulze
Well, just think about that.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Horst Schulze
I mean it’s just fascinating. Benedict in the year 500 writes a letter to his monasteries how to treat guests that come to seek shelter. And he said – you have to read that and say, “How close do I come to that? I cannot do it, but how close am I coming?” So Benedict said, “So if a guest arrives treat him as if it was Jesus himself.”
Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Horst Schulze
Wow.
Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Horst Schulze
Now what would I do if Jesus walks in the door here? Imagine that. Next he said – he’s unbelievable. He said the abbey, “If the guest is by himself for – and needs company for a meal, the abbey even if he is in a fast should break the fast and have dinner with him after he washed – abbey washed the guest’s feet.”
Bill Hendricks
Oh my gosh.
Horst Schulze
How close do we come to that one? So if you read that and say, “Wow, how close today can I come to that service?” That certainly is respecting each guest that come in. Be glad that each guest attend. Truly welcome each guest. Truly welcome them. Look at them in the eyes and say, “We’re glad you are here.” Serve them as well as you can.

That’s how I look at service as simply. Anything can be defined. Let’s define service for a moment. The first step of service is welcome. Not, “Hey,” but a real welcome, honoring welcome, welcome sir. In that moment if you say, “Hi.” I’m saying, “Oh, I’m in the newer level. We are the same here.” If you say, “Welcome sir, good afternoon,” or ma’am or whatever, in that moment to say I respect you. But at the same time I’m saying, “I’m professional, so welcome.”

The next step of service is to comply to the guest’s wishes. The moment that a guest is in front of me it’s not about me anymore. It’s about what a guest desires, wishes or needs. And I have to be the one that helped them to make the right decision, and do the right thing and give them the right thing. It’s not about me or my company anymore. It’s about their desire need. That’s the second step of service.

And the third step is thank you for allowing us to serve you. Have a nice day. Saying goodbye. That repeats itself constantly every day. That can be in a fast food store, or in a hotel, or in a law practice. It doesn’t matter. It’s the same. You have a fine greeting from the moment you made the contact. It has to work out right, caring, respectfully the instant you make contact with the customer until the instant they leave you. And in between you care for them for what they need.

Bill Hendricks
So, Horst, describe for me what’s the satisfaction for you when you know that you have served this customer well and they’re saying, “This is such a great experience. Thank you.” What’s the satisfaction you feel at that moment?
Horst Schulze
Well, no different than the football player that just run a touchdown. I’m happy to have be accomplish what we set out to accomplish. It’s fulfilling. It’s rewarding. And then you always question yourself. You have to question yourself, and if you don’t do that we miss something. We call that proof. That’s one of the great things.
Bill Hendricks
Ultimately you’re not just trying to please the customer, you’re trying to please God.
Horst Schulze
Exactly. Well exactly. And because if you do it –
Bill Hendricks
[Crosstalk] customer with Jesus.
Horst Schulze
Yeah, exactly.
Bill Hendricks
You know, you have some biblical underpinnings for this. You’ve got Hebrews 13:2 for instance where – Hebrews 13:1 says, “Show love to the brethren.” That means your brothers and sisters in the church. And then it says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by this some have entertained angles without knowing it.”
Horst Schulze
That’s right. And furthermore, your employees are very close neighbors.
Bill Hendricks
Yes.
Horst Schulze
Love your neighbors as yourself.
Bill Hendricks
Love your neighbor, right.
Horst Schulze
Why wouldn’t employees certainly not be neighbors?
Bill Hendricks
Exactly.
Horst Schulze
That is kind of really silly isn’t it? But so are the guests. So there you are. Your direction, your biblical direction is clear. It’s very clear right there. But again, I want to make clear so it’s not misunderstood. That doesn’t mean you compromise –
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
– away from your vision in one direction. Because when you compromise that means you’re going against the rest of your neighbors.
Bill Hendricks
I was going to ask, so you’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
Horst Schulze
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
I’m sure periodically in your hotels you had a guest who was not acting like a lady or a gentleman, and what do you do at that point?
Horst Schulze
Yeah, we had that a few times. You can bet on that. It’s interesting, the very beginning when I said in the first hotel, I was running the first hotel I was in charge of operations so I run the first hotel. I said, “Here we are not employees. We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. That means you behave, you act everything like ladies and gentlemen, and you respect every guest as a lady or a gentleman.”

So, in fact, I remember so well a doorman who turned out to be an outstanding gentleman working for us for 30 years with the company. He said, “Well, Mr. Schulze, not every guest is a gentleman and ladies.” And that’s not our decision to make. That’s not our decision to make. In fact, part, of course, there comes a point where we make the decision this is not enough of a gentleman, or enough of anything, and we have to do something about it very clearly.

Bill Hendricks
Delicately and clearly.
Horst Schulze
Delicately, and still professionally and excellently, and with values and everything. We had to do something about that. We have thrown guests out of the hotel if you will, sure.
Bill Hendricks
But because you’ve got other guests that are –
Horst Schulze
Sure, sure. And besides, suddenly we have employees. We have friends in we have a situation. And I think I tell the story in the book where the guest was living on the club lounge – club level and he pinched the ladies that worked in the club lounge. Well, I cannot accept that. I cannot – I have to protect my employees.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
So we moved him out.
Bill Hendricks
You are serving a luxury market, but it becomes clear from some of the – again, some of the interviews that you’ve done, you, and your wife, and your family actually lived fairly simply as I understand it.
Horst Schulze
Yeah, well we –
Bill Hendricks
Not extravagantly.
Horst Schulze
No, not at all. That’s not who we are, and that’s – we’re not happy there. We’re not happy in the – we have a good life. Our big credit is our life is being together, being together and enjoying reading together, being together and so on. You know, like most people, most people say, “Well, we like to travel together.” I don’t. I like to be at home together.
Bill Hendricks
You get plenty of travel at work.
Horst Schulze
Plenty of travel. So that in itself makes it very easy life and we’re not – most people ask me because they think of me as a fuddy-duddy Ritz-Carlton and all that stuff. They ask me, “What are the greatest restaurant in Atlanta?” I said, “I don’t know.” We like to eat at home and we go to the neighborhood restaurant. It’s not important to ask.

But, you know, again, because of my travel everybody – I arrive in Hong Kong, I get picked up by limousine, the owners of the hotel invite me to the finest restaurant and it’s enough. And we find truly fulfillment of just being together, to be together, to go to church together, be able to pray together, to live together and honor each other and have a great, wonderful life together.

Marriage is so great for me. It’s such a great thing. If you think about that for a second, the only institution on this earth that is ordained by God, why wouldn’t make it that excellence. If I’m making – how much work, effort do we put in efforts to make our companies excellent? Why wouldn’t we put the same effort into a marriage? It all goes together. Excellence wins, and you’re going to win in that too because if you’re excellent with your wife we’re going to win. It comes back to you.

Bill Hendricks
You had a real turning point in your life that I want to come to, but before I get to that I want to ask a question. How did you come to faith?
Horst Schulze
Oh, I went to it was Baptist _____ Lutheran school. In typical Lutheran you go through three years of very intense, at that time in Germany, classes before you got confirm. And now, I mean unbelievable. Today I think it was too much. So then you got confirmed, and then you left with my words out of the Bible for my life. Psalm 91:4, “He will take you under his wings and your confidence will be under his pinions. His truth will be your shield and armor.” Your shield and armor. I was translating here.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Horst Schulze
So that was with me, but I didn’t go to church. I didn’t have relationship, but it was with me. I mean I needed I pulled it out in a hurry.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
But then something happened. In the meantime I was married. My wife said we have to find a church. I was very critical of every church.
Bill Hendricks
Excellence.
Horst Schulze
I’m critical. Yes, excellence counts. I walked out of it and I got – I took my job in Atlanta where we started Ritz-Carlton, and my wife staying back because she was pregnant, wanted to finish her pregnancy, said, “Okay, find a church.” I walked in from one church and another and finally found one.

But then still being by myself there, Sherry was pregnant, my mother called and said, “Better come right away. Your dad is very ill in the hospital.” So I flew that night out of Germany, and all the way the whole night I prayed for my father. And mind you, I met my father when I was seven. He came out of the war when I was seven years old. I left when I was 14. I wanted more time with him.

Bill Hendricks
Sure.
Horst Schulze
And I prayed so deeply that God, I need you here. He will take me under his wing and I – and I bargained.
Bill Hendricks
It’s the best you knew to do at that point.
Horst Schulze
Yeah. I was there for 10 days and my father was fine. I flew back after two weeks and I walked out of the plane in Atlanta. And on the way over I stopped people behind me, and I stopped I said, “Goodness, I’m a hypocrite. I didn’t pray once coming back and thanked God.” I mean I needed him. I was basically on my knees the whole flight and when I came back not once did I look him in the eyes and say, “Thank you, Lord. You did it.”

And I realized I’m a hypocrite and I said, “That doesn’t go. This has to change.” I found a church. Went in the church. I joined Bible class. I joined – I accepted Christ as my Lord and must have him in all I do, and it was relief. It was a relief and I said – because this moment was so overwhelming to realize I’m a liar, I’m a hypocrite, I’m – what is this? What kind of person am I? I really questioned myself. It was a serious moment in my life.

Bill Hendricks
It sounds like it.
Horst Schulze
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Well then you had another serious moment when you went to visit your doctor at some point.
Horst Schulze
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And he gave you some bad news.
Horst Schulze
Yeah. Well yeah, I can tell you that. Well, I went to doctor first and said it’s no big deal. I said I have to check it one more time and they told me a sonogram and they said, “You have to be operated right away.” And after the operation they said, “Well, you had a serious cancer. On Monday we’re going to start. Next Monday we’re going to start chemo. We give you that and this and this will happen, and this cancer always comes back.”

I said, “Snowstorm.” And I said, “Well hold it. I’m in charge here. You don’t tell me when we start chemo because I’m in charge. You can ask me, we can discuss it, but don’t tell me that. And besides that I don’t accept your finding.” So I went, “Who is the expert of this cancer?” “Well, the real expert is Dana Faber.”

So I made an appointment there and I had an appointment with the expert at this particular cancer. He said, “Sir, the sarcoma.” And met with them and he said, “Well, it will come back within 10 months or a year.” Always as a snowstorm. I didn’t accept that so I went to MD Anderson. So they said, “Well, you have a year to get ready.” I didn’t accept that. I went to Mayo Clinic. I’m sure they’re smarter than all those guys, but they told me 10 months.

So you can imagine. Then I looked at my children, my one and a half year, five year old and ten year old. This cannot happen. This, God, it cannot happen. They all told me to do chemo, but they all said I would die. So I said I’ll look for alternative, and I found somebody that said, “If you go on this diet.”

Now mind you, I could tell you a long story of how I found. There’s no question about it, unequivocally God helped me to this particular diet. It’s too long a story. I accepted the diet, and I like what he said. He said, “You’re going to live. The diet is going to go away.” So people said to me, “Oh, you’re courageous not to have the regular doctor do that.” No, the doctors all said I’m going to die. This guy said I’m going to live so I choose him.

Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
And I went on my knees. We went on our knees I can tell you.
Bill Hendricks
It’s a good combination to have a plan but get on your knees.
Horst Schulze
You’d better believe it. But the amazing thing at a time like that is suddenly you really know, oh, intellectually everybody knows, but you really don’t know. Never really accept it totally. I’m mortal. This is a short thing here, this is a short moment, and there’s somebody else in charge no matter what. And because all your ego it’s gone. All the world, all the stuff, the bright, the ego, the Korea, all the south and the hustle, “Oh, good job and all this.” It’s all irrelevant. Totally irrelevant.
Bill Hendricks
You’ve got nowhere else to turn, and if God didn’t show up –
Horst Schulze
There’s only God.
Bill Hendricks
– you’re in trouble.
Horst Schulze
You’re in trouble. I do not understand how people can do without it.
Bill Hendricks
I don’t either.
Horst Schulze
I cannot fathom that, but God is still done, and you can feel it and you know it. And you know it more and more there is a relationship that is undeniable. And I know for a fact in my mind today that God was knocking on my door. He had knocked on my door many times, but this time he was knocking very loud and said, “Hey, listen to me. I’m here. Pay attention to me.” I did.
Bill Hendricks
And you did.
Horst Schulze
I did, yes, and it never goes away. You seek this unbelievable relation moments. You don’t ever have it quite there, but you – it never goes solely away. And the longer you’re in it and the longer you know my decision is the right decision, rather than the other guy, my friend’s decision. I know it’s a terrible decision. It’s a decision to sentence yourself to oblivion. But what a sad thing, and you want to help people like that.
Bill Hendricks
Oh, absolutely. To come to the end of your life and you’re all alone in it.
Horst Schulze
Yeah, yeah, that’s it. What a sad decision.
Bill Hendricks
But you lived through it.
Horst Schulze
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
You did recover.
Horst Schulze
Oh yeah, we did recover. In fact, the follow up story a couple of years ago I had made a speech in John Hopkins University, happened to have dinner, and I happened to have the chief oncologist sitting beside me. And I said I had this cancer and he said, “No you didn’t because you wouldn’t sit here. When?” I said, “About 25 years ago.” He said, “No, you wouldn’t be sitting here.”

I said, “Well, why would you say that? I went to all the expert and I don’t know why you would say that.” He said, “Because nobody has survived that cancer.” I said, “I had it.” And he said, “Since you’re so sure,” he said, “I’m telling you, 25 years ago diagnosing wasn’t as good as today. You didn’t have that cancer.” He said, “But if you’re so sure you were operated in a good hospital.” I told him where. “I’m sure they still have the slides. Send them to me.”

So I did it. I was just checking in again into a plane, by the way, traveling all the time. Telephone rings, I answered the telephone, it’s this doctor and he said, “If you come to back to Baltimore, I want to see you because I didn’t know anybody survived that cancer.” I had it, so all you can do is go to God.

And then of course you question yourself, “Wait a minute.” First you said, “Why me cancer?” And now I say, “Why me surviving it?” And you try so badly to live up to the expectation. First you say, “Cancer, why me? Why not somebody else?” And now I had to say, “Why me?”

Bill Hendricks
Well then maybe one reason is God knew you would tell your story –
Horst Schulze
Yeah, maybe.
Bill Hendricks
– and glorify him through it.
Horst Schulze
Yeah. Oh, sure, that’s certainly try to do that, yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Well, you’re absolutely doing it.
Horst Schulze
Yeah, thank you.
Bill Hendricks
You finally got your book written.
Horst Schulze
Thank you, yeah. Yeah, there was a struggle. In fact, there was kind of an interesting little – since I met Stephen Covey who became a real friend. What a fabulous man. One of the greatest thing of institution excellence in the last century. He beat the drum at it. Those two guys if you learn most, you have to right thinking.
Bill Hendricks
Drucker and Covey.
Horst Schulze
Drucker and Covey. And even I’ve been many times to there and to present with him, sit on roundtables, kept on urging me to write a book. And even you knew Covey when he talk to you it was like needles going in you. Horst – he called me finally, “Horst, I’m disappointed in you.” “Okay, oh, I mean -” and I was trying.

Anybody else could say it I would brush it off, but he had this voice and the tone it went in you and I said, “Yes.” He said, “You still haven’t shared in a book what you do. You owe it to society. You have to do that. Do you understand? In fact, I wrote the forward.” He kept on saying, “Wow.” I said, “Okay, I’ll do it,” but I forgot next day, just like every promise that we make and was already I get sucked into all kind of other things, business and so on, it’s forgotten again, and then Stephen died. And I had such a bad conscience and I thought I have to write. Unfortunately I couldn’t get his forward anymore, but I wrote a book –

Bill Hendricks
But you got Ken Blanchard.
Horst Schulze
Yeah, I got Ken who’s a good friend, too.
Bill Hendricks
That’s a good forward as well.
Horst Schulze
Yeah. And so I wrote it and I said, “Stephen, this is for you in many ways in my mind I’m going to write it. I’m going to do it.”
Bill Hendricks
Well, I’m guessing that one of the reasons you wrote this book, in addition to telling your story and the passion that you obviously feel about excellence, is you are passionate to see others in their companies, their nonprofits, their churches, wherever they may be leaders pursue excellence.
Horst Schulze
It was absolutely driven by that, driven to say how can I say as simplistic as I can. Not writing a college book, but in a simplistic story tell you very clearly if you follow this you cannot fail. I really believe if you follow that it is impossible to fail. Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any setbacks, that you have done it tomorrow, but if you take this blueprint and passionately follow it, and don’t give up on it, you cannot fail. I was convinced about that.
Bill Hendricks
Well how can you fail if you’re leading people toward a beautiful thing?
Horst Schulze
Exactly.
Bill Hendricks
Right?
Horst Schulze
Exactly, that’s part of it. You give value to people, you give value to society and everything, and your organization will be dramatically successful.
Bill Hendricks
As you look at the rising generations, which today is Millennials and very quickly is also going to be Gen-Z, any perspective, or insight, or wisdom, or thoughts that come to mind as you see that generation beginning to find its place in the working world?
Horst Schulze
Well, of course everybody talks about the millennials because we face them right now. And the Xs I don’t know yet, but there have been studies made. And the millennials do say basically there are two things what they’re saying. They’re saying what is in it for me, what’s in it for me if I work here? What’s in it for me? Now let’s be honest, we want to say that too, but we were afraid to ask. We were afraid. They’re not afraid. They say, “Oh, what’s in it for me?” I go next door.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Horst Schulze
It wasn’t that easy for us when we grow up. It wasn’t easy to go next door, and we wouldn’t have dared to because that was [crosstalk (a job)] keep it. That was the attitude. So they’re saying what’s in it for me. So my question is, why wouldn’t you tell them? Well, I tell you what’s in it for you. Here’s the information: you can join us in the dream, and that dream will accomplish gross for the company that means it will come gross for you.

If we are the best in the world with what our vision was, if you try me to do that, then we will be respected. That means you’re respected. We will be honored. In fact you will be honored. So in other words, you will be part of establishing the image of this company, and simultaneously define yourself as a person of excellence. Tell them what’s in it for them.

Now the other thing they want, and that becomes difficult. Not at work now. In generally in life they’re saying, “Do it my way.” Now we as a hotel have to adjust. In the ultra-luxury business we call every reservation and say, “What do you want when you come here? What can we do? Do you have an allergy? Do you have a diet? Do you want us to make some reservation somewhere, arrangement in a museum, whatever? We’re here for you. Check in time, we don’t have a check in time. Come in whenever you want to. Check out time before dark.” Everything gets to them the way they want it.

Because they will go in the hamburger place and say, “I take number one, but I want two slices of pickles and only a half a tomato and that’s how I want it. I want it my way.” And by the way, that is luxury to them. When we created Ritz-Carlton, luxury was marble, chandeliers and so on. To those customers, to the sons and daughters of this customer that is a luxury. Luxury is to do it their way.

Bill Hendricks
So millennials will need to begin to subordinate what they want to what that customer wants is what you’re saying.
Horst Schulze
No, the millennials say, “No, we are –business have to subordinate to their expectation.”
Bill Hendricks
Oh, that will be a challenge.
Horst Schulze
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Well, Horst, thank you for being with us today on The Table Podcast. This is just a wealth of very valuable input on leadership, on servanthood. Thank you for your experience and all that you shared with us. And if you have a topic that you would like us to consider for The Table Podcast, please e-mail us at thetable@dts.edu and joins us next time for The Table Podcast. I’m Bill Hendricks.

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Bill Hendricks
Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Center and President of The Giftedness Center, where he serves individuals making key life and career decisions. A graduate of Harvard, Boston University, and DTS, Bill has authored or co-authored twenty-two books, including “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life.” He sits on the Steering Committee for The Theology of Work Project.
Horst Schulze
Horst Schulze is one of the founding members of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. He formerly served as President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton, and later founded The Capella Hotel Group. He has received numerous honors and awards in the hotel business, including being named “corporate hotelier of the world” by HOTELS magazine in 1991. He is the author of Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise.
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