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VINE VOICEon September 22, 2007
Chip Conley has a bold vision - he wants to use his company as an instrument to make the world a better place. Rarely have I heard a businessman state his vision so boldly and this alone deserves a cheer.

Joie de Vivre - a lot of persons will learn to pronounce this soon! - is a boutique hotel chain and each property is unique. I have stayed at two and I can testify that the servce is outstanding. If ever you find yourself in San Francisco stay at the Miyako in the heart of Japantown. The faux ricepaper screens and artwork will make you feel as if you are in Japan and the deep granite soak tub and private sauna in the suite will round out the feeling.

Chip draws heavily from the work of Abraham Maslow in running his business. Maslow, as any MBA will tell you, is the guy who came up with the notion of the "hierarchy of needs" which postulates that all humans have basic needs for things like food and shelter and, as these are satisfied, higher order needs like belonging and esteem open up. At the top is "self-actualization" which is a need to realize one's full potential. What I did not know till I read this book is that Maslow had spent a lot of time pondering the implications of his theory for business and had actually recorded his thoughts in books many of which are now out of print. I will now scour the Internet for these.

Chip's genius is that he came up with an organized and disciplined method of applying these principles to his operations. The book is basically divided into three parts - one dealing with employees, one with customers and the final one with investors. For each of these, he offers tips on how to meet their lower order needs and then lead the way to them fulfilling their higher order needs and seeing that they are doing so.

He walks his talk. For example, during the double whammy of the meltdown and the 9/11 induced travel recession the hotel industry in California fell off a cliff. Conley took no salary for more than three years maxing out his credit cards to live and persuaded his senior executives to take 10% pay cuts. In his own words " make the right choice and acknowledge that yur lowest-paid employees deserve the greatest support during the most difficult times." What a contrast from the typical approach of firing dozens of the rank and file while preserving top-management perks!

Half of Joie de Vivre's employees clean toilets and make beds, but Chip has them feeling valued and and instituted recognition programs that move them up Maslow's hierarchy. For example, even chambermaids get to stay free for a couple of nights at any of the chain hotel so they can experience the service as a customer. I want to make an important point here and this I got from personal conversations with him. He doesn't just make employess FEEL valued. He DOES value them and looks out for what he can do to make their lives more meaningful. In fact his life's meaning derives from success in doing so. So there are things like sabbaticals for employess and many other perks that you willfind out about when you read the book.

Customers are easy to fit in to the hierarchy. A lot has been written about how to deliver great customer service and Chip does his bit with things like clearly communicating what each of his hotels stands for. He trains all his employees - particularly porters, desk clerks and others who interact with guests - to lookout for ways in which to delight customers. Thus, for example, a guest celebrating a birthday will receive a cake or special gift. Good section with lots of examples from other companies, but nothing stand-out here.

Investors are another story. I have never heard it explicitly mentioned that entrepreneurs should satisfy investors basic need - for return on investment and safety of principal for instance - and then move them higher up the scale as well. But Chip does this in various ways from only selecting investors who are aligned with his own values to drawing them into his vision for what each property is and can be. He describes a process where every consittuency, including investors, provides ideas about how to uniquely position each prospective hotel.

Conley totally disagrees with conventional wisdom that states 1) Money is the primary motivator for employees. He demonstrates that they come alive when you address thier higher order needs. 2) Customers stay loyal when they are satisfied. Satisfied customers are the minimum level to stay in business. You have to continually earn their loyalty by delighting them. and 3) Investors are exclusively focused on financial returns. This is important, but they will cut you a lot of slack if you keep them informed and make them feel as if they are in a cause that they believe in.

So, read this book and become an entrepreneur and do likewise. And please, pretty please with sugar and cream, let me buy some your stock BEFORE you go public.
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on September 27, 2007
PEAK is one of my all time favorite business books. I will never be able to do it justice in this short review. PEAK is definitely a "must read" for every executive, CEO and business owner for whom "being ordinary is not an option."

Over the past 22 years, I have worked with many successful companies and leaders. Yet from the first pages of reading this book, I knew that Joie De Vivre (JDV) and Chip Conley (the CEO and author) are a rare breed in today's business world, integrating money with meaning, doing with becoming, success with significance. Here are my reasons why I love this book.

In my experience, there are few companies that go beyond meeting the basic needs of their employees, customers and investors. Only a handful of companies committed to honoring the full hierarchy of employee, customer and investor needs as the foundation to their own profitability, success and legacy. JDV and Chip Conley clearly walk their talk in that regard and are amongst that small minority.

PEAK is multi-fasceted. I felt like I was reading 3 books in one -- a personal narrative/story, a "teaching" manual and a "how to" roadmap -- packed with wisdom, inspiration, provocative ideas and action steps. The book grabbed my attention right away as the author shared his "hero's journey." A story about how JDV, a fast rising star in the '90's, plummeted into a downward spiral with the dotcom industry crash and then hit with an additional catastrophic jolt with 9/11. Tough times like these test a true leader's courage, tenacity, values and substance ... and his/her willingness to heed "the call" to embark on the hero's journey. As the saying goes, "when the student is ready, the teacher appears." It was in those trying moments and through synchronistic events that the author fell upon, via a book, his life and leadership mentor, Abraham Maslow. A mentor whose human motivation principles became the cornerstone of one the most successful hospitality companies in the world. A hero's journey is never complete without transformation and growth, and a "coming home." To me PEAK represents that "coming full circle" where the author shares his experience and wisdom gained during the past 10+ years ago.

PEAK is also a "teaching" manual. It opened my eyes to the power of Maslow's hierarchy in leadership, organizational development, marketing and investor relations ... and ultimately the profitability and legacy of a company. Below are some of my favorite gems from the book:

* The difference between "transactional" vs. "transformational" leadership
* Corporate transformation can only follow personal transformation
* The difference between a job vs. a career vs. a calling
* How JDV creates both meaning "at" work and meaning "in" work with their employees
* How JDV helps employees reach the top level of the hierarchy (meaning/fulfillment) by "becoming heroes participating in the profitability in a heroic enterprise"
* JDV's use of "dreaming sessions" with key customers
* Strategies for addressing unrecognized customer needs to create loyalty
* How to create strong investor relations that go beyond a healthy ROI and are built on trust, partnership and a common higher mission
* JDV's "heart" as the symbol of their corporate culture
* The "service profit chain" -- ie., how JDV's happy employees make happy customers make a healthy profit, and thus, happy investors.
* My favorite part of the book: the final graphic integrating the employee, customer and investor pyramids inside one big pyramid with JDV's "heart symbol" in the middle. A picture truly is worth a 1000 words.

Finally, PEAK is also a "how to" book. I love when an author pulls together at the end of each chapter the main principles and gives me (the reader) "prescriptives" how to apply Maslow's hierarchy to myself and my own business. I've already started applying a couple of Chip Conley's provocative, mind expanding prescriptives to my business - such as, applying the 4 themes that help my customers reach their own peak experience - and find every one of them worth their weight in gold.

While PEAK was my first introduction to applying Maslow's hierarchy in business, I do use Clare Graves Values System Hierarchy (who was Maslow's peer) in my corporate client work. Graves' hierarchy reflects levels of consciousness and assesses to what level an individual, an organization or even a country has evolved at any given time. There is definitely cross synergies between the 2 hierarchies. One of the big differences is that Grave's model is open-ended with no limit on how far one can evolved. According to Clare Graves, only a fraction of 1% have reached his "level 8" - the "holistic self." I sense from reading the book PEAK that Chip Conley and JDV are one of the rare few who have reached that level.

PEAK is more than just a business book. It provides an important message about how to live fulfilling, harmonious, joyful lives. If the principles of PEAK were to be applied by every CEO, executive and business owners, there is no doubt this world would be a much better place.
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on October 27, 2007
You don't have to have an emotional bone in your body to find useful advice in this book. Chip Conley built a great company and weathered the meltdown by putting people first, both his employees and his customers. Sounds tough, especially for left-brainers, but the Maslow pyramid gives a framework that even the most rational mind can work with. Treat employees fairly, recognize their accomplishments and give them something to believe in. It's as simple as that.

Conley has good advice for pleasing customers and investors, too, but I found his technique for bringing the best out of your employees most useful. Despite the fact that most of his employees don't have college degrees and half don't speak English as their first language, he's managed to both keep them and keep them happy. Those same techniques can work for any company. The point is that people are people everywhere and Maslow brilliantly realized what motivates all of us. Conley maps this to today's business environment with great examples and explanations.

Simply put, this book will make you a better manager. Get it!
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on October 10, 2008
This isn't a horrible book. I just wish I hadn't spent money on it.

The idea behind the book is great. The book itself is just light. It reads like a book report about other people's books and ideas instead of a description of personal experience as a someone building a business. I expected much more in-the-trenches talk.

Chip writes well, I only wish he brought a more concrete philosophy to the book and backed it up with more personal anecdotes or more anecdotes from other people/companies gathered first hand. Everything is told kind of at a distance and in broad strokes. I got the feeling that Chip has read a lot of the same business books that I have over the past few years, so there didn't seem to be a lot of new ideas. The Maslow angle is what I came for but got very little of it.
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on October 5, 2013
Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- "This book is about the miracle of human potential: employees living up to their full potential in the workplace, customers feeling the potential bliss associated with having their unrecognized needs met, and investors feeling fulfilled by seeing the potential of their capital leveraged."

2- "Maslow's message struck a chord with many business leaders. In essence, he said that with humans, there's a qualitative difference between not being sick and feeling healthy or truly alive. This idea could be applied to companies, most of which fall into the middle ground of not sick but not truly alive. Based on his Hierarchy of Needs, the solution for a company that wants to ascend up the healthy pyramid is not just to diminish the negative or to get too preoccupied with basic needs but instead to focus on aspirational needs. This idea is rather blasphemous for some. The tendency in psychology and in business has always been to focus on the deficits. Psychologists and business consultants look for what's broken and try to fix it. Yet, "fixing it" doesn't necessarily offer the opportunity for transformation to a more optimal state of being or productivity."

3- "1. Every company is organized based on a certain premise of human nature. 2. Most companies aren't very conscious of this fact and operate based on an outdated or short-term perspective, even though sustainable results might be better served by a different business approach. 3. Companies have a habitual "tendency toward the tangible," which means that financial results usually get more attention than relationship issues. 4. More and more business scholars and consultants are making the intangible of relationships and the human spirit more tangible, and many successful companies are leading the way with respect to how they reorganize themselves to pursue both profits and happiness."

4- "The Employee Pyramid: Money (Survival) - Creates base motivation, Recognition (Success) - Creates Loyalty, Meaning (Transformation) - Creates Inspiration."

5- "The Customer Pyramid: Meets Expectations (Survival) - Creates satisfaction, Meets Desires (Success) - Creates commitment, Meets Unrecognized Needs (Transformation) - Evangelism."

6- "The Investor Pyramid: Transaction Alignment (Survival) - Creates trust, Relationship Alignment (Success) - Creates Confidence, Legacy (Transformation) - Creates Pride and Ownership."

7- "Finding meaning in one's work--both in what you do daily d in the company's sense of mission--is one of the rarest but most valuable qualities anyone can have in their job."

8- "In reading Frankl's book and in studying dozens of meaning-driven companies, I've come to realize that workplace meaning can be dissected into meaning at work and meaning in work. Meaning at work relates to how an employee feels about the company, their work environment, and the company's mission. Meaning in work relates to how an employee feels about their specific job task. Pollard captures the potential synergy of this dichotomy with the following passage from his book, "As a person sees a reason for the task that is personally satisfying and rewarding and has the confidence that the mission of the firm is in alignment with his or her own personal growth and development, a powerful force is unleashed that results in creativity, productivity, service quality, growth, profit, and value.""

9- "Ironically, the two common elements that define companies that deliver on this level of the pyramid seem diametrically opposed to each other: technology (hard) and people (soft). Companies that know how to harness their technology and empower their people have the potential to deliver customized service that will translate into committed customers."

10- "Buffett represents a growing set of business leaders who believe that "companies obtain the shareholder constituency diat tiiey seek and deserve." He suggests that if companies "focus their thinking and communications on short-term results or short-term stock market consequences they will, in lar^e part, attract shareholders who focus on the same factors." In other words, just understanding your business plan isn't enough for business leaders. You need to also understand the motivations of your investors to ensure they're aligned with your own."

11- "If there's one constant theme in all three pyramids, it's t conventional wisdom is wrong. Conventional wisdom suggests that (1) money is the primary motivator for employees, (2) customers stay loyal when they're satisfied, and (3) investors are exclusively focused on the financial return on investment. As we've seen, these are simply base needs that ignore higher human needs. At the peak of the Investor Pyramid, it's ultimately a legacy, not liquidity, that people seek."

12- "As a guide, I often refer them to the Transformation Pyramid we discussed in Chapter Two. Take a look at whether this activity or priority is a survival need (something that will help provide basic sustenance or comfort), a success need (something that will enhance the performance or experience), or a transformation need (something less predictable, more intangible, and ultimately, most satisfying or memorable). My number one recommendation for those who are using a pyramid to define their peak experience is to make sure you are climbing the right mountain. A midlife crisis is perhaps the natural result of someone realizing they've perhaps climbed the wrong peak."

13- "The base needs are typically "has" needs: what material things we want in our life to give us safety, comfort, pleasure, or status. As humans and societies age, they move beyond the "has" to the "does" needs. As our material needs are met, what one does for a living becomes a more relevant symbol of our identity. At some point, relentless "doing" no longer carries currency, at which point the "is" needs predominate at the peak of the pyramid. You see this in wise men and women and in cultures that have learned that having and doing carry you only so far. When someone or something just "is," it feels pure, essential, powerful, and magnetic. There is a strong sense of presence that accompanies this state of being."
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on June 30, 2011
Visit Zappos' headquarters in Las Vegas and they offer you a copy of "Peak". Each new employee at Zappos gets one too. Why? The Relationship Truths Pyramid captures the "heart" of author Chip Conley's vision, incorporating Maslow's needs pyramid with the three core elements of business--customers, employees, and investors.

Mojo is a slang term that usually means magical charm or power. Conley interprets Mojo as "the secret ingredient that gives life and vitality to your organization". Visit one of Conley's Bay Area hotels (he's the CEO and founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality) and you will pick up this vibe. It's more than a job for the employees, it's more than a room at a hotel for the customers, and it's more than a financial return for the investors.

I like "Peak" because it is one of those rare business books that will stand the test of time. I've had my copy for three years now; each time I take a look at it I find new nuggets of wisdom and application.

Transform your customers, employees, and investors. You will have a business that no one will ever leave.
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on October 8, 2013
Read chapters 1-9, discard the rest. The book really should have been titled something more like, "How I Built My Boutique Hotel Chain". The entire book is about his memories associated with building the chain of Joie De Vivre, which is ok, but I was expecting to have many other examples included beyond just his hotel chain. As far as the book itself, if you can tolerate the constant reference to his business, and no other examples beyond that, the book is really pretty good up till chapter 9 when he stops talking about the Maslow theories. At that point he pretty much solely focuses on his memoirs of building the boutique hotel chain Joie de Vivre. It gets really repetitive at the end, I almost couldn't finish it. This is a shame because the author seems like a nice guy based upon what he wrote, he just should have been more transparent as to the true nature of the book. In comparison to Common Purpose and Delivering Happiness, which are a couple of my favorite business books about building culture, this book simply does not measure up.
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on April 9, 2014
Chip Conley takes a people first approach to business and his innovative 3 pyramid stakeholder framework helped him build one of the most successful boutique hospitality chains in America. While Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is not a new concept, Conley was able to adapt this theory to craft a successful strategy for his business. I appreciated Conley's open-minded approach to business and the fact that he took a step back from the number crunching and instead focused on the entity that makes businesses run, its people. I believe the company is like a human body and the people are the cells that make up each part of the body. If one cell or set of cells isn't working properly, then the whole body could begin to break down. Many managers may look at the human and say its weak, conversely Conley looks at the cells and asks, how can I motivate those cells to give me their best?
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on October 5, 2007
I was attracted to Chip Conley's new book "Peak" not because of my interest in business, entrepreneurship or hotel management, but because of the exploration of Maslow's hierarchy, as well as principles of motivation and self-actualization. And I must say that for these reasons alone, Conley's book is worth reading.

With depth and insight, Conley explores what it is that our jobs can really be for us - more than a career, but a calling, as he puts it. He explains and illustrates with lively anecdotes how aiming for self-actualization, optimizing our human potential, through what we do is most beneficial to both our own human development as well as the business itself. After reading this book, who wouldn't want to found, lead, or work for a company that encourages every single employee to be the most fulfilled person they can be? It makes perfect sense, and yet businesses so easily get caught up in short-term gains, foresaking these higher goals. Conley's own experience proves that paying close attention to employee, leader, and shareholder satisfaction pays off in spades, in terms of both profits and human happiness.

Three cheers for Chip Conley for writing a business book with SOUL: a book that shows everyone from the hotel clerk to the founder of a multi-million dollar business how to lead optimal, rewarding lives; a book that shows companies how to make money not just in spite of but because of their conscious fostering of human potential. This book is an enjoyable read for business people and entrepreneurs as well as for anyone interested in psychology, motivation techniques, and generally improving their relationship with their work.
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on December 8, 2007
Chip Conley has done a great job of studying Abe Maslow's hierachy of needs and asking himself the question how he could use it to turn his company around. In this book Chip shows you the theory and how he put it into practice and what results he got. Another good thing is that at the end of each chapter he lists a bibliography that people can tap into if they want to read more about a certain subject. This is definetley a good business model to use if you are in the people business.
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