Innovation is one of those words used liberally these days as companies race to come up with something newer and shinier to woo customers from the competition. But for Chris Hunsberger, it’s not about simply building a better mousetrap; the ability and desire to innovate is a mindset that he feels is critical to business success, and that he has been cultivating in his employees and colleagues since his days as a hotel general manager, and most recently during his tenure as head of global product and innovation at Four Seasons.
“The best ideas come from within, from people who believe that what they do each day can make a difference,” he says, noting that Four Seasons has always placed personal qualities above job experience when hiring and promoting staff. “Our team is already the best in the hospitality sector. By nurturing a culture of innovative thinking and giving our employees the latitude to execute their ideas, we will continue lead the way, well beyond our own industry.”
Although Four Seasons has close to 100 “laboratories,” referring to the growing portfolio of hotels and resorts where new ideas are born and tested, he cautions that growth and success can sometimes lead to complacency. “Our longstanding business model remains our very foundation, but it’s important that we constantly reintroduce leadership behaviours, reinforce our values, and encourage each and every team member to take risks with confidence and not be afraid of failure. That’s what keeps Four Seasons strong and relevant today, and in the future.”
And what of the myriad cultural differences as Four Seasons aggressively expands both its customer base and its global presence? “As long as we take a fluid approach, resisting the obvious functional and geographic segmentation for example, and instead connecting our people together by shared values and our collective imagination, we will thrive.”
- At Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts: Joined in 1981 as a Management Trainee at The Pierre, New York (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); held various positions in Toronto, Chicago and New York and served as General Manager in Houston and San Diego (formerly a Four Seasons hotel), and as General Manager and Regional Vice President in Washington, DC; promoted to Senior Vice President Operations for the Americas in 2008, then Executive Vice President of Global Product and Innovation in 2011, and President Hotel Operations Americas in 2014
- Previously: The Boca Raton Hotel and Club
- Education: Graduated from Cornell University in 1981; additional classes at Wharton School of Business and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration
- Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Innovation Council, Mentor Program, Guest Lecturer, Society of Hotel Persons and Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Member
- Past board member, Helen Hayes Foundation and Georgetown Business Improvement District
Awards and Honours
- Philanthropic Partners Award, Washington Cancer Institute, 2006
- Business Person of the Year, Georgetown Business and Professional Association, 2006
- What his friends and colleagues call him: CBH – the B stands for Baynes.
- His passion: Food. “It’s hard for me to have a conversation with someone and not talk about a new restaurant, or the newest wine in my cellar, or a great recipe. Basically, I work out so I can eat and drink what I want.”
- Home is where the veggie patch is: Chris and his family, including his wife and three grown children, gather as often as possible at their home in Sonoma County, California where he tends herbs, vegetables and olive trees.
- How his kids would describe him: “They would say I’m a milestone person. I’m always asking them what goals they’ve set for themselves, and we’ve always encouraged them to think outside the box in achieving those goals.”