How Four Seasons CEO Alejandro Reynal uses ‘Inbox Zero’ and a Montblanc pen to lead the world’s most luxurious hospitality group


CEO Agenda provides unique insights into how leaders think and lead and what keeps them busy in a world of constant change. We look into the lives, minds and agendas of CEOs at the world’s most iconic companies.


If you’d ask an advanced AI model to come up with the ideal CEO for Four Seasons, the luxury hospitality group owned by Bill Gates that operates 130 hotels in 47 countries, and offers “experiential offerings” on yachts, jets, and the world’s most exclusive bars and restaurants, I figure it would suggest someone like Alejandro Reynal.

Reynal looks the part: in his early 50s, the hospitality executive is well-groomed, likes to stay fit, and has his home base in Miami, a city that bathes in new luxury developments. The Harvard Business School graduate also speaks in a polished and polite way, exuding the sense of high-end hospitality synonymous with the hotel group.

130

The number of hotels and resorts operated by Four Seasons.

Reynal’s answers in today’s CEO Agenda reinforce that image. He reveals that some top managers really do live and lead in a textbook way. Reynal gets up at 5 a.m. for a workout and meditation, likes to clear his inbox at the end of each day, and looks up to giants of the managerial class, such as Roberto Goizueta, the former Coca-Cola CEO. His CV looks like that of a CEO in a fantasy world.

If other CEOs in this series indicate some hints of eccentricity or peculiar personality traits, in our more personal questions, Reynal displayed none of it, either. His favorite company as a consumer? Four Seasons, he said at first, before reverting to Montblanc, the Swiss high-end pen manufacturer. Even our Zoom conversation was timed to perfection.

Though being so “perfect” isn’t my style – my inbox is currently at 8,307 unread, and I’m lucky if I get a workout once a week – I found it somehow fitting that the head of the world’s most luxurious hospitality group does live up to the image. This may be the smoothest, most polished “CEO Agenda” so far. And that’s alright with me.

This interview has been edited for brevity.


Down to business

Fortune: What is the single most important project you are working on with your company?  

Alejandro Reynal: When I joined Four Seasons 20 months ago, I knew the company was an industry leader. But to stay ahead amidst an evolving competitive and market landscape, we initiated a strategic refresh with a clear multi-year plan. Our vision is to be the most aspirational luxury hospitality and residential brand through genuine and unparalleled service experiences.

Four Seasons President and CEO Alejandro Reynal and the team at Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina.
Four Seasons President and CEO Alejandro Reynal and the team at Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina.

Courtesy of Four Seasons

Whether it’s a leisure or business experience at one of our extraordinary hotels and resorts, living in our branded residences or a bucket-list journey on our private jet or upcoming yacht, we’re continuously elevating the Four Seasons experience for our guests.

Which long-term trend are you most bullish about for society and the economy at large? Which one makes you most worried?  

I’m bullish about the long-term prospects of our industry. Travel and tourism will continue to evolve and grow driven by the human desire to experience and explore. Separately, thoughtfully embracing technologies like AI in a way that enhances the experience of our guests and employees is also a relevant long-term trend for me. Four Seasons has always been guest-centric. Our personalized, unscripted care remains at the heart of what we do and that will never change. But enabling an even higher level of service and personalization through technology is a tremendous opportunity.   

Being productive

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I wake up at 5 a.m. and start my morning with a workout and a short meditation. If I’m not traveling, I’ll always have breakfast with my family. For me, this is the perfect start to the day. Living in Miami, I’ll also go for a beach run or swim in the ocean when possible. Getting outdoors is a grounding part of my wellness routine and helps me start the day with a focused mindset.  

Runner running on beach by the ocean - view from above.
Sometimes, the Four Seasons boss starts his mornings by going for a run on the beach.

Getty Images

What apps or methods do you use to be more productive?  

I enjoy what I do because of the diverse nature of my role. Every day for me is different. Having said this, I do spend time planning and prioritizing based on where I can create the most impact. It’s very easy to dilute yourself in many things. If someone else can do it, it’s not for me to do. Being fully present in each interaction is also very important and I’m intentional about it. 

One habit that I also maintain is clearing my inbox at the end of my day. I don’t like to be a bottleneck. I want to enable decision-making for my teams. In terms of apps, beyond the usual email, messaging and calendar tools, I wear a WHOOP device. It helps me balance and keep track of my fitness and wellness goals. 

Who is on your “personal board”? 

Without a doubt my wife and my brother. Their perspective and honesty keep me grounded and true to myself.  

If someone else can do it, it’s not for me to do.

Getting personal

 
What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you? 

I recently read Young Forever: The Secrets to Living Your Longest, Healthiest Life, by Dr. Mark Hyman. Physical and mental wellness are critical to me. More than ever, I recognize the importance of dedicating time to yourself and maintaining a balanced life for personal and professional success. 

Cover of book Young Forever: The Secrets to Living Your Longest, Healthiest Life, by Dr. Mark
Young Forever: The Secrets to Living Your Longest, Healthiest Life, by Dr. Mark Hyman is a book that is a book that inspires Reynal.

Amazon.co.uk

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

One corporate leader I deeply respect is the late Roberto Goizueta, the former CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. During his tenure, he not only produced immense value for the company and shareholders but also created a unique company culture. In my early 20s, he inspired me to pursue a career in management through an act of kindness to me, which had a significant impact on my life. The experience motivated me to follow his path and strive to make a similar difference for others. If I were able, I would like to thank him for profoundly influencing my career journey.  

Roberto Goizueta former CEO of The Coca-Cola Company
Roberto Goizueta former CEO of The Coca-Cola Company inspired Alejandro to pursue a career in management.

Jean Meunier—AFP/Getty Images

As a consumer, what is your favorite company and why? 

Unquestionably, it would be Four Seasons. It’s a company I have long admired – it’s a true honor to now have the opportunity to lead this team as President and CEO. For over 60 years, Four Seasons has been at the forefront of the industry, pushing the envelope, enhancing luxury service, and always putting heart and kindness first. These aren’t just ideals – they’re the core of who we are, thanks to our strong culture and incredible teams.

But as a consumer, one of my favorite brands is Montblanc. When I started my professional career decades ago, I was given a Montblanc pen. From that moment, I started the tradition of always carrying the pen with a Montblanc notebook to record my to do’s, thoughts, and notes. I’ve now used hundreds of notebooks, which have all the content of my professional years. In spite of the emergence of digital tools, there’s no substitute to writing with a fine pen and in a beautifully designed notebook. Over the years, I’ve also added cufflinks, a briefcase, and a suitcase to my Montblanc collection, extending my relationship with a brand that has been a part of my professional journey.

CEO Agenda provides unique insights into how leaders think and lead and what keeps them busy in a world of constant change. We look into the lives, minds and agendas of CEOs at the world’s most iconic companies.





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