It’s extremely rare—unimaginable, even—for a business not viewed as a high-tech enterprise to invest more than $1 billion in technology. But that’s exactly what hotel, restaurant, travel and marketing giant Carlson Companies did.
“When I became CEO, I realized that we were in the technology business as much as we were in the service business,” says Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who spearheaded the growth strategy as CEO and now serves as chairman.
It wasn’t the technology investment itself that drove the results, though. Instead, the way Carlson organizes and governs the company—particularly in viewing technology as a strategic business enabler—made all the difference.
Having started in 1938 as the Gold Bond Stamp Company, Carlson today employs nearly 200,000 people in 150 countries. It owns and manages more than 1,000 hotel properties and more than 1,000 T.G.I. Friday’s and Pick Up Stix restaurants; and it owns the $25-billion Carlson Wagonlit Travel, one of the world’s largest corporate travel management services, and Carlson Marketing Worldwide, a global marketing, events and marketing analytics company. This is an impressive history of performance, and it was built on a framework of expertly managed technology.