Sunday 14th July 2019
By Michelle Hammond
Q1 - How did your childhood inﬂuence your work ethic and attitude towards business?
I have been extremely lucky to have had a family that traveled a lot, due to my father’s work. I have lived in USA, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and UK where the cultural influence and the schools chosen by my parents have widened my perception of the world and deepened my understanding of multi-diversity. By always experiencing change with enthusiasm, I have managed to thoroughly develop my resilience, my adaptivity, my capacity to listen to people and accept challenges.This has had an incredible role in shaping my purpose in life and molding my attitude to always do better.
I have a very close example and inspirational model: my father. In his job he has always led by example and has been a tough worker. I understood from a very young age that my motto would have been: “Walk the Talk”. For this, ethics at work as in life, has always been among my core values.
Q2 - What do you believe the principles of a successful business are today?
There are many principles that from my perspective have a major impact on being successful. Out of all is being aware of what one’s purpose in life and make sure it complies to the business “Why”. People is the out-most important aspect every business should take care of. In fact, being myself the Director of Wellbeing, I not only take care of our guest’s happiness but I am intensely active in developing a stress management program and performance evaluation to understand trends and support every individual to cater their needs. Here is a list of the major principles that distinguishes any business from a successful one from my point of view:
- Be open to actively listen to people. I believe that there is no such thing as failure or mistakes, but only new opportunities to build on experience. Feedback is extremely important, and we should all understand that gathering feedback as much as we can without prejudice, drives us to prevent future mistakes and aligns everyone towards success.
- Make your staff a team and motivate their willingness to learn. Every single person in a business is part of a project and it is important that everyone should be recognized for their worth, their values and their talent. I never forget to share a sweet word that can mean a lot.
- Act with integrity, be honest to yourself and to others.
- Set realistic goals and have a plan to achieve them. Focus on the process, not the result
- Build foundations for business growth and take massive action. Focus on constant and never-ending improvement
Q3 - Looking back, what was your best business decision?
In 2011 I have taken over my parent’s business converting a regular boutique hotel into a Detox retreat. Back then there were not many medical spa’s in the industry, and it has been a very hazardous decision. However, I had made a lot of research and was sure this was the right trend for the industry and by having long listened to my guests, I wanted to create a very special place where people could retreat from their stressful life. I wanted my guests to come and find professionals who would take care of their health prevention with a science based and efficient approach, without having to deal with doctors or invasive equipment. It worked and we have seen a business increase from 200k revenue in 2011 to a 1.2M in 2016. It has been the best decision for me as I have leaned to become an entrepreneur and have developed very important soft and hard skills from which I benefit now daily. I am grateful for having faced such a tough phase of my life, as it has been the best decision ever.
Q4 - Who has inﬂuenced you the most through your career?
I must be honest here and I have to thank my father. We never had mentoring sessions, nor I would discuss my career challenges with him, but he has always been inspiring by the example he gave. He treated me for the role I had when we were in business together. I had no discounts but rather extreme expectations to be fulfilled. It made my life very hard as working together has influenced our personal relationship as well and made me feel constantly in the eye of the viewfinder. Looking back, I can say that he has been the one to influence me the most.This doesn’t mean that I took for truth everything he said but in the contrary, I needed to do my own experience to then admit he was right. I feel strong and ready for the biggest challenges now.
Q5 - What was your most diﬃcult / worst business decision?
The most difficult time in my life is when, in 2017 due to a serious engineering problem I have been forced to shut down the business I was running with my parents. This meant firing 24 people. It has been the saddest experience in my life. Not only because I had to personally face person by person to tell them what had happened that was already hard enough, but I also felt entirely powerless and overwhelmed by the communication I had to announce. I could not refrain from tears. I felt guilty for having to have such a big negative impact in my team’s life. Some of them understood the situation and some of them didn’t - making my days hard to go through. I made it, time has healed that tough business event and I am now back at empowering my team to thrive.
Q6 - What would you say was the single most advantageous character trait for success?
Drive and self-reliance. I believe that I have the determination to work harder than most and make sure things get done. I pride myself on seeing things getting completed and I take charge when necessary. I drive myself with purpose and align myself with excellence. I also shoulder responsibilities and am accountable. I make hard decisions and stand by them.
Q7 - What happens when you’re stressed or overwhelmed?
Generally, I believe stress has a positive impact on my life as it is essential to be continuously stimulated by external inputs. I have a powerful resilience over stress and therefore able to manage my physiological response to stress in an appropriate way. It is very difficult for me to be overwhelmed but it did happen in my life. We’re talking here about chronic stress and limit to burnout. Every individual has different thresholds and limits, and when it happened to me, I started to lose the focus on my purpose in life and my decision-making process slowed down. I started asking myself the big questions about life and felt as I was losing grounds.It’s a vicious circle and the less I was seeing a purpose in my daily actions, the more I started to confuse my priorities and ignored the simple but important things in life. I did however recover quickly. I thought I had to seek for help and started a career coaching program with a result driven method. It took 5 months to run over my entire life and to get my priorities right. This led to business decisions that have revolutionized my life for the best.
Q8 - How do you invest in your own wellbeing. How do you look after yourself?
I spend quality time with my loved ones. There is nothing more fulfilling and engaging for my wellbeing to take care of this precious time and invest efforts in making this time memorable and worthy for all of us. Outside working hours, we do everything together, from sports to relaxing times, adventures and incredible trips. We have decided to live our lives fully and this means being together. I am sure this not only increases my quality of life but contributes to my longevity as many publications in positive psychology would say. Oxytocin is the hormone we produce when we feel secure, when we are hugged and loved. Well we are great producers of oxytocin and we love sharing it with friends as well. We believe it is the strongest healer of all. In fact, my husband, my 5-year-old son and I can’t remember the last time we felt sick or took a drug to recover. We laugh a lot and involve as many people as we can in our Happiness moments. We fill our memories with loving moments, and this is the best I could do for my wellbeing.
Q9 - If you could change one thing about the spa and wellness industry what would it be and why?
Lack of skilled Spa Managers: I would unify the management career preparation. A specialized degree path should be implemented as international standard for the training of Spa/Wellness Managers. In my opinion, this industry is no less than any other industry in terms of number of hard skills and special soft skills requirements. Often, especially in Italy, I see 1 week long training courses to obtain a Spa Manager diploma and I believe it is outrageous. Or I see unprepared therapist or receptionist being offered management positions for organizational needs. For example, in the hospitality industry, most believe that the Spa or Wellbeing area is an amenity of the hotel. Instead it is a standalone business with completely different procedures and rules. Undoubtedly, we would need more foundations in business strategy, psychology, marketing and other more technical aspects related to human anatomy, massage techniques, hydrotherapy functions, nutrition, sports activity, knowledge of INCI and knowledge of the function of active ingredients etc... I think I could list at least 10 other aspects, which to date are completely neglected.
Q10 - Finally, What’s your favourite quote or the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Be the change you want to see in the world”. Undoubtedly the best quote I can think of and it has become my mantra. If I think of Gandhi, I feel so small, but if I think of the intensity of my actions to underlining how walking the talk and support change can make a difference in the world, I feel like a giant. At first when this quote became my favourite, I couldn’t see where the difficult part was. When I asked myself, but what is it that I want to see in the world? That’s when I started living purposely.
FLASH FACTS - FOR FUN SECTION
1. What’s your favourite book?
My favourite book ever had been Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. It combines fiction with serious philosophy, it kept me confused and stuck to the pages. I loved it! I felt like Sophie very often as it was common for me to ask the big questions. Sophie receives an anonymous letter that says "Who are you?" A whole course in philosophy has started for her through these mysterious letters. A whole new world is opening up for Sophie, a world full of people who look at the world completely differently from how most people do. Socrates, Galileo, Darwin, Freud, Marx, and so on.
2. What’s your favourite ﬁlm of all time?
I always thought my favourite film was The Silence of the Lambs by Jonathan Demme. I believe it has been the best thriller of all times. Again, as my favorite book it left me asking myself many questions and it has been the only film I could have watched over and over again. But, with enormous surprise I have been literally flabbergasted by the latest Aladdin film by Guy Ritchie. I have probably changed over 2 decades, I have seen the film with my child in 3D and I have to say it has been a memorable experience. It evoked all the sweet child memories I had from the Walt Disney cartoon but adding a mature magic to it.
3. If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?
My husband for sure. Dinner and meals in general are experiences to share with the people you love, and you feel most loved by. We always have a great time together; we love to laugh and enjoy the moment. I have never met anyone else in my life who could take his place at dinner. I am so lucky to live such an incredible love story, of course it takes a lot of work to make things work at best, but once they are, bingo!
4. You get taken to your favourite place to be, where are you taken?
To the Maldives. Whenever I travel there, I forget to be a human being living in a modern society and I find myself being so close to nature. I immediately forget the existence of technology and the so called “urgent to do list” that suddenly are no longer urgent. I start taking time to savor life and observe the slowness of nature. Colors, sounds and smell become so vivid that makes me feel alive.
5. Your perfect dinner is?
Raw delicious seasonal vegetables and a few raw scampi.
6. Your go to drink is?
7. Your favourite sweet treat is?
Dark Swiss chocolate with whole almonds
8. What’s your favourite essential oil / scent?
Ylang Ylang, it make me think of Maldives and immediately connects me with my inner self
9. You go for a treatment - what do you have and why?
A full body scrub, preferably with Moroccan black soap and kese glove. Because I am too lazy to do it by myself and I can’t reach some areas of my body (such as my back) in order to have a proper cleanse. In terms of treatment, without choosing from a Spa Menu I would say the full body Thai massage. Although I am very open to suggestions according to the type of Spa I go to, and I have had incredible experiences with other treatments as well. I have to say that I have had the most memorable massage experience with Thai therapists. The massage is deep in the tissues but relaxing at the same time. The best has been a Thai technique massage done in Sri Lanka by a local therapist.
10. What’s your favourite ﬂower?
Roses, especially the red velvet ones. They are a powerful symbol for passion and I feel very in tune with it.
11. You want to sleep deeply, what do you do?
I look for the Honest Guys playlists for sleeping talk downs that don’t last more than 20 minutes. I put my headphones on and let myself guide to deep sleep.
12. You want to energise fast, what do you do?
I fast! When I feel de-energized, the best thing for me to do is to remove the energy taken by my digestive system to process food. I juice fast mainly, and I immediately get a boost of energy and clarity of mind.
13. The theme tune to your life is?
It’s my life by Bon Jovi. Totally and fully represents me. (did I get the question right?)
14. What makes you laugh to your belly?
When my husband imitates me by accentuating the silly things I do.
15. What’s your favourite season?
Summer! I love the smell of peaches, the color of tanned skin and breathing the sea breeze
16. What’s your favourite colour?
Greenwater colour. I find peace and deepness when looking at or wearing this colour.
17. Your favourite time of day is?
Morning between 8 and 10 when I’m at work and sunset when I’m at home. I love enjoying of solo office time to get things done fast and take advantage of mind freshness. At sunset I love the deep orange colors and the the way the sky designs.
18. If you could have been anyone or anything else, what / who would you be?
I have never thought about this as I love being who I am and love being a human being. I don’t have something or someone else I would like to be as I couldn’t be more happy about how my life has developed.
19. What’s your current TV guilty secret?
I use TV to fall asleep and use it as an excuse for hugs with my family. I don’t attentively watch TV, I just love that useless moment to switch my brain off.
20. Magic dust - you can learn one new skill instantly, what is it?
Drawing. My ability to draw is like a 2 year-old and I wish I could express myself through images I can produce.
Director of Wellbeing Borgo Egnazia
Erica inspires and motivates teams to strive for the creation of unforgettable guests wellbeing experiences. With more than ten years of experience in leading luxury spas and wellness destination resorts, Erica has an impressive track record in implementing strategies and leading teams to achieve positive business results in terms of revenue growth, guest retention and guest satisfaction. She combines both a practical knowledge in wellness and treatment protocols with a strong grasp of business processes and strategies, especially in terms of marketing, in which she holds a master’s degree. Erica has been instrumental in repeatedly winning awards for properties she has managed.