In the world of business the path is hardly ever clear, however, in most industries there are decades of academic research, more data than a single person could ever read in a hundred lifetimes and lines of professionals stretching for miles. All ready to help shore up the directions businesses are headed in.
The story is very different for younger industries such as holistic centers. The path, just like for most businesses, isn’t clear or certain. It’s much harder to find research, data and industry best practices to learn from and benchmark the organization to. It takes ingenuity to mould other industry practices to an industry that doesn’t quite fit the norm. It’s often long hours, team brainstorms, and simply putting faith in doing something that hasn’t been done before.
Often, in this type of environment, it can feel like your center and your team are in it alone, forging the way all by its lonesome self. It’s this feeling that pushes leaders to reach out to consultants who can lend advice for different key functions of the organization. Here at Menla, a spiritual and wellness retreat center two hours from New York City, the list goes on and on: there are financial consultants, human resource consultants, spa consultants, hospitality consultants, and, the flavor of the last few years, social media and marketing consultants to name just a few.
Consultants can offer valuable advice and provide insights with a broader perspective as they’re not bogged down in the day to day operations. Sadly, there’s still some disconnect because most of these consultants haven’t run or worked in a holistic center; each one comes from a different industry most of the time, and perhaps, if lucky, industries that are somewhat similar but not exact.
Most advice, while valuable, lacks at its core because it’s based on some other industry metric that doesn’t perfectly apply to holistic centers. It lacks what could be called “skin in the game”, relevancy which comes from years of being down in the trenches, deep in the nitty gritty details of all it takes to run a holistic center. It left me wondering for years: wouldn’t it be great if there were more consultants out there that came directly from holistic centers?
Fortunately, my holistic center prayers were answered this year when I found myself at the wonderfully beautiful Holistic Centers Gathering hosted this year by the Omega Institute. From day one, the energy in the air was non-competitive; caring, inquisitive and innovative. Right away, open dialogue and exchange of relevant information and consultancy-like advice began to flow. As the week unfolded, the collaboration and sharing only deepened past normal levels of what one would be willing to share in the ‘real world’. It touched hearts just as deeply as it stimulated minds and clicked the creative gears of organizational change into motion.
To be able to tap directly into relevant leaders for advice, and, it’s reverse of being able to share triumphs and success, as well as stumblings and failures, is invaluable. It’s liberating in a way, empowering and motivational all at the same time. This isn’t just advice, everything shared is heartfelt and, more importantly, also something that is actually in practice in the center giving the advice. This creates relevance and credibility for organizations to embrace the insights shared.
As the week flowed by and the spring air warmed up, I was left with a heart feeling deeply open and a wildly excited mind ready to put some of the valuable learnings into place at Menla. The center features a conference center, yoga studio, meditation sanctuary, and the beautiful new Tibetan Dewa Spa & Healing Center specializing in rare and ancient Tibetan therapies. Tibet House US sponsors many group retreats at Menla with Robert AF Thurman, Sharon Salzberg, Mark Epstein M.D. and other wonderful teachers.
After reflecting on the week, I couldn’t help but think: the Holistic Centers Gathering is even more valuable than all the advice from consultants and industry experts our organization takes on every year. And that’s not to say there isn’t value in that, it just doesn’t quite strike to the core of the issues as the Gathering did. To say the least, I can’t wait to go back next year and save our organization some significant money on consultancy fees. I highly recommend the Gathering as a wise investment into the future of your center.
Nathaniel T. Hughes
Menla Resort & Spa