Monday, October 24, 2005

The Executive Life at the Greenbrier by Tamar Alexia Fleishman

If you are an executive or captain of industry, philanthropist or other high-profile person, you have either been to the Greenbrier or dreamed of going to the Greenbrier. White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia's posh resort has hosted everyone from CEO's to Presidents to kings. Today's busy leader often has to combine R & R with real work. So, what does the Greenbrier offer for the harried exec? As it turns out, plenty.

_Spa_ - For over 200 years, people have been flocking to White Sulphur Springs for the healing waters. These days, the Greenbrier runs a plush spa on site. Even before the exec's arrival, when appointments are being made, they will get information on your lifestyle, to set up a program for you. Many executives combine their annual insurance medical exam at the on-site clinic with their spa visits. The Greenbrier knows that most of your prominent business people are familiar with spas and make a morning workout or run a top priority. But, there's more to executive relaxation than simply heading to a gym. The spa creates a special "breathe oil" to bring on the plane -- it enters the blood stream through the olfactory system and helps you to relax. Director of Spa Services Marie Baumuller has also created a clever deck of business cards with relaxation mantras on the back. That way, when you are at that boring meeting, you can thumb through them and still retain your professionalism!

The Greenbrier recommends for most executives a special muscle gel to use on your hands, to help with the aches associated with mouse-clicking. Other important treatments for the CEO are the mineral sulphur baths, which are naturally 84 - 86 degrees, but can be adjusted if you have circulatory problems.

Lots of companies flock to the Greenbrier for some R & R. Many companies have the spa create special aromatherapy diffusers to use in their meetings. The spa can organize private classes, such as yoga classes or hikes on the newly created Meditation Trail for groups of 12 to 550 employees. Corporations such as West Virginia Coal and PriceWaterhouse enjoy the Greenbrier's spa.

_Team Building in the Kitchen_ - A favorite corporate retreat activity at the Greenbrier is their Culinary team building program. They have a new director, Maria Battaglia, who spent many years as an executive at Kraft Foods. When people from work get involved in outside of their work environment for a special project, it fosters stronger relationships. The culinary school at the Greenbrier was located in the famed underground bunker, but that's under repair. In the meantime, colleagues create goodies at the "Howard's Creek" facility, a gorgeous lodge that has a Medieval feel. Different programs include making fresh pasta together, chili, the ins and outs of entertaining, barbecue and even custom team building. When people are cooking together, it levels the playing field of the coworkers in a casual, non-athletic way. That way, people of all ages and physical conditions can really develop during the retreat.

_Golf_ - If you ask a little kid to draw executives in their free time, that kid will probably sketch people playing golf. It may be cliché, but it's true. At the Greenbrier, their "Business Class" golf school is run by Golf Digest Schools. Whether your company is looking to reward its employees or customers, the world-renowned courses at the Greenbrier fit the bill.

Andrew Dawes, Director of Instruction can deal with the gamut when it comes to lessons. He can work with you whether you are a Type A personality that wants to challenge him, or you are the person who tugs his sleeve and begs, "Please teach me how to hold a club so I don't completely humiliate myself!!" While they used to administer a personality test to find out exactly how you learn, Andrew can size you up pretty well without the paperwork. After talking to you, he will know if you are an auditory or physical learner, for example. He says that in the IT world, the player will want to build up to the climax of a lesson with plenty of details, and does not like to be touched. A more standard CEO wants to come to the point of the lesson immediately.

The Greenbrier has individual lessons and packages that last for 3 days. If you take a 3 days package, Andrew says he can get you from absolute beginner to where you can go out on the course with your colleagues and have an equally good time. Many execs will do just that, right before their company arrives for a retreat.

By the way, with all the teaching tools and equipment out there, it's hard to know what to buy. Andrew says that if you are using your dad's clubs, you are missing out on the newest technology. He says it's especially important for women to use the latest equipment, because golf heads are now adjusted to give them more loft and they are lighter, too.

_Greenbrier Outfitters_ - While people know the Greenbrier for its luxurious amenities, they are still surprised to see the level of corporate expertise exhibited by owner Duane Zobrist. He has an MPA and is completing his Ph.D. in Work Theory. If you are coming with your company, the Outfitters will do an initial needs assessment to custom-create physical team building opportunities. They can do a one time event or even an ongoing service that involves them coming to your office to help with skills progress. Duane can create activities that run the gamut of a scavenger hunt (for the less physically inclined) to rock climbing, to crossing a river. The events can go from 2 to 8 hours, with groups of 8 to 200 participants.

When he says your company needs help, you'd better believe him! He's worked with the biggest corporations in the world, doing an average of 200 programs a year. He knows if you are only paying lip-service to build esprit de corps. He can spot the bullies or the passive-aggressive folks in your group and give you sound advice to fix things.

_Business Center_ - It's so hard to get away from work, isn't it? At the business center, you can get any kind of supplies you may have left behind, rent cell phones, laptops, pagers and even a secretary. They'll even help you re-create that visual aid that got busted on the plane!

For more information about the Greenbrier, please check out Many thanks to Lynn Swann, the Greenbrier's fabulous Director of Public Relations!