Where does CEO Kasha Shillington get her inspiration?

Kasha Shillington illustration

Kasha Shillington, the Australian chief executive of the Geneva-based multimillion-pound firm Resense Spas, muses on learning to think differently, flinging herself from Alpine peaks, and how living in India taught her a vital corporate lesson

The spa industry is quite cut-throat and competitive and that surprises me. Coming from other industries, which were big money – I was a director on property development, energy and tourism boards – we were dealing with billions, but everyone was very cordial and had respect. I was astonished at the [spa] industry, the way people presented one face. I’m a very honest person and that surprised me.

Living in India for three years had a profound effect on me. It taught me one vital corporate lesson: go with the flow. There’s often a natural cause for things. Now, I think more than I do. When something happens, I think, ‘I could flog that to death or sit back and wait for something to emerge organically.’ 

In the developed world, we think we have problems. We don’t. I was working in rural villages helping build schools then coming back to Australia hearing neighbours have rip-roaring arguments about recycling bins. It teaches perspective.

My father gave me the greatest gift of all. He never taught me what to think, but how to think. Always stand in the other’s shoes.

Our world today isn’t as customer-focused as it could be. In the past, you could complain and somebody would do something about it. Now, they throw a 10-page survey at you and ask you to write a letter… Love the customer who complains, not the one who walks away and says nothing.

At Resense, we use group meditation to create new spa concepts. After a presentation by our global projects director, our whole team does a short meditation. We then have a creative brainstorming. It’s amazing what ideas emerge after clearing your brain.

We also head to the Jura mountains. Something about that altitude takes you to a higher level. It’s wonderful for helicopter thinking.

We use ‘inspiration cards’. Staff pick them up every day. They’re so popular, we use them as corporate gifts. My favourite is a quote from Scott Peck [US psychiatrist and author of The Road Less Travelled]: “Life is difficult… Once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult.”

Living in Geneva is great for outdoor pursuits. Within a few hours’ drive, there are 50–60 ski resorts. In the summer, we go zip-lining and parapenting – sitting in a paraglider and jumping off a mountain.

The comedy Life is Beautiful is my most inspiring movie. It has such a dark background [set in a Nazi concentration camp] but halfway through you catch yourself laughing.

Facebook has become like cable TV. Remember when you only had four commercial channels but you could pick the best? Then, the minute we got 500 channels you couldn’t find anything to watch? It’s the same with Facebook. What was a fun site to keep track of friends has become a platform for people to say horrible things. I prefer Instagram.

I’m married to a chef with Michelin-star training. That’s every bit as fantastic as it sounds….

In my kitchen there’s a painting on the wall of an Indian sadhu [Hindu holy man]. He’s got this wonderful content look on his face – I think he’s possibly stoned – but it’s a constant reminder to not get stressed. Any problem you might have isn’t one really. 


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About author

Christian Koch

Christian Koch

Alongside his work for Director, Christian has written features for the Evening Standard, The Guardian, Sunday Times Style, The Independent, Q, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, ShortList and Glamour in an eclectic career which has seen him interview everybody from Mariah Carey to Michael Douglas through to Richard Branson with newspaper assignments including reporting on the Japanese tsunami and living with an Italian cult.

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