Getting personal with Turning Stone’s Shane Bird

We’re talking, in an ongoing series, to leaders in the spa world about their careers, the paths they took to get where they are, and about their joys, challenges, and insights into what’s working in the spa world.

Shane Bird comes from a family of police officers, and was ready to pursue a career in law enforcement, until his dad talked him out of it. So, he did the logical thing and became a massage therapist. Now he’s the Spa Director at Turning Stone Resort & Casino, an award-winning destination resort owned by the Oneida Nation.

Bird talked to us about getting back to basics and focusing on the mind.

By what path did you become a spa director?

I became a massage therapist in 1996 and had my own practice working with college and NBA athletes. At the same time the massage school hired me on as the assistant director of career services to help other new therapists start their careers. I had asked spa directors if they wanted to come and recruit at the college and Diane Trieste and Jenny Helling came to recruit for the new Canyon Ranch SpaClub in Vegas. After having dinner one evening it was decided that I would join their team and within a couple of years with Canyon Ranch I was a spa director!

What do you like most about your position at Turning Stone?

The spa professionals that I am blessed to work with. Turning Stone also aligns with my own values in that they are always striving to perfect their offerings. I really enjoy it.

What is your biggest challenge as a spa director?

Consistency. To be the best you have to “hit it” every time on every level. When you have 100 different individuals working towards that from different angles, consistency can be the biggest challenge.

What is your greatest joy?

Happy guests! Happy staff! When you have a first time guest who is transcended because of their time in the spa it is gratifying. When you have a staff member that feels secure, respected, and valued that is just as gratifying!

Who do you most admire in the industry?

Wow…there are so many. My original mentor is Diane Trieste and she has stuck with me for years. I love that woman. I also admire people like Noel Asmar, Jeremy McCarthy, Blake Feeney, Lisa Michaelis. They remain the same amazing people that I have known for years even as they attain celebrity status.

What would you like to see more of or more focus on in the spa world?

As an industry we have always claimed to be focused on “mind, body, spirit” but I don’t feel we have done justice to the area of “mind”. There are so many who suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses and I feel spa only soothes some of those issues. I would love to be able to bring therapeutic elements that address the source of some of these “mind” ailments. I am not sure how it would look or if it could truly go mainstream throughout the industry but I would love to be a part of that effort.

Are you excited about any recent or developing industry trends or technological advances?

I am excited when I see spas get back to the basics and do it well. Trends and technology will always be a discussion in our world but nothing thrills me more than to encounter a spa that knows its brand, sticks to the basics, and knocks it out of the park!

If you could give just one key piece of advice to any aspiring spa directors, what would it be?

Do it all! Grab every opportunity that is presented and then stick to it long enough to leave your mark before you move on.

Do you have any amazing or great stories to share about your experiences as a spa director?

I really am amazed at the time I had at Canyon Ranch in Vegas helping design, build, and run a 134,000 square foot spa with 730 staff members. It was herculean and the team I worked with is second to none. It was an amazing time and the education I received through that process I could not have purchased at any college.


More: Getting Personal with Bacara’s Magdaleena Nikolov

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