William Wesley Myers is one of the most influential leaders in spa & wellness. He talked with Spa Executive about his leadership style and running an award-winning spa.
William Wesley Myers is the Regional Director of Spa & Wellness, North America at the multiple award-winning Langham Hotels and Resorts. He helped conceptualize and build the Chuan Spa brand from the ground up in the US, and currently oversees all Chuan Spas in the region.
Mr. Myers is regarded as one of the most influential leaders in spa and wellness, so we spoke with him about the career path that led him to where he is today, how he maintains such a high standard of service at Chuan, what makes a great guest experience, and how the spa & wellness industry is going to be impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic in the near future.
Can you talk about your career trajectory and how you came to be doing what you are today?
I used to be a professional dancer. I was in Riverdance, I did some movies, television shows, and I was dancing on cruise ships. After about five years at sea, I decided to make a change, move to Las Vegas and get a job dancing in a show. But that turned out to be at the time that traditional Vegas shows were disappearing. I couldn’t find work for the life of me. So, I answered an ad in a newspaper for a men’s locker room attendant at the Golden Nugget Hotel. I had no idea what a men’s locker room attendant was or even what the Golden Nugget was! I thought it was a pancake parlor. I got the job and the rest is history. I went from mopping the locker room floors of the Golden Nugget and rinsing spa sandals, to working at the front desk, to being an assistant to the Director of Spa. That all happened within nine months.
I moved to Chicago and became the Spa Supervisor at The Ritz Carlton Chicago, at that time a Four Seasons flagged hotel. Then I went to New York City and got some experience in opening spas, as well as in PR, and ultimately I wound up back in Chicago and at Langham at the very crucial time of the hotels’ pre-opening.
It was amazing to build this team and curate the concept for Chuan Spas in North America. I led the team to become the first Forbes Five-Star spa in the state of Illinois and in Chicago. Nearly seven years later, I’m still here with them.
What is the secret to maintaining an award-winning standard of service?
I have seven direct reports and I’d say 120 indirect reports made up collectively of all our spa and health club colleagues within the region. I am leading from a very high level strategy standpoint, but I also love jumping in and getting involved in the day-to-day spa operations. It always makes the new colleagues laugh when I’m willing to get in there and train them how to roll a towel or we have towel rolling competitions and I always win.
They say, “But you sit behind a computer!”
And I say, “Yes. But I’ve done your job.”
We’re only as good as the locker room attendant, you know. I use that as I train and build these teams. I’m a people person. That’s what drives me in this industry.
We are also constantly monitoring for quality and consistency. And the respect we show the guest also has to happen internally. We address each other the same way that we would address any guests. We treat each other as internal guests. And I don’t let less than what I expect become acceptable. I train really tough, and I hold people to really high expectations. But I also support them and help them grow.
What qualities do you look for in a team member?
I think the biggest thing to me is passion. I don’t want somebody that just wants a job and to clock in and out as a means to a paycheck. I want them to be passionate about whatever that job is, going above and beyond, making people happy.
I often look for people that have been in theater or performance. Because, at the end of the day, we’re putting on a show. People are paying for an hour massage or a 24-hour hotel stay, and to me, it’s like putting on a show every day. That curtain goes up and here we go. So you really have to be passionate about putting on that show.
And, finally, I look for people who operate with integrity, are team players, and who will inspire others.
What makes Chuan spas unique or special?
The concept and philosophy are based around traditional Chinese medicine. As a business person, I love that because it gives us a USP or key differentiator that sets us apart from any other brand. We offer full TCM services, like acupuncture, moxibustion, gua sha, cupping, and herbal prescription therapies in addition to our signature services that incorporate TCM and best wellness experiences from ancient rituals around the world. I love Chuan and it’s very special to me.
What makes a great guest experience?
It’s an emotional connection, creating emotional, positive experiences that people remember. When you connect from the heart, people remember. It’s doing the right thing before the guest can ask for it, before they even knew that they needed it. I think that’s what really makes a wow guest experience.
What are some of your thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the spa & wellness industry?
The biggest challenge will be the decline in the tourism market, of which wellness is a subset. Our brand is very strong, so we have a lot of guests that stay with Langham because of Chuan Spa. At the moment, as per the mandates of the states in which we operate, we have temporarily closed our Chuan Spa locations but, prior to that, roughly 60% of our business was from our hotel guests. As the travel industry rebounds, we will see lower occupancy in our hotels for a while, and that will impact our spa business when we re-open; but, we are confident that industry rebound is on the horizon.
The wellbeing of our customers and colleagues is always our highest priority. For now, we can only continue to remain vigilant and implement rigorous measures against the spread of coronavirus within our hotel group. We have elevated our cleaning procedures, are taking the temperatures of everyone who enters our hotels, colleagues and guests, and are encouraging any colleagues that are not feeling well to stay home, encouraging those who are able to work remotely to do so, and adjusting our sick leave policy accordingly. As an industry standard, we are already using the highest quality cleaning and sanitation products.
Our therapists are not in a position to employ social distancing so, when our spas are again operational, we will kindly remind people of the precautions we are taking for their safety and wellbeing as well as that of our staff and our therapists.
Part of what we do in spa is to nurture people going through difficult times on a daily basis for whatever it may be. We should find ways to focus on that aspect while trying to keep the business operating, maybe in new ways we haven’t yet considered.
What trends or developments are you excited about in spa & wellness?
I’m looking at the way we are changing our attitudes towards aging, moving away from this way of thinking that after you get to be a certain age, there’s nothing for you anymore. We’re rebranding aging as something cool. It’s giving us a lot of new revenue streams as well as increasing people’s longevity and happiness. I think that’s very exciting right now.
I’m also interested in trends around sleep and true circadian health. I think that’s going to be a huge trend in hospitality, because it will be shaping our spaces, our rooms, and our digital offerings.
What are you excited about at Langham and Chuan?
We’re slowly going through a brand refresh and uplift. Part of that is really opening up our spa retail and reception areas and making them areas where guests can play, test, try and custom blend herbs and different oils to create products that will be used for their treatments. The first property to have this will be the Langham Jakarta, which is scheduled to open in Q3 of 2020.
And we have a very cool property, The Langham Nymphenburg Residence that has just opened, this Q1 of 2020, in Munich. It’s absolutely stunning. I cannot wait to go there.
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