Founder and CEO Marsha Ralls launched The Phoenix Retreat in 2018. Her goal was to create a space for personal inspiration, growth, and life transformation.
She is a leader in the hospitality, wellness, and fine arts spaces, a certified yoga instructor, and a mindfulness coach. Drawing together her knowledge of fitness, nature, and art, Marsha designed a place for people to reconnect with their bodies, hearts, consciousness, and the natural beauty of the world around them.
From an early age, Marsha understood the power of community. Bringing like-minded people together has been a driving force behind every role she has taken on, from fitness instructor to single mother, global art dealer, entrepreneur, and beyond. Marsha lives by the credo we are stronger together and create more impact when our purpose and vision align.
Marsha’s string of successes includes serving as the President and CEO of Closed Monday Productions LLC, a company dedicated to advocating for the arts and consulting with entrepreneurs from across the world. She founded the internationally recognized global art advisory group, The Ralls Collection, Inc.
She has curated over 449 exhibitions with prominent artists, including her mentor, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, Annie Leibovitz and showcased the work of five National Geographic photographers in the visual exploration “Cultures on the Edge.” This chronicle of traditional cultures was also shown at the United Nations.
Marsha has been recognized by multiple organizations for her commitment to entrepreneurship and community service. She was honored as National Woman of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2001, Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and Enterprising Woman of the Year in 2019 by Enterprising Women.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Marsha Ralls: I’m Marsha Ralls, founder, and CEO of The Phoenix Retreat. I am a leader in the hospitality, wellness, and fine arts spaces, a certified yoga instructor, and a mindfulness coach. My passion is to elevate humanity and provide our guests the opportunity to slow down and pursue their dream of good health and well-being.
My mission is to curate and tailor experiences for our clients that enable them to deeply connect with themselves, step into a new chapter of their life’s journey, and tell a new story. I am a curator of change and at The Phoenix, everyone experiences possibilities for a better life and a better world.
Like so many people, I suffered a significant loss that shook me to my core, and I had the choice of turning away or starting over and transforming my life. The misfortunes I experienced served as the necessary catalyst for a powerful rebirth.
I named my business after the phoenix, a mythological creature that voluntarily lights itself on fire so that it may be reborn as a greater expression of itself.
The archetypical energy of the phoenix teaches us that we are capable of great transformation if we step into the fire of our own souls, burning away that which no longer serves us, to recreate ourselves in the light of our highest manifestation.
2021 and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned?
Marsha Ralls: Starting a new business during the pandemic would have been difficult for any company, but a health and wellness resort that requires guests to travel and sleep away from their homes was especially challenging – to put it kindly. Despite the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, The Phoenix Asheville opened in 2021.
I found that people were desperate for a place where they could restore balance to their lives and focus on what’s important. The pandemic underlined that mental and physical health can’t be taken for granted.
I made it absolutely clear to our guests that their health and safety are our top priorities, and that COVID prevention protocols were in place from Day One. By implementing stringent prevention actions, The Phoenix beat the odds for new businesses opening during the pandemic and is continuing to thrive.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2023? What advice would you share?
Marsha Ralls: Leaders must constantly adapt to change and unpredictability. The ability to adjust to changes and new circumstances is crucial for organizational success. An adaptable leader recognizes that rather than seeing change as a setback, it is an opportunity to become prepared. There isn’t a single strategy that works in all situations. Look for chances to push yourself past your comfort zone. Be flexible. Be adaptable.
As worldwide population demographics change, it’s also important to understand the priorities of different cultures. Joining volunteer groups that facilitate cross-cultural interaction is one opportunity to expand your understanding.
Try to get to know your team members and where they are in their lives. Prioritize their health and well-being. As a business that promotes health and wellness, it is critical that I consider my staff’s health before we cater to our guests. Our staff must be in the best physical, mental, and emotional shape to give our customers the best experience possible.
Find significant connections with your staff, go deeper, listen, and make them feel safe and comfortable. Give them the confidence they need to open up to you. Understanding your employees is advantageous to everyone because it improves your leadership abilities and allows you to develop trusted relationships with your staff.
Demonstrating that you care for and appreciate them inspires them to work to the highest of their abilities.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Marsha Ralls: The wellness industry is more vital today than ever before. Data gathered by the National Parks Services and the Outdoor Activities Association shows that participation in healthy, outdoor activities has increased significantly since 2020.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are minutes away from the retreat center and the beauty and peacefulness of the retreat are a balm for the soul in challenging times.
I plan to open other wellness centers across the country in locations with spiritual vortexes that promote healing, such as those in Asheville, North Carolina. With a strong support system, a purpose-driven mindset, and sustainability at my core, I am a curator of change and I intend to continue leading the wellness space in the years to come.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2023?
Marsha Ralls: The pandemic drove home the significance of being resilient. This is not advice I wished to have received but more of a constant reminder that when faced with difficulties, we must get back to basics and reconnect with ourselves. Recognize the power of your vulnerability and create new possibilities.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2023?
Marsha Ralls: 2023 will be better than the year before. We will apply the lessons we’ve learned from the past year to improve the things we’ve been doing well and adjust those that need revision.
We’ll look for opportunities to transform and improve our working practices in a way that advances both the goals of my team and our organization. While we strive to be current with online trends, we also recognize that nothing can truly replace face-to-face interactions and engagements.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Marsha Ralls: Three to four hours. I make it a point to avoid spending a lot of time in front of a screen because I value being truly present in the world. When in front of a computer or phone, I only take care of what needs to be done.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Marsha Ralls: As the founder and CEO of The Phoenix, I understand that to properly engage my team members in meaningful discourse and effective communication, I must establish an environment in which they feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas, feedback, and concerns.
I encourage my team members to support the improvement of the programs and procedures we implement at The Phoenix by fostering a culture of open communication. After all, who knows more than the staff on the ground, working every day to make the Phoenix experience the best it can be?
I know that effective leadership and effective communication go hand in hand. The most effective leaders can relate to others’ aspirations and passions while communicating their ideas.
They possess a special ability to carefully hear what others are saying, which makes them good observers and enables them to read an individual or group by examining their attitudes, behavior, activities, ideals, and worries. They are able to adjust their message according to the circumstances.
An example of how we implement effective communication at The Phoenix is by sharing feedback, updates, suggestions, and even personal stories are all welcome in the workplace.
We recently did a B-Corp assessment and I shared with the team how important the guidelines are and how they are aligned with the company’s mission and vision.
I also give my team members an opportunity to get to know me by sharing my personal story of failures and setbacks and how much I have learned from them; my consistent message to my staff is, “Stay true to yourself and don’t allow your mistakes to define you – all of us can rise from the ashes like a phoenix.”.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Marsha Ralls: Business is never predictable, no matter how well you prepare. You’ll face obstacles and challenges each day that you must overcome. Being a business owner entails dealing with uncertainties every day, but if you have the right attitude and the qualities of a good leader, you can stay focused even when presented with the most challenging problems.
Hiring new employees is one of the most difficult challenges I am facing right now. Finding the right people to work for The Phoenix and making sure they are aligned with the company’s values can be hard.
So, if you know talented people looking for a new opportunity, please send them my way. We are building a team made up of individuals who can understand our clients’ needs and meet them in a way that will be transformational whilst also being respectful of the team’s health and well-being.
In 2023, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Marsha Ralls: As a leader in the wellness space, I always keep an open mind to emerging trends and have an eye on the health industry’s future. Right now, I’m interested in learning more about biohacking.
Biohacking is using science and personal experimentation to “hack” your body’s chemistry and physiology to boost your energy and vitality. It is meant to help individuals make lasting, positive changes to their bodies.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Marsha Ralls: It is more important than ever that leaders respect the health and wellness of their employees. There was a time when most employees worked during business hours of 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, five days a week.
Work never stops now that email, meetings, shared documents, and so much more are always available on phones and other portable devices. Today’s leaders must consider every aspect of their workforce.
All of us need time to refocus, reenergize, and recommit to ourselves and our health to perform at our best. I would never expect my team to meet our clients’ wellness needs without also taking their own into consideration.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Marsha Ralls: I wish I could be in several places at once. As a curator of change, I have a lot of things to do and places to be, but if I had this business superpower, I could make an even greater difference in myself, my team, and clients—but more importantly, in the entire world.
What does “success” in 2023 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Marsha Ralls: Some people see success as the culmination of their journey, but as a curator of change, I view success as a continuous process that involves pushing forward and conquering new heights to support others on their path to well-being.
I see myself as an advocate for those who are beautifully broken and ready to rise. I’ll continue to encourage people to take time off and be able to rest, re-align and deeply connect with themselves so they may step into a new chapter and be ready to invent what comes next.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Marsha Ralls for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Marsha Ralls or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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