• November 25, 2011

    A reader poses the question:

    “Heartful boutique” hotels. Is this the kind of new vision Esalen needs?

    Joie de Vivre HospitalityThe reader references an email from Esalen CEO Tricia McEntee to the Esalen community, about on the aspirations of Chip Conley and Vanda Marlow to transform Esalen’s business and culture, and perhaps also Conley’s reputation as (to quote another reader’s assessment) a “new age Donald Trump” who describes his business as “heartful boutique hotel groups” (pictured here). Conley and Marlow now hold key managerial positions at Esalen, and Conley has also joined the Board of Trustees.

    As an experiment, Esaleaks are opening anonymous web comments (see yellow link above) with the reader’s question in mind.

    Chip & Vanda (Conley and Marlow) and Esalen offer this PR blurb:

    Chip is the Founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, one of the nation’s most successful and heartful boutique hotel groups. For four years now he has offered to our seminarians a life-changing workshop based on his best-selling book “PEAK: How Great Companies get their Mojo from Maslow”. Chip is a long-time Esalen devotee and is making a gift of his time and expertise to support us in our mission. Many of you will know Chip, and will also be familiar with his colleague, Vanda Marlow an experienced Leadership Coach who has each been coming to Esalen for two decades and co-leads with Chip. We’re thrilled to have found help from people who really understand the uniqueness of Esalen’s culture and can share with us the breadth and depth of their business knowledge in our own context.

    The original missive from CEO McEntee is reproduced below:

    Dear Esalen Community,

    Our journey began in April when we launched the Esalen Service Culture Initiative, asking the Question – How do we consciously create our service culture together, in a cohesive and collaborative way, taking pride in what we offer to the thousands of lives we touch & change every year?

    We have made much progress as we continue our journey together delivering Esalen’s Mission to the World, committed to the health of our Community, growing our relationships, improving collaborations, and enhancing our leadership capabilities.

    Chip and Vanda have been supporting and guiding us on our path starting with the EET (Experiencing Esalen Team) and the Leadership Culture Survey and leading towards bridging the gap with particular focus on relating, fostering team play and building trust and relationships at all levels of the organization.

    Now Chip and Vanda will join the whole community as we learn more about Peak leadership, Abraham Maslow, and creating a “healthy pond” which symbolizes the vibrant culture we are co-creating. I am excited and honored to welcome Chip & Vanda to Esalen on Monday August 22nd for two inspirational sessions with our Community.

    Chip is also generously offering his time for questions and discussions over dinner. We will have a table reserved in the lodge at 6:00 pm Monday night. And this precious time spent together will be best served if you have already attended a session earlier in the day.

    Managers, supervisors and staff please support each other in enabling maximum attendance. Please confirm with your manager which meeting will work best for you and plan to attend during that time. The session during the day (not the dinner) is a required meeting for all fulltime, regular part-time and ES staff. Please log your attendance in your timesheets as these are paid hours.

    Please join me in welcoming Chip & Vanda into our Community.

    In Gratitude for your support,


4 Responses to Heartful boutique?

  • Anonymous says:

    Without attacking Chip or assuming his motives it’s reasonable to be aware that Esalen could be the crown jewel of his hotel group. Caution and concern are merited. The bigger issue that is raised is the vision, wisdom and desires of a board that would invite him to become a member. Taking business advice from him is one thing but inviting him to actually join the board sends a message on the priorities and vision–or lack of–of that board. More disturbing is if this actually does indicate the board’s direction. Heartful boutique hotels may be nice but do not represent the highest aspirations of human potential.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am curious, to anyone who has been at staff meetings with chip and vanda – what they are actually saying their vision is – how open are they to the long term staff?

  • Anonymous says:

    Yup, Esalen as crown jewel in the Joie de Vivre empire is a paranoid and sickening thought. Turning our “down at heels” (i.e., falling down around our ears) little Institute into a heartfelt boutique hotel with proper permitting, however, would take the powers of a deity and not merely a Donald Trump. Given that the incompetent and untrustworthy current management team at Esalen was going to sic some hotel chain influence on us anyway, JDV is not the worst. They have a local property, and, having been a “guest” of several of their properties, I will say this: JDV employees (down to the lowliest bell hops) approach their jobs with the type of enthusiasm that is elicited with fair pay, perky benefits, lack of micro-management, and being treated with human respect. Let’s give a Chip a fair shot. And by that I mean: let’s demand that Esalen employees be treated as well as JDV employees. Esalen will never be the crown jewel in JDV’s portfolio. Being on the Esalen Board is the crown jewel in Chip’s achievements. There is simply no comparison between a hotel chain, no matter how “heartful,” and an educational institution and ongoing experiment in community living with the world changing, culture shifting, mind blowing INFLUENCE of Esalen Institute. Allow Chip to live up to the crown the monkeys have bestowed.

  • Anonymous says:

    your assertion ‘Conley and Marlow now hold key managerial positions at Esalen’, is false. Please understand that I was engaged by your CEO on a consulting contract in May 2011 to do an assessment of the Esalen Culture and some leadership development work. Our last workshop in that series was August 2011, and I have not been involved since then. I did this work at 50% of my usual fee because of my deep love and appreciation for Esalen, and all that it brings to the planet.Chip did not charge for his time at all, because of the special place that Esalen holds in his heart. Neither of us have, or have had any managerial position at Esalen. I wish you all the best of luck with your continuing evolution.