The Story Behind Our Business Leadership Style
There’s a story I haven’t shared outside of private circles. It’s the story of how a handshake promise influenced my business leadership style and the creation of the WebbWell Manifesto. It’s the story of the first time I got fired.
I was in my late 30’s, living in the middle of nowhere on the Utah / Arizona border, and was told by the General Manager where I’d been working as an independent contractor that “[he] wanted to surround himself with team players, and [I] wasn’t one of them.” Somehow he’d climbed the corporate ladder from his last position as Bell Captain at a hotel to General Manage of the world’s most expensive resort hotel. This was his fiefdom, and he wanted to make sure I understood who was head fief.
We’d spent the previous two weeks attempting to reach middle ground on a private outdoor fitness retreat for a high profile guest. The service was above and beyond the scope of my contract as an independent contractor and would require additional compensation. I’d consulted with my closest mentors, clients and friends, each of them seasoned luxury travel advisors, tour operators and travelers. In good faith and yielding to the GM’s pressure, I dropped my asking price by 50% of the market value. I was eager to prove my loyalty and provide the transformative outdoor fitness retreat the guest had requested.
My 50% offer still wasn’t good enough for the GM. He tried to sell the guest on a team of inexperienced service providers rather than allow me to deliver a private outdoor fitness retreat completely customized to the guest’s physical requirements. Needless to say, the guest cancelled his 10-day reservation, resulting in an immediate loss of over $45,000 of projected room revenue to the resort.
The GM needed a scapegoat, someone to blame for the cancellation and financial loss. And I, a young, ambitious woman demanding to be paid market rate when “his” hotel was the star? I was about to become that scapegoat. It was an unfair situation to find myself in. The one and only mistake I made in the negotiation process was being naive to one, critical fact: I believed I was playing as an equal, when clearly the person at the helm saw me as an adversary.
I believed I was playing as an equal, when clearly the person at the helm saw me as an adversary.
That was when my Grandmother Doris Webb, then 94 years old, taught me one of my most valuable lessons in business. Her message was the healing salve to my wounded pride and ambiguous future. She said, “your Grandpa [George Murray Webb] had one rule in business: he was always going to have two legs to stand on, and they were both going to be honest.” In other words, a handshake promise was as good as any written contract.
My Grandpa was at his core a cowboy. He’d become a very successful dairy farmer and later, a Washington County Commissioner in Utah. Affectionately nicknamed “the swearing Bishop” for his colorful commentary at the pulpit, it wasn’t until the last few years of his long life that he was without a beautiful thoroughbred horse. He loved baseball and praised me when I advanced a runner in a Varsity high school softball game by “laying down a bunt just like Old Ty Cobb!”
To think that I was operating in my outdoor fitness business to the high ethical standards of my Grandfather when I got fired! Well, that was something I could, and always will be, proud of.
“your Grandpa [George Murray Webb] had one rule in business: he was always going to have two legs to stand on, and they were both going to be honest.”– Doris Webb
If my Grandpa Webb made a handshake promise, that promise was worth solid gold. I was thrilled when Intermountain Health St. George Regional Medical Center released this highlight reel showcasing my grandfather and his legacy in bringing the hospital to southern Utah.
Getting fired for affirming my worth in the market was one of the first–but certainly not the last–of several hard lessons learned during my career. Creating a manifesto for WebbWell was an important step for me. I want everyone–clients and business partners alike–to know what makes WebbWell tick and what they can expect from working with us.
WebbWell has a legacy to live up to as a brand because it bears the name of my ancestors who were known for their compassion, hard work, and integrity in keeping a handshake promise. Beneath the surface of the WebbWell Manifesto are hard-won lessons learned doing business while exploring outdoor fitness, creating a wellness app and fitness course. It’s my handshake promise to clients and business partners alike as I enter this exciting new chapter.
About Melanie Webb and WebbWell
Named “The person to call” by DEPARTURES Magazine, “a leader in the adventure travel industry” by Norie Quintos of National Geographic Traveler, and “one of the top trainers in the industry” by The Sports Club/LA (now Equinox), Melanie Webb is the founder and creator of WebbWell and the WebbWell wellness app. A sought-after industry and corporate retreat facilitator and speaker, her fitness course Mother Nature’s Gym Outdoor Fitness Guide is approved for 1.6 CEC’s from American Council on Exercise.