Head for the headland – an executive retreat

by 03 Dec 2009

HR expert Dr Roger Collins has recently developed his South Coast hideaway into a unique escape for an executive retreat. HR Leader explores the luxurious property set high upon the coastline of Seven Mile Beach.

To place a small executive team in the meet ing room of an office to undertake a “strate gy session” could almost create a paradox. Just how can new ideas float, creative solutions be broached and innovative strategies explored if team members are forced to endure the trap pings of office life?

There are other options. And as HR Leader recently discovered, such alternatives can also feel as much like a relaxing weekend away as they do a worthwhile and productive executive retreat. We found such a scenario at Bullaburra – the redeveloped property of HR expert Roger Collins and his wife, Mary, on the South Coast of NSW.

The property is approximately two hours from Sydney, and as you cross two paddocks and drive slowly around happily ruminating cows, you get the genuine impression that this boutique conference centre is worlds away from the stress of the office. Despite being in the heart of Gerroa, which looks out across one of the South Coast’s most popular and beautiful coastal areas – Seven Mile Beach – the prime headland position affords a sense of complete privacy and isolation. In fact, the house is posi tioned on such a large piece of land that there is not a single other house in sight.

But it’s not just the sense of isolation that adds to the experience. The property boasts the unique offer of carrying a “faculty”, meaning that executive groups – should they wish to – can also harness the expertise of leadership and strategy experts Geoff Eagleson and Robin Stonecash, as well as Roger, to complement their retreat.

With accommodation for only eight people, the smaller group size also allows for all-in par ticipation during strategy sessions.

The house is familiar and comfortable: more like a well-appointed family home than an anonymous conference centre. As you walk in the door and are greeted by Mary and Roger, you feel instantly relaxed and at home. Even within a couple of hours of experiencing the sweeping and uninterrupted coastal views on one side – and country views on the other – the creative juices are quickly flowing, leading to the generation of ideas and solutions that may never have ever been considered within the confines of a regular office room.

The house features a number of informal breakout areas, including a sunken lounge lead ing on to a deck, a light-drenched recreation room with pool table, kitchenette and cosy lounges overlooking a lap pool and lush, mani cured gardens. A large deck leads off the upper living area, and smaller courtyards are dotted around the perimeter.

The bedrooms are comfortably appointed, with separate ensuite bathrooms featuring luxu rious massage showers – perfect for easing away the tensions of the day.

A shared meal at the end of the day can be just as important in creating the bonds of lead ership as spreadsheets, flowcharts and person ality profiles.

With a considered focus on local Shoalhaven produce, the home-cooked fare is served infor mally around a farmhouse table. As steaming bowls of vegies, crisp salads and warm local breads were passed hand to hand across the table, and while Mary chatted happily from the kitchen, the conversation drifted casually from the theory of strategic leadership to cooking hol idays in the south of France. The meal’s presen tation and taste is exquisite, just as in a fine-din ing restaurant, but if a restaurant is more to a group’s liking then Mary can explain the plentiful options available locally.

While some teams might find it difficult to label the opportunity of a strategy session at such a beautiful setting as “work”, the Gerroa area presents plenty of active options for visitors to clear their heads, away from the strategy talk. The beach, golf and excursions to historic Berry are all on offer – and for those looking to really bond with their colleagues outside of the office, there is always the option of daily surf lessons with the local school.

You never know, maybe it will be atop a surfboard, on the golf course, or even just peer ing aimlessly out to sea that your best ideas yet emerge.