An Interview with Simon Shaw
Andrew Murray catches up with Simon Shaw in Morpheus’ recently completed club lounge at Six Senses Residences Courchevel.
So Simon, important questions first, as one of the tallest English rugby players how is your skiing going?
As you have already seen from our brief encounter on the slopes, whilst not being as technically proficient as most, I am very adept and avoiding trouble and not falling over. I’m sure this will come as a great relief to all the other skiers here this week!
Since finishing your playing career for Toulon in 2013 where has your focus been?
I have been very lucky to have had a great number of exciting and interesting opportunities to get involved in. Some of those opportunities I have created myself and others have come about by chance meetings and networking. I think I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a philanthropic wish to help others so I am always interested in meeting and speaking to likeminded people and sharing ideas. To that end I am a founding partner in an Events and Hospitality business, an investor, creator of a Charity based website called InMyLocker.com, a part-time property developer, a consultant for a Data Analytics Company and a Brand Ambassador for a number of other companies. Oh, and during the past 3 years, my main role was to assist with the European expansion plans for a Hotel and Spa chain and occasionally give myself a physical challenge by way of a wacky charity endurance event.
Clearly the real estate industry is a prominent interest for you – what attracts you to this sector?
I have always been more of a creative person rather than necessarily academic. Had rugby not been such a huge part of my life, I would have almost certainly used design as a career pathway. As a youngster growing up in Kenya, I had a fascination for European architecture. My Grandparents, who were from the U.K, came to visit us for a holiday and happened to bring over an edition of Country Life magazine with them in their luggage. Whilst thumbing through this particular edition, I immediately became transfixed by the amazing properties that featured in it and wanted to see more and more of them. Coincidentally my Grandparents were also guardians of a grand Lincolnshire estate and after visiting them this only served to fuel my interest more. From that moment on I had always dreamed of buying/building or renovating similarly beautiful buildings.
There’s clearly a lot of synergy between hospitality and real-estate – we are sitting in a living example of it – what for you are the key ingredients, and the differences between success and failure?
I believe the key design ingredient within hospitality or real estate spaces, and this is probably true across most demographic groups, is simplicity. Regarding the use of technology; smart, straightforward technology, and regarding the space itself; planning of spaces, ease of circulation, simple, easy-to-understand design. Over-the-top and extravagant spaces are largely out of sync with consumer values. Understated elegance is the aesthetic expression that I believe most consumers are seeking. Ultimately design elements within hospitality and real estate spaces should change something in you emotionally and clearly I mean that in a positive way. At the moment, I think any design must consider the need to take the consumer away from the stresses and strains of the outside world, the ever decreasing availability and affordability of space and promote well-being, relaxation, serenity through clever, practical use of space with an emphasis of multipurpose furniture.
From our previous conversations around our P.O.D initiative; yacht design mentality in a residential setting, I know that exceptional design is as important to you as well-considered functionality. Given that you travel a lot, what would be the attraction to you of compact-living?
I guess this could be seen as an ideal space that is giving equal consideration to both sides of the modern lifestyle and addressing how a limited space can accommodate the design consideration of two extreme needs. As you rightly point out, I travel a lot. Whenever I land I want to know I will arrive at a place that has an equal measure of comfort and relaxation for when I no longer want to face the world, but also provides practical, business class facilities to accomplish everything I need to in the short space of time that I have. A compact home away from home with high end adaptability and technology. I hear so often these days of top executives working a 3 day week, or jetting in from the other side of the planet for a couple of days work and often these top executives will chose 5 star accommodation. Hotels, even if they are business hotels, lack the facilities and technology to provide a truly remote or secondary office space. People might often look to a temporary office provider, which means that they have to move between one space and the other, meaning a lot of their precious time is wasted. Add gym facilities, board rooms, a restaurant and communal networking/members lounge and work associates and colleagues will be coming to you for meetings, giving you an extra half hour in the gym, which most of us could do with, quite frankly.
We’ve discussed before the challenges facing sportsmen coming into ‘civvy street’ and I know this is something close to your heart. What do you feel are the opportunities that are being missed and how are these best overcome?
That’s correct. Essentially sportsmen are incredibly competitive, goal driven creatures who make huge sacrifices to make it to the top. Add to that their ability to work in a team environment and their leadership capabilities and you potentially have a huge asset that could fit into any organisation. Sure, any person transitioning from one work realm to another needs guidance and education, that’s a given, but what is certain is that given the right tools, athletes will give it their all, persevere and ultimately get to where they want to. What they might lack in technical know-how they will more than make up for in social skills and drive. What organisations often get wrong is that they treat retired athletes as PR opportunities rather than potential long term assets. Players and ex sportsmen often have a feeling of being lost when they start a new career pathway. Often work outside of sport doesn’t have a linear feel to it, it is not as structured, with set of objectives to attain en-route to an ultimate objective. This is what we as athletes all live for. A sense of achievement is derived from each target attained. If this is not achieved, we work even harder next time, because the ultimate prize is often unreachable without these steps. Sportspeople are able to quantify and qualify their performance on a weekly, daily and almost hourly basis. Very seldom is that possible elsewhere, which I find difficult to understand. An opportunity maybe?
Frequently companies who go on to employ ex-sportspeople treat them as an outsider, who may not really be actually interested in what they do, and so a disconnect arises, the ex-sportsperson then feels that they cannot contribute, feels less worthwhile, undervalued and ultimately becomes disillusioned and walks away. The irony is that there are many organisations out there that really could benefit from using a more rigid sports style framework for their employees, certainly in terms of setting targets, ongoing training and coaching. One of my aims is to bring these cultures together so that companies can benefit from elite sport and sporting individuals, and on the flip side, those retirees from sport can also flourish outside their chosen field and go onto great careers after sport.
Thank you Simon – look forward to seeing you in Cannes.
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