For Terranea Resort President Terri Haack, leadership starts with understanding her team and creating an inspiring environment.
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, California—Terri Haack has been with the Terranea Resort team since 2007—before the $480-million independent property was even constructed—and her leadership style as president is all about creating a harmonious, caring, fair and balanced atmosphere, she said.
Today, with 10 years under her belt at the resort, Haack is committed to helping lead Terranea, its employees and guests into continued growth and evolution.
“I have deep ties with Terranea,” she said of the 102-acre, 582-key oceanfront mixed-use resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes California, which was developed by Robert Lowe and Robert Lowe Jr, of Lowe Enterprises, and opened in 2009.
Making the nearly 10-year-old property successful, Haack said, means ensuring it’s a place “that delivers on its promise to its guests and stakeholders, is dedicated to its associates, inspires connection and plays an instrumental role in serving the community.”
(Photo: Terranea Resort)
“From the beginning, we created a sustainable culture of passionate, refreshing and heartfelt service with no prescribed script,” Haack said. “We created many new jobs, including those for our contract workers.”
The resort faced challenges in the early years, she said, because it went through construction and opening during the Great Recession. Despite those challenges, in 2013 the team was awarded the highest honor for a business leader in the community
Through their hard work at the property, Haack said she and her team have grown revenues year over year since opening and survived the takeover of their construction lending bank by the FDIC in 2009.
“The future is bright because we led courageously through some very difficult times,” she said.
The resort has evolved in many ways since its opening in 2009, Haack said, from the market condition, economic uncertainty and factors affecting business.
“We have continued to grow each year through enhanced programming and amenity offerings for our guests as well as revenue, awards and accolades,” she said.
For example, since its inception, Terranea has been dedicated to sustainable practices, Haack said.
All of the practices are meant to protect open space, improve wildlife habitat, respect local sourcing and cultivation as well as enhancing water quality, she added.
Some of the food-and-beverage initiatives include the installation of a system to enhance food-waste recycling and move organic waste from crowded landfills, she said, and the Farm-to-Terranea philosophy, which is a commitment to sourcing local and sustainable foods.
The resort has further developed 4,000 square feet of nearby farmland, she said, expanding it to 10,000 square feet with organic soil to harvest more than 2,000 pounds of produce a year.
A main demand driver for the resort is from group business year round and leisure travelers during summer and holiday peak seasons, she said.
“Sixty percent of our leisure guests come from within Los Angeles and Orange County area. In all, 70% of our leisure guests come from within California,” she said.
And while the resort is dedicated to authenticity, Haack said it’s not about being everything to everyone, but embracing who they are as a brand and executing that to the highest level.
For example, wellness is a primary focus for the resort, she said. The spa amenities take a distinctive approach by paying close attention to the timing of a guest’s visit—altering the treatment based on nature and the guests’ circadian rhythm, she said.
Haack’s passion for people allows for her to maintain genuine relationships with her team while not shying away from words like “caring, fair, harmony and balance,” to describe her approach, she said.
“My personal philosophy is to create an environment that gives employees a sense of personal value; I work hard at understanding what makes people inspired, what matters to them,” she said. “I encourage my team to find harmony in their lives and believe that one should dovetail what they do at work to harmonize with their life.”
She doesn’t want work to be the reason her employees might miss important moments in their kids’ lives, she said.
In 2009, Haack created a program at the resort called Talk to Terri, to encourage associates to ask her questions in person or via email.
“I personally answer all of them directly back to the associate. … I am also happy to receive anonymous suggestions, if they wish,” Haack said.
In addition to Talk to Terri, she has a program called Together with Terri, where she meets with a cross section of associates every month and talk about what is working and what the team can improve on.
Making sure that her associates are striving to be enthusiastic, respectful, and compassionate and “all-in” makes all of the difference, she added.
While Haack is the president of the resort, she also serves on the American Hotel & Lodging Association executive committee, which she has translated into her leadership at the resort.
“The hospitality business has always been a leader in recognizing women’s talents and the number of women in management positions at Terranea Resort definitely reflects that trend,” she said.
Haack believes women in general have played a large role in shaping service and best practices geared toward making people feel welcomed.
“It is very important to provide a platform for women to reach their full potential and career aspirations,” she said. “I do all I can to lead by example and share my experiences by blending effective business visions with a passionate commitment to positively make a difference, both in the world of business and the communities I serve.”
What’s next for Terranea
In 2019, the property will celebrate its 10-year-anniversary, which they plan to celebrate with year-round programming for the guests, community locals and associates.
Haack said there will also be a number of capital investments that will take place to help continue their level of service and atmosphere for the guests.
“Terranea has been my greatest career challenge and my greatest career success,” she said. “The remarkable team of leaders and associates that I am fortunate to work with and the community partnerships we have grown and forged makes me grateful and proud to be a part of something so special.”