Are you Creating Environments Designed to Enhance Relationships?

Posted: September 1, 2015 Written by: W.B. “Bud” Kirchner

First let me establish a fundamental – business is about relationships and relationships are nurtured in their environment!

Your ability to communicate, your reciprocal sense of trust, your ability to make decisions on imperfect information – is heavily influenced by your environment.

Tranquil Waters

As is often the case in my life, I came upon this discovery from an unorthodox perspective.

Tranquil Waters

Tranquil Waters

With my son Christopher as an inspiration, my wife and I established Tranquil Waters. It is more than 15 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, walking trails, ponds and a multi-sensory environment specially designed to provide an environment for children with special needs. It also happens to be Kirchner Group’s corporate headquarters.

WATCH MORE: “Welcome to Tranquil Waters” video

Our objective with Tranquil Waters was to create an environment where children with special needs (and business people from around the world) could experience cognitive ease – think of that as a natural brain massage. We understood that we could reduce stress by creating this environment and thus encourage anyone visiting to communicate, socialize, “think” and develop relationships.


“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” ~ Thomas Sowell

I’m not here to change how you view meetings as I completely agree with Sowell regarding the typical meeting. But, I would like to change how you host meetings. Think about the average meeting room: a windowless (not counting the window that looks into the office space) white-walled soulless space full of carbon dioxide fluorescent lights and little or no sensory stimulation.

Businessman Yawning During Meeting At Conference RoomIs that the great reception for a potential business partner who has spent hours on a plane flying to meet you? No!

Your potential collaborator has been in a cramped space for hours speculating on your agenda. So now they are at the point where their amygdala is fully engaged and the meeting opens with a “fight or flight” atmosphere. It often goes down from there.

As I think about the tremendously critical relationships and material decisions being made in environments that are counterproductive to communication and building relationships, I question why any deal works.

Re-thinking Meetings

The breakthrough for me, in terms of relationships and environments, came when we had some business visitors at Tranquil Waters. Immediately I recognized the difference in their demeanor AND their interactions. We quickly expanded Tranquil Waters, adding on to my son Christopher’s facility in order to accommodate business meetings. (I am sure he would approve since Kirchner Group is the proud sponsor of the Christopher Douglas Hidden Angel Foundation.)

In this new meeting space at Tranquil Waters we use principles such as multi-sensory enrichment, contrast and wabi-sabi (to name just a few) in order to encourage open minds and enhance the experience. And it works. Conversations flow more freely. Dialogue begins at a more positive level. Even negotiations seem to be less antagonistic!

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” ~ Plato

All this is as Plato would have predicted when he said:

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” ~ Plato

Was this just my imagination? – Actually not! I can give you numerous personal case studies from my decades of working business deals, but there is one that is top of my mind. A while back, Kirchner Group took over a company that had a two person management team that had soured on each other.

Instead of locking them in a conference room we invited them to Tranquil Waters. After some time together in this environment it was clear they had started to rekindle their lost chemistry. Now, I would hardly call it a “love fest,” but at the end of a few days there was enough change in attitude and performance that it contributed to a mutual agreement to sell the company.

Mind Over Matter

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” ~ Negro League legend Leroy “Satchel” Paige

In closing, I want to share a fascinating example of a true environmental experiment. I am referring to the work of Ellen Langer, Ph.D., the first female professor to gain tenure in Harvard University’s Psychology Department, who created an environment to change seniors’ mindset and improve their health and longevity.

READ MORE: “What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?” by Bruce Grierson, from The New York Times Magazine, October 22, 2014

In her groundbreaking “counterclockwise study,” Langer had eight men in their 70’s live in a house that was setup as a throwback to when they were 20 years younger. After five days, the men moved better, sat taller and some witnesses said they even looked younger. Clearly, there is something to be said for ‘period’ signals to making you feel young.

"Satchel Paige: The Best Arm in Baseball"

“Satchel Paige: The Best Arm in Baseball”

“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” ~ Satchel Paige
(some credit this quote to Mark Twain, but Quote Investigator says “there is no solid support” to that claim)

I would like to suggest an additional perspective to Langer’s work – I wonder how much being around people that cared and shared their priorities contributed to the experiment subjects’ amazing results? As an example, Satchel Paige pitched in a Major League Baseball game at the age of 59. Surrounded by a team of 20 and 30-year-old professionals (who cared and shared his priorities) Paige only gave up one hit in three innings!

So be mindful of your environment in everything you do because it will matter to your success.

About the Author: W.B. “Bud” Kirchner is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist with more than 50 years of business success. He is not a scientist or an academic but he does have a diversified exposure to neuroscience, psychology and related areas. Generally speaking, the ideas he expresses here are business-angled expansions of other people’s ideas, so when possible, he will link to the original reference.