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Theresa Armour: “I encourage risk; Risk propels action and action translates dreams into reality”

I encourage risk. Risk propels action and action translates dreams into reality. Although action does not eliminate the fear associated with risk, it can build courage. Finding the proper balance of fear and courage is the key to taking the necessary action to implement your new idea. As a part of my series about strong female […]


I encourage risk. Risk propels action and action translates dreams into reality. Although action does not eliminate the fear associated with risk, it can build courage. Finding the proper balance of fear and courage is the key to taking the necessary action to implement your new idea.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Theresa Armour. Dedicated to the concept and action of serving, Theresa built her life’s work on the physical and emotional well-being of others. A graduate of the University of California, Berkley, she traveled internationally as part of a television production team before opening the first Burke Williams Day Spa in 1984 with her husband, Bill. Together they created a new landscape for health and wellness, introducing the original “urban day spa” and pioneering a new market in the United States. Visionaries in their industry, Theresa and Bill opened the first Burke Williams in Brentwood, California after visiting spas abroad. Over the last three decades they’ve built a trusted and respected brand comprised of 10 day spas across California, the exclusive H2V skincare line, the new in-and-out Simply Massage, and two Burke Williams Academies of Massage Therapy. A haven for renewal, elegance, and beauty, Theresa created a sanctuary where transformation and balance are priorities. A creative director since the company’s inception, Theresa helped launch the concept and design of each Burke Williams. Focused on creating a unique aesthetic for every location, she drew inspiration from around the world to create a visual and emotional response the moment a guest walks through the door. From a beach house in the Hamptons to a Parisian getaway, each Burke Williams was artfully crafted to communicate a distinct feel and extraordinary experience. Theresa is invested in the development of services, staying attune to trend-forward innovations while honoring classic and effective methods used across the globe. She works closely with Bill and core team members to create a positive and encouraging company culture, implementing her personal and professional philosophy “we exist to transform your day.” The philosophy begins with staff and extends to guests, working as brand wide mantra and motivator to achieve the ultimate guest experience and inspire the highest level of service. A Southern California native and mother of three, Theresa is proud to be the founder of a family owned and operated company. She initiated the Hands For Hope internal program helping employees in need, is an Associate of the Sisters of Saint Louis, and contributes annually to charitable causes. She’s been featured as one of Angeleno Magazine’s Dynamic Women, and appeared in the Los Angeles Business Journal and Find Bliss Magazine alongside Bill.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Theresa! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The inspiration behind Burke Williams was as a mother of three young children I often felt overbooked and overlooked. I had neither the time nor finances to take a much-needed vacation. Having been to destination spas, I searched for something similar in the city. Not finding it, the idea of creating a luxury spa experience accessible to busy, overstressed people who didn’t have the time for a traditional escape, was both intriguing and exciting. Bringing that experience to the city, so that people like me could escape for an hour or two and feel rejuvenated and appreciated, turned out to be even more needed than I had imagined. The concept was immediately well received and the “Day Spa” industry was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

At one point we had several top-level employees who were having conflicts with one another, and we decided to address it head-on. We brought in a consultant who not only worked with those employees but with all of our upper management. The results were and are profound. We gained insight into our motivations and our fears, and we learned to speak and act with greater awareness and clarity. Accountability became our discipline, trust became our culture, and business efficiency was the result.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’ve held fast to the practice of disconnecting to reconnect. When you enter Burke Williams, you disconnect from busyness, disconnect from devices, and disconnect from noise. This enables us to reconnect with people in a more authentic, human way, to reconnect with touch, to reconnect with quiet and most importantly, to reconnect with self.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Always! From researching and designing the newest in skin care products and techniques to reaching back to ancient, time-tested massage and healing methods, we find it fascinating to combine the classic, sometimes forgotten methods and practices with the most advanced and cutting edge discoveries in health, wellness and beauty. We’ve recently introduced new technologies in skin care, such as the nano technology that we launched with Regenerate, our new Anti-Aging Facial, and will continue to invest in the latest innovations in skin care to help guests achieve maximum results. We also have exciting new initiatives that engage all five senses for a unique, customized, and immersive experience that’s exclusive to Burke Williams. We can’t wait to share more soon!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I would say that the most important first step is to define your culture and know what is important to you because even the smartest people in the world won’t accomplish your goals if you aren’t all on the same page. At Burke Williams we’ve worked hard to create a culture of trust and openness, and it’s amazing how much work gets done when no games are being played. We communicate honestly, by honing our listening skills and speaking with transparency. We give feedback to each other at every level, and we do not tolerate triangulation or gossip. We value open, transparent dialogue and expect accountable behavior from our competent and capable team. We all expect each other to do what we have agreed to do by when we’ve agreed to do it. So it’s imperative to hire the right people, place them in the right positions, at the right time.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Do not arrive at any situation with an already formed plan. Rather engage and inspire your teams to develop their own plan. If they feel it is theirs, their commitment and passion to execute a successful outcome are tenfold.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

That is so true. I think that it’s all of our experiences, the good and the challenging that shapes us and it’s the people which played those parts who are our teachers. I have many important influences on my life. I was blessed to have a mentor. She lived her life with passion and power and taught me the importance of choice. She didn’t wait for things to happen; she knew the importance of taking action with intention, boldness and courage. And my husband, he is my rock, my love and my heart. He is the finest human I know and watching how he lives his life teaches me more than any words could.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Everything we have is to be used in the service of others. The more we give, the more we get, so, repeat the cycle then give that too.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

First and foremost, I focus on building a culture of trust. Business efficiencies are magnified exponentially when the trust dominates every interaction. Trust is the by-product of open, transparent communication and shared accountable behavior.

I encourage risk. Risk propels action and action translates dreams into reality. Although action does not eliminate the fear associated with risk, it can build courage. Finding the proper balance of fear and courage is the key to taking the necessary action to implement your new idea.

I am continually developing, clarifying and communicating my vision to our team and our company. A well-constructed vision clarifies both one’s purpose and destination. A company without a unified vision is like boarding a ship without a rudder; who knows where you’ll end up.

It takes an individual to imagine, to set the target and to inspire a vision. It takes a team to achieve it. I surround myself with competency and people with shared values. An aligned and competent team has unlimited potential.

At Burke Williams we celebrate both victories and setbacks. If you are taking action, there will be plenty of both. Victories confirm and inspire our vision and setbacks are intense learning opportunities that forge courage and build wisdom.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I was in college I read this quote from Goethe and it has inspired me ever since. He says, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

We all have dreams and it is crucial to be bold in our pursuit of them if we want to lead extraordinary lives. My experience has taught me that taking that first step in pursuit of a dream leads to another step. Paths open up, like-minded people come alongside and opportunities arise. Sometimes that path leads to the hoped for dream and other times it leads to some exciting new adventure that wasn’t even on my radar but so much better. Boldness absolutely has power and magic! Often I’m astonished!

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Oprah! She has tapped into all of the important issues of life and she understands and cares about humanity. She has access to the greatest thinkers, the funniest minds and the most powerful influencers. She moves from diets to the Dali Lama, from shoes to the spiritual. She lives her life upon this earth with love and zest and questions it with wonder and awe. She understands the connection between the body, mind and spirit and tackles these subjects with passion. She understands her God-given potential and goes for it. She’s amazing.

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