Robert Ettinger on the 'hole-and-corner' within his head
Robert Ettinger, CEO of the Ettinger luxury leather goods company, talks to us about how for him the most important retreat is inside his own mind – and how that space influences his lifestyle…
A ‘hole-and-corner’ is an old English term meaning a secret place: somewhere you go to escape the world, to be inspired, to contemplate and create. Where is your ‘hole-and-corner’?
My secret place is actually within my own head, not a physical location, as I work in a busy office where we work as a team. It is a mental space that can be difficult to connect to because of all the clutter and demands of everyday life. It is a place where I can look at the bigger picture, think clearly and where I can make informed business decisions. It is a place that can put me in contact with my roots. Leather design and craftsmanship are in my blood and an intrinsic awareness has been passed down, in my family, from generation to generation. Also, an inherited interest in traditional and historic leather design has always inspired and given added coherence to the essence of the brand – so often our product design is a modern take on a traditional item. Reaching this special place in my head is not so easy. Lifestyle is important. Before I start work, I swim at a club in London and leisure-wise I take exercise not only for enjoyment but to get rid of the excess adrenalin, usually either walking, running or cycling. Holidays I like to be somewhere calm, whether ski touring on a mountain in Switzerland, camping on a sand dune in the Empty Quarter of Oman or cycling in the Peloponnesus.
Can you explain why it is so special to you?
Clear thinking is just so important to me for managing a business: it means you have to be aware of every aspect of the business and make numerous different and very varied decisions – whether it is sales, accounting, buying etc.
Is it important to you to have somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of life?
It is not just important but essential for me. The balance between work and leisure I have taken very great care to preserve. I have always found working excessive hours to have diminishing returns. I start at work two hours before my team and in this time I can get so very much done.
What do you like to listen to when you’re working?
Listening to music would be inappropriate in my office. Not only myself but the whole team would find it distracting.
What elements do you think make a perfect ‘hole-and-corner’?
My perfect hole-and-corner would be a comfortable mental space for inspiration, creativity, design and business clarity.
Is it private to you or do you let other people visit?
As it is in my head it is private to me, but I then like to share my thoughts and ideas with others.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
You are responsible for your own decisions: make them carefully!