May the Feng Shui Be with You, Too Companies Dabble in Ancient Chinese Belief Advocating That Success Comes Down to Good and Bad Chi

Article excerpt

Byline: Moshay Simpson, Times-Union business writer

Businesses are always trying to get a competitive edge and maximize their resources.

Some shell out millions of clams on the latest technological offerings, while others enlist motivational speakers and plan team-building workshops.

Still others try to boost morale and productivity by rearranging the office dynamic with the help of 3,000-year-old Chinese technology.

Donald Trump has been known to use it, and companies like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have also dallied with it. It's called feng shui (pronounced FUNG SHWAY), and its popularity is catching on with First Coast businesses and members of their workforces.

British Airways new Flytele call center in Southpoint incorporated feng shui principles in its design, which can be seen in the center's color scheme, flowing symmetry, curvy walls and 120-degree work stations that avoid hard, sharp corners that impede "chi." The center is supposed to create a work environment that is enjoyable and productive, said spokeswoman Jennifer Hudson. The center also boasts zen rooms and a CyberCafe.

Good vibes

Feng shui's literal meaning is "wind and water." And to true believers, feng shui could have everything to do with their financial and personal vitality, which is influenced by chi.

For lack of a better word, chi is like energy, similar to The Force in those Star Wars movies. Chi is everywhere, and there's good and bad chi.

"Energy is more than just this abstract thing that we have," said Sheri Blanc, a feng shui consultant at the Center for Natural Health in San Marco. "It can get really intricate. It's mind-boggling." Blanc has studied feng shui since her days as an architecture student at the University of Florida 14 years ago. But she just started her practice earlier this year.

Ponte Vedra Beach-based specialist Susan Stewart also consults. Despite the commercial sector's piqued interest in feng shui, most of their business still comes from the residential ranks.

According to the Monterey, Calif.-based American Feng Shui Institute, feng shui can determine the best location for anyone and help that person avoid his or her worst or least desirable location in any environment based on the person's birth date, surrounding environment and movements of the solar system. There are several disciplines of feng shui which include: Compass School, which Stewart practices; Pyramid School; and Black Hat, the most popular style in this country, which Blanc practices. Each style has its share of nuances and tools but in many instances overlap.

It worked at home

Realtor Mike Bugg is using feng shui to design his office, Lifestyles Realtors, in the south Jacksonville Beach-Ponte Vedra Beach area. Bugg, who enlisted the services of Blanc for this project, said he enjoys the balance and order that feng shui brings with its incorporation of the natural elements. After applying its principles at home, Bugg decided to bring it to work.

Feng shui generally deals with health, wealth, prosperity and personal relationships. Those coupled with the earth's five natural elements: fire, water, earth, wood and metal, yin and yang, colors, magnetic fields and direction, form the basis for an accurate reading.

All of these components comprise the Black Hat School's ba-gua, one of the tools used by Blanc. It is essentially a feng shui map. It can be laid over a building's blueprint or used to organize a cubicle to find one's high-energy spots. If you want to improve your wealth corner, for instance, Blanc suggests placing objects there that represent wealth. Maybe a framed $10 bill from your first sale or fish . If you want to improve family life, place something in that corner, like a photo.

When Blanc does an initial consultation she tours the property, she gets a history of the business, its prior owners, successes and failures. …