Self-Awareness. Being able to truly know your strengths and opportunities is a game changer! It is important when building a team and especially in a business when you are interacting with others regularly to know your own personality. What is your comfort zone? Surround yourself with people that will challenge you to grow outside that zone but also who have different strengths and weaknesses and can support you while you grow.
Inthis interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Chordock, President of AKT, a national boutique fitness franchise. Melissa is a seasoned operator with a demonstrated history of success in Brand Strategy Development and Execution in the health/wellness and fitness industries. She has 6 years of experience in Boutique Fitness Franchising, 15 years history in Retail Management and is passionate about growing and developing strong and supportive teams. Melissa is passionate about health and wellness and is a firm believer in the power of movement and mindfulness.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Igrew up in retail — literally! Some of my earliest memories are playing Bloomingdale’s with my cousins- not just store, but always Bloomingdale’s specifically. I was very close with my grandma who had worked at the Short Hills, NJ location and I had wanted to be just like her- poised, polished, refined, and sophisticated. I was lucky enough to land a summer internship at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street in the summer of 1999 and never looked back! I spent about 15 years in retail total, 13 at Bloomingdale’s in store-line management, and 2 at specialty brands. When I left Bloomingdale’s, I felt a bit lost- it had become such a part of who I was and I was struggling to find a place I belonged. This is about the time that I discovered SoulCycle! Back then there were only a handful of locations in NYC and it felt like my secret oasis where I was part of a secret community. I felt like I belonged in that dark room with blasting music and that is where I realized I needed to be part of a community, but I also wanted to focus my career on building communities and giving that sense of belonging to others.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The most recent and relevant interesting thing to happen in my career would likely be the manifestation of my current role. Prior to AKT, I was with a small barre concept and very aware of what was going on in the boutique fitness landscape. I admired Anthony Geisler and Xponential Fitness from afar, and when I heard about the AKT acquisition, I literally said, out loud: I NEED TO BE A PART OF THIS!!
Searching the internet for clues on how to get involved became a part of my daily routine; and then a few weeks later I received a call from Michael Ruiz from Global Talent Solutions- and as they say, the rest is history! I truly feel like I put it out in the universe… and someone was listening!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
AKT is special in so many ways! While the phenomenal, ever changing, comprehensive and efficient programming is a major differentiator in the boutique fitness space, the most special thing about AKT is absolutely the community.
AKT has this incredible way of captivating a community before studios even open with branding that exudes positive energy and a bit of mystery. I am continuously blown away by the response in every new market we activate in. Our dedicated Franchise Partners and studio teams often kick off their community introduction campaigns by hosting a pop-up class. An event recently held in Columbus, Ohio drew in nearly 250 attendees- that’s more than 8x the size of a normal class! As AKT grows into a global brand, I see community continuing to be a significant part of the culture, but in new ways. Our members experience the same choreography at any given time across all studios, opening up the opportunity for dialog on our social outlets across studios, states, and countries around shared experiences.
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?
At the start of my career, I was very lucky to hit it off with several senior executives that took me under their wing and served as unofficial mentors. They each guided me in different ways supporting my leadership development and my self-confidence- they taught me some humor and wit too…! One of the most impactful pieces of advice I received early in my career came as I was walking to Bloomingdale’s to start my internship — “Don’t forget to say please and thank you, it will get you everything you need here”. Given this was New York City, it really did serve me well! My first boss, Phil Amandola, told me that “there is nothing more powerful than a woman in a stiletto” and has supported me and a healthy shoe addiction for the past 20 years.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To me, resilience is not just the willingness, but the ability to get back up after getting kicked in the gut- every. single. day. When you believe in something so wholeheartedly that you know you’ll find a yes in a sea of no. Sometimes it’s a cause or a business, but truly resilient people believe in themselves and understand that every setback ultimately makes them stronger.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod embodies true resilience and strength. He has fallen in the public eye and has been fully committed to owning his mishaps and rebuilding not just his image but who he is as a person. I admire the way in which he chose to move forward.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I probably have told myself “that’s impossible” way more than anyone else has. I tend to be pretty hard on myself and am always looking to better my best. But I think that is a pretty common trait. At AKT we see people pushing past what they thought their limits were each and every day. We have members that say “I can’t dance”, but 2 weeks in and they crush the choreography and have a new confidence in their ability to move. Nothing prepares you for AKT, AKT prepares you for everything else.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Running a young business is emotionally challenging! Every single day the team and I are learning something new while trying to drive the business forward with new partners. I’d have to say that every ‘no’ still stings and feels like personal rejection, but we choose to look at each ‘setback’ as an opportunity to grow and learn something new in order to be better prepared in the future. As most, I have experienced personal setbacks too. A few years back I was training for both the Chicago and NYC Marathons and was having a great training season that had me confident I would be able to achieve my time goal. However, I wound up fracturing my foot 3 weeks out. The healing process forced me to be more patient and pay closer attention to details, as well as the value of slowing down to speed up — all things that have served me well professionally too.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I had a pretty calm and stable childhood, but unlike many of my friends, I did not always get what I had wanted at the time- this is probably when I began to come to terms with the ‘no’. When I was 13, my parents pulled me from the sleep away camp I had attended for 5 years and forced me to go elsewhere- I was furious! No amount of screaming, crying, or tantrums would change their minds! As the summer grew closer, I knew I had no choice and that I could either be miserable for 8 weeks or muster up the strength to have an open mind. While that first summer was most definitely NOT the best summer of my life, I did go back 4 more years, make some great friends, and meet my husband of nearly 17 years.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
I believe perspective and attitude are everything and the way one chooses to view situations and life contributes to their overall resiliency. I have some mantras I try to remember and put into practice:
Long Short Road vs Short Long Road
I recently heard this in a speech and it truly resonated with me. In business, we often want to grow and be the best immediately; but it can’t always happen like that. I have found that there is value in being on that long short road- when it feels like results are not happening fast enough, it’s key to take that time to analyze opportunities and build infrastructure- essentially plan for the inevitable rocket ship of success to seamlessly support it when it arrives.
Everything Happens for a Reason
Cliché, but true. There’s a reason things happen the way they do, even if it’s not clear why at the time.
Stay Humble, Hustle Hard
It’s great to celebrate the wins and we should, but it’s also important for me to remain humble so the drive to succeed is always alive.
Being able to truly know your strengths and opportunities is a game changer! It is important when building a team and especially in a business when you are interacting with others regularly to know your own personality. What is your comfort zone? Surround yourself with people that will challenge you to grow outside that zone but also who have different strengths and weaknesses and can support you while you grow.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d love to inspire people to move their bodies everyday — to gain the drive to keep at it even when it seems impossible. If that can be experienced as a community, even better!
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them 🙂
I guess I would have to defer to my answer above: Alex Rodriguez
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!