AKT President, Melissa, Chordock, featured in Medium on "Know when to choose the long-short road or the short-long road".
Melissa is a seasoned “executive” with a demonstrated history of success in Brand Strategy Development and Execution in the health/wellness and fitness industries. She has 7 years of experience in Boutique Fitness Franchising and 15 years history in Retail Management and is dedicated to 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 doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I grew 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. I took my love for the fitness community and decided to pursue a career in fitness management and operations. I joined the Pure Barre Corporate Team in 2013, then transitioned to another barre concept but always had my eye on Xponential Fitness. You can’t work in fitness franchising and not follow the success and growth of Xponential Fitness. 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!
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted small businesses in such a profound and devastating way. At the start of 2020, AKT was on track to open a dozen new locations by the end of April, but like most businesses, by mid-March, development came to a crashing halt. At AKT we were able to quickly pivot, be wildly scrappy, and alter the way we would unveil this incredible brand to new markets. Like many brands, AKT took to digital platforms to engage existing clients, but we saw an opportunity to capitalize on our virtual strategy to build new communities and introduce potential future clients to our amazing programming and introduced virtual Intro and community classes. Staying focused on building community during this time has helped us successfully open 8 new studios in the last 3 months across the country including:
..and two studios in Atlanta, GA
At the end of the day, people still want to exercise and be a part of a community. AKT is able to provide that, even during challenging times. The results you get from AKT are paramount, and impossible to replicate anywhere else. We had a community that wanted to continue to work towards their fitness goals, see results and connect with our friendly staff and trainers. We found a way to bring the amazing workouts and community together, even if not in person. I believe that is what has made the AKT brand stronger than ever before.
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? We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I have been very lucky to have had amazing mentors throughout my career, many that have morphed into lasting friendships. The Xponential Fitness culture puts a great deal of emphasis on collaboration and professional development, empowering each individual to seek this out as best suited to them. I view each of the 7 other brand presidents as mentors as everyone has unique strengths, experiences, and successes that I can learn and grow from. I am particularly grateful for my relationship with Yoga Six president, Lindsay Junk. We began our careers at Xponential around the same time and were both tasked with scaling new franchise concepts- each with their own distinct challenges. Lindsay and I have different perspectives and leadership styles, but a shared passion and desire for success that is evident in our competitive personalities- this is the foundation of the relationship. I am able to be completely vulnerable without fear of judgment with Lindsay and know she will always give me honest feedback and advice- and a kick in the ass when I need it too. Being able to troubleshoot and collaborate with someone that has an understanding of the intricacies of this role is invaluable and gives me confidence and determination to lead my team to achieve success.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
If you look at the fitness industry, the formation of boutique fitness in the late nineties/early 2000s could be considered an industry disruptor because there were people who thought they could offer a different, more specialized fitness experience to the one usually offered in a big box gym. Given how successful the boutique fitness industry is 20+ years later and how engaged members are in their workouts, I would definitely argue this was a positive disruption to an industry! If we look further, the franchise industry has also had a great impact on boutique fitness because it disrupted a historically small-scale approach by creating a dialed-in distribution channel for specialized workouts and classes, allowing a larger population to enjoy more workout options
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
“Don’t forget to say please and thank you”
Relationship building is at the core of everything we do at AKT- whether amongst my team, with franchise partners, or in studios. I believe in the power of words and that everyone deserves respectful communication.
“There is nothing more powerful than a woman in a stiletto”
My very first boss at Bloomingdale’s, Phil Amandola once said this to me and I will never forget it. For me walking around all day in a 4-inch heel is incredibly empowering! I am sure there is some symbolism there in enduring pain or teetering around on solid ground, but I can summon all sorts of confidence from a good pair of shoes!
“Know when to choose the long-short road or the short-long road”
I am a perfectionist by nature, perhaps with a self-diagnosed touch of OCD. But my love of details can sometimes slow things down. As a leader, I need to know when perfect is and isn’t necessary.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
In my experience, women are expected to be a certain way — from communication to emotional reactions. I find myself having to be calculated and thoughtful in all my conversations and decisions I make on a daily basis.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I recently read ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz. While the fitness and tech industries are quite different, it was refreshing to read a ‘business book’ that explores the emotional and personal experiences of being a leader. For me, this book gave credibility to the myriad of emotions and internal conflicts I struggle to sort through as a leader on a regular basis. The exploration of the ‘Peacetime CEO vs Wartime CEO’ was particularly relevant as I lead a fitness brand through this post-COVID world.
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! I think we need this now more than ever, both as individuals and as communities!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I am so inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy, as a pioneer for gender equality, and women’s rights. She has left an incredible mark on society and a profound impact on the way that I want to show up as a leader in my community.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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