I believe movement is a healing tool for the human body. Exercise is so critical to overall health and more specifically to your body’s ability to fight off viruses. This pandemic has highlighted the importance of everyday health.
As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Yarmey, Chief Marketing Officer at Club Pilates.
A marketing veteran with two decades of experience, Jessica has been focusing on promoting health and fitness for the last eight years. She has been Chief Marketing Officer of Club Pilates since October of 2017 and has led the brand as it has grown from 220 to over 650 studios, including studios in Japan and South Korea. Her marketing approach is best summarized by “Results First. Brand Always.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?
I am a lifelong marketer. I love the balance between art and science and the fast evolution of the field. There is always something new to learn and every day is different. While my 20-year career has centered around marketing roles, about eight years ago, I made a critical decision that has greatly influenced my career. I hit a crossroads where I had two opportunities on the table. One was working for a burger chain and the other was working for Gold’s Gym. I do not eat meat! I felt like I could be a better marketer promoting a product I really believed in. For me, that’s fitness and healthy living so I chose to take the role with Gold’s Gym. The overlap of profession and passion was pivotal and increased the trajectory of my career.
Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I’ve been laid off three times in my 20 year marketing career, with the first two layoffs happening with my first two full-time roles after graduation! Coming out of college with my marketing degree, I had big dreams for my career. These two set-backs right out of the gate were deflating and demoralizing. But as much as it felt unfair, I made the commitment to myself at that time to always work as if someone is coming after my job. This borderline paranoia has served my career well over time. I am always working as if I might not get another chance to prove myself.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I was an athlete and competitor for most of my life. When I got laid off, my competitiveness kicked in. I wanted to prove my old bosses wrong. I wanted them to look back at the decision to let me go and realize they made a horrible mistake. Even though the layoffs felt like losses, I wanted to win and I knew that if I worked hard, the wins would be around the corner. Here I am, almost 20 years later and those early losses still fuel me.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
The third time I got laid off was about five years ago. I was working for Gold’s Gym in a job I loved and I almost couldn’t comprehend how they could let me go. My life was so intertwined with my job that when I lost my job, it really shook me. There were months of soul-searching and applying for jobs but nothing felt right as a next step. One day, it clicked. Just because I was kicked out of the Gold’s Gym “fitfam,” didn’t mean I had to leave the fitness industry. I started messaging every person I knew who worked in fitness and a few weeks later, I started working for Youfit Health Clubs.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?
Shoot for the Moon: You have to dream big. Imagine your biggest career success five or even 10 years from now and then imagine if it was even bigger. What are you doing? What does it look like? Be as specific as possible. Aim for a large goal so if you fall short, you will still be doing great things!
Always Be Asking: Ask for opportunities. Apply for roles you’re not 100% qualified for. Get used to hearing “no” so you can disconnect your own value from one person’s answer or perspective. The idea is to desensitize yourself from hearing “no” so that when you get a “no” you don’t want to hear, you understand that it’s not the end of the world. Ask again or find another path to get to that “yes.”
Every Setback Prompts A Comeback: Think of setbacks as opportunities to reset, rebuild and comeback stronger than before. When I got laid off from Gold’s Gym, it took time to figure out exactly what my next step should be. As soon as I got clear about my path, I knew I would do anything to make that next step become a reality. Clarity of purpose will create passion which will power you through any setbacks that come your way.
Find Your Tribe: Choose a mentor who fought through adversity. Surround yourself with people who have grit. Those are the people you can learn from and who will support you when you get knocked down. And it is a matter of “when” because if you’re aiming high enough, there will be setbacks. When you hit that setback, look around. Who’s still with you? Keep them in your tribe!
Keep Grinding: The higher the role you have, the more grit and resilience will be required. As you’re working on your professional skill set, continue working on the skills that will help you thrive when setbacks happen. We are seeing a spotlight shine on resilience through the COVID-19 pandemic. Some leaders seamlessly stepped up to the challenge and some faltered. I believe those who thrive through this time have a history of resilience that they’ve learned from.
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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
In each of my first two layoffs, there was a colleague who was really instrumental in helping me understand the business situation and understand that this wasn’t about me or my work as much as it was about the business and changes that were being made. My first two layoffs were so early in my career, I didn’t have the experience to create perspective. Greg Northway and Richard Masterson were the “voices of reason” that gave me perspective and allowed me to keep my big post-college dreams intact despite these setbacks.
If you know someone who has been laid off in these COVID times, the best thing you can do is reach out and provide perspective. This is not personal and it’s likely not even about the work. We’re in a pandemic and some companies are really, really struggling. Yes, this is a setback, but let’s get to work on the comeback. You can help with the comeback by being a reference if you worked together directly.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As so many people have lost their jobs lately, I feel obligated to share my story and share the fact that I’ve been there and made it through. There are currently almost 50 million people who have filed for unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic started. That number is staggering. Being laid off is a terrible feeling. It is a rejection that drains professional confidence. And then the job search process can be equally draining and really make you wonder if you’re hireable. My self-worth took a big hit with each of the lay offs I went through. I’m sure there are people out there who are in that reality right now. My hope is that someone reads this article and it injects a small amount of optimism to their day. I hope they connect their value to something greater than their recent set-back. I know times are tough but I know you can persevere and get back on your feet.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
When the pandemic started earlier this year, I knew opportunities would emerge from this shake-up. I see opportunities now and am trying to bring some projects to life. The fitness industry has been drastically impacted by the pandemic, but change creates new categories and opens up niches. Those who are strong and nimble will thrive.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Generally, you need to identify employee strengths and make sure they are working in their strengths on a daily basis. There’s an amazing flywheel kind of effect that happens when you know what you’re passionate about and you’re good at it. That’s where work is no longer work.
During this pandemic, bring empathy to your role and try to lead from positivity. It is so easy for days to be dark with so much negativity in the world right now. Find the silver linings and celebrate them. Make sure everyone understands that “thriving” right now looks very different than it did at the beginning of the year.
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 believe movement is a healing tool for the human body. Exercise is so critical to overall health and more specifically to your body’s ability to fight off viruses. This pandemic has highlighted the importance of everyday health. I am so impressed with what Joe Wicks has been able to build with his PE with Joe program where he provides exercises (and entertainment!) to kids and families every single day. He has been motivational, predictable and supportive when the world needed it the most.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In Rocky, Slyvester Stallone says, “Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give… it’s about how many you can take and still keep moving forward.” Anyone who is pursuing a big goal is going to have setbacks. That is the nature of pushing your limits. Looking back at my career, the pivotal moments happened when I decided to keep moving forward… when I decided the comeback would be greater than the setback. If your career has taken a hit recently, if the pandemic has turned your life upside down, read this quote every morning and repeat as necessary throughout the day!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am most active on Linkedin. It is such a powerful networking and job search tool. My last three roles have all been uncovered on Linkedin and in my current role, I’m consistently on the platform connecting with marketing leaders at like-minded companies.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.