Jessica Yarmey of Club Pilates: Leaders Need To Appreciate The Power To ‘Act As If’

Jessica Yarmey
12 min readMar 24, 2021


Act As If. One of the greatest mistakes I see young professionals make is waiting to “turn on” their leadership skills until they have the title. Across my 20 year career, I’ve only spent the last five years in a leadership role. But I spent more than five years acting as if I was a leader without actually having the title. For me, this meant setting a good example of work quality and quantity as well as being a resource to the team around me. This approach is valuable because when you do get that leadership role, the team around you will already have respect for you and you’ll be prepared to transition into leadership smoothly.

Asa part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Yarmey. Jessica is the Chief Marketing Officer at Club Pilates, an Xponential Fitness boutique concept with over 600 locations in the U.S. and Canada and locations coming soon in Japan and Saudi Arabia. Prior to joining Club Pilates, Jessica worked with Youfit Health Clubs and Gold’s Gym in marketing roles. Her 20 years of marketing experience also includes brand roles with restaurant concepts as well as account roles with advertising and media agencies. She received her undergraduate degree from Loyola University in Maryland and her MBA from Belmont University in Tennessee.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always pursued a career path in marketing and advertising. From college, I knew that a marketing role would perfectly blend my left-brain thinking with my love of art and creativity. So while my career has moved from client-side marketing to media, to advertising, and back to the client side, I’ve always generally been in the same lane. The trajectory changed when I moved into client-side roles in the fitness industry. I was an athlete in college and have always had a passion for fitness, so working in fitness just clicked with me. I’m overlapping multiple passion points together which really makes work not feel as much like work. It’s the greatest Venn diagram ever! So when I’m asked by young professionals, “how do I find my best career path?”, I coach to the fact that real career joy lives at that point of overlapping passions. Identify things that you are passionate about and find a lane that allows you to stack as many of them together as possible.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

There have been many interesting things that have happened since I joined Club Pilates! As we have grown by 300+ studios, I have had to grow my team to support the studio growth. In one of the roles I was looking to hire, I had an applicant who was perfectly qualified to sit in the seat and take Club Pilates to the next level. After she accepted the role, she rescinded her acceptance to accept her company’s counteroffer. After my “perfect” candidate fell through, I made an offer to a less qualified candidate who I felt had the drive and growth mindset to come in and learn the role. That imperfect candidate turned out to be the absolute perfect person for the role! That experience taught me to look at employees holistically and evaluate them based on growth potential versus current state only.

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?

When I first started at Club Pilates, I walked in on my first day with a plan for my first 100 days based on the book “The CMO Manifesto” by John Ellett. I got maybe 60 days into my plan and I put a deck together summarizing decisions that I had made so far and decisions that needed to be made going forward. I sat down with my boss at the time, Sarah Luna, and the Club Pilates President, Shaun Grove, to present an update on my plan. Maybe 30 minutes into the meeting, I asked them about one of my decision points and I think it was Shaun who answered my question with a question, “What is your recommendation?” Looking back at that meeting, I totally laugh at myself because I could have dissected the critical decisions into a 10 minute conversation. Being new, I just didn’t have the confidence in my recommendations.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Club Pilates stands out because we connect with a wide range of ages, fitness levels and goals. Our youngest members are in their teens while our oldest member is over 80 years old. I recently dropped into a studio to take a class anonymously and the instructor asked everyone to introduce themselves and share what they were hoping to accomplish with Pilates. As she went around the room, the answers were as diverse as can be! The first woman shared “I just had a baby and I’m trying to get back into shape.” The next pointed to her neighbor and said “I’m just here with her socializing!” One person shared that she has a busy job and uses Pilates to escape her daily stress and just focus on herself. Another shared that he had back pain and was told to try Pilates in order to strengthen his core and reduce his back pain. When she got to me, I shared that I was the Chief Marketing Officer of the company and my primary purpose was to introduce more people to Club Pilates and all of the amazing benefits of the practice. It was a moment that energized me to keep driving the brand forward because the experience does stand out.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I work for a company that helps thousands of people move better, feel better and live better every single day. I am regularly sent stories and testimonials from members about how Club Pilates has changed their lives. It’s humbling to be a part of this kind of positive movement. We are set to open about one hundred more locations this year, bringing the benefits of Pilates to more people than ever before. We’re also expanding into Japan and Saudi Arabia which will spread the positive changes even further. In Saudi Arabia, women still work out separately from men so I’m excited that Club Pilates will be providing a state-of-the-art facility with best-in-class Pilates offerings.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Females are natural nurturers and caretakers. As a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to take care of your people and help them progress in their careers. While your company likely has a structure for annual reviews and feedback, you are responsible for all of the coaching moments that happen in between — and there are a lot of them! Consistently provide feedback, nurture your team members and look for ways to help them grow. Let that maternal instinct shine! I am the team mom and have moments where I get a little overprotective or maybe a little nagging but I call it out and identify it as a “mom moment” so they know it’s coming from a place of protection and support.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

In order to influence a large group of people, you have to lead by example in a way that complements your one on one meetings and individual coaching. As an example, at Club Pilates, I need my employees to work fast and slow, meaning there is a time to churn through work and requests but there is also a time to slow down and be very thoughtful with decisions. The most efficient way I have found to instill that across multiple people is to set that fast pace myself but then share the thought process and decision making for when it is time to slow down. With both culture and team KPIs coached across the entire department, all one-on-one time is spent very specifically on how I can be a resource for their specific projects.

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 about that?

Across my 20 year career, I have reported in to 14 different people which is a lot! My philosophy has always been to try to take the good from every boss I worked with, meaning learn what they did well and emulate that. When I first started at Club Pilates, I reported into Sarah Luna who is now the President of Pure Barre. When Sarah hired me, I had zero experience working in a CMO seat, but by hiring me she showed me she believed in me. From day one, I knew she believed that I could step up to this role and I simultaneously felt completely committed to not letting her down. She sets a pretty intense pace of doing business but as busy as she would be, she would always carve time to connect on my projects and talk through where I needed feedback. Even though she now oversees one of our sister brands, we still connect on a regular basis and I know I will have her as a sounding board for the rest of my career.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Since 2012, I have worked in marketing in the health and fitness space. I love what I do because if I am successful in my role, I’ve encouraged people to walk in the door and add a little bit more movement to their day. I recently saw a projection showing that by 2050, 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes. This is really staggering and also presents an amazing opportunity for those of us who work in health and fitness. The benchmark projection has been set, but we can create change. We can provide tools and resources to help people to live more holistically, healthy lives in a sustainable way. We can also continue to educate about taking an active role in consumer preventative health care.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Act As If. One of the greatest mistakes I see young professionals make is waiting to “turn on” their leadership skills until they have the title. Across my 20 year career, I’ve only spent the last five years in a leadership role. But I spent more than five years acting as if I was a leader without actually having the title. For me, this meant setting a good example of work quality and quantity as well as being a resource to the team around me. This approach is valuable because when you do get that leadership role, the team around you will already have respect for you and you’ll be prepared to transition into leadership smoothly.

Let It Go. Your team can’t learn if you don’t give them room to grow. That means letting go of a little control in order to let your team spread their wings. At Club Pilates, we have a weekly call for new studios and I gradually reduced my role in the calls and let my team pick up more and more of the coaching. I sat in on one of the recent calls and had the amazing revelation that my team wasn’t just talking through what I had taught them but they were actually filling in the blanks with amazing information and style of their own. I try to gradually let go so they can grow.

Grow Through What You Go Through There is a lesson in every single failure and every single success. As leaders, we sometimes think we need to always have the answers or always do things perfectly in order to keep the respect of the team. I take an opposite approach and share my own misses with my team to help create a culture of learning from mistakes. My team at Club Pilates has numerous opportunities to succeed and fail every day so I need to show them how to best evaluate our collective performance. Here’s what we did well. Here’s a mistake we made. And most importantly, here’s how we could have done a little bit better.

Share “the Why” Your ongoing management of small tasks will decrease if you share the overall goal and “the why” with the team. When your team understands the high level mission, they can make decisions on their own that will get closer to the overall goal. As an example, my team at Club Pilates knows our lead goal, our budget and the general seasonality in any given month. They know that in general, I am very open to testing new formats and trying new things when we are facing a challenging month because we have less risk. They can put those big pieces together and make decisions on their own of what is worth testing and when should it be tested.

Culture Isn’t Created in a Day. Culture is built with day after day after day connections with team members and reinforcement of positive behaviors. Too often, we wait for annual reviews to praise or we wait for holiday parties to celebrate. If you’re in a leadership role, challenge yourself to get more consistent with interacting with your team and even working cross-functionally. With the speed of growth at Club Pilates, we have to be intentional and consistent about the culture we’re creating.

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 our healthcare system needs to shift its focus from treatment to prevention. Obviously, physical fitness is a big part of prevention. There’s a bill before Congress right now that would allow people to use their flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay for fitness-related expenses like gym memberships and classes. It’s called the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT Act) and I believe it would be a step in the right direction in terms of re-prioritizing healthcare. I support anything that is created in the spirit of getting adults and children to add more movement to their day so I support the PHIT Act.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I work in marketing which is the most amazing but visible field to work in. I am constantly approached with feedback because everyone is a consumer so everyone has an opinion about what I should be doing in my role. I tell anyone who is looking to get into marketing to build up a thick skin because you do need it to be successful. Early in my career, I didn’t have the thick skin or the confidence behind my ideas so I would ride the highs and lows of other people’s feedback. Especially with the rise of social media and “keyboard gangsters” as I call them, marketers need to keep their focus on the work and not on the critics. I’ve found my lane for the most part and can take all feedback in stride, but I do repeatedly come back to this Theodore Roosevelt quote to stay centered on the task at hand:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I would love to have lunch with Ken Robinson who has written extensively about creativity and learning. His Ted Talks are simultaneously hilarious and thought-provoking. He has such a persuasive way of presenting information and he uses individual stories to reveal the reasons why we need to shift the entire education system. As a parent, I know my son may be out of school by the time that shift happens so I read Ken’s books to educate myself on where I need to fill in the gaps left by the school system. Where the schools are teaching to the tests, the exploration of art, music, drama, and dance needs to happen at home. As a mom and as a leader, I want to talk to him about fostering creativity in the workplace and in the home, in a time when there are more and more demands and structures that kill creativity.



Jessica Yarmey

CEO @sizzlesociety | Entrepreneurship | Marketing | Branding | Leadership | Personal Growth