Grit is often used to describe someone with perseverance, courage and passion to keep going despite the challenging obstacles in their way. It also perfectly sums up JoAnna Masloski.
Every morning she wakes up, enjoys a cup of coffee as she puts together a quick outlook and list of team needs for the day, laces up her sneakers and then hits the trails for a jog. It’s her routine, her escape, and the way she clears and energizes her mind for a great day of work. But this dedication to running didn’t happen overnight; it’s been built on years of practice and drive.
“I was not going to be a runner, that was not my thing,” recalled Masloski. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to play basketball, volleyball, diving, soccer, etc. And so, I basically rejected running for quite a few years.”
But then Masloski saw an opportunity.
Others recognized her natural talent at the sport and as a collegiate opportunity, so she gave it another chance. From there she went on to earn a scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, collecting five All-American titles along the way, and has completed nearly 50 marathons and seven trail ultramarathons.
This grit, determination and endurance she learned from running are all traits she showcases in leadership and company culture today as the COO of Wellbridge.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is not something of my creation, but thankfully, something I’ve been able to continue to foster, which is Wellbridge’s culture,” said Masloski. “Our endurance, grittiness and scrappiness is learned through many experiences in people’s lives. Running has taught me all of those things, among many other personal challenges. I get to know my team in this way. I believe what we’ve experienced in life brings us the best ways to tackle professional opportunities and challenges. I try to bring that out of people and figure out how we can best use those strengths for success. I’m really a strengths-based leader.”
In addition to better understanding how her employees overcome challenges and shining a light on their strengths, Masloski said the majority of her leadership is based on doing for others what was done for her.
Straight out of college she started working for a marketing agency plus two other part-time jobs to make ends meet. One of those was equipment cleaning at Northwest Athletic Clubs, a former Wellbridge product.
“I was working at the club for the free membership. Back in those days, I think we called my position a fitness floor attendant” said Masloski “I was also working a full-time marketing job and also training to see if professional running was in my future. Someone recognized that, and was like, ‘Why don’t you do marketing for the clubs?’ So, I got a job as the events and promotion coordinator for Northwest Athletic Clubs in 2001, and here I am today.”
This willingness to invest and take a chance on employees is just one of many things that makes Wellbridge the company it is.
Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, the Wellbridge team has been successfully managing fitness properties across the country for 40 years. While the prominence of the company alone is impressive, it’s even more appreciated when you learn no two locations are the same.
“We want our leaders to take ownership of their club and be creative with their solutions so you can serve your community the right way,” explained Masloski. “That’s a big part of it. All of our clubs are different. None of them look the same. None of them have the same amenities. A lot of companies say, ‘We’re really involved in our community,’ but in that regard for us, what we’ve done is acquired clubs that are embedded in their local community, and we’ve kept their facility name.”
While this is a key differentiator and makes Wellbridge unique, it’s not always easy.
Masloski elaborated that at times it’s difficult for people to know who Wellbridge is because they don’t use that name anywhere in their markets. But while it’s challenging — especially as a marketing and recruiting tool — they’ve chosen to stand by it, endure it and figure out how they can utilize it as a part of what makes them unique and special.
“That is a great benefit to teammates and members who continue to build on those communities but a huge challenge for operators,” said Masloski. “The great news is each club team is a small business in itself, exceeding the needs and wants of their community versus Wellbridge’s. This makes each club’s environment a true family of teammates who go after their challenges together so they can celebrate the bigger wins.”
Simply put, the Wellbridge culture is helping their teammates learn, grow and develop so they can give their passion back to members and teammates. This can be observed daily through Masloski’s longevity and loyalty to the company.
For 23 years Masloski has worked her way up the ranks to COO, always jumping at new opportunities to serve Wellbridge in whatever capacity. When it comes to leadership and growth, Masloski noted the best thing she ever did was open herself up to learning and growing in any category available at the time. She said it’s not always obvious or easy to find, but when you listen, get involved and raise your hand, the opportunities are there.
“Don’t hesitate to engage based on many things people put priority on: compensation, position level, leaders, fear of failure, or time and energy required. Throw yourself in the ring,” said Masloski. “When I see teammates not only raising their hand to help out, but sincerely putting their full selves into the opportunity, I know that person will go far.”
In the era of quiet quitting and staffing shortages, it’s easy to be tempted to accept the bare minimum of an employee to fill a spot. But true leadership is pouring into your staff and helping them to reach their full potential. This results in happier employees and better served members.
Masloski does this by encouraging her team to give more than they think they need.
“Always give a little extra,” said Masloski. “That’s what long distance runners do. Let’s say you can run a half marathon. Well, maybe today you could run 14 miles instead. I think that’s part of what I’ve done is just give a little extra every day — whether there’s an extra smile, an extra email, an extra text, an extra hug, whatever it is.”
All in all, the day-to-day of raising a child, being a COO of a company and training for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc’s CCC Race isn’t easy. But Masloski is keen on tackling challenges. For her, the key to being a successful leader in this industry is to hear ideas, support teammates, go the extra mile, and most importantly, enjoy it.
“See every sunrise as an opportunity for something, an opportunity to crush the day,” added Masloski. “My father’s big phrase was always ‘smell the roses.’ Respect, responsibility and endurance — they take a lot out of you if you’re doing them to the highest degree you can. You have to learn how to also then smell the roses. Enjoy that day.”