St. Louis’ Fittest CEOs
FIND OUT HOW THESE ENTREPRENEURS CONNECT FITNESS WITH BUSINESS GROWTH
by Julia Paulus Ogilvie
If any group of people has a reason to skip out on a gym membership, that group would be business owners. Between the pressures of family, employees, customers and business operation, their time usually is not their own. Many sacrifice their physical health to gain an edge in their endeavors. However, the entrepreneurs that make up our Fittest CEOs feature have been able to wrest control of their physical health from the clutches of constant demand. And, more importantly, they have found that their fitness also boosts the health and wellness of their business.
Choosing A Healthy Lifestyle First
Carl Bolm, The Battlegrounds/BSR Services/Cedar Lake Cellars
Playing an active role in three businesses takes energy. Therefore, Carl Bolm is dedicated to exercising and eating healthy to keep up with his three companies, The Battlegrounds, the Midwest’s only permanent mud run obstacle course; BSR Services, snow and ice removal; and Cedar Lake Cellars, a winery and event venue in Wright City.
“I work out four to five days each week at FUEL Strength & Wellness Studio with my friend and personal trainer, Perry Merlotti,” he says. “I also incorporate cardio activity three days a week, outdoors at Forest Park on the weekends if nice or else a treadmill when the weather isn’t good. I play tennis with my wife, Gabriella, and we enjoy Bikram yoga too.”
Bringing his lunch to work helps Bolm maintain his healthy eating habits. “I credit my wife, who recently joined the company, as a big supporter who helps me maintain such a clean lifestyle,” he says.
Bolm’s healthy lifestyle extends beyond the everyday into what most consider a timeout. “I take active vacations with my friends, who call them “Carl’s Boot Camp (CBC),” he says. “We snow ski in winter, and even warm-weather vacations have a workout element either at the resort’s gym or challenging games of tennis, where my wife often beats me, so I’m in therapy over losing to her.”
While it takes a lot of stamina to run a company, Bolm says being fit increases his physical and mental energy, so his work benefits from his workouts. “I am a much better leader when I feel good about myself,” he says.
As Bolm makes a healthy lifestyle a priority, he encourages the same for his employees. “I definitely walk the walk when it comes to promoting healthy living,” he says. “One of my companies, The Battlegrounds, is a permanent mud run obstacle course that operates year-round. We have clients that rent the course to promote exercise and team building, and I do the same for all my companies. It’s a great feeling getting your employees out of their typical office setting to participate in some outdoor fitness fun.”
Strong Motivation For Fitness
Mark Richman, Skeleton Key/Brightsource IT
Every day Mark Richman has two strong motivating factors that make fitness a priority in his life: his children and his wife. “I have four young sons, ages 9 to 3, and I suspect that if I don’t get and stay in shape that they will kick my butt someday sooner than later, and there’s no way I’m going to let that happen if I can help it,” he says. “Plus, wrestling all four of them at once gets harder every day, but so far I am undefeated.”
In addition, Richman’s wife, Sally, who runs for distance; competes in marathons; and does Insanity, Focus T25, Jillian Michaels workouts, yoga and Pilates, motivates him to make a serious effort. “She’s a machine and really inspired me to get my act in gear.”
Richman’s regular routine includes resistance training three days a week for one hour each session with his personal trainer, Harrison George at Studio Element, and the occasional interval jump rope workout for 30 minutes on the off days. Richman makes time for this while running his two businesses, Skeleton Key, which builds custom software, and Brightsource IT, a managed services provider with an emphasis on mixed-platform environments.
He starts early and schedules around work so that exercise is a constant part of his weekly calendar. “If I don’t prioritize it, it won’t happen,” he says.
On the diet side of things, Richman’s wife keeps him on track. “We eat as a family every night, with great choices – lots of veggies, plenty of protein, and plenty of leftovers, which I take to work whenever I can.”
Richman makes his food choices very visible at work and certainly doesn’t shy away from talking about what he’s doing to stay fit. “I didn’t do anything for several years, even decades, so the best I try to do now is be public about what I am doing and let others decide for themselves,” he says.
With diet and exercise in check, Richman finds himself more alert, more confident, and better able to run his businesses. “I feel like my bases are covered and I’m not slacking on my health, so I can go all in when at work,” he says.
Making Fitness A Priority
Jennah Purk, Purk & Associates
Jennah Purk, owner of Purk & Associates PC CPAs and business advisers, has always been fit. She is both a runner and an avid CrossFitter, and fitness is a priority and a challenge she enjoys.
“My priorities go: God, family, fitness and then my business,” she says. “It makes me a better me – a better leader to my team, a better advocate for my clients, a better mother to my 3½-year-old twins, a better wife and a better friend. I wear so many hats and have so many responsibilities, which all take different temperaments. Exercise is like a medication. It makes me able to deal with anything.”
After her twins were born, Purk’s husband unknowingly set a new challenge for her when he told her she couldn’t complete a full marathon. “I am competitive and had to prove that I could do it,” she says.
Purk achieved her goal of completing a marathon and has created a workout regimen that centers on supporting her choice to become a distance runner. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Purk runs 6 miles. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she attends Shred as well as Bar Method classes for both strength and endurance. Friday mornings, Purk does a long run of 10 to 22 miles depending on whether she has a race coming up. On Saturdays she attends another Bar Method class, and on Sunday she has a short run of 3 to 4 miles. “I fit in situps and dips when I can,” she says. “If I get off a stressful call, I might close my office door, do 25 pushups and say, ‘OK, let it go.’”
Despite the realities of her schedule as a business owner, mother, wife and more, Purk makes fitness a priority. “It is the first thing I do because I know that life will get in the way,” she says. “I don’t schedule meetings before 9:30 a.m. so I can get in my workout and get the twins out the door, and I put my workouts on my schedule.”
Purk’s love of fitness has spread to her team. This fall she trained an employee for his first marathon, which he completed in October, and she encourages team members by paying for gym memberships and race fees.
Relying On Your Support Network
Scott Kolbe, KolbeCo
For years, Scott Kolbe, owner of KolbeCo, a full-service brand media agency, found his energy levels dropping in the afternoon. He also had lots of friends who were runners. “I would catch up with them at a networking event,” he says. “I was a runner when I was in high school, and their stories reminded me of what I loved about it. When I saw my friends turn into really successful endurance athletes, I suddenly got hooked.”
The key for Kolbe to get back to running, establish a successful diet and get back into shape was having a good support network. “I joined the St. Louis Triathlon Club two years ago, and the group is the most encouraging group I have ever met,” he says. “They helped me realize stretch goals – ones that seem out of reach – are not always a stretch. Most people that participate in triathlons or endurance events have similar backgrounds to me. They have reached a point in their lives when they decided to make their fitness and well-being a priority.”
Kolbe found free time for workouts when he and his wife canceled their satellite TV and redirected that couch potato time toward getting into shape. “It has been a steady journey, and it didn’t start out with jumping into triathlons,” he says. “It started out with some hiking and then grew into 5K races, then to shorter-distance triathlons. Today I am enjoying 70.3-distance triathlons and half-marathons.”
To continue reaching new fitness goals, Kolbe has a weekly routine that includes seven workouts and he also keeps track of what he eats. “I typically swim twice a week, bike twice a week and run three times a week,” he says. “I have logged my diet for three years now. I build out my training schedule three months out at a time and track it to fitness, diet apps and spreadsheets.”
A result of all this is that Kolbe feels sharper when focusing on ideas for clients. “Also, I understand on a deeper level a more systematic approach to achieving goals,” he says. “Most people focus on a big goal, and that’s great. But often, creating incremental steps is what gets you where you want to be.”
Leading By Example
Kathy Kessler, Halcyon Spa, Salon and B&B
In 2001 Kathy Kessler began a new career as an entrepreneur when she founded Halcyon Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and started massaging clients in her home. Over the course of the next few years, Kessler added massage therapists working out of her home with her. “We continued to grow, and in 2009 I renovated a historic building into a rustic yet modern spa,” she says. “We continue to focus on massage and bodywork including myofascial release, craniosacral therapy and reflexology but have added esthetics, salon services, yoga and last year the lowest level was renovated into a guest room.”
Today Kessler herself teaches five to six yoga classes per week at the spa and massages an average of 60 clients per month with a focus of bringing health and wellness to clients through Halcyon Spa, Salon and B&B. As wellness is the focus of Kessler’s professional life, it is the goal in her personal life as well. “My normal workout routine is an early-morning walk with my Goldendoodle, Leo, at least 45 to 60 minutes,” she says. “Weekends we like a longer walk. I have a sporadic home yoga practice and give myself 30-day yoga challenges or take a yoga class with friends for a social outing.”
Nutrition is also a key for Kessler, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2008 and opted to use nutrition along with homeopathy to manage it. As a gluten-free vegetarian who goes vegan while at home, she has managed her disease and lost 40 pounds.
While finding the time for diet and exercise is a challenge, it’s not negotiable for Kessler. “I will occasionally skip the walk or eat out more than normal,” she says. “Nonetheless, I know 6 a.m. is my time to walk and try not to schedule myself to be anywhere before 8 a.m. so I do not skip it. When I get home at 8:30 at night, you often find me cooking so I have something nutritious for dinner even though it is late and I have leftovers for the day to follow.”
By bringing healthy food to work, Kessler leads by example. “My staff will assure you they have seen, tasted and heard about foods they had never considered before working at Halcyon,” she says.
Creating A Consistent Routine
Rob Timmermann, Timmermann Group
When Rob Timmermann places an equal focus on all wellness measures in his life, he becomes the most professionally and personally effective. Knowing this, Timmermann makes a conscious effort to keep his routine consistent so that he can better tackle the multitasking skills required of him on a day-to-day basis as a husband, a father and the owner of the Timmermann Group, a full-service digital marketing agency.
“I am committed to hitting the gym by 6 a.m. each day so that I can save all working hours for the priorities of my team and my clients,” he says. “I am recently a fan of juicing and making a daily protein shake right after my workout. I saw the most dramatic results in my workout routine this year when I began making protein shakes for breakfast. I also believe in making lunch the largest meal of the day and including a high-protein option at this meal. For dinner, my wife and I love to grill. We committed to all organic foods two years ago and have omitted processed foods from our family diet.”
On Sundays Timmermann allows himself to skip the gym for a family day. “My wife and I enjoy spending time with our 14-month-old, Paxton,” he says. “He keeps us very active on the weekends now that he is up and running.”
Although his routine takes discipline and many synchronized alarms set on his iPhone, Timmermann is now three years in and feels that his gym routine is not just routine but his body craves it. “I am not truly balanced without starting off my day with an hour of fitness,” he says. “I give myself these 60 minutes each morning to tune out the world, turn up my headphones and focus on my strength.”
Timmermann feels blessed to have an organizational culture that is committed to having employees lead healthy and active lifestyles as well. This fall Timmermann’s team launched an entire campaign called #TGfit. “We are creating an internal ‘point system’ over the holiday months that allow the entire organization to lift specific factors in our own wellness programs,” he says. “We decided to start this competition in our culture in the fall/winter months because we are committed to making these typically less healthy months more health-focused. The team is really excited for the many ways in which they can gain #TGfit points in the contest. For example: lunchtime yoga, ‘health-luck’ instead of potluck lunches and 10,000-step-a-day tracking, to name a few.”
Decreasing Stress Levels
Steve Myers, True North Management Services LLC
Last year Steve Myers reached a point in his life where he had to make time to improve his health because if he didn’t, the second half of his life could be filled with medications and possibly life-threatening health issues. “Once I made time and was able to stay dedicated, it has now turned into a priority for me – not an option,” says Myers, president of True North Management Services LLC, which constructs cell sites, maintains networks and upgrades wireless infrastructure in the main wireless carriers’ networks.
Over the past year, Myers lost 45 pounds of body fat while increasing his physical activity level. “I feel better and more confident about myself in every situation,” he says. “Some parts of my job are stressful, and getting the workout in each day definitely decreased my stress level.”
Myers achieved this weight loss by working out Monday through Friday with a couple of team members at Gold’s Gym in Fenton. Each day of the week he completes the following exercises:
Monday: chest, arms, triceps
Tuesday: lats, arms, stomach/core, biceps
Wednesday: squats, legs, shoulders
Thursday: core, sides and stomach
Friday: All exercises completed in the week but only two reps
Myers plans on increasing the amount of healthy foods in his diet to help reach new goals. He stays motivated to continue on this path, as the positives are too much to ignore. “All areas of my abilities as a leader have been positively influenced,” he says. “I have experienced an increase in concentration, confidence, energy level and overall personal fulfillment. Feeling good and looking good makes for a happier person. Any leader who is dedicated to fitness will make better decisions for his company.”
While leading his company, Myers encourages a healthy diet and exercise every day. “At True North, we are an outdoor company and our employees have a very physical job, to say the least,” he says. “So being in shape is a priority for all of us to be successful.”
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