Bold Women in the C-Suite: CG Funk
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Bold Women in the C-Suite: CG Funk

Bold Women in the C-Suite: CG Funk

Name: CG Funk

Brand: Massage Heights

Title: SVP of Culture and Industry Relations

Years in franchising: 18 

No. of units: 115

How important is making bold moves in a woman’s path to the C-suite? Making bold moves in one’s career life is important regardless of gender. For women, it’s not so much how important it is to do so, but rather recognizing how many women have been taught since childhood not to take chances, rock the boat, or embrace risk. I have always loved the sayings, “The universe rewards the brave” and “Fortune favors the bold.” I learned early on that success in careers requires not only commitment, hard work, and focus, but also the willingness to plunge ahead even if the path is dark and unpaved.

Describe bold moves you’ve made in your career. I am in the position I am today because 30 years I decided to leave a safe, secure job in sales and marketing and attend massage therapy college. In 1992, massage and spa were not household words and considered suspect and on the fringe. To make this move in a time when neither were considered careers, or even viable jobs, was a big risk. On top of that, I received no support from family and close friends who, for the most part, thought I had lost my mind!

I have made similar moves in my 30-year career in spa and wellness. I was very successful as a practicing massage therapist and teacher for many years. I closed my business to move into the vocational school industry, learning to operate successful massage therapy schools. In 2005, I accepted a position with this unknown, new-to-market franchise brand—Massage Envy—another career move that made my close circle of friends and family shake their heads. When I joined Massage Envy there were 30 locations opened. When I left 10 years later there were 1,100 locations open.

How did you envision those moves changing the brand you were with? For bold moves specific to one brand, I made several during my tenure with Massage Envy. Since this brand was the first model of its kind, we had no one to follow. We couldn’t research how other brands had navigated the growth, unique challenges, opportunities, or operational structure and needs. We had to basically create strategies as we went. This type of oversight requires leaders who are creative, innovative, and not risk-averse. During my tenure, there were many bold moves taken in developing services, employee acquisition strategies, vocational school outreach, industry relations initiatives, and franchisee training and support. The department I managed oversaw all functions that had to do with the back of the house (therapists, services, policies, training, etc.). Our industry relations outreach was so important in those days because the massage therapy community, including schools, associations, and therapists, were very resistant to our model of offering affordable massage services. Interacting with these groups was not for the weakhearted.

How has your leadership helped evolve the brand? My team and I created an industry relations and recruiting strategy that positioned us as leaders in the massage and spa industries. From our national marketing campaigns to our internal franchisee support programs, Massage Heights has built much brand recognition in associations, schools, and with massage therapists collectively, which supports our franchisee recruiting outreach.

Our contributions to industry nonprofit foundations and our unique programs like Outside the Room—a virtual show and podcast designed for massage therapists and estheticians—are creative approaches to promote our career opportunities and give back. We believe that it is important to be good industry stewards and do so through volunteer leadership and monetary donations. These external programs become even more successful by involving our franchisees. We spent much time in 2022 educating the system on industry relations and formed a Culture of Care Committee composed of franchisees who assist us in supporting and promoting all our outreach programs. 

From our products and service department, we spent the year assessing the performance of our current menu and offerings and making many changes to ensure our franchisees continue to maximize profitability, while maintaining therapeutic and high-quality experiences for our guests.

Was there pushback? How did you handle that? For product and service adaptations, there was some pushback from our network regarding the changes and updates. As a franchisee, sometimes it is difficult to see the entire national picture, and we did our best to share all the details of our decisions. In franchising, these types of situations occur often. I’ve learned as a leader that the best approaches are honesty, openness, and patience. In addition, listening closely to opposing opinions is greatly beneficial as there could always be input that helps improve the approaches and decisions.

How are you imparting a culture of boldness to other women in your organization? In this stage of my career, it’s all about mentoring the next generation of leaders. The corporate office has an amazing team of people who are passionate, intelligent, and dedicated. My focus is helping them learn and grow so they can become confident in their abilities and roles. It’s important to coach and then step back to allow them to fully access their unique talents and power through their own success and even failures. We all can learn from each other every day. And while I am a senior executive, I am still learning and growing. I’m constantly in awe of the younger generations I work with as they continue to teach me as well.

What motivates you as a leader? I am motivated when I have a strong connection to purpose and when I am working alongside passionate, intelligent, and creative people. The business of Massage Heights is providing healing experiences to our guests to help them live happier, healthier lives. It doesn’t get much better than that. In the 30 years I’ve been in the spa and wellness industries, I have always been driven my deep belief in the power of hands-on therapeutic touch. I hold the work of massage therapists and estheticians in high regard and am so inspired by the differences they make every day through their skilled hands and compassionate hearts.

What are some ways women leaders in franchising can drive change? Women are natural leaders. And while I’m a businesswoman and understand the financial and profitability models of successful franchises, I also know that powerful leading requires knowing how to integrate intuition, heart, and inspiration into our leadership roles.

What role has mentoring played in your career? How did you meet your mentors? While I’ve never had a formal mentor, I have learned so much from the powerful women I have worked alongside and from spa and wellness leaders I have formed professional friendships with. I continue to be inspired by the executive team at Massage Heights, the industry association board members I work with, and all the women leading the charge in the spa and wellness industries.

Describe one of your biggest failures. What did you learn, and how did it contribute to greater personal or business success? While I don’t recall any “big” failures that negatively affected the brand I worked for or my career, there have been many times I’ve stumbled or made the wrong choices. In all these cases, I did learn quite a bit about communication, listening, planning, and paying attention to the details. I’m a big-picture gal, so I have the tendency to move full speed ahead and throw caution to the wind. This approach works sometimes, but to have a better outcome I’ve learned it’s best to slow down and carefully think things through.

What is one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make, and how did it affect your life? I made a very difficult decision 7 years ago. I was at the height of my career in an important leadership role for 10 years and truly thriving. But my mother was aging and with the position I had, I wasn’t able to see her as much as I wanted to. I decided to step down from my role and focus on spending time with and helping to care for my mom. I moved into part-time consulting and spent 5 years doing that, which allowed me to be with my mom. This truly the boldest career move I’ve ever made. And it was so worth it.

If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? In my career I have grown and learned how to become a better person, leader, and friend through not only my successes, but also my failures. It has been an amazing ride, and the only thing I would change is to commit to fostering more work/life balance as my younger years were spent focusing more on the professional aspects of my life and neglecting the personal.

What advice do you have for aspiring female leaders? Leadership is more than just a title and pay grade. It’s more than sitting behind a desk and telling staff what to do. It’s about working alongside your team and leading by example. Know your worth and cultivate humility and curiosity. Seek out like-minded colleagues who will offer support and insights. Always keep learning. Take chances personally and professionally. Remember, every challenge and obstacle is a growth opportunity.

Published: April 9th, 2023

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