50 Years Into Running a Business, Jazzercise Founder Judi Sheppard Missett Doesn't Believe in Productivity for Productivity's Sake: 'I Focus More on Intention'

The founder reveals the routines and habits that have been formative to her success.

learn more about Jessica Thomas

By Jessica Thomas

Jazzercise Inc.

When Judi Sheppard Missett founded Jazzercise in 1969, she was entering an industry dominated by men and male-focused brands. Group exercise didn't really exist at that point, but Missett's dance cardio workouts were a hit, and Jazzercise exploded in popularity. It not only gave women a sense of community and chance to focus on their health and wellbeing, but it also opened doors to entrepreneurship through franchising.

More than 50 years later, Jazzercise is a $70 million brand that continues to expand globally, and Missett still runs it as CEO. Read on to learn more about the habits that have made her an effective entrepreneur.

What's your morning routine?

It's not really a set routine, but my husband and I always walk our dog Pancho. After that, I do a quick 10-minute workout with weights and a short meditation before I officially start the day, which almost always involves more movement: choreography, teaching class, business meetings, etc.

What's your favorite business book?

I like a lot of the things I have read by Tom Peters, who writes about business management practices and is best known for In Search of Excellence. This book upended the way we look at management and growth by exploring eight principles. It's all rooted in a people-centric style, which was a huge departure from the older ideas of employees deferring to leaders. I loved it because I have always looked to help the people around me grow to their fullest potential, and it's important to surround yourself with good people who are even better than you.

Favorite business podcast, TV show, movie or influencer?

One of my favorite podcasts is How I Built This with Guy Raz, where he dives into the stories behind some of the world's best-known companies. I really appreciate when creators talk about business from a human perspective and can put things into the context of what's happening today.

I also just finished Danielle Friedman's Let's Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World. In her book, Friedman offers a thorough history on the fitness industry and how the women who came before — me included — have molded the industry. It was an honor to be interviewed, and I appreciate the way the author illustrates what became a movement even today.

Other than business, I love so many authors. I'm a voracious reader and my favorite thing to read is mystery books.

Read More: 5 Affordable Franchises You Can Start for Less Than $10,000

Do you have any daily habits that make you a better leader?

I try my best to do a short meditation in the morning, maybe just five or 10 minutes. I also enjoy taking naps — I think it clears your mind, and you're able to make better decisions when you feel rested. And of course, it's important to exercise every day and get a good cardio workout that includes strength training. I still teach three classes a week and work on choreography for the company most days. All of those things feed your mind and help you become not only a better leader, but also a better person. In general, when you feel better, it makes you better for the people who are around you, whether it's your loved ones or the people you work with daily.

What's your work setup like?

I work from home, and I come into our corporate office in sunny Carlsbad, California. Since the pandemic, I've worked more from home, and the combination is nice. I enjoy seeing and interacting with a lot of the folks who are in the office, but I like working at home, too, as it helps me think a bit better with no interruptions.

Do you have a work "uniform," or something you gravitate towards wearing when you have a big meeting?

We are very lucky here at Jazzercise because we're able to wear whatever we want. The main thing is to be comfortable. I like wearing kind of funky things — I'm not a business-woman-attire person, and I don't wear suits or that sort of thing. I typically wear jeans or outfits that are comfortable, fun and make me happy. If the outfit doesn't bring me joy, then I shouldn't be wearing it!

Any favorite productivity hacks?

I don't really believe in being productive for productivity's sake — I focus more on intention. Is what we're doing good for people? Is it good for the business? When our actions and decisions are good for our customers, franchisees and our bottom line, that's what I call a win-win-win. That's what we all strive for at Jazzercise. Don't get me wrong, we produce more video workouts and choreography than ever in our history, but it all has to make sense and result in that win-win-win to be meaningful.

Read More: 5 of the Best Fitness Franchises You Can Buy

What's your favorite way to decompress?

My favorite thing is to be at home with my husband and my dogs or my daughter and my granddaughters. I also like to travel, read and watch television, especially old sitcoms like Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond, because they always make me laugh. Laughter truly makes you a happier, more joyful person.

What's the best piece of leadership advice you've ever been given?

Follow your passion and what's in your heart. When you do this, you're able to tap into that inner voice — your gut feeling — and follow that instinct. You'll believe in what you're doing, work really hard and be able to make decisions for the right reasons. I've done that my whole life and it's worked, even when people doubted or criticized me. If I listen to that inner voice, it always works out.

Read More: What to Know About the Future of Fitness Post-Pandemic: Franchising, Boutique Studios and Safety

Jessica Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Digital Content Director

Jessica Thomas is the senior digital content director at Entrepreneur. Prior to this role, she spent nearly five years on staff at Worth magazine and was a staff writer for Bustle. 

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