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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Shindigz CEO Matt Wojewuczki, right, and IT manager Gary Lundblad review IT concerns while jogging.

Local leaders get fit on the job

Kathy Carrier was fast approaching 50 when her doctor recommended she lose about 40 pounds.

If she could drop the weight, Carrier could likely stop taking her heart medication, the cardiologist said.

So the owner and CEO of Briljent LLC joined Weight Watchers and looked for ways to add activity to her workdays, which often stretched 12 hours. She knew that if she couldn’t do it before she got home from the office, it probably wouldn’t get done.

The answer, Carrier decided, was to combine walking with business meetings.

It took about a year, but the entrepreneur lost 45 pounds and the need for her heart pills.

She also gained a new outlook.

“I’ve found my walking meetings are more relaxed, more productive,” she said. “I find we get to the heart of the matter faster and the nuances.”

Matt Wojewuczki, who served for 20 years in the Air Force, also loves to combine fitness with business.

The Shindigz CEO started the healthy habit a few years ago, before he joined the South Whitley party supply company. In his five months at the company, Wojewuczki has been largely confined to working out indoors. He wouldn’t ask his eight direct reports to brave the brutal winter weather to talk to the boss.

But Wojewuczki has found that talking while on the treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bike works well for him and some of his staff. About half of his regular meetings are now scheduled for the company’s fitness center.

“It sounds counterintuitive, considering you’re doing two things at once,” the 44-year-old said.

Wojewuczki doesn’t want to make people uncomfortable by requiring walking meetings, however.

“I think it is a personal choice, so I don’t push it one way or another,” he said.

Carrier also doesn’t press the matter when someone isn’t fit enough to comfortably talk while walking for an hour.

With people outside the company, she always offers a choice: a walking meeting or a meal. She finds that active folks almost always opt for the walk.

With employees, Carrier will forgo a stroll if they aren’t up to it. But she gently encourages a healthier lifestyle by paying dues for workers who choose to attend Weight Watchers meetings in the workplace.

Shindigz, which is owned by Shep and Wendy Moyle, pays to bring in a fitness instructor twice a week and a Zumba instructor once a week. Employees can attend the sessions for free. Wojewuczki described the company’s wellness program as fantastic.

Carrier, who is semi-retired, turned Briljent’s day-to-day operations over to her son-in-law, Matt Odum, last year.

The 55-year-old Fort Wayne woman still owns the company and is involved in finance and strategy decisions.

Her once-packed schedule now includes four or five walks a week, down from about two every weekday. Carrier doesn’t do it because she has to. She does it because she wants to.

“Honestly,” she said, “the conversations are more real. They’re more robust.”