Master Key combines wellness with success

BETHESDA, Md. – In a move to cut the high costs of health insurance, Native-owned and operated Master Key Consulting launched the Master Key for Life wellness program for employees wanting to lose weight and better their health.

CEO Jonathan Wilber said insurance costs have risen 60 percent for the company and employees since 2000. “We were looking for a way to save the employees and company money. It was also something that employees asked for.”

Employees interested in the plan must take cardio and flexibility tests to determine their fitness level. From there, they are given a nutrition plan and exercise suggestions for at work and at home.

Additionally, wellness coordinators hold quarterly informative sessions for employees, who can also contact their coordinator for individual coaching sessions. “As we compete with larger companies, this is one of the things that attract employees,” Wilber said.

The program debuted nearly one year ago with the assistance of Project Manager Jason Fogarty.

But there was one big challenge in implementing a wellness program: Most of the 140 employees work at government agencies across the nation. For example, at the National Institutes of Health’s Bethesda campus, Master Key employees can be found in at least 10 different buildings.

In order to best address employees needs, Fogarty said they sent out a 150 question survey to get a feel of what employees wanted from the program.

It was clear from the survey results that the success of the program was dependent on tailoring a fitness program for each employee due to the differing work locales. For instance, one employee may have access to an onsite gym, while another may be working in a remote location with no gym nearby.

When Fogarty began his personal wellness program, he was confident he could pass the fitness tests, as he had ran in a marathon six months prior. But he was shocked to discover how quickly he regressed from not exercising during that time period. “I did this thing and was out of breath. It was embarrassing.”

In fact, he said it was a wake up call for most participating employees.

“They didn’t realize that they were that out of shape.”

Since participating in the program, he is currently training for his second marathon. In about six months, participants will undergo an evaluation to see how their health has improved, and to make any changes needed to the program.

Keys to success

Wilber, Menominee, knows how to make challenges in life work to his advantage. The Wisconsin native owned two previous companies – a truck leasing company and truck dealership. Waiting for payment from clients strained meager resources, but he learned from those experiences that “cash was king.”

With Master Key, he wasn’t going to make that same mistake. In 2000, he tapped his expertise in writing government grants for his tribe to land his first $40,000 federal subcontract. His team convinced their first client, the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, that they had the experience and know-how to provide employee training for the agency’s grant management system.

They have signed on with nine different government agencies, including the BIA, and their contracts have exceeded $100 million. Their services include grant monitoring and evaluation, management consulting, Java and Web-based applications, and communications and marketing.

Currently, they have no tribes as clients, but have provided services to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.

They designed a Web portal for the Agua Caliente so tribal members are able to login and access all the tribe’s programs; helped the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino select a vendor to replace the player tracking system software; and designed a job training software system for the Menominee tribe.

Master Key remains solvent in this lagging economy thanks to their current government contracts. Wilber remains optimistic about the future and growth of the company.

“What we have seen recently is a leveling off of opportunities, at least on the non-military side of things, so we’re anxious for the new administration to get their legs underneath them and looking to start spending.”