She is the brightest of lights, a 24-karat gem in a world sometimes lacking luster, care and compassion.
Her forever search is to find great in us all.
Modest to a fault, Rock Valley Physical Therapy’s Julie Janecek is the glue — super glue if you will — that binds a growing family — 470 members and counting — carrying out her many tasks with a love and grace few — if any — possess.
She walks — cheerfully and with a forever-optimistic attitude — beside everyone, never putting herself or a personal agenda before what’s best for the hundreds she guides. She can — without fanfare — change the roll on the hallway paper towel dispenser, clean a coffee pot, yet go toe-to-toe in a meeting governed by RVPT board members.
There is a title attached to Janecek, but her contribution to making Rock Valley’s not-so-little engine push its way to the top of the hill is impossible to define. She is far more than “Administrative Director, ‘’ an all-encompassing moniker, that covers human resources and a bevy of “as needed’’ roles along the way.
All done in the most encouraging, best-for-all-involved approach.
“Julie was that missing piece when we were starting to really get things going,’’ said Rock Valley Physical Therapy founder Steve Layer, who with a team of Rock Valley leaders, had the great vision to bring Janecek aboard after she concluded a two-plus decade career in the medical field.
“My goodness, she checked every box we had in what our mission is,’’ added Layer, who in 1984, brought Rock Valley Physical Therapy to life. “We knew Julie and we knew she could wear many hats. We also knew her personality, passion and understanding of what we were trying to do — to provide our patients with the best care possible — would fit. She is amazing.’’
Janecek, who harbored youthful hope of becoming a veterinarian, lives — and thrives — on faith and her ability to see the best in us all. Outwardly, she leads by example and on the inside she hopes — and prays — every member of the Rock Valley family loves their work — and those they stand next to — as much as she does. Challenges aside — and there are countless with her job — there is no day Janecek does not look forward to what stands before her.
“I don’t ever want to get there, to that point where it’s something you don’t look forward to or want to be part of,’’ Janecek, who studied business at Western Illinois University, Black Hawk College and the University of Iowa, said of her Rock Valley mission. “The culture here is different from other places, fostered by those who have led and who lead today. My trust and respect for the leadership of this organization is way up here and I cannot wait to see what each day brings. Remember, there is no ceiling unless you put it over your head.’’
Eric Sacia, Rock Valley Physical Therapy’s COO, says Janecek, an avid reader whose yearly goal is to finish between eight and 10 books, is the epitome of what makes RVPT so special.
“It’s hard not to speak volumes of Julie,’’ Sacia said of Janecek, a wife and mother of two. “The obvious, outward things are that Julie is a hard worker with high values and someone you can trust with anything. She truly cares for everyone in our organization. And, as the primary contact for our employees, she has created a culture of trust and excellence. She allows all of us to do our job better because of what she does.’’
For years, Janecek has donned a variety of Rock Valley hats, including liaison work with doctors as well as her work as the company’s human resource lead. While signing the praises of Rock Valley cornerstones in Layer, Greg Blaske, Mike Horsfield, Sacia, Randy Bolt, Greg Monson and Todd Kersten, she said one RVPT legend left a lasting — and amazing — impression on her career.
“Wanda Robb was amazing to me and to (Controller) Amber (Nowicki),’’ Janecek said. “She handled everything and was the best at dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts. Nothing got past her. If there was one person you wanted — and as a company we do such a great job of mentoring — it was Wanda who you wanted to be mentored by. Amazing person on so many fronts and a huge reason we are where we are.’’
Through it all, through a long and winding medical career preceding her decade-plus of service to Rock Valley, Janecek had a grasp of the Rock Valley way. She knew — and had great faith in Rock Valley leadership — long before she came aboard.
“Steve (Layer) and I have known each other forever,’’ Janecek said. “Even after the relationship between Rock Valley and Genesis ended and Steve was at the hospital (Illini) visiting someone, he would always come by and say hi,’’ Janecek said. “Mike (Horsfield), Wanda (Robb), Greg (Blaske), would never cut a tie even when a relationship might end. They understand the nature of business and people so well. And I will never forget the great laughter that would happen when they used to meet with (Illini Hospital CEO) Gary Larson. Gary has such a distinct and infectious laugh and they all would have just the best time when they met. I knew Rock Valley was special long before I came aboard.’’
Despite all that is good — soon to be 54 Rock Valley Physical Therapy clinics and nearly 500 employees — Janecek said the pandemic — a yearlong struggle for all — was trying. What set Rock Valley apart from others is how those difficult months were handled.
“I think about meeting at 6:30 a.m. each day and then coming back at 3:30 p.m. to meet and see where we were and what we can do,’’ Janecek said of the ups and downs of treating people amid a pandemic. “I got to see first-hand how our leaders worked so hard to do what was best for all involved. It was difficult. Each day was a challenge for everyone, but everyone responded.
“You know, our front office, they are the director of first and last impressions,’’ added Janecek. “Our custodial staff.. If our offices are not clean, patients know there is dirt on the floor and dust on the counters or garbage in the garbage can. Everyone here makes it work. Yes it (the pandemic) was a struggle and sacrifices and hard decisions were made, but we moved forward. We did so because that’s what happens in special places and there is something uniquely special about Rock Valley.’’
That leadership, those who laid the foundation and those who are taking Rock Valley to the next level, is ever far from Janecek’s thoughts. She, like those on the inside, cannot wait to see what the future brings for a place so special.
“There must be a hierarchy in every business,’’ she said. “I get that, but that legacy — the way the partnership is structured and the application and interview process — with leaders that have built the legacy — and such a stringent interview process for those coming aboard — works. It really does.
“Everyone who built Rock valley and now those who will work to take it to the future — all have the same mindset and goals. I so appreciate that the leaders that are leaving — retiring — have been assured their sacrifices were worth it and great things will continue to happen.’’’ And great things will continue to happen at Rock Valley thanks to people like Julie Janecek.
By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller