SoulCycle: An intentional focus on culture

By Lea Hart

SoulCycle: An intentional focus on culture
At SoulCycle, every new employee works some shifts in a studio to learn more about the community of riders. (Photo courtesy of SoulCycle)

SoulCycle has become a fitness phenomenon, expanding to 73 studios nationwide since its founding in 2006. It's not only popular with consumers but also with prospective employees in part because of its team-oriented culture, said Michelle Grossman, CPA, director of financial reporting at SoulCycle and a member of its culture committee. The company has 294 corporate employees, eight of whom are accountants.

Weekly staff meetings and town hall-style meetings allow employees in the corporate office in New York City to ask honest questions and get a response. At other weekly meetings, known as SoulForceOne, each department is represented, and those representatives return to their department and report on any information that was shared.

"We all feel like we're on one team," Grossman said. "There's so many ways people feel informed."

To gain a greater understanding of how the cycling studios function, every member of the corporate office works a number of SoulCycle studio shifts when they are first hired. During those shifts, they may work the front desk, greet riders, help set up bikes, spray shoes, and clean up after classes. What's more, by engaging with the riders, corporate employees can see the sense of community built within each studio and then take that sense of community back to headquarters, Grossman said.

"It definitely helps all corporate employees understand the brand, the culture, and the purpose and mission of SoulCycle on a much deeper level," she said.

That inclusive culture begins at hiring. When new employees begin at SoulCycle, they are paired with a "Soulpanion"—someone from another department, but who's at their same level within the organization. They attend a SoulCycle class and have lunch together, and the new employee can learn about the company and ask questions.

SoulCycle's reputation makes it a company that people seek out for employment. That has led to a large candidate pool, meaning recruiters can look for employees who have the right skill set but who will also be a good cultural fit, she said.

This intentional approach toward culture keeps morale high, according to Grossman.

"We still work really hard, but there's so much more positivity in the air," she said.

Meet six more employers that have radically rethought the ways they relate to their CPAs:

  • A flat hierarchy with no job titles and no partners aids recruiting for an S.C. firm.
  • Letting employees set their own hours pays dividends for a Honolulu firm’s retention.
  • A $1,000 vacation stipend spurs an Arizona firm’s staff to unplug—and recharge.
  • Training all managers in coaching creates a culture of listening at a California firm.
  • Weekly reviews of firm financials at a Denver-area firm helps employees feel ownership.
  • Cross-training gives employees of an Arizona firm new expertise.

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