As a soul cycle aficionado, the fireside chat with Julie Rice at C3 this year was one of the many sessions that jumped out to me from the packed C3 agenda, and it more than lived up to the hype. But what was the best advice shared by the co-founder of the cult-like brand:

Being a leader is about who you are when no one is looking at you

One of the most powerful tips I took away from Julie on how to be an inspirational leader that people want to work for, was to jump out from behind your mission statement and “walk the walk” as much as you talk the talk. Be willing to do every and any job to understand your business, and better understand the challenges of both your customers and your employees. If this means getting deep in the weeds with how your business operates on a day to day level, DO IT – it will only make you a more effective leader.

Get face-to-face time with your customers

Here’s a piece of advice that every business can learn from to be more successful. It doesn’t matter how you do it – find a way to get face to face time with your customers.

“I could learn more in 30 minutes behind a desk at SoulCycle than I could in weeks behind my desk. You can immediately understand their pain points.”

Julie spoke about when she spent a day behind the desk at one of her SoulCycle branches, interacting with customers and employees all day to get a better understanding of what drives them or frustrates them. This is another powerful reminder that truly understanding what drives your customers is the key to business success in whichever industry you’re a part of. Human connection is more powerful than anything 

Be willing to know that you can always be better

Bring that mindset to work everyday and you will be on the right track to success. Julie cited an example of how she received feedback of not having meeting integrity as she frequently canceled meetings or was late to many of them and this frustrated employees. Of course, she was running a high-growth company which was the reason why. However, she worked out a way to be better and prioritize – it might seem a small thing but for some people that is the most important thing.

Being able to listen, take feedback and act on it to improve is something that everyone can push themselves to do, whether you are the CEO or the intern. Moreover, create an environment that is safe enough to hear things about how other people are feeling about you. It’s constructive, and if you allow people to be free to express themselves it can be the key to making everyone in the organization better.

Be decisive but collaborative

This part of the fireside chat was about finding a balance between giving people authority and freedom to be creative but with clear boundaries. Make sure people know what lane they can run in but that they also feel empowered to be able to make decisions. Be clear with your direction while ensuring that people have the freedom to express themselves and everyone will be better.

Make your brand make people feel something that they want to hang on to

One of the many reasons why SoulCycle has been so successful is because of the feelings the brands inspires in the people that take their classes. They’ve made people feel something that means that even if they can get the same thing for a little cheaper down the road, they would rather come back to SoulCycle because of how it makes them feel. I know because I’m one of those customers. No other spin class gives me the positive energy I walk away from SoulCycle with – and I’ve tried many other studios. They just don’t compare. This brand affinity is worth more than any marketing campaign you could execute. 

Define what your business truly stands for

What defines your business? What does it actually do? SoulCycle may ultimately be a fitness business, but it’s about more than that. It’s a business built around being human, connection and empowerment. It’s about a unique connection and bond that forms between the instructor and every person “tapping it back” on a spin bike within those 4 walls.

It’s ultimately about how they make you feel during 45 minutes of pedaling & sweating. Julie compared it to like going on the best vacation you’ve ever been on. Their retail business goes even further, as it allows you to take home a small reminder that you can be anything you like, taking that euphoria from the class home with you.

Make your customers feel like they matter and that they’re heard

This all goes back again to how a brand can make their customers feel. Julie spoke about how they had a partnership with Spotify, and for their 10-year anniversary they mined data and created an app called My Soul Journey. Every rider got a personalized page with 4 or 5 meaningful data points such as how many classes they had attended, their “Soulaversary”, fave instructors etc. They also got a personalized playlist based on music from the types of classes they take. People were overjoyed and shocked by how the brand went above and beyond to make them feel special. If you think about it, with all the data we have as marketers at our fingertips, this isn’t as difficult to execute as it might first seem… and the rewards can be off the charts.

To Sum Up

Whichever industry or business you work in, there were so many takeaways from this session that can help you be a more effective employee and leader. Get out from behind your desk and experience your business the way your customers and employees experience it. Be humble – be able to say, “I was wrong”. All people make mistakes – it’s how you step up and deal with them that counts.

Hustle – if you’re an entrepreneur, make sure the business you’re investing your time and money in is something that keeps you awake at night, and find a way to get to your target. For Julie, at the start of SoulCycle, she said to herself she will get 100 people to SoulCycle a day however they had to do it – it just had to be done. And finally, identify what your business actually does and how it makes a difference to people’s lives – that will be the differentiator that drives you to the next level.

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