Our readers nominated their favorites, and we asked them their management secrets.
WHEN JESS HUGHES opened her first Citizen Pilates studio in 2015, it was with years of experience under her belt—in the oil and gas industry. After 18 months in her new business—and opening a second location—she realized that running a boutique fitness studio required a big shift in her management philosophy. “A few of my instructors started to leave,” says Hughes, and exit interviews revealed a pattern of unhappiness with what they perceived as overly assertive leadership. “As you grow as a leader, you have to stop and go, The same things are happening in my business. They all left on the same terms; they were frustrated. You have to literally sit down and go, Oh, it’s me.”
After this tough realization, Hughes embarked on a mission of change. “I just did a huge personal assessment and said, I have to pull back a little bit and realize I’m no longer in a very strait-laced oil-and-gas environment that’s dominated by men.” She asked her mentors and staff to help her change course. Now, thanks to her focus on employee satisfaction, Hughes says, people are “beating down the door” to work at Citizen Pilates—and just in time, as they’re opening two more studios very soon and will be adding more instructors to the 12-member staff.
On valuing employees: “Arianna Huffington once said to me [at a conference]: ‘Are you treating your team better than your clients?’ And you think, Well, why would I do that? My team doesn’t pay money to take classes; my team doesn’t make the studio money. And then you stop and you go, oh, wow—they do. If you can’t recognize that as a business owner, then you’re gonna have a rude awakening. This is my family—this is my team—and if I don’t have these human beings in this studio, I don’t have a business. Your team should be treated better than your clients.”
On creating a positive environment: “You want to lead by example. Smile. Ask someone how their day was. Be nice. I’m all about recognition: gift certificates to Lululemon, gift certificates to Juice Girl. I think that getting those little surprises of unsolicited thank-yous to your team goes a long way.”
On when to let your Type A side out: “I’m a control freak. But guess what? I have full control over me. I don’t have a lot of control in this world, but I have control over what I say, how I say it, when I say it.”