Sweating the Small Stuff: How I Created A Company Culture Of Accomplishments


There are tremendous benefits to cultivating a healthy, happy business culture. In fact, this might be the single most important factor in determining a business’s long-term success. It’s simple, people make up the core of every single business. Happy staff and clients result in a company’s staying power.

Over nearly eight years, I’ve owned and operated six fitness studios. At Pure Barre, I have a staff of 104 people. At the age of 25, when I opened my first business and hired my first team, I knew I needed to prioritize my company culture. Experience has taught me that employees will work harder, for longer periods of time and with more enthusiasm if they enjoy and value their company culture.

[thb_image full_width="true" alignment="center" image="9774" img_size="full"]

In my quest to build the strongest company culture possible, I’ve found that celebrating small wins results in a huge ROI. According to Zip Recruiter, three out of every four companies have recognition programs, but only 58 percent of their staff knows about them. In other words, companies must go beyond simply implementing employee appreciation programs. They should scream staff (and client) recognition from the rooftops.

Whether you’re showcasing the accomplishments of your staff or your clients, there are many ways to leverage the power of celebrating small wins. Below are several methods that have worked for our business.

It Starts With You and Your Team

Company culture begins with your first hire. It only takes one drop to poison the well. Even with a large staff, it only takes one person to damage the company culture. I’ve never taken the hiring process of my team lightly. Instead, I’ve chosen to keep the hiring of teachers exclusively my responsibility, even after eight years of running multiple studios.

"Company culture begins with your first hire. It only takes one drop to poison the well. Even with a large staff, it only takes one person to damage the company culture."

When hiring, I look for people who are achievement oriented, among other things. These are the people who will thrive in an environment that celebrates the small wins. These are also the people who don’t settle for mediocrity. And perhaps most importantly, these are the people who will help their peers celebrate mini successes along the way.

Milestone-Tied Compensation

A decision my husband (and business partner) made early on in our entrepreneurial venture was to celebrate the amount of classes taught by our instructors.

Rather than paying our fitness instructors based on seniority or previous coaching experience, we offer wage increases when our staff reaches various milestones: 100 classes taught, 250 classes taught and so on. Not only do we increase instructors’ pay at these milestones, but also we outwardly celebrate their accomplishments in our community. Using our social media channels and in-studio announcements, we congratulate our team members on their commitment to teaching Pure Barre. As a result, our newer teachers are always working to teach more classes so they too can earn this recognition.

"A standard recognition program might not be the best way to deliver positive feedback. Find ways to honor your team and their accomplishments" - Sami Sweeny (Photo Courtesy of Pure Bare)

Staff Competitions

Another example of using accomplishments to create an impactful work environment is demonstrated by our exclusive staff challenges. Several times a year, we lead fitness and nutrition challenges for our internal team. Often, these challenges are focused on working-out a specific number of times, or building muscle mass (which we measure on a Styku), and/or following a healthy nutritional plan. The benefits of having staff in the studios more go far beyond just building staff morale. Clients are motivated to see their teachers “walk the walk” and take on these fitness challenges as well. Every staff challenge results in a winner, or two, who we celebrate in a big way. We’ve rewarded our staff challenge winners with financial prizes, gift cards, newsletter highlights, social media features and more.

Make It A Game

All-staff gatherings can work wonders for bolstering company culture. Every year we hold an all-staff party accompanied by a heated game of “Team Celebration Trivia.” Our annual game is comprised of questions directly related to staff achievements (e.g. “What teacher had the best new client retention in 2017?” or “What teacher saw the most clients in 2017?”). We make sure to capture all measurable milestones in our trivia game, ensuring that our entire team acknowledges the many accomplishments of their peers.

Client Loyalty

Celebrating your clients’ achievements can be just as important to building company culture as celebrating your staff. Everyone loves to be acknowledged for his or her hard work. We’ve found that recognizing our die-hard clients is key to keep them coming back. We make sure to email all of our clients when they reach their annual Pure Barre anniversaries. We also do our best to publicly congratulate them for their dedication via our social media platforms. It doesn’t take a lot to let a client know you appreciate his or her long-term business.

Client Milestones

Pure Barre is ridiculously hard. Getting through one class is a victory. To honor this completed hour of sweating, burning and lifting we track attendance and celebrate each time a client reached another class milestone: 20 classes, 100 classes, 250, classes and so on. The number of classes taken directly corresponds to a “club.” For example, someone who has taken 500 classes is immediately welcomed into the “500 Club.” We have specific barre socks and tank tops available for 500 Club members. In each of our studio locations, we’ve mounted “Signing Barres of Fame” where clients can leave their signatures as a stamp of their achievements. We announce the mini-victories over the microphone at the end of class to inspire others to work hard towards their goals. And, of course, we use our social media platforms to capture these milestones.

Client Challenges

My leadership team and I constantly strive to keep our studio environment goal-oriented. Similar to our staff challenges, we offer many client challenges throughout the year. Our clients not only work hard to complete these challenges, but they support each other along the way. At the end of every challenge we hold a challenge finale party where we raise a glass, literally, to all finishers. This party gives us the chance to give out awards, feature slideshows of the participants and celebrate those who accomplished their goals.

"At the age of 25, when I opened my first business and hired my first team, I knew I needed to prioritize my company culture. Experience has taught me that employees will work harder, for longer periods of time and with more enthusiasm if they enjoy and value their company culture."

The bottom line is that people will always crave positive feedback. A standard recognition program might not be the best way to deliver positive feedback. Find ways to honor your team and their accomplishments. Celebrate both client and staff milestones and achievements. Nurture your company culture from the inside out.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.


When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.


Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.


If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.