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.

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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.


Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.

In a recent study conducted by, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.

Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of, believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.