“Provide growth opportunities for employees or they may leave” With Bonnie Micheli and Tracy Roemer
“Whenever possible, provide growth opportunities for employees or they may leave. One of the major reasons we decided to franchise was our employees wanted more and we wanted to give them more. They wanted to grow with us. As leaders, we have a responsibility to help grow our team.”
I had the pleasure to interview Bonnie Micheli and Tracy Roemer. Bonnie and Tracy bring a shared passion for teaching and more than 30 years of fitness experience to Shred415. As longtime neighbors and friends, Bonnie and Tracy tracked exercise trends for years, looking for the perfect opportunity to create an experience that integrated serious cardio and strength training while meeting the needs of busy parents. In April 2011, the first Shred415 studio — complete with childcare — opened in Lincoln Park, Chicago. They currently have ten company owned studios in the Chicagoland area, St Louis, and Indianapolis.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was back in the mid 90s. I had just moved back home to LA from college and was working at a local hospital as a diet technician trying to decide if I wanted to apply to a Register Dietitian internship. My really good friend, who knew I loved to workout/exercise (I was that friend who was bringing all of my friends to Jazzercise and Step classes back in the 80s), told me about this new workout on Ventura Blvd., called Tae Bo. She couldn’t stop talking about it so I just had to go check it out for myself. I remember my first class like it was yesterday. Billy Blanks walked right up to me smiling, shaking my hand and preparing me for what was about to happen. What happened was a complete mind and body transformation. I was hooked after only one class and my body changed after one month. I became part of the Tae Bo family and was a devotee. After many months of seeing bodies and lives change, including my own, through Tae Bo, I decided to change careers. I moved to San Francisco and became a manager and fitness instructor of a small gym and the rest is history.
I was a computer consultant out of college (and not a good computer programmer) but always was the person in the gym at 5 am before work to keep me sane. After I had kids, a friend opened up a barre studio and asked me if I wanted to teach. The second I put on the mic for my first class I knew right then and there I wanted to not only teach but open a fitness studio.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We had a client, Sean Higgins, start shredding with us 7 months after we opened our first studio and saw an incredible transformation just 8 months later. He was our first Shred415 Shredder of the Month which we now do every month to show incredible weight loss or success stories with our clients from Shredding. A year later, Sean taught his first Shred415 class and a year after that, he left being a lawyer and became a manager of one of our studios. Now Sean works in our corporate office. Shredder ->Shredder of the Month -> Instructor -> Manager-> Shred415 Corporate employee.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
To find instructors for our first studio opening in April 2011, we put an ad on Craigslist. We had some real doozies come and audition! The only reason why it was the best thing we ever did was because out of the 20 that auditioned, we hired one, who ended up being one of the best! Fadil Chosovich, is one of our best instructors to date, has taught the most classes out of any instructor, has the largest following and just bought three studios in Seattle. The biggest lesson we learned from this mistake (even though we hired Fadil) was not to use Craigslist to find instructors. We currently use our community network and client base to find instructors which has given us a much better pool of people to choose from!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Not only do we change people’s bodies but we offer a kid’s room, which creates a strong community. We have several families who became friends in class and their kids became friends in the kids’ room. Now they are vacationing together! We even see it with our instructors — some of their closest friends are people they met at Shred415.
Additionally, earlier this year, Shred415 was asked to be a Lululemon key account, and only four fitness studios in the United States hold that title. Being recognized by such an influential brand is an indication to us that Shred415 is a leader in transformative fitness. As part of that partnership, we are able to partner with local Lululemon stores and offer free Shred415 X Lululemon outdoor classes all over the Chicagoland area in the summer.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Franchising the brand. We wanted to introduce our concept to new entrepreneurs and ‘Shredders’ alike across the country.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a team?
· Providing ongoing feedback, being transparent, being accessible, being a team player, always working with your team. We both still teach to stay connected to our team and our community.
· Creating a family environment through employee outings and workouts.
· Compliment people, magnify their strengths not their weaknesses.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Our parents for both of us really got us to where we are today. Bonnie’s Dad was hard working and the only person in his family to go to college. His success, determination and always staying humble through his career has taught her she can do it all too. Her mom taught her to always have a positive attitude and laugh a lot. Laughing is so important!
Like Bonnie, Tracy’s parents taught her to work hard, ask a lot of questions, be that employee who “does” before being asked to do (relieve stress for the boss) and always do more than expected. Tracy watched her young parents finish college, while working full time. They went from living on food stamps and being subsidized by government programs to a middle class.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Hire employees who understand your vision and want to be part of building your brand as opposed to trying to leverage their own personal brand.
2. Stay relevant and connected to your clients and employees. Bonnie and Tracy still teach. It allows us to have a pulse on our business. We have a better understanding of our clients’ and employees’ viewpoints.
3. Show appreciation to your employees. (parties, gatherings, etc.)
4. Whenever possible, provide growth opportunities for employees or they may leave. One of the major reasons we decided to franchise was our employees wanted more and we wanted to give them more. They wanted to grow with us. As leaders, we have a responsibility to help grow our team.
5. Don’t pretend to be the experts on everything and always seek out the experts and advice to succeed. We have no problem asking for help.
6. (ALT) Always set expectations and take time for employee orientation
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Stay Humble” and “Work Harder than you Did Yesterday.” We think this is crucial to leadership and a lesson we teach to our children every day.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Gwyneth Paltrow or Bethenny Frankel -> both women entrepreneurs who are girl bosses and are focused on healthy lifestyles.