Peloton "Together We Go Far"
Published January 21, 2021

Lessons from Peloton for Franchising

What Franchise Systems Can Learn About Culture and Growth from the Peloton Model

I joined the Peloton community in March 2020 when I was looking for a way to stay active during quarantine. Like the other millions of Peloton subscribers, I found so much more than an app to do workouts. It was a way for me to stay connected to my friends, and a way for me to find time for myself, to take a break from the chaos.

Peloton is frequently in the news and I started thinking about how Peloton’s “Together we go far” is much more than a slogan. It encapsulates a culture and strategic growth that most franchise systems (and all businesses) strive for. Community isn’t something you can force to happen, but Peloton seems to have fostered something special, and a lot of that could be applied to our own organizations. 

6 Ways to Foster Community Within Your Organization

1. Set BIG goals and share them publicly. Peloton launched in 2012 with the help of a kickstarter campaign, went public in September 2019 and now has 1,800 employees, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. They recently shared their plan to hit 100 million subscribers. This not only provides clarity about their mission and goal to their team and consumers, and how they plan to achieve it, but also creates accountability to get it done. 

2. Don’t just talk about diversity, inclusion, and systemic racism, DO something. Co-Founder and CEO, John Foley released a statement in June outlining their commitment to equality: Increased wages, education and training opportunities, and working to make health and fitness accessible to people who can’t invest $2,400+ in equipment or the monthly fees. They encourage their instructors to be authentic about what is happening in the world and how it impacts them instead of pretending everything is rosy or that these classes are taking place in a vacuum. 

3. Treat your people well. The biggest challenge leaders face is hiring and retaining the best people. With 1,800 employees Peloton has managed to support their teams at HQ, in the retail stores, and in the delivery group by empowering them to act like owners. They trust their employees to take care of the brand and support their mission. Check out these Glassdoor reviews, including a 92% CEO approval rating. This is how you create a pool of talent that WANTS to come work with and for you. 

4. Keep innovating. It’s crystal clear that Peloton is #1 in their category, but instead of resting and collecting the monthly subscription fees, they continue to look for ways to leave competitors in the dust. In 2020 they released a higher-end bike and dropped the price of the original bike, and they purchased Precor to expand US manufacturing (hopefully this addresses their delivery wait times). Coming in 2021 there is talk of a lower-end treadmill. Beyond just new products, they continue to innovate for their current customers. Since I joined they have added barre, pilates, bootcamps, and keep experimenting with  new things to keep us raving fans. “Sessions” allowed us to start classes with smaller groups (outcome for me – I worked much harder), and the new “Stacks” makes it easier to combine multiple classes and just hit play. All of this keeps people talking about what they love and hate, and Peloton is listening.

5. Listen. Speaking of listening…getting feedback from your employees and customers is the best way to measure if your efforts are paying off, and if the culture you are hoping to cultivate matches their perception. Being open to feedback is not always about making big, expensive changes to the way you are doing business. It can be an opportunity to align and reset expectations. Just as you use customer feedback to save or turn a bad customer experience into a loyal fan, employee and franchisee feedback can be used to create and retain promoters within your network. If you’re not sure where to start in gathering feedback from your franchisees or employees, we can share the questions we use for our clients. 

6. Keep it real, and cheer everyone on. Peloton uses “realistic optimism” in their approach to keeping positivity at the center of their communication. While they allow instructors to talk about issues that matter to them, it is always presented in a hopeful way that we can create unity and change. When they talk about getting stronger and healthier, they acknowledge the hard work that it takes to get there. Being kind to yourself, and to others, when things are tough. Most instructors remind us we are lucky to wake up each day, and spend time together – this is true on and off the bike.

Of course there are users on Facebook and Reddit that complain about instructors, the way some folks spell it “peleton”, but for the most part people are sharing their progress, or offering advice on how to jump in and get started, or level up what they are doing. For every instructor, ride, or music choice that gets a complaint, an army of fans is right there to defend them. A constant mantra from the instructors is to stop aiming for perfection, just get better and stronger each day.

Shortly after the New Year I received my personalized cooldown video, a recap of the work I have put in. I have always belonged to a gym, but to track and see the hard work I put in was overwhelming. 2020 was a hard year, but I made time to take care of myself 242 days, and I’m planning on beating that in 2021. I believe taking care of our mental and physical health also makes us better leaders and co-workers. So if you are on Peloton, join your franchise friends for the journey. Find us on the leaderboard #franchisefamily, because together we will go far! 

About the Author: Michelle Rowan

Michelle is the president of FBR, the former Chair of the International Franchise Association’s Women’s Franchise Committee. and a Certified Franchise Executive. She is the recipient of the 2022 Crystal Compass Award, has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and is also a mentor of UNH college students. When she is not at work she is usually reading, playing outside, or hanging out with her husband and daughter.
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