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3 tips on how to take charge at work, from the CEO of SoulCycle


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Photo: Stocksy/Bonnin Studio
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The year was 2010 and Melanie Whelan was tasked with convincing her team of Equinox executives to invest in a little cycling studio called SoulCycle. (I’m sure you’ve never heard of it, either…)

Of course, it seems kind of like a no-brainer now, what with SoulCycle being a celeb hangout and spiritual haven for the fitness-obsessed. But at the time, it was just a small—although still popular—New York City-only cycling studio, leaving many of her colleagues thinking, “Why invest in something we could do ourselves?”

As a fan of both SoulCycle professionally and personally—she knew both co-founders well—Whelan needed to calmly and knowledgeably convince her team at Equinox, which included the CEO and rest of the board members, that not only was SoulCycle doing something that couldn’t exactly be replicated, but that they should be the ones to help it grow.

SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan
SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan (in pink socks) with a post-workout posse. Photo: [email protected]

Fast forward six years, and the yellow bike practically speaks for itself. And of course, Equinox is now the majority owner of SoulCycle, and their 65 nationwide studios—and Whelan is CEO.

But how exactly did she, as the youngest person in that crucial meeting, help convince her team to take the plunge?

With some serious research, a little bit of a (great) gut feeling, and the trust that she had instilled within her team, she tells The Wall Street Journal. Her kickass smarts and gumption gave her not only a seat in the boardroom, but in this case, the front row of the yellow bike-filled class.

How to crush it at work like SoulCycle’s CEO? Keep reading for Whelan’s brilliant tips.

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Photo: Stocksy/Jovo Jovanovic

1. Trust the facts, not your feeling

Although Whelan was already a huge fan of the brand, she didn’t want her love of the culture and the founders to sway her bosses’ opinions—she wanted the impact that SoulCycle had already made to speak for itself. “You have to know your business and know your facts so that when you get into challenging conversations or healthy debates, you’re coming at them fully armed,” she explains.

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Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma

2. Passion is the key to success

Just because you’ve got a ton of data to back you up doesn’t mean you have to give a bloodless, purely logical argument. In fact, Whelan says that when passion is involved, there’s pretty much no stopping you. With the SoulCycle pitch, she went in and explained: “‘SoulCycle has this many bikes, this much square footage, this many press hits, and I believe that if we get behind this, we can take it to the whole next level,” she says. “When people hear facts coupled with passion, they are going to believe.”

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Photo: Stocksy/Bonnin Studio

3. Build relationships from the get-go

But at the end of the day, no matter how much passion, knowledge, and experience you have, if you don’t have the support of those around you, there’s no way you’re going to succeed. And she doesn’t mean sweet-talking your bosses right before major decisions. “By building relationships when the stakes were a little lower, it’s a lot easier when you get to the point where you say ‘I really need you to support me here,'” she says.

Ready to power up your career even more? These five CEOs share their surprising tips for getting ahead at work. And while you’re kicking butt, don’t forget to get your sweat on—this at-work workout is meant to tone you all day, without anyone noticing.