“What is our credo?”
“What do we value?”
“How are we living out our purpose?”
These are common questions asked at the weekly manager meeting for Hot 8 Yoga, a yoga company founded in 2010 with six locations in California. Being in the competitive fitness market of Southern California has Hot 8 Yoga constantly evaluating itself to better understand where it excels, what it wants to represent to its clients, and in what areas it needs to step up its game.
A success that the staff constantly falls back on at their weekly meetings is the excited community at Hot 8 Yoga. Brit Middleton, the COO and CMO of Hot 8 Yoga, explained it is a special type of driven population that calls Hot 8 their home.
“Our community is dedicated, focused, excited and supportive,” said Middleton. “It’s a group of people who are excited to be here and to practice and encourage growth among each other. It’s a really special community I have not seen in many other places.”
That special community is created from the first moment a student walks in the door. Middleton explained the front desk staff at each location is trained in getting to know each yogi in order to make them feel more comfortable. Staff members are taught to greet students, learn their names and give a tour of the studio, while taking them through the check-in process. The goal is to make a front desk staff member a key touchpoint and familiar face to establish awareness and familiarity with the studio.
Then, a new student is directed to their class, where it’s the teacher’s duty to ensure an enjoyable experience with Hot 8.
“Hot 8 teachers are super supportive throughout class and are encouraged to really focus on trying to help each student grow and find their own capacity to be great in their practice or what it is they are working on,” said Middleton. “We work to promote the community building exercise of just being in a class together and the benefits that coming to the studio can have, rather than practicing alone at home. Once class ends, there’s a really nice gratitude and congratulations that happens between the teachers and students that brings our community to light even more.”
But the teachers leading these classes didn’t automatically come to Hot 8 Yoga trained to teach a class this way, encouraging community and the Hot 8 method each step of the way. Because of this, the studios each have a series of evaluations and continuing education opportunities to grow its teachers to their ultimate potential.
One example of this is the Hot 8 Yoga Level 2 Teacher Training. This is an option offered to all current teachers at Hot 8 Yoga. It is offered twice a year and promoted as a weekend of learning and growth for yoga instructors.
According to Middleton, last year’s Level 2 training had around 90 teachers in attendance, with six to seven outside instructors and educators coming in to lead seminars and workshops.
“At our Level 2 Teacher Trainings, we bring in outside experts in the industry and we use our current internal subject matter experts in order to offer the teachers something more for their educational growth,” said Middleton. “It’s completely free and it’s a full weekend. We try to get sponsors for each weekend. It becomes a really integrated, collaborative, community weekend where teachers are collectively learning new skills together.”
On top of continuing education and furthering the growth of the employees, the leadership team at each Hot 8 Yoga location is consistently looking back on past work of each staff member through the process of quarterly check-ins. Each employee, from front desk staff to yoga instructors, are given a quarterly evaluation to go over their work from the past quarter to establish an open dialogue and ensure each employee feels seen and heard.
Sometimes the check-ins will last 15 minutes, and sometimes they are an hour and a half — it just depends on what the particular employee is going through at the time. Middleton explained they are great tools.
“It is so important to take that deep dive with each of your staff members so they can feel they are a part of the community,” said Middleton. “It is also helpful to get a real, honest gauge on where the company is at that time, versus us at an executive manager level evaluating without properly analyzing the good and the bad struggles we are having internally.”
The management team has grown exponentially as the company has expanded to its six locations across Southern California. And rather than look for the most experienced managers for executive positions in the job market, Hot 8 Yoga prefers to hire from within. They encourage staffers to consistently take on more tasks and ownership of projects in hopes they will grow within the company.
“We are big believers that anyone who leads a team of our people needs to be invested in our culture, our group of collective knowledge and in our values we believe in,” said Middleton. “It really shows when someone starts as a teacher or at the front desk and takes on more responsibility — they start to have more ownership and are dedicated to their own growth. I like to make sure I am helping people grow from within, and make sure they are ready to take the next step when they feel they have mastered where they are currently excelling so they can continue to find ways to expand and grow on their own.”
Once employees work their way up to a manager level, they become a part of the weekly manager meeting where the credo, values and purpose are consistently evaluated. They also discuss new ventures they could take or things they could offer to employees to make them feel more valued and seen.
“These meetings are essentially a brainstorm session,” said Middleton. “We also read books pertaining to leadership and management that we discuss at each meeting. We are currently reading ‘Built to Last’ by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras. We are working toward starting to implement things from that book so we can continue to grow.”
Just as the educational aspect is important to the manager and executive teams, so is the community aspect as well. Community at Hot 8 Yoga is exemplified everywhere — from a first-time student being taken care of by a front desk staff, to the studio managers having a monthly outing like bowling or community service projects.
“Cultivating that community across all of our members and staff is key,” said Middleton. “It’s what keeps people around. When you are feeling alone on your island and studio, it’s hard to remember there are people with shared experiences right near you. When you have shared experiences, the difficult conversations or difficult decisions become less hard to confront and the successes become more fun to celebrate because you are able to look at your counterpart or fellow manager to explain you are struggling with something.”
Hot 8 Yoga is invested — in its students’ growth, the education of its teachers and in the executive and managerial communication. Middleton explained as the studios and company have grown, so has their realization they are a business in this industry, fit to compete at the highest level.
“We aren’t just a yoga studio,” said Middleton. “We are a place where people are creating their lives and a place where employees can go home after work and have everything they want. It’s not just ‘I’m here to do yoga,’ or ‘I’m just here to have a job,’ it is creating a culture and a company that allows those people to live the life they dreamed of. That is really what our ultimate goal is with our company, to be a place of success for all involved.”