Flywheel Co-Founder Ruth Zukerman Shares Top Tips for Business Success

To honor our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($13), we've asked a series of 17 questions (to parallel the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of several inspirational female leaders at the top of their fields. Here, a creative co-founder shares how she turned a simple need into an empowering business. Meet interviewee Ruth Zukerman, co-founder and creative director at Flywheel Sports.

An image featuring Ruth Zukerman on the right with black and red writing on the left.

For many of us, just waking up every day and getting to work on time can be a daily struggle. But taking time to perfect your morning routine is really the key to experiencing a happier, more productive day. Don't believe us? Just ask Ruth Zukerman. In just five years, Zukerman built an entire industry around that very concept, empowering others to get up and ride to change their lives.

She's a leading fitness instructor and indoor cycling pioneer who has become an unstoppable force in the boutique fitness space who maintains the secret to her success isn't that complicated. Rather, it's fun. Zukerman fused her background in dance and exercise physiology to make fitness so enjoyable that folks don't even realize they're working out. Since the launch of Flywheel's Manhattan flagship back in February 2010, the company has expanded to more than 40 studios across the U.S. It seems there really is no stopping this multitasking mompreneur.  

Ready to tap into what, exactly, makes her tick? Here, Zuckerman answers 17 burning questions regarding her career, her personal goals, and her day-to-day routines. Oh, and who she follows on Instagram, too.

Black text beneath a number one inside a red circle.

"While I am co-founder and creative director, I remain an instructor at my core. My drive and passion for this business is born through teaching classes and empowering riders. There is no greater reward than witnessing lives change and celebrating achievements, no matter how big or small. Flywheel was built on these core values, and it's my duty to ensure they remain as such as the company continues to grow and expand."

Black text beneath a number two inside a red circle.

"If I'm not on the road or in a meeting, and if we have instructor training sessions going on, I like to pop into the stadium, introduce myself to the new group, and provide feedback, share anecdotes, or field questions."

A smiling Ruth Zukerman with her right hand on her hip and a beach ball under her left arm.
Black text beneath a number three inside a red circle.

"Workout clothes! It was a fitness audition."

Black text beneath a number four inside a red circle.

"Danny Meyer. He has built a restaurant empire while always operating under the notion that the employees must be happy. This has always been my mantra as well, so I know I could learn so much from him."

Two legs in black athletic pants, white spin shoes, and a Flywheel container on the upper left.
Black text beneath a number five inside a red circle.

"Fast Company and Well+Good. Well+Good is my go-to source for all things wellness, including anything and everything boutique fitness-related. Founders Alexia Brue and Melisse Gelula launched the site at the same time that we opened Flywheel, and it's been fun to watch how far they've come."

Black text beneath a number six inside a red circle.

"When I look back at the beginning stages of companies I started, I regret not having the self-confidence to accurately value the contribution I would make as a founder. Our self-esteem is always evolving as we grow and experience life. It's easy to want to rewrite history, but who I am today is a very different person than who I was back then."

A woman doing a handstand on a dock next to the ocean.
Black text beneath a number seven inside a red circle.

"I always look for someone who:

1. Has a strong ability to listen
2. Is not afraid to take risks
3. Shows both confidence and humility by knowing their strengths and weaknesses
4. Can own failure
5. Most importantly, has a true passion for what they do."

Black text beneath a number eight inside a red circle.

"I always go for both comfort and fashion. My style leans on the side of understated with clean lines and neutrals, leaving room to go a little crazy when it comes to my shoes. They definitely do not fall into the classic category, and I get numerous comments at work about my 'shoe game.' I love Robert Clergerie oxfords with a platform; the comfort and height make me feel powerful!"

Two woman, side by side, practicing resistance training while sitting on athletic mats.
Black text beneath a number nine inside a red circle.

"Kind, sensitive, empathetic, and funny. After all, sharing a laugh with your colleagues is the key to enjoying the workplace."

Black text beneath a number 10 inside a red circle.

"I get on a Flywheel bike. Flywheel has experienced rapid growth, and so has our corporate team. This means more and more meetings. Since I'm so used to being physically active for a good part of the day, I can simultaneously become both sedentary and antsy. My productivity level subsequently decreases, and then I'm in desperate need of a reset. A Flywheel class, whether led by me or any of our amazing instructors, does the trick."

Five people jumping in midair, photographed against a white brick wall.
Black text beneath a number 11 inside a red circle.

"I love this question because I feel that a lot of people have not yet figured that out. The best way to quit a job is with honesty and integrity. I understand that sometimes complete honesty is not possible, but I live in hope that for the most part, it can be. It's really an opportunity for both the employee and the employer to possibly learn where improvement and changes are needed.

"What's equally important is to not burn bridges. With the prevalence of people sharing their lives on social media, I've definitely seen numerous sentiments posted that should have remained private. You never know who you will be interviewing with at your next opportunity. The world can be very small."

Black text beneath a number 12 inside a red circle.

"For me, lunch is usually a meal consumed at my desk. The simplest and cleanest route for me is a good salad bar where I load up on greens, cucumber, tomatoes, grilled chicken, and avocado (always). Salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, and a little olive oil, and I'm happy."

A top down view of a leafy green salad and a glass of water with lemon.
Black text beneath a number 13 inside a red circle.

"When new employees start, there is often an urgency for them to immediately become ensconced in company culture, but it's often difficult to do and tends to look and feel forced. I would advise anyone just starting out at a new company to listen more and act less; absorb and gather information and soak it all in so that you can contribute effectively to the business. There's a term that I've come to learn called "the swamp."

"Colleagues who spend a lot of time together can easily fall into the swamp when things may not be going so well. The swamp breeds widespread negativity, and thus, communication becomes unproductive. The swamp is a common business casualty when there's a lot of employee familiarity, and it sabotages any chances for problem-solving and potential improvement."

Black text beneath a number 14 inside a red circle.

"I love following the @thefatjewish. His daily life observations are hilarious, and he always nails it. I also follow @robertclergerie because I always have to know what his latest shoe designs are and who is wearing them. The @humansofny shares real accounts of people living in the greatest city in the world [New York City]. There, you get it all—the good, bad, and the ugly. It certainly helps put everything into perspective. I follow my daughters, too, because their sense of humor truly shine through in their posts. They always keep me laughing." 

An illustrated quotation of red and black text.
Black text beneath a number 15 inside a red circle.

"I’m pretty compulsive and certainly need my rituals. Mornings are my most productive time, hopefully, after eight hours of sleep. I teach a Flywheel class six mornings per week, so I have to eat before class to feel properly fueled. (But I still need a lot of time in between eating and teaching.) I typically wake up at least two hours before class time. I make my bed (I need order!), and then I make breakfast, which consists of a protein shake and a serving of oatmeal. I check emails, pay bills, glance at The New York Times headlines (hard copy), and get my apartment in order. I can never come home to too many things out of place. I also review my playlist from the night before and make edits dictated by my current mood. 

"If I'm home for the evening, the first thing I do is change into comfortable clothes. I'll throw something together for dinner, as I rarely order in; I haven't quite found the perfect food delivery option that's fresh and healthy. Searching for music and creating Flywheel playlists for class the next day are always a part of the evening ritual. I try to get in bed by 10 p.m. for optimum productivity the next day."

Black text beneath a number 16 inside a red circle.

"Lead from the heart with support, encouragement, and empathy. It's the most effective way to get the most out of your employees. Everybody wins."

Black text beneath a number 17 inside a red circle.

"My book! I'm excited to share my story with so many people who will be able to tap into and relate to my experiences, both professionally and personally. I've had so many moments where I've had to pinch myself. I'm proof that if you follow your passion, you really can create a career that never feels like work."

Get more career advice by shopping our co-founders' book:

A red book cover with white writing and a female's hand reaching out with a business card.
Abrams Image The Career Code by Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power $13

Related Stories