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The Journey To Finding Our Purpose, Our Why

Shane's Story

The start of a movement.

Thirteen years ago something extraordinary happened in our business. This event occurred after I had been at an Icehouse course for business owners learning how to be a better leader and manager. A speaker I listened to taught me the value of taking a “health check” on our company by asking our people “How much do you like working for us?” We were a smaller company back then, about a third the size we are now, and I followed up and anonymously asked our people this and other questions using a process called 360-degree feedback.


Values guide us on how to treat each other.

What I discovered back then worried me, engagement wasn’t great; there wasn’t much joy in the place and many of our people saw working for us as just another job (See Overland Stories Vol 1 Engaging our People). This resulted in us working with our people to find and create the six values that we have at our core. We now talk about and celebrate these values a weekly basis. They guide our behaviours within the company, they tell us to how we should treat each other, and how we should treat our customers.

Here’s an example of a typical values nomination received last week about a team member...

“TASH from WHANGAREI for INSPIRING - Absolutely amazing and inspiring to see how you’ve been connecting with your customers this week. Especially the lady with the Merrys that came in specially to show them off after the GREAT service she’d received. Great work with your ratios this week too - can really see the improvement. Keep it up x” Believe it or not we get well over 100 similar nominations each week that we publish and put in our weekly newsletter. I believe it’s our focus on recognising people, through these nominations, that have resulted in us being a multiple winner of the IBM Kennexa Best Workplace award!


The importance of a Why of Purpose.

The other vital thing a brand or organisation needs is a Purpose, some people call it their Why! This answers the question “Why do we come to work?” Finding a Purpose or Why involves hearts and minds, and gives people a reason to work in a business. A Purpose is often ennobling, capable of lifting people to a higher level when they jump out of bed in the morning. It’s best described as the ‘Why’ of being in business over and above making money (this is a given for a successful business). Having a clear Purpose makes it easier to decide what happens – and more importantly what doesn’t, and gives rise to a meeting of minds and a culture that can’t be beaten.


How we found our Why.

Four years ago I realized we needed to find our Purpose or Why! We employ mainly Millennials and these young people love working in a Purpose based company. So I looked around and came across the incredibly passionate Matt Hart who helps organizations on this discovery process. Matt called together 30 of our top people and asked them to do some homework. He asked them to describe a peak experience at work - peak being doing great work, giving great service to workmates and customers, feeling part of a high-performing team and being recognized for their efforts. From these peak experiences (and there were some lovely, inspiring stories) we took the words that seemed to feature often and listed them; words like family, inspired, teams working together, belonging, creating, accomplishing and fulfillment featured often. Knowing simplicity was vital, we then edited and played with the words, honing and simplifying. What we came up with then included the words Together (working together in teams), Creating (vital for innovation in a fashion company) and Inspiration (something we strive to do for each other and our customers).


So, our Purpose became…

Together we inspire and create

That’s it… Simple! It works beautifully for us.


I know at the end of each day when I return to my desk I often ask myself the question “Shane, what have you done today, together with our team, to create something meaningful, to inspire them?.” I know this Purpose resonates with Lou, where together with her design team, they work hard to create beautiful shoes that inspire our customers. The wonderful thing about this simple little phrase is it works for all our people, for the team in our Distribution Centre working together, inspiring each other, creating an atmosphere of performance and meeting their targets. Or for our people working together in store where creating a warm welcoming place, inspiring each other and inspiring our customers is vital for success.

“Together we inspire and create” has also become the catchphrase and theme for our seasonal campaign which celebrates the inspiration and creativity that two, like-minded people, working together can bring to each other. ‘Together we inspire and create’ has become our mantra, our Why…


Our Values: Proactive, Inspiring, Innovative, Accountable, Inclusive, Integrity