By William On
From outsider to insider
My upbringing has been a very big motivator when it comes to success and building company culture. My parents were refugees who came to Australia with nothing, and they had to do it on their own. I was fortunate enough that they gave me an education that afforded me an opportunity to ultimately create something like Shippit, but up until high school I never fitted in. I moved around from one school to another, and I played a lot sport as well as being academic, so it was difficult to find my people. When I first started in tech I loved the work, but the environment wasn’t inspiring. I was working for the Big Four banks and the culture just didn’t line up with my values. When Rob (Hango-Zada) and I got together to start Shippit, Rob’s big motivator was revolutionising an industry, but mine was to build a great culture that valued human beings as much as the work itself.
Play the straight bat
Playing the straight bat is a core value for us at Shippit.
It’s all about having honest and direct conversations. It’s never personal: it’s always about performance I spend more time with Rob than my wife, and what we’ve learned is that having an open and impartial relationship is key to driving towards success. That applies to all of our employees, and has enabled us to build the company we have today.
Take the pressure down
We have some of Australia’s largest retailers on our platforms, and when companies like Sephora, Uniqlo and Big W have deadlines, there’s no question you have to meet them. That can make for pretty hairy times, and you are often burning the midnight oil, but we always make time for things that promote personal development and camaraderie in between. Recently it was International Women’s Day so the whole company took a few hours for a panel discussion with women in our workplace talking about issues specific to them. We also have four summits each year, for which we fly people in from other states and all get together. On one hand the purpose is to ensure everyone is aligned on strategy, but there’s also a strong personal element to it. We always have a social event afterwards for people to come together and have a good time. Work hard, but have fun while you’re doing it.
The Trust Battery
Trust is always seen as binary. People think ‘I have trust in you’ or ‘I don’t have trust in you’, but really it’s a spectrum. To build that trust really quickly you do that with personal relationships. If you hire people whose values align with your own then your ability to boost the trust battery increases, and you increase that even further with face-to-face interaction. Covid taught us a lot in terms of how to work remotely really quickly, and workplaces embraced the paradigm shift from in-person to online. But over the past couple of months what I’ve seen is that by encouraging people to come back into the office, you’re having those water cooler conversations that speed things up and foster greater trust. The watercooler conversation is still key: there are so many nuances when it comes to body language and interaction IRL that you just can’t see over Zoom.
The Human Toll of Hyper growth
Prior to Covid Shippit was growing at 100 per cent year-on-year, then when the pandemic hit we grew at 200 per cent, which tripled our business. There’s that adage ‘what got us here won’t get us there’ so we’ve had to evolve as a business to manage that growth. Growth comes with its challenges, as it can mean people are stretched beyond their limits. Generally, people need to maintain a certain pace when it comes to their personal development, so we say ‘if the business is doubling year on year, how are your capabilities doubling year on year’? As a result of that things such as people’s career pathways, learning and development and coaching and mentoring have become a greater focus.
The bigger responsibility for a business in hyper growth is around capacity planning and job design. If you’re putting a lot of pressure on key players in the team to continually deliver at a greater rate each year, we owe it to them to better design their roles so we create enough buffer to perform their duties and enough breathing space to plan for the future and get ahead of the growth.
Wellness in the workplace
We are a very human-centric organisation so we encourage our people to focus on balance and wellbeing We’ve invested in a wellness App that doesn’t just focus on counselling for when issues happen, but proactively gets people into better head spaces to avoid getting to that point. We also have a 100 per cent flexible working policy, which means people can work the hours that suit them. This is because we are an outcome-focused business. We don’t look at the hours or where the work happens, we look at whatever it takes to get the job done with the best possible outcome. If someone wants to work from home or drop the kids off at school, we’ll support that. It’s all about creating a nurturing community for our people in a positive and encouraging workplace.