Since its inception as a footware company a friend and work colleague had been challenging me to take a look at TOMS Shoes.
After hearing Chief Shoe Giver Blake Mycoskie share the story of TOMS at The Global Leadership Summit (GLS) this past August I was definitely inspired by the TOMS story and was prodded to learn more about this company that is not only making a quality product, but having a global impact through it business model (One for One) that for every pair of shoes purchased gives away one pair of shoes to a child in need.
I love finding out what makes organization tick. So when I was given an opportunity to come visit their main offices in Santa Monica, I could not pass it up. So yesterday I met with their Community Outreach Manager, Allie Tsavdarides, and left encouraged by company's vision and story, but I also left encouraged with some great leadership learnings as well.
First -- the product. On the right is an example of a TOMS shoe you would purchase. The shoe on the left is the one a child would receive.
In the United States, TOMS are worn primarily as casual wear. However, in the countries that TOMS gives its shoes away, this is often a child's only pair. Hence the color black because it matches most school uniforms. Shoes are of the essence because these schools require a full uniform that includes shoes. In addition because they are made for mutlifacated, daily use and they are often customized for that specific countries needs.
Now my leadership take aways were invaluable!
The first being the importance of keeping the mission of an organization clear, focussed and in front of the people. The word "GIVE" (in reference to their innovative business model of giving a pair away for every pair purchased) is displayed at various places throughout the warehouse and in some very creative ways.
The other key leadership learning I took away was the importance of an organization's culture and having the right people on the team that contribute to the team's cultural DNA. At TOMS skill, character and experience are give-ins in any employee. What is also critical, is the expression of creativity whether you are in the finance, sales, design or any facet of the company. And walking around the place, it oozes with creativity.
I hope you will be prodded to make a difference by buying a pair.