Profiled as the "evangelist in sheep's clothing" by The Financial Times, it would be rather unsuitable for us to state that Jeremy is tearing the world up, rather he's taking immense pleasure in joining various worlds together.
With Icebreaker now in 30 countries with over 2,500 retailers, and the launch of their flagship store in New York City's SoHo neighborhood this December, most of us would be thinking it's about time to kick back and cruise but as Jeremy puts it 'they're only scratching the surface' - with Icebreaker's focus on innovation the company is finding a continuous stream of opportunities for merino wool from high end lifestyle fashion with stores like David Jones through to your local technical running stores.
"It's not about dressing stuff up to make it look good. It's about the whole process from concept generation through to launching products which are category leading... which have a brand component and an industrial design component... a service component and which are all totally integrated... and at the same time evolving your company to be the type that can consistently deliver that"
Jeremy is also a massive proponent for New Zealand, as one of the founders and chairman of Better by Design which works with over 110 kiwi companies who collectively generate over $4billion for the New Zealand economy, Jeremy at the time of our interview was preparing to take 22 CEO's on a study tour in San Francisco and Palo Alto through fifteen companies including Nokia, Facebook, & Mozilla.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I'm interested in working with people to create an exciting future and then working with people to build it, and that's really what I do. Probably every two or three years I need to reinvent myself and who I need to be for the organisation. We've got 250 staff globally so we're currently a medium sized company with the goal to get bigger my role is more about inspirational leadership and evolving the vision to create growth opportunities that are consistent with what we're qualified to be, finding the right people, building the team and the culture around that and then supporting people to do a great job.
The last few years have been about finding really great spirited people that can teach us.
What is your definition of success?
There's two things, I heard a speech from someone that talked about the value of love, work, & play - the three buckets to balance. Work is really about creating a meaningful contribution, love is family, friends, and anything that you really care about, and play is about having fun, learning, staying healthy and the ability to be a bit loose. So success to me is about being able to balance those three things. Sometimes they get out of balance but I'm able to see when they are and know what to do.
What are the three best books you've read?
I'd like to talk just about one, and that's "The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success" and it's a small book by Deepak Chopra and it strings together a sequence of thinking patterns which are about creating an intentional future and that's certainly how I think. A few years ago I met Deepak and we've become close friends and we're working on a number of projects together, I really like the robust simplicity of it and it's something that I go back to for a refresher, in fact I did a radio show a couple of months ago with him where we talked about the 7 spiritual laws and I went through one by one and how I applied them to Icebreaker demonstrating.
Depak Chopra & Jeremy Moon - The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success;
Another is "The Leader's Way", by the Dalai Lama and a management consultant names Laurens van den Muyzenberg and they talk about the importance when you're creating of first getting the right view which is considering the problem from certain perspectives and the second is about choosing the right way, which is the right thing to do when you've seen it from a number of perspectives.
What motivates you, and how do you stay motivated?
I like creating things, and I like the word inspiration because it means you're 'in spirit' when you're doing something and I'm in spirit when I'm doing something that makes me feel most alive, and I find that when I'm building things, creating things, and working with people.
How do you generate your most creative thoughts?
I like having fairly unreasonable challenges, and I look for the questions.
I try to find things with questions and then wait for the answers so the question for me is how do we grow Icebreaker and keep the very strong spirit that we have within the company alive.
We have a very fun and very social environment, it's very flat and very informal - but it's also very professional and I love having the tension between informal and professional.
Asking questions are normally where we get our biggest insights from and they usually turn up at three in the morning, or when you're in the shower when you get those little flashes and then discussing them with people.
When first starting a business you run on gut instinct but when operating a business of this size a change in the sales terms will have an effect throughout the business on finance through to development, so taking the time to consider and ponder a question - and that's how we make decisions no, it may take a lot of time and it also means I need a management team that can represent the distinct elements of the venture which is the brand view, product creation view, product development view, supply chain, finance, marketing, sales, and the people side of it. So my six direct reports become each part of the business and we meet regularly
We're all hungry to get the right answer before we proceed.
How do you get things done? Are there any routines, habits or personal rules that you've used to help you get to success?
I don't have a complicated life, it's just about spending enough time with my kids and with my friends and family, staying healthy and it all comes together. I find the trick is really all about keeping it simple, and just having the discipline to get it done.
We set our objective, assign someone overly responsible and then break it down into the specific drivers and people reasonable for each step, a lot of time designing the solution upfront.
What three attributes were most important for getting you where you are today?
Understanding other people's motivation is incredibly important, so for me to achieve what I want which is a successful business I need to understand what other people want and find a way of giving it to them.
What it takes to make them happy - team, retailer, consumer
So that's about listening and understanding human behavior
Understanding how to unleash and harness creativity is very important and getting people to take responsibility for their own actions and believing in themselves.
So unlocking creativity, taking responsibility, and actively creating the future.
What do you do when you hit a low or things aren't going your way?
You have more high's and low's when you run your own business in a month than what most people do in a year, certainly in the early days so the strength of your vision and conviction is important.
In the first year I had raised $200,000 and made a $176,000 loss, I had $24,000 left and we were about to go broke but I knew that the idea was strong enough and we just got real focused and slowly rebuilt, raised another $40,000, this year we do $140m and that's on the same capital that we started with but the whole way through we haven't lost track of the vision of creating a global brand for New Zealand and we know it's the best fabric for anything and people love it, so it's really just a matter of remembering that it will work if we don't screw it up so how do we not screw it up.
And also knowing the most challenges turn into opportunities.
Like in 1996, the garments started falling apart because we had a bad batch of wool and we realized how important it was to source quality so we started working direct with the growers and now that's a core part of our supply chain and you track that back with the product you buy through the barcodes.
What's getting your arse out of bed at the moment?
Usually my three daughters, very early in the morning. [Laughs]
What is the most important piece of advice you'd give to an aspiring leader?
Make it about other people, and not about yourself.
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