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What it takes to create a powerful company culture at a distance with Dave Parry

Gymshark is the biggest eCommerce retailer to disrupt the sportswear market since it’s conception in 2012. Over the past 8 years the business has gone from strength to strength – with an enormous global online community, 500+ thriving employees and having been recently valued at over £1 billion, reaching coveted unicorn status.  

Dave Parry is Chief People Officer at Gymshark where he is responsible for all things people – from employer brand and recruitment, personal development and people performance to health and wellbeing. In other words, he’s responsible for ensuring that the powerful company culture remains the number one priority for Gymshark in the face global business growth and a worldwide pandemic. In episode 2 of The OpenBlend Podcast, Dave explains how Gymshark has driven forward employee relationships, people performance and company culture and found a better normal against the challenges of Covid-19. 

‘Since working from home, most people are struggling with the lack of social element, because it’s a big part ofwhat our culture was’

Here, we give you a little taster of the conversation between Anna and Dave within episode 2 of The OpenBlend Podcast…

What is unique about the people at Gymshark?

I don’t think the people at Gymshark are unique – we’re all people, aren’t we? But disruption and being disruptive is one of the core values of the business. So, it’s about thinking differently. And one of my challenges when joining Gymshark was, OK, if that’s the way, how do we do it differently? It was always about finding a better way, a quicker way, a different way. So, the people themselves aren’t unique – it’s the way that we allow people to make mistakes – we talk about working hard and staying humble. And when you think of the success, particularly Ben, the success he’s had, he’s still incredibly humble.

Given the situation with Covid-19 and lockdown, with everyone working remotely, what issues have sprung up for Gymshark?

I think we were a little ahead of the curve. We decided we’d do a trial, through a week of working from home, just to see how we got on, and we’ve not been back since. We were very much thrown into this at the deep end and had a number of challenges. I know we’re an online clothing business, but we’re incredibly technically based as well, and we moved pretty seamlessly from the office into working from home. And there’s probably only a handful of people – or 20 people or so who need to be in the office – the guys who are actually touching the product on a daily basis, developing the next season’s products, they need to be there. 

But the rest of us, 380 or so in the UK anyway, are working from home. I think one of the biggest challenges we’ve had is the fact that Gymshark HQ is a fantastic office, it’s a fantastic space, it’s a social space, and the people are pretty sociable. I think that’s a big part of working at Gymshark and suddenly that’s been ripped away. When we talk to people, I think from a work perspective, people are doing a great job. In fact, some teams I think would argue they’re doing a better job remotely just by the nature of the work they do. But I think most people are struggling with that lack of the social element to it because it’s a big part of what our culture was. 

In your current role, what one thing would you like to focus on or implement that you haven’t done already, that you believe would have a significant impact in Gymshark?

I think, as I said, the culture at Gymshark is so important and the legacy for Gymshark is really important. And I suppose one thing that I’d like to think we will do more of that will make a positive impact is the BAME agenda. I’ve started to realise how deeply ingrained in society this is. And I think as an organisation, Gymshark are in a position where we have such an impact on our external community, in a positive way that we really need to walk the talk, and do that internally as well.

Want to find out more about Dave’s professional journey, what it takes to maintain a powerful company culture and drive forward people performance for a business of unicorn status? You can access the full transcript, here, and listen to the full episode of Episode 2 of The OpenBlend Podcast over at Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

The Business Transformation Network has shared this podcast in partnership with OpenBlend.

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