Lush director talks transformation

LushAhead of Inside Retail Academy’s Leadership Seminar: Inspiring People & Brands, Catherine van der Meulen chats with Peta Granger from Lush about her role in the business’ turnaround.

When Granger returned to Australia in 2010 after working across the global Lush brand for 10 years, she had one intention: to save the business.

Catherine van der Meulen: What were your first words to yourself when you arrived back in Australia to save Lush Australia from closure?

Peta Granger: Someone once said to me that, ‘people don’t want to sell something, they want to belong to something’. This really resonated with me as we set about trying to create a community within Lush that people wanted to be a part of. We needed to find the right forums and motivators to pull everyone in the business together, most of who are under 30.

Catherine van der Meulen: Can you share one of the key people strategies you worked through to cleanse the business?

Peta Granger: Each year we run an anonymous engagement survey on a variety of topics to find our how we’re tracking as employers, pin point areas of strength/opportunity as well as gather an abundance of great ideas. With more than 50 per cent of staff participating it creates a clear ‘to do’ list for the year ahead and gives direction on investment, time and energy.

Catherine van der Meulen: What is a key factor in building a community and business that people wanted to be a part of?

Peta Granger: We gather our store managers together at least three times a year and hold big four day conferences. Alongside the fun and bonding of night time trivia, fancy dress and silent discos a lot of powerful learning happens during the day. Really we’re just creating a platform for our staff to shine, share and collaborate. Real light bulb moments happen over TED-style talks from our managers sharing their stories of struggle or achievement. Public speaking is challenging, being away from home and sharing rooms can be confronting and voicing opinions can be daunting but at end of the meeting they feel united, invincible and can’t wait to get back to their stores and share what they’ve learnt.

Catherine van der Meulen: What does changing the world mean to the Lush team?

Peta Granger: At a very core level we’re all looking for meaning in our lives and so the basic elements of what Lush do – like transparent and ethical supply chains, activism on issues like LGBT rights, supporting asylum seekers or protesting animal testing all make people feel a part of something bigger and proud of where they work and shop and what that contributes towards. Our staff realise the power the customer has in deciding the type of world they want to live in every time they open their wallets and they get excited about trying to influence that.

Our staff also like that we regularly ask for their input, especially on issues they think we should take a stand on. In turn, we’ve recognized that we have a passionate and committed workforce who’ll go to the ends of the earth for something they believe in. They enthusiastically step up to becoming spokespeople, learn how to introduce an issue to customers and engage in respectful discussions with people who might disagree with them. This gentle form of activism makes them confident communicators and empowers them to be a force for change.

Catherine van der Meulen: Trust is a word that threads businesses together, what has this turnaround taught you about trust?

Peta Granger: Once trust has built up then people are a lot more candid with their feedback and feel more confident in challenging the way things are done. Creating platforms to seek opinions saved ourselves from the mistake of having too few people, too detached from the customer, making the biggest decisions. A free flow of ideas and conversation up and down the ranks started to make the business stronger and staff feel more engaged in the turnaround.

Peta will be delivering more insights into the world of Lush at 4.20pm at Inside Retail Academy’s Leadership Seminar: Inspiring People & Brands, (Melbourne only). 

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