You in the community – more than a business

Posted by The Icehouse on 7/02/2023 12:00:00 AM

Not so long ago, being in business – solving challenges and delivering high-quality products and services – was enough for many business owners. Now, more and more of our alumni are keen to share the stories around how they are proactively making a difference to their communities.  

Sponsoring a local sports team, a school fundraiser, youth projects, cleaning up local rivers, or paying it forward, you name it, our alumni are doing it. 

You in the community – more than a business_ Blog_Image


When we think of businesses in the community, we probably think of employee volunteer programmes. Indeed, Deloitte found that two-thirds of Gen Y employees are drawn to organisations that enable them to volunteer their skills. 

We’re hearing that actively ‘being in the community’ isn’t borne out of any desire to make media headlines, win awards, or to be seen as a great boss. Community involvement isn’t an “extra”, it’s important and, as a result, it’s becoming more ingrained and integrated into business models in a big way. 

“A lot of business owners and employees want to get that feeling of impacting the people around them, impacting the planet and leaving a legacy in what they do,” says Bryar Stewart, Community Manager (Growth) at The Icehouse. 

“We are seeing more businesses putting this front of mind in their strategy, in their goal setting, their why, and their mission as a business. This can happen through different business models or impact giving or charitable partnerships.” 

It makes sense for business to contribute to causes that mirror their own values and mission, adds Bryar. “The most successful projects begin by talking to your community about what local initiatives they're interested in, and then working out the ones from there, that align with what you do as a business. Why not start small – it doesn’t have to be big? Then consider doing something year-on-year and increasing what you're doing in the community even further,” says Bryar.

Among our alumni, Hortus, the viticulture and horticulture management company, work with employees from the Pacific Islands under the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employee) scheme. According to the 2021 Hortus Impact Statement, employees earned more than $15m in 2021. That take-home pay is used to help numerous local communities, whether it’s starting businesses, funding schooling and education programmes or enabling houses to be built and bought. 

Aaron Jay, the owner and Managing Director of Hortus, says, “If you’re serious about creating a strong and sustainable business that can have a meaningful impact on people’s lives then my two pieces of advice would be, ‘learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable’ and ‘you have got to be consciously selfish to be sustainably generous.” 

Growing up with strong female role models inspired Matthew Cropp, Taking Your Business Forward alumni and the co-founder and Managing Director of Cropps NZ, to adopt an innovative policy in his workplace. 

“One of the things that we do in the business is we employ working mums… and to me they’re amazing in what they can achieve, and what they fit in in a day and I have nothing but awe for what they can do. They’re also as passionate for our business as we are.” 

Laurence Sherriff, Owner Manager Programme alumni and founder and Managing Director of Align, developed a passion for boxing, resulting in participating in a charity boxing match for youth suicide. 

“Start with something that you’re interested in and passionate about and go from there. Get involved in one way or another. You might not get it right first time and start to get down into the detail. It’s not until you get into it that you start seeing the opportunities.” 

How do you “find” yourself, the community in which you serve, and the activities to most benefit your community? Gearing Up, by The Icehouse stalwarts Darl Kolb, David Irving, Deb Shepherd and Chris Woods, suggests taking yourself out of the busy present and looking forward. 

‘Where you see yourself in the future depends on how far out you look. If you are just looking into next year, not much may have changed… What you see in the world depends on how far away you stand… you and your business are situated within your community (communities) and influenced by technological shifts as well as social and environmental challenges and opportunities.’ 

If you’re keen to explore your options further, research shows that giving back to the community boosts team morale, fosters strong local networks and teamwork, and can help grow profitability.

“It's just the nature of the people that we work with, and how they see their role and the opportunity that they have, to make a difference – beyond just running a profitable and sustainable business,” says Liz Wotherspoon, Chief Executive at The Icehouse. 

“We have the privilege of experiencing through the stories our alumni tell and share, the role that they play in their communities and the importance they place on them, following the old adage that in order to do good, you need to do well, and in order to do well, you need to do good.”

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Topics: Owner Manager Programme, Leadership Development Programme