BY STEPHANIE GASPERINI, CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Knowing its purpose – or the ‘why’ behind a business doing what it does – is a critical piece of the puzzle at the heart of any successful organisation.
Everything comes back to purpose and values
After two decades of leadership positions in brand strategy, design, and innovation, and now as Baseline’s chief executive, it’s easy for me to spot a company with a well-defined purpose, positioning and values. And it’s wonderful to watch it flourish!
A defined and well-articulated ‘purpose’ is like a mission statement and it’s central to everything a business says and does. It’s aspirational, looking out a few years, giving the business something to strive for.
It must also answer the tricky question of, “Why do we exist?” Or, “Why we are the way we are?” And the answer must go well beyond simply what the organisation makes or the service it provides.
Bringing it to life
Brand, and brand identity, is often misunderstood. A brand encapsulates everything about a business – its products, the people, its logo, its customer service, its Twitter feed, etc.
Brand identity is the visual and verbal language that’s created to communicate in a distinctive and relevant way. Baking the company’s purpose, values and story into brand identity and all its communications is the only way forward.
The Hauturu Trust and Baseline
I bring my strong sense of purpose to my work on the Hauturu Trust, for which Baseline has been developing a brand identity.
The trust raises funds to protect the Hauraki Gulf island, Hauturu, also known as Little Barrier Island. Te Hauturu-o-Toi – “the resting place of the wind” – is New Zealand’s oldest nature reserve and lies 80km north of Auckland.
Often described as our most intact ecosystem, it’s without doubt one of the world’s most important conservation reserves. About 40 species of rare or endangered birds flourish in this pest-free sanctuary, alongside 14 reptile, two bat and over 400 native plant species.
Among its many success stories is the beautiful hihi, or stitchbird. This bird would be extinct if not for Hauturu, but now thrives and can be translocated to other pest-free island sanctuaries.
Hauturu’s purpose –
and my own
The Hauturu Trust exists to support and enable research that will benefit the Island, as it is an excellent site for high-quality scientific research to support conservation. Eco-education and advocacy are also key areas of focus for the next three years.
To reflect our new position we have developed a new purpose, “Taking our unique story of kaitiakitanga to the world”. We have used our purpose for the development of our strategic plan. So, with every decision our trust must make, we look to that purpose to ensure it aligns.
‘Purpose’ has been an important part of my work with boards and executive teams over many years. For me though, it goes beyond helping just businesses, as people must also develop and understand their own purpose and meaning.
My work has always been an important part of my life, and my children have grown up with me working. Our work and home lives are becoming increasingly intertwined, therefore everything we do must have meaning and fit with our personal purpose, whether in our home or our work lives.
For me, and how I choose to live, my work with Hauturu most definitely fits my purpose.
Q & A
Stephanie Gasperini – Chief Executive
Over the past two decades as a ‘design leader’, Stephanie has been involved in some of Australasia’s most significant brand strategy and design thinking programmes, including for the Bank of New Zealand and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise/Better by Design.
What does ‘design thinking’ mean?
It’s about placing the customer, or ‘user’, at the centre of everything. It’s about designing solutions or great products that give a customer what they actually want. Essentially, design thinking is a process and toolkit to ideate and solve problems – and do it rapidly.
A few companies do this meticulously. Internationally, Apple, Spotify, Airbnb and Uber are exemplar. Some exciting local companies include Allbirds (originally a Kiwi company), Xero, Blunt Umbrellas, and Gallagher Group. I’d also include, perhaps surprisingly, a few government agencies, such as ACC. They put customers front and centre, and their products just work, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why.
How did you come to Baseline?
I grew up in Wellington, and after many years in Auckland (and a few in Melbourne), we returned to be closer to family. Andrea and I went through school together. We met for a coffee to talk about working on a pitch for a brand strategy project – and we won it!
How do you stay current?
I am surrounded by clever and talented people. I’m a prolific reader and I enjoy good conversation and debate. Growing up in a big family, I developed my voice and point of view at a young age. I’m not afraid to challenge mediocrity or the status quo. I believe in the value of design and the difference it makes.
What do you see as Baseline’s core strength?
It may sound like a cliché, but our strength comes from being an established family-owned, New Zealand company. For me it somehow feels like home. Everyone knows each other well, has lunch together, plays the odd practical joke, and steps in when the going gets tough. There’s an unparalleled connection and loyalty among the team and our clients.
Tell us about your COVID-19 lockdown experience
I like to work at pace and keep many balls in the air, which the lockdown certainly required. It also forced us to be decisive and pivot. We have a small Leadership Team – myself, Andrea Thompson and Sam Hammond. We speak daily and continued to do so, with a new-found acceptance of differing points of views and new, low-fi ways of doing things.
It certainly helped to have a diverse team with a broad range skills and talents. Those people, including our structural and graphic designers, along with our impressive production team and studio (with German machinery and all the bells and whistles), meant we continued to deliver, from end-to-end, carefully crafted products throughout the lockdown.
Read more about Stephanie Gasperini on Linkedin.