One of the main reasons I chose to work for Reebok’s Human Rights and Business Practices program was to gain practical business skills with the intention of gaining an MBA. After failing in my role to follow instructions, not grasping how human rights principles were applied in business settings and frankly being overwhelmed by the scale to which decisions were being made on factory workers, I realized I was not able to do what was being asked of me, for a variety of reasons. I voluntarily resigned, although at the time, I thought I was being forced to quit. Also, having an undisclosed mental health condition made things difficult.
Though short-lived and with the benefit of hindsight, the challenge and rigor of my Reebok experience was tremendous for a twenty-something former United Nations Volunteer. My first day on the job at Reebok was flying to China for a team meeting to discuss team strategy for our program for business-wide ramifications. It was exciting, confusing and complicated all at the same time. My Reebok colleagues both in headquarters and in the field were decisive and held each other accountable. They were patient with me while I attempted to understand the workings of the Human Rights and Business Practices program and my role. Overall it was an amazing exposure to the intersection of business and ethics. Fast forward to 2017, Reebok is an Adidas owned brand, which Reebok alumni may argue is weaker than before.
Recently, it was fascinating for me, to watch the Youtube video above about Joe Foster, Founder of Reebok and how his family business evolved. This has opened a whole new and meaningful perspective for me on what it takes to run a family business. My own extended family members have their own business and social enterprises (for example, the Dominic family with tourism in Kerala) so it is interesting to observe how other well established families have created wealth over many generations. The Reebok story in the athletics industry, in my humble opinion, highlights what can be highly contentious issues when mixing family members, personalities and profits while striving “to do well, by doing good.”
The Human Rights and Business Practices program which was upholding Reebok’s commitment to corporate social responsibility was also a marketing and communications tool for the brand. Through my past experiences working closely with the Satinder Bajwa, Founder and CEO of Khelshala, I have come to learn about both the challenges and rewards of starting and running a social enterprise. Sometimes, the path or purpose one sets out for oneself is clear, but to walk it is another thing altogether. This blog strives to be linear, but in effect it does not account for all the turns and curves in the road where one has had to learn to adjust expectations of oneself. Many (social) entrepreneurs face challenges in their professional and personal journeys, while attempting to stay the course.