When we decided to launch an international business in the UK back in 1991, the first thing we had to do was decide where in England to put our headquarters.
Most companies might locate near London or Birmingham or some other big city. But we knew that wouldn’t work for Lands’ End. We wanted to find a place like Dodgeville, where people are friendly and helpful and genuinely care about customers. Probably it would be in farm country, but since most of England is farm country, that part would be easy.
Eventually in our travels we came across a little town called Oakham, in a little county called Rutland. In fact, Rutland is the smallest county in England – just 18 miles long and 17 miles wide. Its motto, not surprisingly, is Multum in Parvo – Much in Little.
There are no bustling motorways in Rutland. No sprawling shopping centers, or gaudy chain stores. But there are a multitude of beautiful old stone buildings, from majestic churches to small thatched roof cottages.
And some of the nicest, friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
Fact is, they’re the happiest people in England, according to a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics. 85% of Rutlandians are very satisfied with their lives, and 87% of them feel that what they do is worthwhile. They’re also the most fertile people in England, with the average woman having 2.81 children.
Is there a correlation between fertility and happiness? We’re not going to speculate on that.
But if you visit Rutland, you will quickly get a sense that these are happy people. Our friend Kathryn Ellis, a former creative director at Lands’ End who has lived in Oakham for many years, says, “Community may be dead elsewhere, but not here. It’s just one of the friendliest places around. Everyone knows each other, and they look out for one another.”
Writer W. G. Hoskins put it another way, when he wrote his introduction to A Shell Guide to Rutland in 1963. He said, “One would like to think that one day soon at each entrance to this little county, beside a glancing willow-fringed stream, there will stand a notice saying Human Conservancy: Abandon the Rat-Race at This Point.
Did we realize we were setting up shop in such a happy place, back in 1991?
Probably not. But we sensed it would be very good for our business, and our customers, to build our UK headquarters here. Which it has.
It feels like Dodgeville. It feels like home. It’s a happy place, and we’re so fortunate that we found it. After all, if we’d blinked, we could have missed it.
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