Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, was a blacksmith making tools for mountain climbing.

Things Yvon Chouinard said/did that I liked.

  • Put a billboard says Don’t Buy This Jacket on 2011 Black Friday
  • He wants to run 100 years company! Make long term decisions. Are we the proper size of what we want to do?
  • Buy high quality things that last for the rest of your life

Patagonia was growing normally by adding more wholesale accounts, more retail stores, the market wants their product. So Patagonia was growing 50% per year. But if you can’t grow a company 50% year after year and retain earnings (well, maybe possible with SaaS). During that time, there was a recession. Banks wouldn’t lend Patagonia any money. And Yvon bought inventories for the expecting 50% growth, but Patagonia was at only 30% growth.

So Patagonia got into a really deep financial troubles. So deep that Yvon could not hardly get out of it. His accountant introduced Yvon to the Mafia who ironically wants 20% of interests, which is what we paid on the credit cards now... Credit card companies are mafias. Eventually Yvon borrowed money from friends and friends of friends. But this was the wake up call for Yvon. He was just doing business like everyone else, growing for the sake of growing.

He gathered everyone and asked everyone: Why are we in business? What are we trying to do? What are our values. Eventually this chat leads to his book called "Let My People Go Surfing". They reached the conclusion that they want to create a business that they want to come to work in.

Do we want to go to dinner with this person?

Hired within from the retail and clerk employees. Otherwise, for very specialized job, pick somebody who can do the job. For not very specialized job, hire athletes who have passion for sports and outdoors, then teach them business. Hire very independent people who are self motivated and leave them alone. Get them aligned and moving in one direction.

Patagonia once had psychologist came to the company and do study of their employees. The psychologist came back to Yvon and said: Hey I gotta tell you something, you had the most independent employees I ever seen in any company. In fact they are so independent, they are unemployable anywhere else!

* = My favorite