Earlier this year I read “Let my people go surfing, the education of a reluctant businessman” by the founder, and now prior owner of Patagonia clothing company.  I truly enjoyed this book which was originally published in 2005.  Recently, Yvon Chouinard, transferred ownership of his entire company to a specially designed trust and nonprofit.  Not bad for a rock climber who accidentally became a billionaire along the way.

Yvon’s principles and direction were decades ahead of his time.  Relentlessly pursuing the best materials, process, and always with an eye on sustainability in every action.  This book is full of photos, quotes, challenges, and ideas on what it took to continuously evolve the company.  Great themes stick and are valuable to any founder, owner, or individual who is driven to improve who they are and what they do each day.  Staying curious, and seeking smart growth, Yvon’s leadership shines brightly in all aspects of the company.

What’s not lost is the understanding, beliefs, and values that it’s people who are the fabric of a company.  Working together guided by a common mission makes growth possible.  Here are other themes I found helpful:

Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and finding better solutions when things don’t go as planned.

Partnering with adventurers who professionally use the gear day in and day out.  Listening to their real-world feedback when they are climbing a mountain or surfing an epic set of waves.

Simplicity.  Attempting to avoid complexity and seeking answers on what works, what doesn’t, why, and can we do it better.

Pivoting to various clothing lines, industries to test new materials, ideas, and manufacturing to elevate the product and its durability.

Using photography in ads to tell a story and remain true to the company’s beliefs.

Backing up your work and products with guarantees that what you are delivering is the best and that you stand behind it.

A different philosophy and outlook that says the ultimate shareholder is the environment.  Without it, nothing is possible as resources are limited.

Culture, one of the most important aspects in any business.

Leadership, examining when things go well just as much as when they don’t.

Maintaining a sense of urgency without hectic stressful environments for employees and leadership.  Pushing forward and making change happen.


Advisory services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Flowerstone Financial are not affiliated. Cambridge does not offer tax or legal advice.

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