01 November 2010

A Business for People

Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman reads like marketing copy for his outdoor equipment company Patagonia.

Yet Chouinard's guiding principles are inspiring. Through Patagonia, he has demonstrated it is possible to be a force for the common good in business.

Reading Chouinard's biographical account of the evolution of his company, I wondered if it could have possibly been THAT cool to work at Patagonia. Then I remembered a talented designer I knew at Montana State in the late 1970s who became Patagonia's chief designer for a chunk of years in the 90s.

An adventurer and a craftsman, this Spanish Peaks backpacking buddy I knew in college wouldn't have suffered buttoned-downed, ass clowns for very long. Patagonia draws talented people of uncompromising standards who are much more grounded in the why, then the how.

The essential question anyone in business should be asking is why? Chouinard's why is the natural environment and the animals that populate it - including the human animal.

Yvon Chouinard has learned, on the fly, how to run a big company with people in mind -- employees and customers. Keeping people in mind seems obvious, yet in my experience most organizations don't give a rip about their people, their partners, or their customers; rather their singular quest seems to be the how, as in how to increase profits?

Tweetable Quotes

My favorite quotes from Let My People Go Surfing:

On entrepreneurs, he says,
If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, "This sucks. I'm going to do my own thing.
~Yvon Chouinard
Using the patently Uncurious George (George W. Bush) as the poster boy for the simple-minded, he says,
Un-curious people do not lead examined lives; they cannot see causes that lie deeper than the surface."
~Yvon Chouinard
Of the mess human animals have made of the environment, he says,
No animal is so stupid and greedy as to foul its own nest -- except humans.
~Yvon Chouinard
Finally, in a call to action, Chouinard quotes indigenous wisdom:
We are the people we have been waiting for.
~Navajo Medicine Man

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