In Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, readers get a fascinating look inside the history and philosophy of both Patagonia and its irascible, opinionated founder. From its beginning, the book shares a sense of Chouinard's strong-willed personality and his love of the outdoors. He recounts a mostly happy childhood spent in a still-unspoiled southern California, climbing, diving, fishing, and surfing. The narrative soon moves into Chouinard's early entrepreneurial efforts, which were less focused on market-share domination than on earning a basic living to finance his own sporting habits. As his company's first catalog noted, delivery could be slow in the summer months, when Chouinard typically left the "office"--a dilapidated shack converted into an ironworks--for climbing adventures across the American West.
Eventually, though, the story settles into a pattern familiar to business audiences: Patagonia grows rapidly, takes on more employees and product lines to sustain hungry demand from customers, but overreaches with over-ambitious expansion plans and suffers a hiccup in its adolescence. This make-or-break juncture of a business's development often contains the most interesting material, and here Chouinard and his beloved company are no exception. He describes a series of wrenching decisions through which he and Patagonia management team navigated in 1991, as sales growth stalled while capital and operational expenses sprinted ahead. From this crisis emerged Patagonia's first-ever layoffs, affecting a hefty 20% of the workforce, and a serious re-examination of the business's core principles and methods.
The historical part of Chouinard's book largely ends at this point, and gives way to an exposition of philosophies which emerged at Patagonia during its dark moments in the early 1990s. The rest of the book serves as a kind of primer to business, the Patagonia way: one chapter each on product design philosophy, production philosophy, distribution philosophy, image philosophy, financial philosophy, human resource philosophy, and so on. Fans of Patagonia can revel in the company's working details, as can those who support or want to build businesses with self-consciously cultivated soulfulness. Readers who enjoyed Gary Erickson's story about Clif Bar, for example, should definitely find this a welcome addition to their bookshelves. --Peter Han --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is the best business book I have ever read. A commitment to people, purpose, and the planet fueling a one of a kind approach to business. So many takeaways to apply.Published 3 days ago by Matt
This powerful book has helped me (an entrepreneur about to start up a company in another unrelated profession) to focus my intention when developing philosophies for how I want to... Read morePublished 6 days ago by Zack Chance
Perhaps this book should be a must read for every small business owner who still has enough control over his company to implement changes towards environmental awareness. Read morePublished 7 days ago by ERSE
Haven't had a book that I enjoy this much in some time. I'm seeing myself rereading this a few times at least. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Robert L. Kossak
Good story about the author and his businesses. I do think he spent a few pages too many on being "green" and how his businesses try their best as wellPublished 26 days ago by Scott & Christina
Unique business book; a case study, but interesting reading. I had no idea Patagonia was such a responsible company, how hard they tried (setting precedents that became new laws)... Read morePublished 1 month ago by David P. Bishop