on February 1, 2006
This is one of those drop everything books that you want to buy and give to all your friends and relations who will read and gain from it.
I don't even know how the book came to my attention to buy i the first place, it sat in my TBR pile for several weeks until i had the time to read the first chapter and skim the rest, my usual routine with new books as they come into the house. However it is so good, from the first sentence that i just set aside my other reading and finished it.
It is about doing good and having an adventure while doing so. Partly biographical, partly a history of the company's beginning, mostly a philosophic discussion of how to interact with an increasingly polluted and destroyed planet in a responsible corporate way. It's a story about a man, from all indications one of those rare individuals who consciously walks through life (perhaps climbing is a better word for his travels) aware of what is around him and how he is responsible for his wake through the world.
From the decision to end pinions and switch to clean climbing chocks to the 1% of sales to progressive environmental activist groups, his philosophy not only interacts with his outdoor activities but with the wider world. This book ought to be required reading for every MBA, every business student in the world. And recommended reading for everyone else.
I'm not a very hopeful person, perhaps being in contact with people like the author would turn me around. He is realistic, a little pessimistic but puts his money, his deeds where his words are, in action. An excellent book, just drop everything and get a copy and read it tonight.
thanks for reading this short review.
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on October 15, 2005
Yvon Chouinard takes all current and accepted business practices and turns them on their ear! Being involved in the "corporate world" I am witness to all sorts of techniques, behaviours, policies, practices etc. The driving force is always the bottom line. While Chouinard is, and has to be concerned with the bottom line his path to that bottom line is both bold and unique. Clearly this is a very practical guide to a more healthy and sustainable business culture.
Chouinard is clearly a wonderful man leading a wonderful charge. Hey, I want my boss to let me go surfing!!A must read!
on January 28, 2011
I've loosely followed the Patagonia over the years and read the book based on the recommendation from a colleague as we search new means to "engage" employees.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the book and would recommend it as a case study for any business person trying to grow their own business but especially for those confronting their first major crisis after the first success although I am not entirely sure the success of Patagonia has been more because of brilliant management and leadership or just plain luck. Probably a combination of both.
The problem I have with the book is Chouinard's preachy bigotry against anyone that doesn't fully subscribe to his philosophy of what makes the world a better place. As an avid outdoor person I accept the need to be wise stewards of our limited natural resources so I don't have a problem and would gladly support responsible organizations that do the same. But Chouinard takes it one step too far by classifying all Christians as evolution denying morons and anyone that drives an SUV as a myopic terrorist against the survival of the world. In Chouinard's world anyone that has more than one child and doesn't bicycle to work or drive a hybrid is deserving of contempt from the all knowing and all wise Zen master himself. And while he derides every form of fossil, hydro, and nuclear energy the best alternative he can come up with is to put a solar panel on his office building. I think this is all hypocritical as he jet sets around the world to bag this peak or that, admire his contributions to nature preserves, and travels from stream to stream to catch and release innocent trout. I wonder if he has done an energy analysis of maintaining a headquarters in Ventura where undoubtedly most of his employees are forced to commute huge distances. Oh, but then if he moved his headquarters to Modesto where his employees could afford to live where they work they couldn't go surfing. And lastly, he is critical of government subsidies for things he is opposed to but thinks its fine to subsidize his solar array on his roof. Yvon, if you want to save the world knock yourself out. I will even join up with you from time to time. The moment you start insulting me, I have no use for you.
Chouinard says that people that don't espouse the philosophy he promotes should not work for him. I would follow that up by saying the companies that have contempt for me shouldn't expect my business.
on October 13, 2005
Yvon Chouinard (YC) breaks the barriers and shatters the models of business not simply by thinking differently, but acting differently. I am a CEO and His honesty about his mistakes, missteps, is completely refreshing and provides an honest assessment of his role as entreprenuer, businessman, and steward of the earth. YC leads with his weaknesses and many failures which is atypical for the successful "how to succeed" book by the entreprenuer of the moment. He challenges everyone to think deeply about how we treat everything from people we employ, to simple things, such as overnight shipping (high cost to the environment) and making shirts that don't require ironing. Do not expect a perfect flow of language--the book is broken up into sections, but more closely represents a free flowing dialogue with interruptions and random comments. His thoughts on the environment fit nicely with a stereotypical environmentalist, and his thoughts on mutiple distribution channels could fit nicely when speaking to a Harvard Business School class. YC is an enigma. This book, while sometimes a bit disjointed and sometimes clunky, might very well be regarded in 50 years as THE book that started a new thought pattern in business that has responsibility to be profitable, and yet be responsible to the employees and the earth. The new, responsible Henry Ford of our time? BRILLIANT! GO YC!
on October 22, 2005
There is no better place to work than one where the employees share the vision of the company, and believe in the leadership of the company. "Let My People Go Surfing" is a detailed mission statement for a company whose purpose is to take care of its employees, and do one's best within the 'business ecosystem.' There's no question that Patagonia is a tremendously successful enterprise, and there's no question that Yvon Chouinard's vision has captivated many. He's living proof that you can lead with the customer's and employee's best interest in mind, and reap the benefits of success which transcend the dollar. I'd encourage anyone who is in management to read this book, and take what you can from the teachings within, and incorporate them into your own leadership. It's also an interesting read for anyone who has a hard time believing that you can't follow your dreams and also be financially successful.
on October 16, 2005
This is not another tired business book sold as old wine in a new bottle. Chouinard's success grants him credibility but for me the real strength of this book is its peek into alternative ways to creatively pursue business. It's a relief to know we do not have to follow the same old prescriptions to be successful. While the writing is not perfect, the book is a stimulating read full of retrospective reflections and real stories that capture the challenges no ideological or philosophical system can bypass when building a business no matter how enlightened they may be. Come to this book for a breath of fresh air - and then dare to find your own "business wave" and ride it the way best suited to your passions and talents. This is a must read for any young man or woman thinking of venturing into business.
on April 2, 2008
The tone of arrogance and condescension really diminish what would otherwise be a good autobiographical case study of growing a hobby/skill into a successful brand. Critical self assessment is sometimes subordinated to over emotive passages and screeds about Chouinard's take social and economic trends. Some of the more interesting aspects of forming company goals and culture were lost amid a general tone of contempt for what Chouinard considers `the business world'. The good stuff is there, you just have to get past the maverick chest thumping and "I am a reluctant businessman and I run my business better without old and tired business practices and paradigms. . . like profit".
Two things were rather galling. First, the first sentence "No young kid growing up ever dreams of becoming a businessman." Well, sorry, a lot of kids actually do, they dream of following a parent or relation in a particular line of business or endeavor, just because Chouinard wasn't like that doesn't mean it doesn't occur.
Second, the restructuring of 1991 was a prime example of the arrogance and hypocrisy that marks the books tone. In July of 1991, Patagonia fired 20% of its workforce. So what does Chouinard do? He packs his executives off to Argentina for a `walkabout' to discuss goals and direction. Nice. You fire a bunch of people then you blaze a huge carbon footprint down to Argentina to brainstorm. WOW, that is brilliant. Excellent use of corporate and global assets. That's the kind of morale crushing maneuver that Chouinard pillories `the business world' for throughout the book. "Where's the boss?" "Oh, after the red ink of the second quarter, he and the executive committee went to Argentina to figure things out." Right out of Dilbert.
Again, some good information buried amid the screed and propaganda (at Patagonia, it's not propaganda, it's activism). I would recommend reading Goldratt's `The Goal' parallel with this. Still, the book is a good case study of brand development and growing a hobby/skill into a corporate business.
on January 26, 2006
In 1968 in-route to the actual Patagonia (Argentina), a young Yvon Chouinard stops to cool off in a jungle river. Failing to test the waters (only a foot deep), he dove in and suffered a nasty compression fracture nearly paralyzing him. Hard lesson ... In this wonderful business-philosophy autobiography, Yvon Chouinard tells this story in context of company strategy and ends with the conclusion, "Go for it ... but do your homework first."
Such is the enticing mixture of adventure pursuits and nitty-gritty business acumen in this unique book. It is the story of a truly unconventional company - and founder - not willing to settle for mere status-quo. Calling Chouinard a "reluctant businessman" is probably the understatement-of-the-year; but, judging by their success, he is a good one. What really makes Chouinard stand out - and worthy of emulation - is his willingness "to live the examined life," challenge entreched pardigms and act with conviction.
But one question haunted Chouinard for years: "WHY are you in business?" With much soul-searching, he arrived at a clear, holistic charter for his company: "Make the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis." The realization that his company could be both a platform and catalyst for positive change gave birth to a new era for the company.
Ever since Chouinard and the "Patagoniacs" have created a culture of planetary awareness and stewardship that reaches far beyond Ventura. From being the first catalog to use recycled paper ... to championing recycling soda bottles into "PCR" fleece ... to the horrifying study about pestide use that inspired organic cotton ... to pioneering child daycare when no one else cared, Patagonia has risen above the business-as-usual excuses and said, "Enough, we will be different." But especially refreshing is a lack of pretentiousness and refusal for "cheesy green marketing" - as they realize the big picture and how far they have to go. Similarly, Chouinard was one of the first proponents of "ecological footprint" and the un-business-like conviction of limited growth - realizing the planet does not have unlimited resources to plunder and abuse.
So, in an era where pleasing the shareholders seems to trump most other responsibilities in business, Yvon Chouinard is a refreshing, counter-cultural beacon of light to help us see the limited thinking and often tragic errors of our business-as-usual capitalist culture. If you care about the environment, product quality, community and the love of the outdoors, Yvon Chouinard's story will inspire you - and probably motivate you to change in some positive way. Even if his book merely instills more awareness of our choices - personally and professionally - it will have succeeded in fulfilling Yvon Chouinard's desire to influence the world for the better through his company. A most unique "business book" that should be required reading at business schools. 5 stars.
on July 25, 2006
This is a book that every businessperson should read, in fact must read, for the future survival of our planet. I run an environmental organization and, before beginning the book, thought that I would already know most of what Yvon has to say. I was wrong. His words opened many new doors for me, and made me think about the world in a completely new way. He is the zen master of corporate responsibility, the guru of a worldwide movement towards a more sustainable way of living. Pass this book along to your friends. He has proven that the world can be both pro-business and pro-environment, and if all CEO's ran their companies like he does, we would most certainly live in a better world, and leave a better legacy to our children.
on October 20, 2005
Yvon Chouinard's message is scary, vertigo-inducing and self-evident. Let My People Go Surfing leadclimbs us to a simple realization; the environment is everyone's responsibility. Yes, it's the story of an enlightened businessman, and a socially conscious company with an impassioned mission. And yes, the book should be required reading at the Whartons of the world. Imagine, a business that forces its customers to consider the consequences of their purchase, and they want more. But Yvon Chouinard's story is so much more than an organic treatise on business. He guides us to a base truth; there is no such thing as a No Trace life without environmental sin. Yvon's mantra "use it up, wear it out, recycle it' reverberates in the background as we journey with him through an extraordinary life. There is now competition for the moniker, Conscience of the Tribe. Some term his vision unrealistic...then you realize he's living it...with a sense of humor. Five stars? I say 5.12.