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Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business: The Story of Clif Bar Inc. [Paperback]

by Gary Erickson, Lois Lorentzen
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 28, 2012 0787986712 978-0787986711 1
In April of 2000, Gary Erickson turned down a $120 million offer to buy his thriving company. Today, instead of taking it easy for the rest of his life and enjoying a luxurious retirement, he's working harder than ever. Why would any sane person pass up the financial opportunity of a lifetime? Raising the Bar tells the amazing story of Clif Bar's Gary Erickson and shows that some things are more important than money. Gary Erickson and coauthor Lois Lorentzen tell the unusual and inspiring story about following your passion, the freedom to create, sustaining a business over the long haul, and living responsibly in your community and on the earth. Raising the Bar chronicles Clif Bar's ascent from a homemade energy bar to a $100 million phenomenon with an estimated 35 million consumers, and a company hailed by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. four years in a row. The book is filled with compelling personal stories from Erickson's life-trekking in the Himalayan mountains, riding his bicycle over roadless European mountain passes, climbing in the Sierra Nevada range--as inspiration for his philosophy of business. Throughout the book, Erickson--a competitive cyclist, jazz musician, world traveler, mountain climber, wilderness guide, and entrepreneur--convinces us that sustaining one's employees, community, and environment is good business. If you are a manager, executive, business owner, or board member, Raising the Bar is your personal guide to corporate integrity. If you are a sports enthusiast, environmentalist, adventure lover, intrigued by a unique corporate culture, or just interested in a good story, Raising the Bar is for you.

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Editorial Reviews


"What makes this book [Raising the Bar] worth reading is that he's [Gary Erickson] as honest about his mistakes as his successes." (Newsweek, October 4, 2004) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Gary Erickson realizes that businesses have tremendous power to harm or protect the natural world, our common home. I applaud the efforts of Gary and Clif Bar to develop business practices that promote an ethic of global responsibility.”
--Mikhail S. Gorbachev, chairman, Green Cross International

“Gary Erickson believes that doing good and doing business should go hand in hand. Raising the Bar tells the inspiring story of a scrappy company’s battle to stay privately owned and to better its people, the community, and the planet in the process.”
--Ben Cohen, cofounder, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, and president, TrueMajority.org

“This is a beautiful book about courage, commitment, integrity, and vision. It is also a story that reminds us that one person does make a difference by leading the way through the inspiration of the heart.”
--Julia Butterfly Hill, author, The Legacy of Luna

“Gary Erickson’s story is sheer inspiration. Reading it makes you want to ride a bike up a high mountain, dust off your musical instrument and join a jazz band, or launch an outrageous company. This is a life manual masquerading as a business book.”
--David Batstone, author, Saving the Corporate Soul

“In Raising the Bar, Gary Erickson’s incredible journey raises our expectations of corporate America and most importantly our hope for a better world.”
--Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., executive director, The Breast Cancer Fund

“My son Gary’s awesome true Clif Bar story, as told in this book, brings tears to my eyes, sends chills up my spine, and gives joy to my heart.”
--Clifford Erickson

“I can relate to a guy who’s faced a few challenges on a bike. Reading about Gary’s adventures in the mountains, on his bike, and with Clif Bar inspires me. Gary understands the meaning of adventure in life and business.”
--Tyler Hamilton, professional cyclist

“Whether I’ve been climbing or just visiting with Gary, he motivates me to consider what’s possible. He has a powerful dreaming mind and a kind of vision to make our world a better place. It’s awesome to see Gary and the people at Clif Bar turn their business into a way of life.”
--Ron Kauk, climber --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (August 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787986712
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787986711
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can I come work for you Gary? A company with values. August 25, 2004
I love Clif Bars, especially the "carrot cake" flavor! When I saw this book by the CEO and founder of the company, I picked it up right away. It is always insightful to read about people who founded or run companies and get an inside look at how they built the organization and what they value. Where most business books focus on financials, strategy and how to be successful in their market, it is rarer to find a company that has been very successful financially while still placing their values as a higher priority than the profit-at-all-costs culture that plagues many organizations.

The book describes in detail the founding of the company, from the almost storybook beginnings in his moms kitchen. What started as a desire to create a "sports bar" that didn't taste like dirt, has turned into a quality and well known brand. While these types of rags to riches stories may be sounding familiar, this path is actually quite different. Gary describes his passions for biking, travel and climbing, and how he has learned to value the environment and focus his company on sustainable growth. When his competitors were becoming part of large conglomerates with the resources to outspend and out market his brand, he resisted the lure of millions to sell the company and chose to remain private.

I found myself marking pages, pondering quotes, and admiring the spirit and values that Gary brought to the organization. He describes the difference between the "red path" and the "white path". Developed through an analogy of taking roads less traveled, and traveling light on his numerous bike trips in Europe, he discovers that the real joy is in the journey not the destination. Those who take the "white path" play it safe, and make the kinds of business decisions that accountants love.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well told story of Clif Bar, values and coproate growth September 4, 2004
Most any athlete has had a Clif Bar. What makes them different from Balance bars, MetRx bars and Balance bars? And how is the company any different? This is the story behind the company.

The book can be divided into three major themes. First is the historical component of the company - the creation, fall and rebirth of Clif bar. It's told first person from the founder's view from the trenches, and you join him in the trials and tribulations of an entepreneur.

The second theme covers the values of the company. It talks about concepts like mapping the road less traveled, and living your values as a company. It's this section that really makes you hungry for a Clif Bar. :-) It also demonstrates how both the passion and neglect of a leader is reflected in the company. In this section you'll learn the values that drove Clif Bar to remain private.

Lastly is a "How To" manual. This drives at, "I know Gary pulled it off, but what does it mean to me?" The advice here is on creating companies with similar values to Gary's. How does one minimize their ecological footprint? How does one go organic? How does one operate in a sustainable manner? What are the signs of a productive and energizing workplace?

The three themes combine to make an enjoyable story of overcoming obstacles, taking the road less traveled, and creating a company filled with passion.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars i never ever write reviews....until now January 5, 2005
wow. gary erickson makes me want to put down my cigarette, rum and coke, move back to b.c. and get outside, start moving and get passionate about life again.

it is so unbelievably inspiring to see someone so real and honest and vulnerable ring true in a story. work hard, play hard and live and work with honesty, passion and integrity seems to override the usual company mottos of profit, profit, profit. i didn't even feel like it was a business book. usually they're all rat race this, rat race that - abandon your families, friends, social life for the bottom line - so it was so refreshing to read that companies like this do exist.

pick it up. i've never even eaten a clif bar, my mom just bought me this book for christmas and i'm all like, i'm so going to be a loyal clif/luna bar devotee because of the story behind it.

so buy it, read it. definitely.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Company, Great Story, Inspiring Read January 16, 2006
This is a fascinating book about the creation of Clif Bar and the business philosophy of its co-founder Gary Erickson. It's a good story, but at times it seems too good to be true. While reading it, I wasn't fully convinced that there wasn't some authorial bias, so I did some Google-based research on the Internet. This confirmed many of the assertions in the book, so I believe Erikson to be the genuine article -- someone committed to building a great company and sticking to his idealistic principles for sustaining his employees, customers, and suppliers as well as sustaining his community and the planet.

It seems that the best way to build a principled company is to keep it privately owned with no intention of ever going public. In fact, Erickson has talked to people like Mo Siegel of Celestial Seasonings, Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's and Gary Hirshberg of Stoneyfield Farms and comes to the conclusion that nothing less than 100% ownership is acceptable. As he puts it, "I didn't want to become a slave to Wall Street--I'm an entrepreneur who cherishes freedom."

Earlier in Clif Bar's history, Erickson touted his 50/50 partnership with Lisa Thomas, but as he points out in the book, 50% ownership can lead to a stalemate when important decisions have to be made. He hardly mentions his former partner after the first chapter, which describes the point in 2000 when he walked out on a deal to sell the company for $120million. It appears that this was the significant emotional event that drove his effort to build Clif Bar into a great company and to leave it behind as his legacy. As his wife Kit puts it, Clif Bar is the way Erikson expresses himself in the world. This statement seems fully borne out by the rest of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good look inside the company
I started eating Clif Bars when they first came out. I was working at a bike shop in college and would buy a box at a time. Many days they were lunch. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michael Krisher
5.0 out of 5 stars live and breathe
it's a living and breathing business, caught playfully in a fun book.

compells you to ride, run, climb but most importanlty to live and breath.
Published 2 months ago by John Keith
4.0 out of 5 stars Raise the Bar
Raising the Bar is our company mantra. I bought this book for a friend so he may benefit from its powerful lessons.
Published 3 months ago by Dominoe Wheeler
3.0 out of 5 stars Story of how to nurture a company but hold onto your values
A very interesting story about Gary and Clifbar. At times the editing left a bit to be desired, but overall a good read.
Published 5 months ago by Matthew Piersol
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written
Unlike the bars this books leaves a bad after taste. Its a desperate attempt to draw business insights using mundane examples. Read more
Published 9 months ago by hpat
5.0 out of 5 stars Escellent read
Every manager shoudl read this book so more companies could see how a "truly successful" business is ran on a daily and forever basis.
Published 11 months ago by Eric
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Motivating
I highly recommend this book to anybody starting up a business. Especially if it's a food related business. Read more
Published 11 months ago by calebsimpson
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple enough to be profound
The story is compelling. The way to run a company is simple yet we forget his and have too may poorly run businesses, the is blueprint or doing it right.
Published 13 months ago by Dae Lee
2.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Miserably laid out.
This is a very inspiring book, not completely unlike "Let My People go Surfing," although I liked that one a lot better. Read more
Published 19 months ago by H. Penny
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
I must say I am very pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book! Not only is the publishing/design unlike any book I have seen, the content is AMAZING! Read more
Published 21 months ago by R0s3
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