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L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon Hardcover – October 3, 2006
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"There is a lot to be learned here about running a company, and the importance of never forgetting our customers' needs." -- Yankee Magazine, November 2006
...Bean is about strong Maine values and the outdoor lifestyle... -- Forbes.com, October 19, 2006
From the Back Cover
— David A. Garvin, C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
“An incredible story about an outdoor industry icon, L.L.Bean, that became — under the guidance of Leon Gorman — a national treasure. L. L. would be proud to know his grandson, Leon, is still enabling millions of people to enjoy the great outdoors in comfort.”
— Jim Whittaker, first American to climb Mt. Everest and former President and CEO of REI
“This book tells a compelling business story about the challenges and milestones along the way to building a venerable American company. Yet it is more than the usual business book. Leon Gorman tells this story with his characteristic charm, wit, and self-effacing humor, making it a delightful read for any audience. I enjoyed it immensely!”
— Senator George J. Mitchell
“The story of L.L.Bean teaches us the value of tradition, artfully combined with a clear strategic vision and purpose and an unwavering respect for every stakeholder. These lessons are enduring — just like the company. L.L.Bean is one of a kind and so is this book.”
— Elaine Rosen, former President, Unum Life Insurance Company of America
“Thanks to Leon's clear voice and strong writing, the story of L.L.Bean and Leon's own remarkable role in the firm are told well and interestingly. I give my former student an A+.”
— Roy Greason, President Emeritus, Bowdoin College
Top Customer Reviews
Part 1 - 1960 - 1967: L. L. Gives Me a Job; Learning the Business; Who Will Succeed L. L.?
Part 2 - 1968 - 1975: A Committee of One; Living the L. L. Story; "To Run A Perfect Company"
Part 3 - 1976 - 1990: Taking L. L. Bean Professional; Fashion Boom and Bust; Back on Track; End of an Era
Part 4 - 1991 - 2000: TQ and Other Ventures; A Loss of Relevance; Time for Transformations; Platform for Growth
Epilogue; Voices; Notes; Bibliography; Index
Leon Gorman was hired by his grandfather, L. L. Bean, back in 1960 right out of the Navy. Gorman really didn't have specific responsibilities, but Bean wouldn't turn down a family member. Gorman spent most of his time learning about the company, how it operated, and how business flowed from one end to the other. At this point in time, L. L. Bean was a small catalog operation with one quirky retail store in Maine. The target audience was outdoorsmen, and all the apparel and merchandise sold reflected the feelings and opinions of what Bean thought was the best buy in any given category. This approach started back in 1912 and continued to carry forth at the time Gorman was hired. But Bean was getting old, had no real plan for succession of the company, nor did he really want to grow it any larger.Read more ›
The preface and first 56 pages are a history of LL Bean, the business, starting with its 1912 origin as a manufacturer and mail order merchant of the iconic rubber/leather Maine Hunting Shoe invented by the author's grandfather, Leon L. Bean. LL Bean, the man, was born the son of a Maine horse trader in 1872, orphaned at age 12, and left school after the eighth grade to do manual labor and hunt and fish in Maine woods. LL's genius, after inventing his famous boot, was to sell products he wanted to buy himself and used a catalog he wrote himself to give customers - mostly city folks from the start - a feeling of connection to the rustic, outdoor life of the Maine woods even if they were just buying a sandwich knife (whatever happened to the one I bought from them?). When I visited the Freeport, ME store as a teenager in 1964 my father pointed out a handwritten note tacked to a door leading from the store to stockrooms that read "Keep this d--n door shut! LL Bean." In 1967, Mr. Bean, well into his 90s, passed away with his hand still firmly on the helm of the business. Almost immediately Carl Bean, second in command under his father, LL, also passed away. So Leon Gorman, a Colby College graduate who joined the company in 1960 after a three-year stint as a Navy officer, became head of the family business. Any loyal LL Bean customer will enjoy this much of the book.Read more ›
While the tale seems logical and true to life, the format is disjointed, with editorial insertions from managers who are supposed to be speaking their mind but never wander far from what appears to be Leon (Gorman) accepted opinions. Most add glowing praise for Mr. Gorman and seem to have been inserted to make the author feel better about his dictatorial style.
But the history of LL Bean is both interesting as well as informative. Assuming you can navigate through the bumpiness and filter out the propaganda, you can probably find some interesting lessons about family owned businesses and how to and not to pass them down through the generations.
I had lots of questions: what was Leon L. Bean really like? How does a company gladly accept returns - no matter how long you've owned the product - without question? And above all, how did Gorman lead this company through such astronomical growth and still maintain its appealing corporate identity? I'm pleased to report that Gorman answers all these questions and many more in this informative book.
For those less interested in the business side of things, Gorman offers a behind-the-scenes look at his grandfather, L.L., while working at L.L. Bean from 1960 to 1967, the year L.L. passed away. In 1962, when L.L. was ninety years old and Gorman was still in his twenties, he described his grandfather as one who "rarely delegated any responsibilities. It was clear what he wanted done because he made all the decisions. He fully enjoyed his company and his reputation as a Down East merchant."
Because L.L.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It all started when I began searching the Internet for sources of classic tailored clothing. I've been shopping at LL Bean, Lands' End and Eddie Bauer for many years, as I have... Read morePublished on January 24, 2014 by The Copper Bookroom
I had to buy this book for a school project and it was ok reading I wouldn't read it on my own but I got through it.Published on June 19, 2013 by Julie
I bought this book for my class, at first I thought it is super boring to read. I admit that it is really good story to read and am enjoying my time read the book. Read morePublished on December 13, 2012 by StarEssy
This book is perfect for any longtime Bean customers or people interested in business, investing, and definitely merchandising. Read morePublished on December 15, 2011 by Knapp
Leon Gorman tells it all on how LL Bean came about and evolved into the great direct marketer (and now retailer) that it is. Read morePublished on August 18, 2011 by S. Stuart
I was fortunate to receive one of the books signed by the President Leon L Gorman which is pretty cool. I thank Harvard Press for this as LL Bean is a company I admire. Read morePublished on January 28, 2011 by K. Newcomer
Having lived in Maine for a short while and learning a small amount about the culture, I was intrigued when I saw this book. Read morePublished on November 9, 2010 by Kyle J. Majchrowski
I agree with the previous reviewers that Leon Gorman does not hold himself up to be a great business leader or anything of the like. Read morePublished on August 4, 2010 by heinertx