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Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman Paperback – September 5, 2006
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No matter what you do, you will find essential guidance and inspiration in Let My People Go Surfing. (Dave Foreman, The Rewilding Institute)
Wonderful... a moving autobiography, the story of a unique business, and a detailed blueprint for hope. (Jared Diamond, author of Collapse)
About the Author
Yvon Chouinard is the founder and owner of Patagonia, Inc., based in Ventura, California. He began in business by designing, manufacturing, and distributing rock climbing equipment in the late 1950s. His tinkering led to an improved ice ax that is the basis for modern ice ax design. In 1964 he produced his first mail-order catalog, a one-page mimeographed sheet containing advice not to expect fast delivery during climbing season. In 2001, along with Craig Mathews, owner of West Yellowstone's Blue Ribbon Flies, he started One Percent for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that contribute at least 1 percent of their net annual sales to groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations.
Top customer reviews
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One note to Yvon/Patagonia suppliers: The commercial wool industry is BRUTAL. I like that you're selling recycled wool sweaters, and would love to see you totally abandon any partnerships with commercial wool farmers. In order to sheer sheep at a rate that's profitable (most get paid per sheep rather than by the hour) they have to hurry through the sheering process. That means lots of cuts for the sheep. Plus there are some types of sheep that are prone to parasites in the folds of their rear. In order to combat that, farmers simply slice off a chunk of that area so there are no longer folds. OUCH. Again, commercial wool farmers, BAD.
Sorry, I got off on a tangent. I loved this book. It held my attention all the way through. I had trouble putting it down, actually. Yvon's voice is very sweet and actually has inspired me to ask myself, am I doing all I can for the environment? AND am I working at a job/in an industry that I'm proud of? Could I be doing something more fulfilling (for my own quality of life, and the environment?).
I found this history particularly interesting, especially given that Yvon had absolutely no business background, and throughout the book is very upfront on this fact. Describing the (sometimes comical) struggles he encountered, restructures needed and addressed, and culture developed, was very enjoyable.
Insomuch as the philosophies section is concerned, if you're familiar at all with Patagonia and it's dealings this will be pretty straightforward to you. I did enjoy the HR/benefits section, and was intrigued about Chouinard's take on innovation (borrowing, stealing, repurposing ideas ='s fast and effective) vs. invention (can be great, but takes time, is unpredictable, and doesn't guarantee value added vs. just cool). I think it was telling though that by far the longest section of this book in this section is the Environmental Philosophies section. Everyone who knows Patagonia knows this is important to them, and I thought it was telling of them to give it so much space in his book. Some of the figures - if somewhat outdated - are interesting (and scary).
If you're looking for a 'how to do business [like Patagonia]' rule by rule book, this probably wouldn't be the best starting point. For that, maybe try Yvon's other book, The Responsible Company. However, if you accept that this is a memoir about a man and the development of a company that cares deeply about it's value and understands the struggles therein, this book is great!
Global warming is one of the biggest threats to mankind today. Despite the magnitude of the issue, governments and businesses are doing very little to combat the problem. Patagonia does everything it can to do its part. From scrutinizing parts in their clothing to subsidizing electric cards their employees purchase, they go above and beyond the norm held by most companies. Not only are these things good for the environment, but they're great for profits. Patagonia usually ends up making their money back in energy upgrades within a few years, sometimes sooner. If only more businesses could make the conscious effort to investigate energy savings, they would find an arena littered with profit.
Chounaird is fiercely independent. He openly criticizes the government, big business, and energy firms. He rightly points out that if everyone took take the long view, we would have a better society for workers, customers, and the environment. He lays out the various Patagonia philosophies in the second half of the book. The overlying theme, whether its' the financial or human resource philosophy seems to be: do the right thing, and profits will follow. Treat employees right. Give back to the environment. Use the best materials.
You really get an idea of how Yvon thinks, feels, and acts. He comes across as centered, humble, and responsible. As Patagonias sole owner, he can retain the company culture and vision he set without being grilled on profits, and cutting costs. Support Patagonia. It's good for the earth.