Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Let my people go surfing" notes



These people come from a different generation:

  •       He didn’t buy a tent till he was almost 40, preferring to sleep under boulders. 
  •       Chouinard Equipment was the largest supplier of climbing hardware in U.S yet none of them saw the business as an end in itself – It was just a way to pay the bills so that we could go off on climbing trips. 
  •     Pg 166:“ Most climbers of the 1960s and early 1970s, although middle-class and white, were alienated from the mainstream suburban culture.  They valued their climbing time and their relationship to the rocks and the mountains, and they preferred taking physical risks to trying to get ahead in the larger world.  Many earned subsistence incomes on purpose, and they worked as little as they could. Corporate life did not appeal; it was regarded as inauthentic, illegitimate, and toxic.”

Mission statement:

 Patagonia’s mission statement:  Make the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environment crisis

IKEA’s mission statement: “Our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people."  Through a business idea of "Offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them."

Compare Patagonia with IKEA:
Patagonia book is to make the best product. Not best at a particular price point. It means the best, period. Unlike IKEA where Invar Kamprad said: ”We have no respect for a solution until we know what it costs. An IKEA product without a price tag is always wrong!”

IKEA’s product aren’t always known for quality, and from an environmental point of view, I prefer Patagonia because its products are made to last.  But here is the difference, IKEA’s core customers is the many people and hence a low price is important. 

The most beautiful day is when IKEA continues to provide low cost items for the many people while working to ensure its raw materials and processes are ethical and environmentally responsible through the FSC wood, Better Cotton Initiative and IWAY of purchasing; while creating another line of articles which are simply made to last like Patagonia. 

Patagonia creates items that last for outdoor clothing and gear – but we will really change things if there is a company that make durable, function products for furniture and electrical appliances – things that every day many people need.

More on product design and quality:


The Strategic Planning Institute yearly report “ Profit Impact of Market Strategy” show that quality, not price has the highest correlation with business success. Over all, companies with high product and service quality reputations have on average return – on investment rates 12 times higher than their lower quality and lower priced customers.

Guiding principle of design, from Antonie de Saint Exupery, the French aviator:
In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.

Lovely how the values from adventure shaped both Yvon’s life and the business:

  •  Doing risk sports taught me: Never exceed your limits. You push the envelope, and live for the moments when you’re right on the edge but you don’t go over. You have to be true to yourself; you have to know your strengths and limitations and live with your means.
    •  Yet we as a human species seemed to have exceeded the resources on Earth.
  • And I realized that I was on the same track as society was — endless growth for the sake of growth.  That’s when I decided to put the brakes on and decided to grow at a more natural rate — which basically means that only when our customers want something do we make more, but we don’t prime the pump.
  • Patagonia earth tax goes primarily to environmental activists. A lifetime of outdoors shows that nature love diversity and not monoculture. A thousand activists each working on a specific problem that's passionate about, can accomplish much more than a bloated organisation.

Zen and Running a company:

At Patagonia, making a profit is not the goal because the Zen master would say profits happen “when you do everything else right.” In many companies, the tail (finance) wags the dog (corporate decisions).  We strive to balance the funding of environmental activities with the desire to continue in business for the next 100 years.

In Zen archery, you for get about the goal – hitting the bull eye – and instead focus on all the individual movements involved in shooting an arrow. Practise your stance, controlling your breathing and releasing the arrow. Perfected all the elements, you can’t help but hit the center of the target.

Patagonia Philosophy of life:

  •     deep appreciation for the environment and a strong motivation to help solve the environmental crisis
  •      a passionate love for the natural world,
  •      a healthy skepticism toward authority
  •      a love for the difficult, human-powered sports that require practice and mastery
  •      a disdain for motorised sports like jet skiing,
  •      a   bias for whacko, often  self-deprecating humour,
  •     a   respect for real adventure ( defined as a journey from which you may not com back alive - and certainly not as the same person)
  •      a taste for real adventure 
  •      and a belief that less is more ( in design and in consumption)

Management philosophy:

  • “We do want people who, once they buy into a decision and believe in what they are doing, will work like demons to produce something of the highest quality. “ Am I such a person?
  • The act of convincing people to act is evident from tough as seen from Patagonia's own parking lots and offices.  You find SUV, and people are wearing shirts and jeans from non sustainable fibre grown with toxic chemicals. This is despite each Patagonia position has about 800 applicants per position and we should have been able to hire people who believes in our values.
  • The best democracy exists when decisions are made through consensus, when everyone comes to an agreement that the decision made is the correct one.   The key to building a consensus for action is good communication.  And that will only happen if the company stays small at about 150 people.  This is also the size of each of Richard Branson's individual company.

Limited Liability Corporations

“Limited liability corporations were created to deal with the myriad of knife exceeded by our culture's social and economics system. 

The railroad companies we simply too big and too technical to be built or insured by the incorporator's investments alone.  When the corporations failed, the incorporators did not have the wealth to cover the damage.  A limit was placed on the investors' liability, on the amount of damage for which they could be held liable.

Yet LLC has allowed corporate owners to econominally, physiologically, legally ignore the limits of toxics, fisheries and debt.  To expect corporations no do anything else other than amass wealth is delusional, we reward those investing or running corporate for what they do, and can therefore expect them to do it again,

LLC are institutions created explicitly to separate humans from the effects of their actions - making them, by definition, inhuman and in humane.”

- Derrick Jensen

Patagonia and its environmental donations:

Patagonia earth tax goes primarily to environmental activists. A lifetime of outdoors shows that nature love diversity and not monoculture. A thousand activists each working on a specific problem that's passionate about, can accomplish much more than a bloated organisation.

Patagonia makes donations to smaller groups working to save or restore habitats, rather than give the money to large NGOs with big staffs, overheads and corporate connections.

Patagonia gives mainly to environmental causes, and it would appears that it ignore social causes. Focus on the causes, not on the symptoms.

Lead an examined life:

Most of the damage to the environment comes unintentionally from not questioning what you are doing.

This is why Patagonia dug deeper and realize all the issues related to cotton and made the switch to organic cotton.

Again, that’s what 孔子 said as when he said 格物,致知。

Concluding remarks:

" What they don’t realize is that I’m not in the business to make clothes. I’m not in the business to make more money for myself, for Christ’s sake. This is the reason Patagonia exists — to put into action the recommendations I read about in books to avoid environmental collapse. That’s the reason I’m in business — to try to clean up our own act, and try to influence other companies to do the right thing, and try to influence our customers to do the right thing. So we’re not going to change. They can go buy from somewhere else if they don’t like it." Yvon Chouniard.

As part of their decision process, the Iroquois had a person who represented the 7th generation in the future.

Other Miscellaneous:

Instead of adopting precautionary principles, we embrace new technologies like GMO and pesticides, with an attitude of "innocent until proved guilty "

We believe the best way to get press is to have something to say.

Yvon throw himself passionately into a sports or skills to reach about 80% proficiency level.  To go beyond requires an obsession and degree of specialisation that doesn’t appeal to me.

What is art in clothing?  I imagine a Navajo Indian blanket coat worn by an eighty year old women. She could be rich, she could be poor.  She could have bought the coat in 1950 or it could have once belonged to her mother. The coat is authentic and a classic, she could give the coat to her granddaughter, who could still wear it for 50 years.

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” 
- Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand





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