Friday Book in a Page: Let My People Go Surfing

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

Sometimes a wildly successful company doesn’t look like what you would expect a wildly successful company to look like. Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard refers to himself as a ‘reluctant entrepreneur’ meaning, I think, that he didn’t set out to build a large company or make billions.  He just wanted to create really great products that weren’t disposable and create them in an environment that made people happy.  This desire has placed Patagonia at the forefront of environmental protection and redefined our concepts of honesty and transparency in marketing and sales.

Key Messages of the Book:

  • Start with what you know. When Chouinard couldn’t find the rock climbing equipment he wanted, he trained as a blacksmith to make his own. 
  • Know why you are building a business.  Chouinard first only cared about making enough with his rocking climbing equipment business to fund his climbing, surfing and fishing lifestyle.  However, when he realized that most other climbing equipment was environmentally hazardous, his Chouinard Equipment became the biggest climbing hardware supplier in the US.
  • Be open to how your vision will come to fruition.  Making environmentally safe and non-hazardous equipment was expensive, so Chouinard launched his collection of outdoor clothing, Patagonia, to fund the hardware production.
  • Ask yourself what your customers care about knowing and not just care about buying. Long before content marketing became a strategic cornerstone of all marketing plans, Chouinard was dedicated to educating his consumers about what types of clothing and what ways to wear it was key to climbing warmth.
  • Sometimes what looks like failure isn’t actually a failure.  Financial stress brought on by fast expansion allowed Chouinard to re-focus on the core mission of his business.
  • Transparency is key.  Share why you do what you do and how you do it and the right customers will find you.  Multi-functional durability and doing no harm shine through.
  • Your tribe matters more than anything.  Customers and employees.

It is easier to teach outdoor enthusiasts about business than teach business people to become enthusiastic about the outdoors.

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