|Not just another dry book |
By Charlie Stroe
However, there is this one volume I've been reading which has definitely improved my opinion of this sector. It's a book by Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, the California-based outdoor clothing company. The volume is called Let my people go surfing and, apart from telling the story of the company, it also talks about the importance of having a company vision that reflects the values of its employees.
The book also explains the philosophy that Patagonia was built on and explains how difficult it was, at times, to stay true to it. Over the years, the company struggled to be eco-friendly, provide excellent quality products, support sustainable development and encourage a proactive stance that reflects staff values.
According to Chouinard, profit was never a driver for the company. Some would call him an idealist, but I prefer to think of him as a forward thinker. He was one of the few business owners of the 70s who set up a company not for profit, but to make things he loved dearly – in his case climbing gear – and to offer people with similar passions and interests a friendly and positive place to work.
Let my people go surfing is definitely worth reading. It's a fast, smooth life lesson from an amazing character that, despite being ‘a bit of a hippie’, created an extremely successful company which was, and still is, ahead of its time.
Just to give you a taster of the book, here are maverick Chouinard's top three tips for businesses:
1. Make the best product: It doesn't matter what products or services your company provides, you must always strive to offer the best quality to your customers. Don't aim for good or second best; it won't be good enough. Like our own Zafar Jamati says, ‘Always aim for the Moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the stars’. Yes, Zaf likes to quote W. Clement Stone :)
2. Measure twice, cut once: Research is the key to responsible, intelligent business decisions. Yes, gut instinct comes in handy at times, but if you really want to be the best, planning is essential. And in order to create a strong strategy, you have to know your sector, market, competitors, stakeholders, customers and staff. And you also need to be aware of things that might not have anything to do with any of this information. Because sometimes inspiration and innovation comes from unexpected places.
Don't evaluate people by the amount of hours they spend at the office, but by the results they get and the passion they put into their work. Finally, give your employees time to do the things they love, whether it's going surfing when the waves are just right, having breakfast with family, or taking slightly longer lunch breaks. They will really appreciate it, put more soul into their work and won't ever want to leave you.
So there you have it, straight from the surfer-climber's mouth; proof that profit doesn't have to be the motivation for a successful business. And proof that business books are actually pretty awesome.