'Book Review: Let my people go surfing'

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[caption id="attachment_285" align="alignnone" width="400"]Let my people go surfing Let my people go surfing[/caption]

Everyone needs a role model.  Mine is Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia.   He is the type of entrepreneur who insists that he wants to do things on my own terms.  As a successful business man, he starts the book by saying

I've been a businessman for almost fifty years. It's as difficult for me to say those words as it is for someone to admit being an alcoholic or a lawyer.  I've never respected the profession. It's business that has to take the majority of the blame for being the enemy of nature, for destroying native cultures, for taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and for poisoning the earth with the effluent from its factories.

Yet business can produce food, cure disease, control population, employ people, and generally enrich our lives. And it can do these good things and make a profit without losing its soul. That's what this book is about.

I love that attitude.

The book starts by going through the history of Patagonia, its early "by climber, for climber" root. It's great detail to product's quality. It's "simplify" philosophy. Then it goes on to explain the crisis of Patagonia, the credit crisis and the soul searching part.

Then it dives into the 8 philosophies of Patagonia. As a software entrepreneur, I found his "Product Design", "Production", "Image", "Human Resource" and "Management" are of particular interest to me. ( Yes, the environmental philosophy is so well known that, as a nature lover, I consider it to be common sense. Although I believe it's not a case for most people. ) As usual, here are some great quotes.

"Make the best product" is the raison d'etre of Patagonia and the cornerstone of our business philosophy.  Striving to make the best quality product is the reason we got into business in the first place.

Simplify, simplify. - H.D. Thoreau One "simplify" would have sufficed. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Weight quality first, against on-time delivery and low cost. A more sales-driven company might sacrifice a degree of quality to achieve on-time delivery, and a mass marketer might sacrifice both quality and on-time delivery to maintain the lowest cost.  Patagonia puts quality first, period. Of course, if you do choose quality against on-time delivery or against paying a reasonable price, don't pat yourself on the back.  You've already blown it. You have to strive constantly to achieve all three, but quality is "more equal".

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor 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

We don't hire the kind of people you can order around, like the foot soldiers in an army who charge from their foxholes without question when their sergeant yells, "Let's go, boys!" We want the kind of employee who will question the wisdom of something he regards as a bad  decision. 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 possible quality.