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My notes “Let my people go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia), ~25 things
1) Yvon Chouinard is the founder of outdoor clothing and equipment brand Patagonia. The book discusses Patagonia’s unique history and philosophy
2) Chouinard got into business more by accident than design, he was an avid climber and wanted better climbing hardware. He taught himself blacksmithing and tested all the equipment himself, eventually selling it to fund his climbing hobby
3) Chouinard was always a renegade. Slept outside 200 days a year with no tent, got sent to jail for 18 days for being “wandering around aimlessly with no means of support” and drank a whole bottle of soy sauce in an attempt to raise his blood pressure and dodge going to Vietnam
4) His design principles are based around Zen and that “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”
5) Chouinard believes if you want to understand an entrepreneur then you should study a juvenile delinquent, the attitude of “this sucks, im going to do my own thing” is present in both
6) Chouinard never saw himself as an optimiser, he calls himself an “80 percenter” getting most of the key things down but not specialising, instead going off to a new challenge at the 80% mark
7) Patagonia’s hiring philosophy is hire your friends or their friends, Chouinard let people dress as they pleased and sponsored a lot of employees doing cool outdoor adventures in the spirit of Patagonia
8) Chouinard is a large environmental activist and donates 1% of revenue or 10% of profit per year to local environmental initiatives. Patagonia has also been vocal in local environmental issues to their offices, including being anti GMO and anti-dam. They have donated over $80m
9) Chouinard refuses to allow Patagonia to focus on excessive growth, he prefers organic growth. This means Patagonia focus purely on the things they know – outdoor equipment
10) Since ‘94 Chouinard tried to clean up the supply chain of Patagonia he found the deeper you go the worse the conditions got, he successfully improved labour conditions and reduced pollutants from the whole of Pata’s supply chain.
11a) Patagonia’s product design philosophy asks 16 questions:

Is it functional?
Is it multifunctional?
Is it durable?
Is it repairable?
Does it fit our customer?
Is it as simple as possible?
Is the product line simple?
Is it an innovation or an invention?

Is it a global design?
Is it easy to care for and clean?
Does it have any added value?
Is it authentic?
Is it beautiful?
Are we just chasing fashion?
Are we designing for our core customer?
Does it cause any unnecessary harm?
12) There is a section about distribution and manufacturing philosophy however it’s pretty much make sure the whole supply chain is ethical and of true quality, distribution bit is kinda out of date (pre internet)
13) Chouinard initially marketed Patagonia using posed photos but quickly found this dumb, he then used real people using Patagonia as their marketing. Chouinard believes real people doing real outdoor stuff with Patagonia is better than any fake campaign
14) Because of this Patagonia do very little advertising, Chouinard prefers to earn credibility rather than get it through marketing propaganda.
15) Patagonia are privately owned and debt free, and say this is important to avoid financial leverage
16) Chouinard was one of the first people in the US (starting in the 70s) to offer free schooling to working mother's kids at Patagonia, Chouinard stresses how important it is to keep your best people
17) Chouinard does not aim to hire sycophants, he wants people who will think for themselves yet also be hard workers and collaborative
18) Chouinard believes no more than 100 people should be at one office as this avoids bureaucracy and democracy works best at small scales
19) Chouinard hates consultants, he thinks they are of no use to your business.
20) Being an environmental activist Chouinard is often depressed at the state of the environment and the direction its heading in, he believes the best cure for this depression is action
21) Patagonia’s environmental philosophy is six fold:
1. Lead an examined life
2. Clean up our own act
3. Do our penance
4. Support civil democracy
5. Do good
6.Influence other companies

(I don’t know what penance means either)
22) One thing I found weird considering the amount Patagonia do for the environment is that they don’t necessarily agree with the precautionary principle. This paper maybe of interest to them! fooledbyrandomness.com/pp2.pdf
23) To conclude:
In the book there is a passage “to expect corporations to do anything other than amass wealth is to ignore our culture’s entire history, current practices, current power structure, and systems of rewards”
24a) Considering the above quote I have a lot of respect for Chouinard, he doesn’t seek excessive wealth at the detriment of Patagonia’s quality nor ethics. He found his hobby, made good equipment for it and hasn’t stopped innovating for 60 years.
24b) He could easily sell out, change his supply chain to the cheapest person, not give a fuck about the environment and reap the profit.
24c) Or even sell his business and let someone else do it. Yet he doesn’t, wealth hasn’t changed him and using Patagonia as a vehicle for voting what kind of world he wants is inspiring. A person to aspire to be like!
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