Let my people go surfing

There aren't a lot of business books that I recommend. But "Let My People Go Surfing" by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is one of the few ones that endure. 

The first half of the book is Yvon's personal account of his life and the development of Patagonia. It's a great story. Made greater because (I assume) it's true. It's not marketing bullshit. It's the story of someone who pursued his interests and his passions without regard for social acceptance or financial success. It's great to reset the baseline of what a successful life looks like. No fear, no greed. Do something you like and make something people want.

The second half of the book sets out Patagonia's philosophy. And this is where it gets valuable for every single company we invest in. Patagonia's mission statement is to "build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."


The central idea is that product matters - build the best product. But product isn't just important by itself. It should be cared for because it is something made by a human for another human. You don't want to make shoddy products that you're not proud of. You don't want to make wasteful products that hurt the planet. You don't want to make something that's bought just because it's fashionable - you want it to have real utility, value. 

In everything Patagonia makes, they strive to make the best of its kind. The highest utility. The most durable. The least harmful to the environment.

This same care extends to its staff. So hiring selects for passion. Flexible work schedules permit the pursuit of those passions. Health and child care are priorities (and with the same attitude - how do we provide the very best child care). Self-management (teal) abounds.

And finally, though it's a "rag trade" company with horrible environmental externalities, Patagonia strives to use its profits to find solutions to the environmental crisis. It is a purpose-driven company not just in the utility of its products, which bring customers closer to nature, but in the proceeds from this value, which are used to preserve that nature.

As you can tell, I'm a fan boy. Business doesn't have to be solely focused on growth and consumption. In fact, the best products are often made by companies focused on anything but.