Yvon Chouinard is founder and owner of Patagonia, one of the leading outdoor clothing and equipment brands. This month, Piers Carter reviews Chouinard’s book entitled ‘Let my People go Surfing – the education of a reluctant businessman.’ Penguin Books 2006.

This is a leadership story for anyone who likes breaking convention – and it’s a leadership story with a difference. Although published in 2006, I believe the thinking may stay ‘cutting edge’ (sadly, in my view) for many years yet.

The usual benchmark of successful business leadership is turnover and increases in the bottom line. However, Yvon Chouinard, measures success in relation to the happiness of the people who work for him and the trustworthy custodianship of the planets limited resources whilst making an excellent product and growing a business.

His story is both inspiring and exciting. Chouinard believed that he could do it all well: respect the planet, create a happy work-life balance for his staff and grow a business. His twist on recruitment is worth considering. He prefers to employ climbers, surfers and outdoor sports men and women and teach them business skills rather than teach business people about outdoor skills. He believes it is easier that way around. Plus he can pretty much guarantee that the people who work for him are passionate about his products.
I found the book inspirational, ‘down to earth’ and if you want to do good business, look after your staff, do things right and contribute more than you take then this book is worthy of your time. I will leave the final word to Jared Diamond of UCLA:

“Three wonderful books rolled into one: a moving autobiography, the story of a unique business and a detailed blueprint for hope”.

Amazon UK link to ‘Let My People go Surfing’ click here

Also check out ‘The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years’ by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley published in 2012 Patagonia Books. Amazon UK link click here