Visiting Patagonia @ Ventura

There were 10 dreams that I wanted to make true in life, and one of them became reality last thursday.  I got the chance to visit Patagonia and met Yvon together with 26 team entrepreneurs from Mondragon Team Academy and Team Coach Aitor Lizartza.

The visit started with a fully inspirational speech by Yvon Chouinard. Yvon started sharing that even if the Economic crisis is breaking down many companies, this has been the best year for Patagonia. He shared that people (consumers) become more conservative when the crisis hits and start buying what they really need. Actually the growth of Patagonia has been about 20% this year, but it could have been up to 30 or even 40%.  It did not happen because of their own choice, since they want to create an organic and sustainable growth.

Yvon sees that the government or the corporations won´t change the world, but it´s now in the hands of the consumers to step up and to show the power by deciding what to buy and who to support. He mentioned as well that co-operation through Business is the only way to create solutions for the environmental crisis we´re going through. Leading by example, Patagonia and another 24 clothing brands have created a shared project with the aim to provide more information (about how a cloth has been produced) to the customers prior to their purchase. It will take some time till this really takes place, but idea behind is that customers with an iPhone will get the chance to find out when they visit a store what has been the process of creating the jacket: where, materials, transportation…

Patagonia´s business model is not based on selling more to the same customer, but they aim to sell to new customers. I got some ideas here. Patagonia has the commitment to donate 1% of their sales (4 million $ will be donated this year) to organizations that support environmental change and activism.  From my perspective, this tribe has been created already, it does not grow and they are looking for tools to make change happen. So how can we do that? probably education is the only way to make that change happen. So how about Patagonia creating scholarships or grants for students from developing countries to attend schools that can create  profound changes in behaviours through radical educational models? Team Academy could be a good partner probably for that 😉

We got the chance to visit all the facilities and after that the teamsters had to work on a company challenge in 2 teams.

First team had to work on a challenge related to Product Marketing, and Helena Barbour, the Business Director for Lifestyle product presented it:
1. Patagonia is a brand committed to both the climbing and surfing lifestyles. Surf culture is driven by brands that sell fashion forward styles at low price points to the youth market, with significant advertising investment. Since Patagonia doesn’t promote fashion, low
prices or advertising, how should the brand seek to be relevant to the surf customer?

2. Given the environmental and social compliance parameters we choose to work within, our retail prices tend to be higher. How do we appeal to the younger generation who want to pay less at Zara, H&M etc?

The second team had to work on a challenge presented by Lisa Pike, Director of Environmental Giving. She posed the following questions:
1) A lay of the land of the environmental movement in both Spain and Europe (if they are not just Spanish students).  What are the driving environmental topics and issues that are resonating with citizens and customers currently?

2) How best can we communicate and execute our environmental giving in Spain/Europe.  Each year Patagonia gives away 1% of sales to grassroots environmental organizations.  Is this the right model for Spain? If so, how can we better brand this core company mission and execute it in Spain/Europe.   If not, what other approaches might we consider?

The students had 2 hours  to work on the challenge and then present the solutions, which were really good.

Yvon is definetely a truly inspiring master, whose business is based on the Zen philosophy. ”Don´t focus your effort on shooting the animal correctly, but focus your energy on making the right move when shooting the arrow” – said him.

I wanted to dedicate this post to Tatu and the boys, to Hugo and his upcoming baby and to Ville, who lent me the book written by Yvon ”Let my people go surfing” in November 2008.


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