#67: 10 Lessons From Patagonia

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This is a podcast episode titled, #67: 10 Lessons From Patagonia. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- 10 things we learned from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard: 1. Build the place you want to work. 2. Move fast. 3. Make the best products. 4. Good design is little design. 5. Innovation or invention? 6. The best brand is human. 7. Write as though we were the customers. 8. Be a product-driven company. 9. The CEO always has to light the fire. 10. Always have a sense of urgency. Here’s how you can support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com. PS. We just announced our first annual conference, HYPERGROWTH. Get your tickets at hypergrowth.drift.com

Speaker 1: Let's do it. So before we hop into this, I meant to ask you, you finally got to inbox zero.

DC: I did. On one inbox.

Speaker 1: Okay. You didn't make it through the other one?

DC: No, man. I gave up, I finally did it. So I spent some time yesterday going through my personal inbox. So if you got email replies from me that are a year old, you know why.

Speaker 1: Including me, I even replied to something I sent six months ago, so you're not alone.

DC: It's the first time that I saw it. So I got through all my personal box. I'm good on that inbox, but my drift in box is a bloody disaster.

Speaker 1: All right. So today on Seeking Wisdom, we're going to talk about my favorite thing because DC never has any idea what we're going to talk about.

DC: Nope.

Speaker 1: We're going to talk about 10 things we learned from Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard.

DC: Damn, I love them.

Speaker 1: I got notes. I got prepped.

DC: Did you know we have a conference room here at Drift named after him?

Speaker 1: I did. Which one is that? The big one where we have the meetings?

DC: Of course, it has to be the big one.

Speaker 1: I love that.

DC: He's the big daddy.

Speaker 1: So you put me on this book. So it's funny because this is like all the lessons, I hear them from you all the time and then I don't ever listen.

DC: He actually doesn't listen to any of them.

Speaker 1: I need them to become mine, so then when I read it. So before I talk about me reading this book, when did you read it? Because it's been out for a long time. It's been out for 10, 20 years almost.

DC: I want to say probably at least a decade ago. Maybe 15 years ago?

Speaker 1: Because while I was reading it, I'm not kidding you, I felt like you were sitting on a couch, just reading this to me. It was like so many of your lessons boiled down to one.

DC: None of my lessons are original, I'm learning from other people and I've read this book so many times now, at least four times but I think the first time was probably 15 years ago and I think I picked it up and gravitated to it. One, because I love Patagonia clothing, but two, because at the time it was one of the only non- conventional business books out there and so I gravitated to that and another book, which I'll send you what you haven't read yet, which is just as an unconventional and just as good.

Speaker 1: What is it? You can't tell me?

DC: I can't tell you yet.

Speaker 1: You forgot the name.

DC: I forgot the name. It's actually put out by this guy named Paul Hawkins, who has this gardening company called Hawkins and something. I can't remember the name of it, but it's a famous brand of gardening centers throughout the US.

Speaker 1: I like that but it's interesting you said," If you read this book in the early 2000s..."

DC: Now I'm going to have to look it up.

Speaker 1: Go look it up, get the people.

DC: Okay.

Speaker 1: Anyway, this book is called, so for those people listening that want to know what the hell it's called, it's not the Patagonia book, it's called, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. So look that up. Just look up Patagonia whatever on Amazon. But I get what you're saying. I feel like in 2017, a lot of things that he talked about are now... people expect that, right?

DC: Boom, here it is.

Speaker 1: What is it.

DC: It's a book by Paul Hawken, H- A- W- K- E- N and it's called Growing a Business.

Speaker 1: Nice.

DC: And I read that also probably 15 years ago, another great book [ crosstalk 00:03:19]-

Speaker 1: More classics.

DC: Only$ 6. 95 on Amazon. Thank me later. Pick up that book.

Speaker 1: That's too expensive, man.

DC: I know, I can't spend that much money.

Speaker 1: All right. So I pulled out a couple of lessons. Let's talk about them.

DC: Okay.

Speaker 1: All right. So 10 things from this book. Number one was he talks early on about building the place you want to work. And he said, when he started the business, he was never a businessman. He was a surfer, climber. You know the whole back story. And he said," One thing I don't want to change, even if we got very serious, was that work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. It's too hard not to love it every single day."

DC: Yep. I love it. So one of the things that I loved about that passage and the theme of the book is we've touched upon a lot of times, which is this kind of thought about work- life balance or separation. And the way that he's talking about building a business is kind of blending those two things together.

Speaker 1: Like crosstalk people always ask you like," What's the secret to work- life balance?" And the whole thing, the whole book is like they had childcare at work. They had food there. They had all the benefits to make it feel like there isn't a connection.

DC: No, there isn't a separation between the two and you're trying to create a place that is just as homey and a place that you want to be at as you do, when you're at work.

Speaker 1: How do you think that's played into Drift? You've done, I don't know, four, five, six companies, right?

DC: Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Speaker 1: We always change the numbers.

DC: Yeah, unknown number.

Speaker 1: Do you think that that's something, like these are conscious lessons that you try to build into here?

DC: Yeah, I think one of the difficult things when you read that book, and like Elias, I've had read that book.

Speaker 1: You got him to read that?

DC: He skimmed through it.

Speaker 1: Surfing was in the title.

DC: Yeah, he was just like,"Okay, so we can go surfing now?"

Speaker 1: He definitely took it so literally.

DC: And it's like," No, read the book." So one of the difficulties in applying this here at Drift and at any company, is that as you read the book, it's a journey and so we're trying to paint a vision of where we want to go. That doesn't mean that right now, day one, day zero, we have childcare, we go surfing, we go rock climbing. It's just like, where do we want to go? Where do we want to steer? And that the same was true for Yvon and his company. It's been a progression.

Speaker 1: And in the early days of the company, it was two people. And so if they wanted to go for a hike on a Tuesday afternoon, it's like, no customers.

DC: Two people who didn't get paid, who worked out of a shack that crosstalk could be found behind the building. And so, you got to take these lessons and say," Well, how can we apply those over time as we grow and basically have this be the inspiration for what we're trying to build."

Speaker 1: And these notes are like your Bible. So second one that I pulled out was move fast. He said," You can't wait until you have all the answers before you act. It's a greater risk to phase in products because you lose the advantage of being first with a new idea."

DC: Absolutely. We talk about it all the time. Speed. Speed, speed, speed, speed. And it's like get out there, learn, figure out what's wrong, iterate, move forward.

Speaker 1: I thought of two things when I read that. Number one, I thought of you and Elias and just like chip it, go fast, go fast, go fast, default to wrong, go fast. The other thing I thought of was Al Reese and positioning, and to really win, the best thing you can do is be first in somebody's mind.

DC: Yeah, I was actually reading another book and I sent DG and a couple of people on the team, a little video. I'm sending them motivational videos early in the morning.

Speaker 1: He's trying to step up. No, he's trying to step up. It's like combination motivational. He's trying to step up his video game.

DC: So anyway, I recorded a video this morning. I was talking about a book that I love that I'm reading right now. It's called, The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far.

Speaker 1: Okay.

DC: And it's by Lawrence Krauss, I believe, is his last name. He's a professor. He was a young professor at Yale. He's a physicist and a professor in Arizona state. And anyway, in it one of his things that he talks about is that in physics, and he's talking about Einstein and some of the great physicists, he says that," All great discoveries were a by- product of another experiment." And then he says," All great discoveries come from activity. There has never been a great discovery that's come from inactivity." That's exactly what we're talking about.

Speaker 1: That's crazy and so true, like how often do you just do some of the first time and that's it? Everything. I mean, even if you think about what we're doing now at Drift. That came from other things.

DC: Absolutely. And this is a guy who's totally in a different realm, totally different place that he's talking about. He's talking about science and physics, experimental physics, and he's telling the same story that we're talking about here that Yvon has taught us and that we learn every day.

Speaker 1: Are you looking at notes right now?

DC: No, I'm looking up the book. Let's not get twisted. There's no notes here.

Speaker 1: I was like, either you're texting right now or you're looking at notes.

DC: So Lawrence Krauss, The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far.

Speaker 1: We're giving you all the books today.

DC: All the books so far. Man, this book is blowing my mind. He's an internationally renowned award- winning theoretical physicist. Let's go.

Speaker 1: That's deep. All right, number three. Number three, make the best products. This one sounds so obvious but if you break down the reason why he said it, he said," Make the best product, that's basically our mission. That's the cornerstone of our business philosophy." And he said," Make the best is a difficult goal," because it doesn't mean among the best. It doesn't mean best at a particular price point. It means make the fucking best product, period.

DC: And this is the part of the book that really resonated to me 15 years ago or 10 years ago, whenever I read it, because I was so obsessed around the craft of building a product, in our case a software product back then. But this really spoke to me as a maker. I was once a maker.

Speaker 1: This is like, and I'll look at Amy when I say, this is like, I can feel this from you because this is like if there's a typo here, if this image doesn't look right, all the way to if the product is wrong. You have you think about those details.

DC: Yeah, I want to be the best. I want us to crosstalk-

Speaker 1: But that matters. It's the sum. It's the sum of all those little things.

DC: Well, the details matter.

Speaker 1: And that's what they say, right? Every down to the thread, everything mattered to them. And the other thing within make the best product is that your product needs to be identifiable. So take the logo off and you know that that's Patagonia, right?

DC: Oh my goodness, man, this is really... I'm going to faint.

Speaker 1: You talk like that all the time.

DC: I'm going to faint. This is so great.

Speaker 1: Explain that, explain that one.

DC: That's the ultimate craft, right? When you design and you build something that's so recognizable if you took the logo off. Right now, I'm holding a Starbucks coffee, but I take this logo off and you know this is Starbucks coffee right here.

Speaker 1: You know that's not a Dunkin cup. You know that's not a Honeydew whatever.

DC: Honeydew or whatever they call themselves. This is a Starbucks cup, right? That is the care that has been put into the design and packaging and iterations because this has changed over the last five to 10 years. You can still recognize this without the logo.

Speaker 1: Yep. And on the heels of that one, number four was, good design is little design. Every design of Patagonia begins with a functional need and he quotes some guy who's the head of design at Bron. He said that," Good design is as little design as possible. Complexity is often a sure sign that the functional needs have not been solved."

DC: Come on now. See right now in the software world where we are, people want to talk about jobs to be done and this framework and that framework and that framework. Here's a book from 20 years ago that just breaks it down even simpler, right?

Speaker 1: It's not even about software. This is about making clothes.

DC: Because we in software get twisted in our heads like that there's something different about what we're building and to me, there's nothing different about what we're building, right? It just so happens to be put in software. It's still about building a product at the end. We're still selling to humans. So it's still about serving a functional need for that person.

Speaker 1: And this is a perfect little intro to the next one, which is number five. I didn't know this is where this came from, which is, innovation or invention. And he said," I'd much rather design and sell products so good and unique that they have no competition but successful inventing requires a tremendous amount of raw energy and time." Blah, blah, blah. He goes on to say," It's better to innovate on an existing pattern."

DC: You know what? I've this book so many times and I've talked so many times about innovate versus event. I had no idea this is where I got it from.

Speaker 1: You didn't? You forgot? It's unbelievable.

DC: It's amazing. I talk about this. Dave can attest to how much I talk about this internally.

Speaker 1: Every day, it's amazing.

DC: And it's so hard to get it through someone's head, which is like, you don't need to invent. All we need do is innovate on an existing pattern.

Speaker 1: It's crazy. Since you forgot, I'll read more of this. It says," It may take 30 years to come up with an invention but within a few years or months, there can be thousands of innovations spawned from that original idea. Innovation can be achieved much more quickly because you already start with an existing product idea or design."

DC: Do you hear him? This is a man writing this years ago. Not talking about software and think about how much this applies to everything that we build here every day and other people are out there building.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So he says," Think of it like a creative cook. Use the original as a recipe for inspiration then close that book and then go do your own thing."

DC: Exactly.

Speaker 1: And I always think about, if you go to your medium, which is just medium. com/ dcancel, I think. There's a post that you wrote about how a product designer would design the chair.

DC: Absolutely. And so, the way to design a chair is to do what Yvon talks about, which is to first look at an existing invention which is the chair, which has stood the test of time and then before designing your chair, understand how that works from a physics standpoint and a mechanical standpoint and design standpoint and then to innovate on top of that already accepted invention versus the way that we in software too often want to create something. I showed a picture of a chair that makes no sense.

Speaker 1: It looks like a spaceship.

DC: It looks like a spaceship. It has no legs. It wraps around your body. And this is how we in software today would design a chair. Makes no sense, because we want to run too fast towards invention, which is again about the ego, the ego taking over. When that happens, it's your ego that's taking over.

Speaker 1: And the thing is though, so you're a product guy, an engineer by background, but I think here's the thing for the people that are listening that aren't. This lesson that can be applied to everything. We try to use it for, let's say we're writing new copy, crosstalk page copy. And marketing would be... I would go look at related books on Amazon and read Amazon reviews and use the words that people use. We send out a ton of feedback surveys after we do webinars and stuff and we get real customers words. And so then when we go and create new website pages or new messaging, we're not inventing anything. We're taking the words that people actually used and then tweaking that to be our own and tightening it up a little bit.

DC: Simple, not easy.

Speaker 1: It's crazy. You just have to look. Simple, not easy, always.

DC: And a Seeking Wisdom community member punked me the other day.

Speaker 1: What happened?

DC: Because I'm always saying," Simple, not easy."

Speaker 1: What did you do?

DC: And he was commenting on my strava, which is my cycling performance and I was complaining about the wind and he said, he replied to me, he said," Just pedal harder. Simple, not easy."

Speaker 1: That's ice cold.

DC: You know who you are, you punked me.

Speaker 1: Good. Keep pushing it. I love it. He needs that. All right. Six was, the best brand is human. This was the one that I love the most. He talked about our brand, this is him talking about Patagonia's branding and marketing efforts. He says," They're simple. We tell people who we are. We don't have to create a fictional character like the Marlboro man or a fake responsible caring campaign like Chevron's we agree. Writing fiction is much more difficult than nonfiction. Our image is a direct reflection of who we are and what we believe." That's the best.

DC: How good is that?

Speaker 1: I mean, that's like everything that we try to do here, right?

DC: That's everything that we try to do in terms of building a brand and our own marketing.

Speaker 1: You don't have to fake it.

DC: Don't have to fake it. It's not about the product, it's not about this. It's about building this... Revealing ourselves and talking about ourselves and being honest about what we're trying to do and fix.

Speaker 1: Seven was, write as though we were the customers because we are. So all the people that worked at Patagonia-

DC: Wait, wait. Everything I talk about is basically in this book.

Speaker 1: Yeah, it's insane. That's why I wanted to do this episode. It's crazy. The best part is that you forgot.

DC: The amazing thing is that I forgot.

Speaker 1: It becomes just a part.

DC: It's just so ingrained in me, I don't even think about it.

Speaker 1: But this is such an important point and or us, this means this is why everyone on our team does customer support or everyone on our team talks to customers. And we all work at a company where you can use the product every day. Because this is the whole thing at Patagonia. They knew how to write copy, how to build products, how to do marketing launches, how to design new stuff.

DC: Because they wore that.

Speaker 1: They wore it every day. You don't have to fake it. And so these two things back to back just show... What else? So he says," Branding is telling people who we are. Promotion is selling people on our product and our promotional efforts all begin with the product." And this is your thing.

DC: I love that distinction, we should take that internally. Branding versus promotion. Two different job functions.

Speaker 1: Way different.

DC: Very different.

Speaker 1: It's what we talked about recently, the role of marketing. We talked about, we air cover and ground cover.

DC: Yep. It's exactly this which is we've talked about it internally. We have two functions in marketing and probably two different types of people will do one of these two things. One is air cover and that's about branding in this case. It's the brand, it's the halo. It's creating that opportunity.

Speaker 1: Which is like what you're listening to right now, right?

DC: Yeah. That's air cover.

Speaker 1: This doesn't doesn't drive leads, right?

DC: How will we measure this then?

Speaker 1: It does. It does. Don't tell them crosstalk.

DC: And then, ground cover, which is about promotions, which is around campaigns, around a specific action that we're trying to drive.

Speaker 1: Exactly. Okay, number eight. He said," Be a product driven company." And I feel like this is something you've written a million times. Where he said," We are a product driven company," that means the product comes first and the company exists to create and support our products. This is different from a distribution company whose primary concern may be service rather than product.

DC: Yep. And I would take this and build on top of it and say, we are a customer driven company and we're here to serve the customer and we do that by being a product driven company and that's how we think about things. So we don't put product ahead of the customer. We put the customer first and the product and service of the customer and then all of us behind those two things.

Speaker 1: Love it. Number nine was, I made this one up, but I wanted to mention this with you. And it was basically-

DC: What? You made it up?

Speaker 1: Yeah, I made it up. It's not like a direct line from the book, but the CEO always has to light the fire and be paranoid. That was what I called it and-

DC: Hey, this is just a comment on crosstalk.

Speaker 1: I wanted to say this. I want these people to hear this. But this is a great line. I think this is important for all managers, CEOs, regardless. He said," Even when there is no crisis, the wise leader or CEO will invent one, not by crying wolf but by challenging the employees with change."

DC: Talk to me about this. I can't talk about myself. Do you think I light the fire?

Speaker 1: This actually wasn't even... I kind of read this part as you, but to me, I'm a huge Patriots fan, sports fan, this reminds me of Bill Belichick, right? Which is, they could win the Super Bowl and the next day, all he's saying is," You know what? In the third quarter though, we ran that play. We dropped that pass. That was bullshit." And you're like," Are you kidding me? We just won the Super Bowl and this is what we're having." And so, I think that's an important-

DC: But why does he do that? Most people would say," Hey man, let's chill out. We just won the Super Bowl."

Speaker 1: This came up in the Radical Candor book too. To know radical candor book too. It's like, even when things are going great and your top performers do something awesome, to keep pushing and keep improving and constantly learning, you got to find things even when things are great. And I think it just creates that-

DC: Especially with top performers because if you don't do it with top performers, if you just say," Hey man, so awesome. We won the Super Bowl." Then their learning will stop and they will lose interest in moving forward.

Speaker 1: It's complacency, he talks about it all the time. And that to me was really important because I think a lot of people read that the wrong way and I think the urgency is important. So that's 10, the last lesson was, always have a sense of urgency. And the reason why is, he said," Continuous change and innovation," which was their goal as a company and ours," require maintaining a sense of urgency." It's hard because you have a laid back corporate culture, but one of the biggest mandates he had was to instigate change. So managers at the company were always pushed to drive urgency, even though everybody's playing the long game, urgency, urgency, urgency, and that comes back to light the fire.

DC: And so I need help from the Seeking Wisdom community because I think I might be too laid back. Dave just passed out. Dave just passed out. Please don't help him.

Speaker 1: I'm all set. I can tell you he's plenty urgent. So tweet at him, do whatever, just don't do that.

DC: Please help me. I need more urgency. I need your help.

Speaker 1: So those are 10 lessons, 10 things that we learned from Patagonia. I learned them for the first time, even though this is just sounds... I just basically read a book about DC.

DC: I wish I wrote that book.

Speaker 1: Before we wrap up. I just want to do fan love. Fan love for the week.

DC: Do we have fan love?

Speaker 1: We got fan love. Let me read this for a second.

DC: Like who?

Speaker 1: This is a five star review only from the homie Big Fan 26.

DC: Ooh, what's up homie?

Speaker 1: He said," Huge thanks to the team at Drift for dropping so much wisdom. I've been bringing all the lessons straight to my company and we are huge fans. You should all start for six star reviews, love Nitesh and the team at B12.

DC: Nitesh, you heard the homie, Nitesh. B12, check them out. They're in New York. I know who Nitesh is.

Speaker 1: You do?

DC: He's my homie.

Speaker 1: Respect.

DC: Respect. And Niteshb12. com. Check them out. See how we shout it out? And that's why you need to leave a six star review only, right? We're moving to six stars now. A six star review only on iTunes or an Amazon for the book Hyper- growth and then we'll shout you out. We'll share you with the community. We give back. We like to give back.

Speaker 1: Speaking of giving back, if you haven't gotten your tickets for Hyper- growth, before we started recording this podcast, DC and I were just reviewing the list of speakers.

DC: You haven't announced any of them. I can't wait.

Speaker 1: It's fire, fire, fire.

DC: Three fire emojis.

Speaker 1: Three fire emojis, and we want to hook you up as being a loyal listener of the podcast, so we got you covered. If you go to hypergrowth.drift. com, buy a ticket, come see us in Boston this fall. Use the promo code Seeking Wisdom. Save 400 bucks, so it's only$ 99 a ticket. It's basically free. It's unbelievable.

DC: Man, you're too nice. And so if I come to this conference you call Hyper- growth, is it going to be a bunch of boring industry speakers?

Speaker 1: No.

DC: Okay.

Speaker 1: The one mission that I got from you, DC, in launching this conference was we need to launch a conference, but we can't make it like every other marketing tech conference.

DC: What's it going to be like?

Speaker 1: Our lineup might feature Olympians, musicians, chefs, and CEOs. And so all the people that you do want to hear from, but then also a little bit of people who are going to take you out of your comfort zone a little bit and teach you something new. It's not about marketing. It's not about tech. It's about business and personal growth and that's what Hyper- growth is.

DC: All right. Get your ticket, we'll see you there. We'll hang together. We'll wear T- shirts. Hyper- growth will take over the city. Six star reviews only. Also please, a little shout out in your comments about Amy. Let's give Amy some love.

Speaker 1: Makes the whole thing happen behind the scenes.

DC: All right. Give Amy love, please.

Speaker 1: See you.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- 10 things we learned from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard: 1. Build the place you want to work. 2. Move fast. 3. Make the best products. 4. Good design is little design. 5. Innovation or invention? 6. The best brand is human. 7. Write as though we were the customers. 8. Be a product-driven company. 9. The CEO always has to light the fire. 10. Always have a sense of urgency. Here’s how you can support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com. PS. We just announced our first annual conference, HYPERGROWTH. Get your tickets at hypergrowth.drift.com