What is your technique for communicating your vision throughout the company?
My job is to work closely with Yvon and Malinda Chouinard, the owner-founders. Even at $600 million, we are still a very family-style business. I sit down with the employees in intimate settings and talk through what we’re doing, where we’re going. We try to keep it very casual, informative, no secrets.
What is the $20 Million and Change fund?
Our growth is really helping us to expand our sphere of influence, and we need to be successful as an environmental company to prove to other companies that this model can work. You can be profitable, and you can do the right thing for the planet. This new holding company is to place bets on smaller entrepreneurial environmental companies. Instead of us starting or purchasing that company, we can make an investment in them, and hopefully they’re creating a competitive advantage with a product that we can bring back to Patagonia.
Do you ever go off the grid? Can you disappear?
I can. I took Yvon Chouinard to the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming to fish for golden trout for five days last summer. Cell phones didn’t work, and it was an opportunity to test products and remind ourselves why we’re in this business. It’s all about connecting with the outdoors and realizing you’re a part of this beautiful, big universe. I took my kids down to southern Utah, into the desert, two weeks ago. More and more, that is why Patagonia’s doing so well: We are the antidote to the stresses of modern society.
Your beginnings were not in apparel. You were a journalist. You are a hero to liberal arts students everywhere.
Oh, there’s hope. English majors can make something of themselves.