How Did I Get Here?

Laurent Potdevin

Chief executive officer, Lululemon Athletica
  • Education
  • Lycée International de Ferney-Voltaire, Ferney-Voltaire, France, class of 1984
  • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, class of 1990
  • Essec Business School, Paris, class of 1991
  • Work Experience
  • 1990–92
    “Glorified intern,” mergers and acquisitions, LVMH
  • 1992–95
    Director of North American operations for Louis Vuitton, LVMH
  • 1995–2005
    Vice president for operations, president, chief operating officer, Burton Snowboards
  • 2005–10
    CEO, Burton Snowboards
  • 2011–13
    President, Toms
  • 2014–Present
    CEO, Lululemon Athletica
  • Life Lessons
  • “Embedding social impact in your business model is the way of the future. It creates effortless loyalty and incredible brand strength.”
  • “Stay curious, listen, and be a global citizen.”
  • “You don’t always need to have the right answer. Always have the right question.”
  • As a 13-month-old in Geneva
    “The day I walked in, I knew that I would never be an engineer—I wanted to be around people and traveling.”
  • “At the time, you had to go to the French army for 12 months, but there was a loophole if you found a company that would send you to a foreign market. So I asked Louis Vuitton. HR said no, so I went to the CEO, and he said yes. They sent me to be the right arm of the head of manufacturing for a facility outside L.A. Then, unfortunately, he had a stroke, so I got promoted. I barely spoke English.”
  • In Carlsbad, Calif., at a Louis Vuitton sales meeting, 1993
  • “Before Toms, for me, social impact was going to a black-tie dinner or auction and writing a check.”
  • At a half-marathon with a Lululemon colleague, Vancouver, 2016
  • At Essec, 1991
  • “It was a luxury-brands management program sponsored by LVMH. When I presented my thesis on how to manage the labor pool at Louis Vuitton stores, the CEO was in the room, and he’s like, ‘Why don’t you just come and work for us?’ ”
  • “I showed up at Jake Burton’s hotel the first time we met. I was wearing a Dior suit with cuff links, and he was out of the shower, wrapped in a towel, because he had been mountain biking. And he said, ‘Well, we’re not off to a great start.’ ”
  • Surfing in Bali, 2010
  • “When I got the call to come, everybody told me not to. Because of the stumbles, the brand had become a little defensive. Yet I never lost any of my excitement about the potential. We’ve got a men’s business that’s growing, and in December we opened two stores in Shanghai and one in Beijing.”