This podcast stimulated many thoughts that I wanted to discuss with the DEV community. Let's listen to it and engage in a constructive conversation from the POV of our industry and experiences.
Feel free to share meaningful take-aways, raise questions (that folks in community might be able to help clarify), or state areas where we may disagree with the speakers POV.
To kick things off These are 3 things that stood out to me:
1) 7:35 His Ideas on slow and meaningful growth, i.e."sometimes you grow strong, other times you grow fat". What do you think about this, does it apply to our industry as well?
2) 7:24 Creating the product you wish you could buy and demand coming organically from others in the community wanting them also. He makes a statement similar to "we were our own first customer, if you wait for customers to tell you exactly what they want you are too late". There is something to be said for being/having a domain expert on your team to refine your efforts. But I'm a big fan of market research/user testing to identify what users actually value over what I would guess they do so am unsure if I agree with this, but think it's worth consideration.
3) 18:14 Progressive Work Environment that was way ahead of it's time.
It blew my mind that 40 years ago in the 70s Patagonia was offering their employees maternal and paternal leave, a child friendly office and daycare on-site, and flexible work schedules. Benefits that are frequently offered in software engineering (with the exceptions of child care considerations), but to this day still are often not offered in other fields, even other fields of tech like IT.
If you have suggestions of other interesting recordings of talks or podcasts with some application to tech and that would be interesting to try this with feel free to run with this theme and make a post or leave it as a suggestion in the comments.
Top comments (8)
I'm a huge fan of the "How I Built This" podcast, and this is a great episode.
I think the concept of "scratching your own itch" is incredibly powerful, and is the genesis for many successful products. Yvon's story of "growing too fast" is also relevant in this era of excessive VC funding for early startups. He describes "going for growth" and hitting 50% year-over-year for a while, but hitting massive problems that near-killed the company when they did well, but underperformed expectations (only growing ~25%). Settling down and focusing on a sustainable model with longevity certainly paid off, but it's tough to "go back" when startups take VC funding, as those investors will push for a strategy that maximizes the possibility of an outsized return.
I'm also big "How I Built This" fan and this is by far my favorite episode. Yvon seems incredibly grounded and decisive. I also love that the stimulation for him to start building pitons was rooted in environmental responsibility and sustainability. Based on this podcast my friend and I bought his autobiography "Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman".
This episode was so refreshing in that Yvon's take on business was so different and good. Something I've wondered regarding company culture was at what point does it get defined in a company's lifetime? I know in the beginning in getting a business off the grounds, it's often overlooked so that you can focus on product and market. It seems Yvon knowing himself and the demands of his peers, consciously focused on the needs of the folks working with him.
To your 3rd point, I wondered after listening to the episode if it still holds true to this day? Going to Patagonia's career page, and seeing the positions they are hiring for, I could say they are consistent with their values and culture.
Definitely inspiring and really enjoying the stories coming out of "How I Built This". Thanks for sharing @niko !
You are super welcome @michaelsoolee !! A Pal of mine that is a buff on outdoor sports history, shared that the piton business he originally started in the 50's he eventually sold to his workers in 89. And it is claimed that he then unofficially gave them space in Patagonia's head quarters until 91 when they moved the biz to Utah. They renamed the company Black Diamond Equipment and are now one of the most respected outdoor equipment brands in the world.
The sheer reach and impact his commitment to sustainable good that nature, his employees, and customers benefit from blows my mind. I've listened to the podcast 4x now, and every time it gets me hype to follow in his footsteps forging a path of merged passion and positive impact.
Do you have any recommendations of other How I Built This episodes you particularly enjoyed? I'm currently listening to the Perry Chen Kickstarter episode :D.
Whoa very cool!
I know right? Really blew my mind as well as it seems backwards to a lot of the companies we see today, where it's profit over people. I always believe your people are the most important assets to your company and you should take care of them because they are taking care of you and your business.
As for other episodes, I'd say check out Blake MyCoskie's episode and if you're into beer, check out Jim Koch's episode on Samuel Adams. I also enjoyed Sara Blakely's episode on Spanx.
Which ones do you like?
Thanks for pointing to that podcast. Definitely going to give that a listen.
At the risk of missing some context from the podcast (since I haven't yet listened to it), I'll offer some thoughts on point #2: being your own first customer.
Part of really understanding Chouinard is understanding that his public speaking is tailored to communicate the concept he wants to get across, rather than the details of how that's implemented. (Which should be familiar to software devs...)
So it might be more in line with how things are actually done to say, "we are our own first customers." The "first customers" are in-house product designers, sponsored athletes, brand ambassadors, product testers, etc. Nothing goes to market without extensive testing and feedback from all of these people. (They even do A/B testing by making the two sides of a garment from different fabrics. By the end of a 20-mile run/hike, it's clear which fabric performed better.)
Chouinard's point is that if you want to build a solid, loyal customer base, you need to be intimately familiar with that market niche. Ideally, you and your employees are part of that niche.
Glad you're going to check it out :). Thanks for the awesome explanation of "be your own customer", I can totally get behind that. That fully fleshed out concept totally underlines why it's so powerful to build teams of people that are passionate about the niche you occupy.
On the topic of loyal customers, I can't wait till you've heard the bit he goes into about trucks/vans. He's a huge believer that clothing/items should be honored and used for as long as possible. He did a project with vans driving all around the country as pop-up repair shops that mend clothing or bags regardless of if they are Patagonia brand or not for free. And if something is too damaged to repair, it's collected to be recycled into new garments. It's an amazingly beautiful concept.
Damn, he taught himself to be a blacksmith so he could make the climbing gear he wanted. The amount of work that took is impressive by itself, but what it really gets me is that he just went and did it. Took the step from zero to one as quickly as possible.
I also think it's really admirable and a bit rare that he "uses [his] business as a resource to show a different way of doing business." What's he done and doing with Patagonia really shows that business built on values can really go far, too. Clearly, the anecdote about the jacket shows that the product keeps its value.
Huge fan of repair, too. Everything I've repaired I've felt so much connected to.
Thanks for sharing :)