You Can Start a Company for the Right Reasons and Still Make a Billion Dollars
Aka Leave a Legacy: A Founders Story And Strategy
I was first introduced to the idea of leaving a legacy in my early 20’s by a wise woman, trusted advisor, and founder who taught me many important concepts before I was ready. It turns out she had a reason to be in a hurry, she died way too early. Some days, more than a decade later, I still think I see her…at the clothing store coming out of the fitting room, at the airport waiting for a flight, in my dreams nudging me towards a big decision. I wish I would have known the powerful resource she was before it was too late, but I didn’t, so Maggie Berry, this post is dedicated to you.
I thought of Maggie this morning when I read Brand Patagonia: A Founders Story and Strategy. Yvon Chouinard is the founder. His story is extraordinary for many reasons. The passages in bold were what I would have highlighted had I found the article on Medium.
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
I think about this in my writing all the time. I’m comma crazy! I’m obsessed with adverbs! I love exclamation points! I try to balance being me with clarity and precision, meaning I want to be relatable, but also don’t want to get in the way of what I’m trying to say.
I think about it in my business too, how can I focus on a few signature strengths vs. trying to tackle the world and be everything to everyone? I think about it in my personal style and when decorating my home and although I can’t give it all up — authenticity is important and over-accessorizing, over-doing it just makes me happy on some level — I do want my children to appreciate the value of editing. Excess, as it turns out, is already being reinforced in the world all around them.
Just look around. Complexity is easy. The world is full of complex, disposable junk. Simplifying things, though — designing quality tools that last — now, that’s hard.
It is hard. I try to simplify in my business at every step. Simplicity is a lot like editing in that it’s about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. Quality and simplicity go hand in hand. Committing to a niche as an exercise in simplicity. Automating processes, creating targeted content, and distilling ROI are exercises in simplicity too. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci #brandgoals #lifegoals
Prior to launching LUXI, I worked for a rather large media company that was recently acquired by an even larger one (#cultureshockmaybe). It was a complex organization, a mature brand in a disrupted, possibly even declining industry. There were roles and assistants, titles and hybrid titles, specialty roles and assistants for specialty roles. There were rounds and rounds of layoffs and still so much overlap that employees felt they had to stake out and mark their territory. At one time, the surfeit was an indicator of success, but over time, it became a heavy burden and a bureaucratic nightmare. It went on my list of “things not to do when I run a company” because too often, as businesses grow, they take on additional complexities that detract focus from a company’s primary mission and purpose.
The other reason to steer clear of complexity? Confusion. Lack of clarity. Absence of ease. When you lose focus, it’s easy to justify behavior, interpret obvious situations as political or ambiguous, and/or prioritize research over action. The ability to determine what business risks are acceptable and unacceptable flows from simplicity.
Most people want to figure things out to the nth degree before they ever take a step. In the end, they won’t even take that step because it feels too unfamiliar. Not me. I immediately jump in and see how it feels. That’s how I know we’re on the cutting edge — when we step outside conventions and lead the market rather than follow it. This approach takes vision and perseverance.
Jumping right in is risky and that’s the point. Some brands have too much on the line. They have weaved complex webs of alliances, affiliations, and consumer promises. Their status is the cage that restricts their future. They are in the business of saying no. No to collaborating, no to partnerships, no to using their trademarks and logos in that matter, no to content that risks their reputation. They are in perseveration mode. Defense.
Not LUXI. I’m on offense. Sometimes I’m writing the playbook as I go. Sometimes I’m in over my head. Sometimes my style lacks finesse, and my output isn’t amazing. In fact, sometimes, it’s embarrassing. I could use another set of eyes, another week of production, another perspective, some extra years of experience, but I’m practicing publicly, timing is essential, and this journey isn’t about perfection, it’s about growth, progress, love of the game, minimizing risk, but accepting that risk is also a part of life. I’m not focused on what I have to lose, I am motivated by what I have to give (you thought I was going to say by what we have to gain, didn’t you?).
Some people see change as a threat. They hate it. I thrive on it, as does every ecosystem as well as every business that cares about its legacy in the making. I’m not talking about change for the sake of change. I’m talking about evolving and adapting as if you intend on being here a hundred years from now; it’s about never losing sight of where you came from or what inspired you in the first place.
That’s my advice to you as you build your legacy in the making: Invent your own game. Ask yourself what you hope to get out of this life, let that enduring ambition guide you, and if the right tools don’t exist to accomplish it, design your own tools. Be the only person who does what you do the way you do it. That way, you will always be the winner.
I’m not in it to win it in the sense of a zero-sum game, but I am in it to win it from the perspective of influencing a movement, of being a vessel for change. That gives me courage, but is it really that simple? When I think about evolving and adapting as if I will be here 100 years from now, it does keep today’s fire drills in perspective. I’m not running a race, I’m training for a marathon. Surviving vs. thriving. Yes, momentum is always a priority, but so is stamina, so is actualization. What do I hope to get out of this life? Family first. This business is a means of serving my family, of serving other’s families. What game am I inventing with my business? My mission is to inspire modern moms to savor motherhood, kick ass in their career, own their femininity, anticipate an incredible future, and enjoy a full rich rewarding and happy life now.
Patagonia’s mission statement, by the way, is to Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
I see you Mamas. You are an indisputable gift to the world. You prioritize your family first too and I want you to win. To bring in meaningful income, to stay healthy and fit, to raise incredible kids, to find fulfillment in your relationships, to balance your priorities, to get what you need, to feel good, to exude the confidence required to navigate an uncertain world, and to thrive now.
Regardless of what you sell, your business itself — including your culture and your values — is your product. If we could inspire more values-based businesses, our society and environment would be a lot better off.
This is the right time for my business. Women are fed up. They are frustrated, scared, and utterly devoted to positive change. Change for themselves. Change for the women who didn’t live to see it. Change for their daughters. Change for their sons. Change for their husbands, colleagues, and friends. Change for the planet. They are done leaving it in the hands of men. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love men or believe in some of them. It means they recognize that collectively, men have blown generations of chances (can you imagine?), so women are looking for a more streamlined solution and #thefutureisfemale.
Women are also inspired, accomplished, ambitious, poised, and ready. They are already holding families and communities together and nurturing the future. Going forward, they will head more companies, influence more leadership, shape more governments and heal the planet. It’s not about a debt to settle or righting a wrong, it’s about evolution, potential, and love. Opportunity and equality. I’m selling my vision by inspiring and supporting women to achieve their potential, to think beyond family, step into their power, and take life to the next level. It’s heady, but also tangible. It’s simplifying to focus on daily activities that serve family and accumulate over time to cultivate happiness and hopefulness. Imagine that, living your whole life happy and hopeful. What could you accomplish?
If an idea about climbing without leaving a trace so that the next party and every party after that could experience the climb in its natural state can transform into a global brand, more than 60 years in business, more than $750 million in sales, more than $75 million in cash donations to non-profit environmental groups, it’s founder becoming a billionaire, and a value system that believes in the concept of inspiring other businesses to act differently, then anything is possible.
The more Patagonia invests in its beliefs and its products, the better it performs, develops creative solutions, and maps out a blueprint for other businesses, big and small, to follow. Sign me up. Not only for the jacket, but for the blueprint, for investing in my beliefs and products, for performing better, creative solutions, and acting differently. And for the beer.
My takeaway is in the title: You can start a company for the right reasons and still make a billion dollars. Imagine the possibilities. #businessgoals #lifegoals