How Patagonia went from turmoil to wildly successful by making counter-intuitive moves

Phil-HaidBy Phillip Haid, Co-Founder and CEO of Public, Inc.

A legendary climber, surfer, entrepreneur and environmentalist, the story of Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, starts with the design, manufacturing, and distribution of rock-climbing equipment in the late 1950s.

By 1964, he produced his first mail order catalogue and by the end of the 1980s had built a very successful outdoor apparel company.

In the early 1990s however, after years of overambitious growth, the company was in turmoil. Chouinard recounts in a 2012 Wall Street Journal article that credit was cut off and the company was forced to make its first ever layoffs of 120 employees — one-fifth of its workforce.

Chouinard began to wonder whether he should quit. He went to a famed consultant who recommended he sell Patagonia for US$100-million and use the proceeds to do environmental good. “I seriously considered it,” Chouinard says.

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