One of the biggest inspirations behind Offcut is Patagonia. In fact, our lifetime guarantee is unashamedly following the lead of the California-based legends. I’ve always loved Patagonia products and looked up to the company’s vision of, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” My admiration for the company was cemented after reading founder Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surfing — a must read for anyone interested in better business.
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Needless to say, then, that when my friend Jonathan told me he had a pal at Patagonia HQ in Ventura, I begged him to ask whether Dan and I might be able to pop in for a visit during a recent Californian road trip. Jonathan’s friend Jared, who looks after social media at Patagonia, is a total champion and organised for us to visit, despite the fact he’d just been through brain surgery (read all about that here).
Big Sur, not far north of Patagonia HQ in Ventura.
They say you should never meet your idols because you’ll always be disappointed and I have to admit I expected that would be the case with going to Patagonia. Let My People Go Surfing paints a picture of a company which somehow manages to reportedly make around a billion dollars in annual revenue by employing dirtbags who surf and climb at every opportunity. What’s more, the book says the company maintains a family atmosphere despite having more than 600 employees at headquarters. I struggled to believe it.
“[Patagonia] somehow manages to reportedly make around a billion dollars in annual revenue by employing dirtbags.”
My doubts were unfounded: Patagonia is the real deal. Okay, to be fair, we only spent a few hours looking around HQ so I would by no means claim to be an expert in how Patagonia runs its business, but I can say this: I was absolutely blown away by how homely Patagonia HQ is as well as how kind and collegial the staff were. Plus, I was stoked to see the clichés I had in my mind were true: the car park was full of beat up surf wagons with boards and drying wetsuits sprawled among them and the staff looked relaxed and carefree strolling around eating their lunch from the food trucks organised by the company. As for the company uniform? Whatever you’re comfortable in... ripped up shorts and faded Hawaiian shirts included.
“The car park was full of beat up surf wagons with boards and drying wetsuits sprawled among them.”
I’ve heard from many business owners that the hardest thing to manage is people. People are strange, people complain, people annoy other people. But getting the right people is also the most important thing in building a strong company culture to ensure longevity. At Patagonia, I don’t think they must have too many issues with that because the people we met are the kind you want to be friends with… or in one case: the kind you want to be like when you're older.
The man who showed us around HQ was Chipper: an absolute legend of a man who’s been at Patagonia for more than two decades. After spending the day with him, I can honestly say I want to be like Chipper when I grow up… the man is just so damn cool. He started off by asking us about Offcut’s story and purpose and then told us Patagonia’s. Then, he showed us around before taking us for a surf in the evening.
Jumping in Chipper’s surf van was like entering a classic film, set in the 70s. He cranked up the radio and got Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll blaring before letting out the mother of all “YYYYYEEEEEEEEWWWWWW”. After an epic session in the water, he took us back to the spot he stores surfboards for the surf school he runs on the side (often teaching classes in his lunch breaks), and then Chipper said: “Get the beers and the bong out!” So we did because what Chipper says, goes. As if the man wasn't enough of a legend, he then gifted me an epicly warm Patagonia wetsuit of his to take back to the chilly New Zealand waters.
"Chipper said: 'Get the beers and the bong out!' So we did."
Later that evening we partied late with some other friends we made at Patagonia. The feeling of stoke they had for the company — and the fact they were all choosing to hang out together in their own time — made me realise it’s exactly the kind of culture I’d love to build at Offcut.
Patagonia cares deeply — and advocates for — social and environmental causes. It has the highest B Corp certification in the world. It is a behemoth of a company and it’s trying to use that position to influence positive change. It’s easy to lose faith in humanity and feel powerless when faced with the immense environmental crisis we’re in, but some of my faith was restored by spending the day at Patagonia and seeing how things are done there. It was inspiring and if Offcut one day achieves a tiny fraction of what Patagonia has, I’ll be a very happy man.