In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.
-- Antoine de Saint Exupery
Yvon Chouinard's amazing book, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman is as spare and well-designed as a piece of Chouinard climbing gear. Zero blather, zero self-promotion.
The book has three parts. The first is the story of Chouinard (the person). The second is the story of the companies (Chouinard, Black Diamond, and, primarily, Patagonia). The third part is a series of eight company Philosophies -- actual Patagonia documents describing who they strive to be as company, and why. These eight chapters cover product design, production, distribution, image, financial, HR, management, and environmentalism.
The chapters on brand (image) and HR are classic. The recounting of Patagonia's shift to organic cotton is fascinating. For me, however, the true core of the book is Chouinard's thoughtful discussions of growth and values. When I finished the book, my first thought was "Wow -- what a company those folks have built. No wonder they have 700 applicants for each job opening." My immediate next thought was, "There's no way Chouinard and Patagonia could have achieved all of this if they were a public company."
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman: an inspiring testament to the transformative societal power of ethical privately-held businesses.