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Patagonia and The Responsible Company

It’s no surprise that Patagonia’s color is green. The same green as the company’s dedication to environmental sustainability–or the $540 million in revenue it generates annually.

Founder Yvon Chouinard knows he’s different, putting forth a business model that focuses on environmental transparency, employee satisfaction and a knack for living in the heads of its consumers. You could even say he wrote the book on it; and he did. The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years is just that: a blueprint for how to make your business highly profitable, while focusing on what the consumer wants, what the world needs, and what the employee desires.
Sound familiar?

The Responsible Company has become a best-seller in the business world, and in environmental organizations worldwide. In it, Chouinard describes steps for businesses to take in a very turbulent economic and ecological time:

  • He’s surrounded himself with the very best talent, and allows them to become leaders in the company.
  • He’s devoted his efforts not just to business, but to what his business stands for; heading up charities like1% for the Planet, World Trout Initiative, and the Common Threads recycling program.
  • He spends time talking to customers, gaining insight into their needs and the needs of the community at large.

Chouinard has found that listening to his customers and employees hasn’t compromised his bottom line; it’s consistently increased it. In fact, the Great Recession has brought record earnings for Patagonia, and they continue to grow today.

What can we learn from their example? Are Yvon Chouinard’s ideas of what makes a “responsible company” the same as ours at U.S. Lawns? Since the rebranding, we’ve had a section on our website about corporate responsibility. How exactly do we make that happen in our daily, local businesses?

The funny thing is, if you look at Chouinard’s three bullet points above, you’ll see that his definition of “responsibility” falls into three categories:

  •  Employees (Be the Best Place to Work)
  • Philanthropy (Improve Your Community. Improve Your Life.)
  • Customers (Radical Personalization)

In other words, U.S. Lawns is already following the same model that Chouinard claims has brought Patagonia so much success. And in fact, we’ve been doing so for years–ever since our founders advised us to be “close to the customer, close to the employee, and go bowling on Friday night.”

You might want to pick up a copy of The Responsible Company and read it. But the important thing to note is that U.S. Lawns is not the first organization to stress these priorities. We’ve mentioned a “service revolution” many times before, and how it’s changing the business world in a post-recession economy. Companies like Patagonia have already tried what we’re doing–and they’ve found tremendous success. The model works. You are part of a Responsible Company; and that’s a point of pride you can share with your entire team.

So, remember to continue focusing on these three circles, just as Patagonia did. Make your franchise the best place to work–hire the best talent and allow them to develop and contribute to your collective success. Give back to the community–find a charity your team cares about and go be part of something bigger than yourself. Listen to your customers–be responsive and radically personal.

It’s an interesting connection that, although our color is blue for service, U.S. Lawns is a “green” company just like Patagonia. Not only are we in the green business, but from our very beginnings in Central Florida, we’ve made it a priority to be stewards of the land. We have always used sustainable practices, promoted water conservation, reduced harmful chemicals, and sought to beautify communities through social responsibility. Never forget that service, responsibility, and leadership are in our very DNA. If Patagonia’s story is to be believed–and the numbers don’t lie–all we have to do is be true to who we are: a Responsible Company.

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