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Employees at many successful companies start the day by checking the economic forecast. Patagonia’s employees start the day by checking the weather forecast. The outdoor clothing company encourages its workforce to take time from the work day to get outside and get active. For Patagonia, linking employees with the natural environment is a major part of the culture.
New hires are introduced to this mindset very quickly. Soon after starting at Patagonia, marketing executive Joy Howard was immediately encouraged to go fly fishing, surfing, and rock climbing all around the world. She notes that all this vacationing is not just playing around—it’s an important part of her job. “I needed to be familiar with the products we market,” she said. Other practices support this outdoors-oriented, healthy culture. The company has an on-site organic café featuring locally grown produce. Employees at all levels are encouraged through an employee discount program to try out activewear in the field. Highly flexible hours ensure that employees feel free to take the occasional afternoon off to catch the waves or get out of town for a weekend hiking trip.
Are there bottom-line benefits to this organizational culture? Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario thinks so: “People recognize Patagonia as a company that’s . . . looking at business through a more holistic lens other than profit.” However, she is quick to add, “Profit is important; if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be talking to me.”
Patagonia’s culture obviously makes for an ideal workplace for some people—but not for others who don’t share its values. People who are just not outdoor types would likely feel excluded. While the unique mission and values of Patagonia may not be for everyone, for its specific niche in the product and employment market, the culture fits like a glove.
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