I never met Chip Wilson. I haven’t attended a Landmark forum. And I’m a devotee of martial arts, not yoga. But I’m a sucker for a good ol’ fashioned success story. So I found it fascinating to read yet another business article hating on the accomplishments of lululemon and its founder.
In the September 4th edition of the Financial Post, Business Insider author Jim Edwards sets up his article with the headline: The long, strange history of Lululemon Athletica Inc, North America’s weirdest clothing brand. He goes on to describe lululemon’s story as just one weird chapter after another.
It got me thinking. What is strange about honoring a Vancouver born success story? What is weird about Canadian’s being proud of our own business leadership? Like them or hate them, you cannot deny that lululemon under Chip’s watch created an enormous impact in the apparel industry while employing thousands of people around the world. Not only were these people employed, they were invested in. The “cult” as so many people are fond of calling it, was responsible for developing employees into incredible stewards of accountability, partnership and innovation, which led the company to create hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue worldwide.
So what about the controversy that has been part of the brand identity since it’s inception? I believe Chip comes with controversy, but that’s because he’s not afraid to take risks. I think that’s why some people hate on him and others like him. People have seen him going against the grain, taking risks, making mistakes, but having the perseverance to eventually make it stick and become successful.
Admittedly, I have never worked at lululemon. However I know colleagues and business associates who were former employees and managers. When I talk with them about the real story behind the headlines, I hear incredible things about the lululemon culture – how it was a catalyst for creating and causing results in their life. Results they never thought were possible until they worked there. Their stories are inspiring and show what’s possible when someone makes a stand for people.
So I ask you. What is weird about a man and a company that empowers people to be incredible leaders? Not just at work, but in all areas of their life. How come that story is never told?
If you want to look at the real history of lululemon, you’ll see it began with the vision of one individual who developed a distinct company culture that focused on developing their people. No matter how you dissect it, it’s an incredible success story that has generated a lot of good for all its stakeholders.
Now that I think about it, maybe more weird brands is exactly what our country and economy needs right now.
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Written by Rik Klingle-Watt
About the author
Rik Klingle-Watt is a soulpepper and the writer of Not Business as Usual, an award-winning documentary about disrupting the business quo.
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