HOW TO LEAD A PURPOSE-DRIVEN COMPANY BY PATAGONIA AUSTRALIA’S COUNTRY DIRECTOR, DANE O’SHANASSY
PATAGONIA LAUNCHED IN AUSTRALIA IN 2008. HOW DO YOU TAILOR THE PRODUCT LINE TO ATTRACT AUSSIES?
In Australia, there’s a very strong surf culture and we’ve tailored our line to support that opportunity. Patagonia’s been making gear for surf and outdoor enthusiasts since the seventies. In fact, Yvon later chose to base the company in Ventura, California, thanks to its proximity to the famous point breaks. However, we also have good demand for our alpine, fishing, snow and lifestyle gear. Our ambassadors, retail staff, wholesale partners and storytellers help get our stories out. We like having conversations with our customers.
THE BRAND DESCRIBES ITSELF AS A RETAIL CORPORATION AND A MISSION-DRIVEN ENTERPRISE. IS THIS A HARD MIX TO MANAGE?
As a manager I feel it’s important to take interest in what’s going on with the environment, politics and legislation to help make good, balanced decisions. In campaigns such as Protect Our Rights, which supports Australians’ rights to peaceful protest, my role was to provide my team with input to ensure our business voice is clear and appropriate, and the outcomes effective. I personally co-signed 170 letters with our CEO, Rose Marcario, which we posted to each elected representative in the New South Wales and Tasmanian parliaments to outline our opposition and request the laws be rescinded.
HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE AN ADVENTUROUS, FREE-SPIRITED WORKPLACE CULTURE?
We’re lucky to be based in Torquay, Victoria, home to some of the best surf in the world, but also beautiful wild spaces. It’s pretty common to see empty desks at lunchtime with our crew enjoying a surf or a ride. We also have a wonderful parental-leave program that supports mums and dads to take paid time at home with their family (we have 100 per cent returnto-work rate of maternity-leave mums). We offer an internship program where employees can work for up to two weeks on full pay with an environmental not-for-profit of their choice.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A WAVE WITH YVON?
I had the chance to spend some time with him last year, share a meal and surfed a couple of times. We didn’t talk much about business, but a lot about some issues facing the planet, his passion for regenerative agriculture (which has manifested itself in our new food division Patagonia Provisions), and of course, I quizzed him about some of his secret surf spots. He’s a great guy and I feel fortunate to have had that time.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT SINCE JOINING PATAGONIA IN AUSTRALIA?
What’s had the biggest impact on me, especially over the long-term, is understanding how doing good for the planet can be good business. I believe these issues should be on the radar of any business, from a risk perspective and the changing wants and needs of customers. However, it still seems to be lost in the chase of short-term success. I feel fortunate to be working with a brand that recognises that value.