I’m not really a big fan of business books (except when I need something to put me to sleep). However, when a colleague gave me Skip Yowell’s “The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder and Other Mountains,” I just had to read it. Yowell, JanSport’s Co-Founder and VP for Global Public Relations, is one of the people behind the world’s most-recognized backpack brand. I mean, who doesn’t know JanSport?
Anyways, regardless if you grew up toting the JanSport daypack or if you’ve never heard of JanSport, Yowell’s book is quite entertaining. Especially when you remember that it’s a business book.
It doesn’t fit the mold of the usual business books for two reasons: 1. It’s pleasantly irreverent and 2. It doesn’t tell you how to be successful. Instead, the book narrates how JanSport began in 1967:
Whether produced by an underground psycho-active substance, or inspired by the peace, love, and flower power vibe that filled the air, having a vision in the Sixties wasn’t all that uncommon. So when Murray said that he had a vision of building better frame packs and selling them to climbers, I wasn’t shocked. Everybody was having visions and mystical experiences.
The book also delves into how Yowell and Co-founders Murray Pletz and Jan Lewis’ love for the outdoors, adventure and freedom molded the brand’s identity.
Sure, we had the suits, but we were not businessmen in the traditional sense. To pretend otherwise was to be unfaithful to who we really were – slightly irreverent hippies on a mission to make the best packs in the world.
But what I really loved about the book is its emphasis on people.
Long before human resources buzz words like employee engagement, satisfaction ratings, etc. became en vogue, JanSport knew that as a company, their greatest resource was their people. Whether it was encouraging feedback from customers to taking their dealers out to Mt. Rainier to experience the outdoors, JanSport’s success is largely due to the company’s willingness to listen and connect with other people.
Now on its 40th year, JanSport has proven that believing in peace and love can be a profitable adventure.
Skip Yowell will be in Manila to promote “The Skip Yowell Story,” a film based on his book, on November 4 to 6. 🙂