When Yvon and Mackey sit down for their cup of coffee at the Yeti’s Grind in Vail, Colorado, they are always both somewhat excited and somewhat dreading of the conversation. Midway through their cup of coffee, the conversation sounds something like this…
Yvon: So how exactly do you implement a model that allows complete transparency of workers’ pay? Seems like this strategy could result in a few negative repercussions…
Mackey: Well, I stopped taking a paycheck and although we’ve raised the cap on executive salaries, we still aim to keep those salaries within a reasonable multiple of what our lowest level workers make. Yes, our people are definitely more about working for money than the Patagonia workers. However, this approach keeps our salaries sustainable and competitive. It attracts workers who have the same set of values that we do.
Yvon: Are you positive? The value system at Patagonia keeps our workers tight like a family. It is all about working hard and together but we also implement the “Let My People Go Surfing” theory. When it’s an ideal time for one of our workers to do their sport, they should be outside doing it. Our work place is relaxed but we always get our work done and to the best of our ability. It could be argued that your people enjoy looking at salaries because it increases competition, this could take away from both the company culture and the values of the company. It makes it all about how workers are merchandising their areas, not about the products, where they come from and what they are.
Mackey: I love your corporate structure. Workers at Whole Foods are picked by their future team members in order to find people that will work well together. Our goal is to build positive and healthy relationships. See? Whole Foods isn’t that different from Patagonia in that way.
Yvon: You’re right. I never realized how similar our management styles are. We already source similarly, you showed that when you did all that research in ’03 after that activist brought up the duck sourcing. You switched to much more sustainable sourcing for your meat after that. We did something very similar with our switch to organic cotton. I suppose our misunderstanding about salary transparency was really what has been holding us back all this time. We have similar reasoning for why we hire employees the way we do, we just have two different ways of implementing that mentality. I think we could actually form an interesting partnership by implementing each other’s ideas and make both of our businesses even more sustainable.
Mackey: Indeed. Now, I’m going to go grab one of those AMAZING gluten free lemon poppy seed muffins.