Chip Wilson — Building Lululemon, the Art of Setting Goals, and the 10 Great Decisions of Your Life (#514)

Artist's rendering of Chip WilsonArtist's rendering of Chip Wilson
Illustration via 99designs

“An entrepreneur is someone who’s just too incompetent to work for anyone else.”

— Chip Wilson

Chip Wilson (@chipYVR) is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. His career in the apparel industry began in 1979 as founder and CEO of Westbeach Snowboarding Ltd. In 1998, after selling Westbeach in 1997, he founded lululemon athletica inc., creating an entirely new category of technical apparel called “athleisure” — now a $400 billion global industry.

Through his holding company and family office, Chip focuses his interests on apparel, real estate, private equity, passive investments, and philanthropy. Chip and his wife Shannon’s passion for design led to the creation of the internationally recognized KPU Wilson School of Design in 2018.

In 2019, the Wilsons partnered with Anta Sports to buy Amer Sports, which includes brands such as Arc’teryx, Salomon, and Wilson Sporting Goods. Chip currently sits on Amer’s board of directors.

The 2021 edition of his business memoir, The Story of lululemon, is available for free at chipwilson.com/book. Last but not least, Chip is steadfast in his pursuit to cure facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). He is on the board of Facio Therapies and has begun his latest big 2021 project, Cure FSHD.

Please enjoy!

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

Want to hear an episode with another entrepreneurial mastermind and empire builder? Have a listen to my conversation with SoulCycle co-founder Julie Rice, in which we discuss fostering positive company culture, innovating in the crowded fitness space, resisting outside investment early on, a brilliant marketing experiment with an unexpectedly bountiful ROI, rolling with the consequences of bad decisions, and much more.

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Chip Wilson:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn

SHOW NOTES

  • What is “YVR,” where has Chip called home, and what was his upbringing like? [07:02]
  • How did Chip end up working as “the highest-paid 18-year-old laborer” in Alaska, and what were the perils of crossing the US-Canada border when the Vietnam War was still a fresh memory? [11:30]
  • What is Chip’s theory about the age of 43? (Which happens to be my age at the time of this interview.) How long would we like to live, and what are we doing to increase our chances? [14:45]
  • If Chip considers spending time in Alaska as one of his top three life decisions, what was the next one? [21:01]
  • How did Chip commit to the goal of owning his own business by age 30, and what changed his career trajectory from flush-with-cash pipeline worker to apparel tycoon? [23:19]
  • What goals did Chip have beyond this first goal, and did he make them? What mindset about failure — and not setting goals based on past experiences — really helped him stay the course? [28:19]
  • What goals is Chip most proud of achieving — and maybe not achieving, but from which he learned the most valuable lessons? [31:45]
  • Why did Chip make the transition from clothes for surfing to skating to snowboarding and yoga (along with some failures in mountain biking and beach volleyball) to eventually what would become lululemon? [37:05]
  • What were some alternative names for what could have been lululemon, and how did lululemon come out on top? [41:19]
  • What were Chip’s expectations or hopes for lululemon in the beginning? [46:12]
  • To save money on insurance, did Chip really sleep in a tent in his store? How long did this go on, and did he ever have to thwart any would-be invaders? [48:22]
  • What was the required reading for Chip’s transformational curriculum? [49:52]
  • Why does Chip recommend The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, and what is the constraint theory of production? [51:56]
  • A few other book recommendations. [53:38]
  • How did conversations around the transformational, goal-setting curriculum take place, and why were employees actually encouraged to quit? Were these goals shared among employees for the sake of accountability? [55:17]
  • What does Chip consider to be the Landmark program’s strengths and weaknesses? [58:53]
  • Does Chip think any other companies do a good job of employee development? Why does he think more companies don’t have a development curriculum? [1:03:40]
  • Chip explains how linguistic abstraction can be used to grow a global company and its culture by the benefit of quick communication. [1:04:36]
  • What is a brand (and what is a brand not)? [1:06:52]
  • Design strategies at the retail level Chip used to drive sales, and how understanding the needs of the customers he was serving streamlined the process. [1:10:42]
  • More elaboration on linguistic abstractions. [1:14:36]
  • Why does Chip have these linguistic abstractions displayed on his bathroom wall? [1:18:53]
  • While authenticity is important, does Chip have any regrets about times when being himself and speaking his mind have gotten him in trouble in business or the court of public opinion? [1:19:55]
  • How has Chip developed the seemingly uncanny ability to see five years into the future? [1:26:04]
  • Why does Chip ask prospective hires if they want families, and how would he sometimes decide — within a minute of meeting someone in his neighborhood — that they’d be a good fit for his company? How did such hires tend to turn out? [1:30:32]
  • What would Chip’s billboard say? [1:34:40]
  • Why is Catch-22 one of Chip’s most gifted books? What other books does he customarily give to people? [1:37:45]
  • Favorite restaurants in Vancouver? [1:40:22]
  • How people can get the 2021 edition of Chip’s book The Story of lululemon (previously published as Little Black Stretchy Pants). [1:42:18]
  • Chip’s ask of the audience. [1:42:50]
  • Favorite audiobooks and podcasts. [1:44:05]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:47:12]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

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