Patagonia employees wake up in the morning and cant wait to get to work. Each day they know they each play a role in building a company that will last 100 years, and if the surf's up...then off they go. How does one go about building a company that will last 100 years...
There are two stories about Patagonia that come to mind. One is a personal experience told to me by a friend who walked into a Patagonia store looking for a waterproof warm jacket - Patagonia's bread and butter for north of $200! When my friend walked into the store he was asked how they could assist him. After hearing what he needed, they asked if he had a fleece at home as well as a waterproof shell. They suggested that that combination could be a great alternative to a new jacket. My friend left happy without a new jacket. This Patagonia employee saved my friend $200 and saved the environment the strain of making a new jacket!
The second story is told by the ex-CEO of Patagonia. The company was getting a lot of complaints about a new line of fleece, about how the odor of sweat would not come out in the wash. A fairly easy fix would be to switch to another form of material which was fairly synthetic. When this decision reached the CEO's desk, the proposed fix did not sit well with him so he decided to send the problem to Patagonia's scientists to try to find a solution, which they did - crab shells that had been washed up on the beach could be used for the needed material! This much more expensive, much delayed solution to the problem was the path that Patagonia took...better for the environment, and what ended up being a much higher quality for the client.
Patagonia takes the long term approach, considerate of their employees, their clients and the community and environment around them - these are their priorities and a side affect is sustained profitability (a good chunk of which they donate to charity), profitability that has put them ahead of their competitors over the long haul.