Wilson, 52, was born in Orange County, California and raised in Calgary. He spent twenty years in the surf, skate and snowboard business before founding Lululemon. He served as the CEO of Lululemon until 2005 when he became chairman and sold 48% of of the brand to a private equity firm in the United States for $225 million. The move was to help Wilson expand into the United States. “I didn’t know how to run a company over 100 million dollars… It was a win-win for all people. The private equity people got into a great company and did well in it, and I got expertise. I had no idea how to hire a CFO or a HR person and all that,” says Wilson.
This was a big move for Wilson who wanted to go big but also wanted to keep a balance in his life. “I wouldn’t say I’m an operator; I’m a creative person. So now I’ve got people who are incredible operators, and I can do the creative part. That gives me a lot more time. I spend a lot of my time working out, being with my kids and then going to work. So it’s split three ways, but of course my wife wants it split four ways,” jokes Wilson.
Chip Wilson of Lululemon
“Everyone thinks they’re okay. Everyone thinks their life is going fine, but the minute you get a coach and you start to inquire about what’s possible in your life, then you see there’s an entirely different level you can go to,” says Wilson. “The metric in our company would be how many people we’ve trained through our system, not what our profit is. We know if we do a good job in training then the profit will come. For people coming into the company, it is about recognizing that you’ve got to be willing to give any way you can in order to ultimately be successful in life.”
This unique corporate culture is indigenous to the new millennia of workers who are rejecting the once corporate chained-to-the-your-desk job. There is a new movement taking place, whether one calls it “wellness” or being socially responsible. There is a new focus on the individual, and companies such as Lululemon are leading the pack in proving the model— that a corporation can be profitable while promoting a positive lifestyle.
Wilson points to his training program and company culture as helping to ensure the resilience of his company during these tough economic times. “We’re doing a lot of management work right now because when people get into stressful situations like this, they usually revert back to a way of operating that isn’t very healthy for larger companies,” says Wilson.
As the workday expands and people spend additional time in the work place, the lifestyle and environment becomes even more important. As the economy and corporations evolve and the millennia work force expands, corporations are not only going to have to adapt their products, sales and marketing to consumers but also their corporate policies and environment if they want to stay afloat. As Lululemon demonstrates, a healthy lifestyle is becoming more important to consumers, and why should we expect anything less?
By Michael Ritter