Nice post Mark! And, as @TLiu noted, very timely in light of our recent case. I loved hearing a bit more about the operational model, and how their supply chain is uniquely suited for their business model. I have to say though, I am not convinced of the long-term sustainability of these sorts of brick & mortar businesses (Dollar General, etc. included). When compared with what’s available on-line (through Amazon, Craig’s List, e-bay, etc.), it seems to me that e-commerce options will ultimately be able to offer superior value and service – it’s just a question of wide-spread consumer adoption. With higher-end retail, the brick & mortar model may be able to hold because of the brand allure or the experience/service of shopping in-store, but I question the longevity of four-wall stores that sell simple utility or ultra-discount items. My perspective could be pre-mature or un-informed (or both), but I’m curious how Dirt Cheap intends to navigate the age of e-commerce and fend off any online competitors.
Great post, Kelley! I am a huge Patagonia fan. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend that you read Yvon Chouinard’s book, “Let My People Go Surfing”. It’s a wonderful read, and touches on a lot of the ideas that your post explores. One thing that you didn’t mention that is another perk of their social mission is its ability to attract and retain top-quality talent. Patagonia is consistently ranked as one of the best places to work by outdoors and adventure magazines, in part because it infuses its social responsibility into everything that it does. Most, if not all, Patagonia employees share in its social values, which creates an authentic, mission driven culture that not only yields a happy work-force, but a successful business.
Great post Brian! It is starting to feel like there will be some ‘crucible’ moment for the NCAA and its stakeholders very soon, if it hasn’t already happened. I also question the sustainability of the current model as the performance bar for ‘student-athletes’ goes higher and higher as more is at stake (money, recruiting, etc.). One place where I’ve seen this manifest is in recruiting policies. When I was recruiting for lacrosse in 2004-2005, it was standard to focus your recruiting efforts in your Junior year. It was an intense, high-pressured process for any 17 year old, particularly given its implications on your college education. My nephew just went through the same process – only he is Freshman and, from what I have gathered, recruiting is even more competitive and intense now than it was when I went through it. He was being asked to make some very difficult choices and commitments about his higher education when he had hardly started high-school. I don’t think this is right, but I fear that it is a product of the increasingly competitive NCAA environment. I worry that as the stakes around NCAA sports continue to rise, schools, coaches and other overseers will become increasingly aggressive at the detriment of what’s best for the student athletes (or perhaps they should start calling them ‘athlete-students’?).
@Komal Kothari, thank you for your comment! I’m glad that you brought this point up. You are quite right that the TOMS social model has come under fire because it encourages dependency and can undermine local businesses. However, while Warby uses the same ‘buy-a-pair, give-a-pair’ tag-line, its social strategy has an entirely different structure – and for good reason. Broadly, Warby uses your ‘teach a man to fish’ model. Neil Blumenthal (Warby co-founder) was one of the early employees of Vision Spring (http://visionspring.org), and Vision Spring remains Warby Parker’s principle social partner today. For every pair of Warby Parker glasses that are purchased, the company makes a cash donation to Vision Spring, which covers the cost of sourcing a pair of glasses to local producers in one of the non-profit’s distribution countries. Vision Spring then trains local entrepreneurs to give basic eye exams and sell glasses to their communities at affordable prices (https://www.warbyparker.com/buy-a-pair-give-a-pair). This model really is all about creating sustainable, local markets as a force for change, and is very different than the pure donation model that other companies use. To read more about Vision Spring and Warby Parker’s partnership and the philosophy behind their social mission, take a look at these articles: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242437, http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2012/10/05/the-visionspring-model-creating-markets-and-players-instead-of-empty-csr/