BGBS 022: Hap Klopp
Founder of The North Face, Hap Klopp shares how it was created and what this company represents to him. During his 20 years as president and CEO, The North Face was recognized for being one of the best-managed companies in its industry, for both the quality of its products and the investment in its employees. Hap has found that success comes from disrupting the status quo. Find out how a kid from Spokane sold his family window business, moved to San Francisco, and founded one of the world’s largest and most recognizable adventure brands.
Discover what it truly means to disrupt an industry!
What we’re talking about
- Hap Klopp’s Climb to Success: A Combination of Desperation and Opportunity
- The Plan To Disrupt the Entire Camping Business
- Looking To The Future and Shaking Up The Healthcare System As We Know It
Hap Klopp’s Climb to Success: A Combination of Desperation and Opportunity
Born and raised in the outdoors of Spokane, Washington, Hap Klopp realized from a young age that the corporate environment was not for him. He credits his values instilled by his parents, schooling, literature, and athletic activity, as giving him the self-confidence to develop his own philosophies and principles. After taking over the family window business at just 20 years old, he soon discovered the business wasn’t big enough to be competitive and decided to sell the company while earning his MBA at Stanford. He knew he had a natural instinct for branding, sales, and marketing, but disagreed with planned obsolescence, gender and language discrimination, among other attributes often found in the corporate world. Hap felt that to build a great company, you just needed the best people, no matter their background. Self-described as idiosyncratic, he knew early on what he wanted to do with his life: to have fun, be in the outdoor business, and change the world.
The Plan To Disrupt the Entire Camping Business
After finishing his MBA in 1967, Hap worked on a business plan to go into the outdoor business. He knew in order to bring in cash flow, he needed to get into something that already existed, which would ultimately buy him time to use his innovation to develop new products and “disrupt the general camping business.” Utilizing materials from the war effort in Vietnam, Hap was able to lead the design of camping products that were 50% lighter than what was in the current market place. This innovation ended up creating a whole new segment, known as a backpacking business, which built the brand of The North Face as we know it today.
Looking To The Future and Shaking Up The Healthcare System As We Know It
Due to the company’s exponential growth rate, after 20 years of running the business, Hap found himself spending the majority of his time meeting with external investors, who all had their own ideas of how he should be running things. Remembering that he got to where he was because he loved innovation and exploration, rather than business meetings, Hap decided it was time to sell the company and move towards the next set of adventures. These included starting a branding consulting company, authoring multiple books, speaking around the globe, and teaching at various universities to just name a few. Looking to the future, Hap says he is most excited to see how the healthcare system will be disrupted by digitization, democratization, and globalization.
How are you disrupting your industry?
- 13:40-14:15 (45 sec HK) – I wanted to have fun, and I wanted to do things… a small part about changing it.
- 31:24-32:19 (55 sec HK) We took over two stores… that I tried to implement at North Face
- 32:28-33:02 (34 sec HK) The North Face is from the north face of the Eiger…not a lot of brand names that actually do that.
- 45:54 -46:53 (59 sec HK) We’d have long-range planning meetings every two years… you don’t want to lose your people.
- 52:32 – 53:11 (39 sec HK) We were an international company…might have spread out a little bit more.
- 55:36 -56:35 (82 sec HK) We’re going to have to come up with…new tech tools are going to provide.
- I decided that if I started a business around something I knew and cared about, that it was going to be the best path for me. And that was ultimately the inspiration. HK
- I formed my own cheering squad. I didn’t need outsiders necessarily to measure what I was doing as much as I just needed to stand up to my own principles. HK
- I knew that was going to facilitate what I wanted to do and what a lot of my friends wanted to do, which was going a lot further into the wilderness without it being a beast of burden. HK
- The branding idea is to find three words that define the DNA of who you are, and make sure they cut across every aspect of your company, not just your product, but also your service, your business model, your employees, everybody you touch. And those three words must be consistent over time. And then like coral, it grows very slowly. People can’t see that happening. But it becomes very intricate and so unique that you almost have a monopoly.
- It always gets difficult…in a small business, any business, you’re on the razor’s edge between huge fame and success and abject failure. HK
- I came into the business because I loved the outdoors. I came into the business because I loved the people who worked there. I came into the business because I loved educating people on how they could become business people. HK
- There’s a lot of strategies for running businesses, but you could only use one strategy and one business. HK
- We’re looking at a world that’s constantly innovating. And where it’s constantly innovating, there’s a chance to come up with really super ideas. HK