100, Michael Crooke | Sustainable Competitive Advantage through Purpose

Michael Crooke is a thought leader in sustainable competitive advantage at the intersection of vision, purpose and operational excellence.

The first time that Michael Crook boarded an airplane, it was to join the Navy. When he saw the opportunity to become a Navy Seal, he took it. At Basic Underwater Demotion Seal training (BUDS), Michael leaned the importance of teamwork that comes from having a shared purpose. After his time in the Navy, Michael joined Pacific Lumber, an over 100 year-old company with strong environmental and social values. Pacific Lumber was eventually bought in a leveraged buy-out. The new company abandoned Pacific Lumber’s values and began practices such as clear-cutting and cutting close to streams. It wasn’t long before the company was bankrupt. This started Michael on a journey to understand the connection between values and financial performance.

Michael later joined Yakima Products Inc, famous for car-top racks. He originally joined the team to do contract work. As he put it, “I found my tribe,” outdoors people who were passionate about their products. He also spent time as an executive at Moonstone, Kelty Packs, Pearl Izumi, Revolution Living and prAna Living. But the role his is probably best known for is as CEO of Patagonia from 1999 to 2005.

By focusing on values alignment, strategy and operational excellence, he turned around the company and made it a “Best Place to Work.” At times, he told me, Patagonia would receive 300 – 500 applications for a single opening.

It was while at Patagonia that Michael developed the theory of organizational flow. According to Michael, flow happens in organizations when people have values that are aligned, when there is transparency and when people feel like the strategic decisions of the organization are aligned to the values.

Today, Michael Crooke is the Senior Associate Dean of Programs at the University of Oregon He is also the founder of Fifth Normal Form Consulting, counseling high-growth businesses on strategic issues, in particular, developing direct to customer strategies that create an emotional connection to the brand.

Sustainable Competitive Advantage Quotes from Michael Crooke

“There are two parts of strategy. There’s the vision and where we want to be. And then there’s the OE or Operational Effectiveness. And they’re both critical. And in the center of that is a shared purpose.”

“At BUDS, I started with over 120 people and only 17 of us graduated. And the only thing we all had in common was that we were team players.”

“So many of these people that I’m working with, absolutely want to work in a job and work in a field where they feel that they’re contributing, and where they’re making a difference on this planet.”

“What we found with Patagonia, in a study with organic cotton, is that we could charge up to 11% more without changing the demand curve, if we told our story well.”

“We were getting the best and brightest. People wanted to be there.”

“Community is very much a stakeholder. Society in general is a stakeholder.”

“Three-quarters of the world’s GDP is 500 corporations. Business has to change the world. That’s where things are going to happen.”

“If you make sure those values permeate through to the customer or any one of the stakeholders, ultimately you’ll have sustainable competitive advantage.”

“Corporate Social Responsibility, the environmental side of our business, is not going to go away. It’s only going to become more and more prominent in all businesses.”

Sustainable Competitive Advantage Resources:


Special Note: Thanks for the first 100

This is episode 100 of Social Entrepreneur. I wanted to take a moment and thank the thousands of people from more than 140 countries who have downloaded this podcast. You are the reason that we produce Social Entrepreneur every Monday. I’m glad we found one another.

Will you do me a favor? Will you take the time to leave a rating and review on iTunes? It helps get the word out about this valuable resource.

Best-Selling Author, Speaker, and Coach
About the Author
Tony Loyd is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and coach. He facilitates the growth of purpose-driven changemakers so that they can thrive and increase their impact. Tony has been personally trained in the science of climate change by former Vice President Al Gore, Chairman of the Climate Reality Project. The Climate Reality Project is a grassroots network of more than 20,000 trained leaders who live and work all over the world. Tony is the Executive Producer of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where he shares positive stories from underrepresented voices, focused on solutions. Social Entrepreneur is downloaded more than half a million times in over 180 countries. He is a TEDx speaker and the best-selling author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with companies such as John Deere, Medtronic, and Buffalo Wild Wings. He has extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development.

What do you think? Tell me here.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.