In the following Kevin Kauzlaric interviews Hap Klopp, the founder of The North Face.
Kevin: What inspired you to write your new book, Almost?
Hap: In May, 2009, Ardica appeared on the verge of changing the world in a field that is extremely important and interesting to all Americans – energy. We knew that a business narrative about the birth of a fledgling technology could be a great read. Tracy’s Kidder’s “Soul of a New Machine” had won a Pulitzer Prize. And I wished I had chronicled the building of The North Face as it was happening. I thought Ardica would become a world-wide brand, and a story worth telling.
Please tell us a little bit about your background and what you are currently doing.
Hap Klopp is the founder of The North Face, where he was CEO for 20 years, growing it into an iconic brand. He is the author of two business books, Conquering The North Face as well as Almost. He has AB and MBA from Stanford.
He is a serial entrepreneur/consultant/advisor and business mentor. He currently teaches business courses at major business schools for grad students and foreign visitors about the culture of success/failure in Silicon Valley and why “failure” is the secret sauce of Silicon Valley. He teaches at Hult University, the University of California, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and the University of San Francisco.
He is the Executive Chairman of Obscura Digital, a San Francisco based data visualization company focused on disrupting the entire marketing and communications world.
Hap is also a Board member at Cocona/37.5, a Boulder-based nano-technology company for textiles. In addition, his consulting company, HK Consulting, with offices in San Francisco and Tokyo, advise several companies, including Mission Athletecare, an athletics accessories company that provides products which make athletes healthier and more successful and utilizes input and promotion from well-known athletes such as Serena Williams, Duane Wade, Reggie Bush, Sergio Garcia, and Adrian Gonzales.
Brian Tarcy is the co-founder of an online magazine, Cape Cod Wave (CapeCodWave.com) that features long-form journalism.
He is a journalist and author of more than a dozen books, including books with CEOs, medical professionals, and several with celebrity athletes such as Joe Theismann, Tom Glavine and Cam Neely. His journalism has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston magazine, and several other publications.
He has a degree in Radio/TV News from Ohio University.
Delving into your book now, who would benefit most from your book?
Almost is a book about entrepreneurship and taking great risks to try to do great things. Although the story is Silicon Valley specific, the lessons can apply to almost any business trying to grow. Lessons such as When a company runs out of money, it makes bad decisions are pretty universal. This book doesn’t just throw a theory out there. It tells a story and the lessons unfold for some of brightest people in the most exciting business environment on Earth.
What makes your book different from other books that cover this same topic?
We believe Almost is a revolutionary book.
While there have been books on Silicon Valley, innovation, and entrepreneurship, none have dared to say the truth: Failure is actually the secret sauce of great success. The lesson is revolutionary. The look inside of one company chasing such a big dream is much-needed narrative in the field. And the way the 12-months unfold, with a narrator backed by journalism, creates a hybrid, almost cubist view of the story.
What are the most important elements, messages, or takeaways of your book that you’d like readers to know they will benefit from?
We want to paint a realistic picture of the ups and downs of Silicon Valley, not the distorted dream that everyone becomes an overnight billionaire.
And we want to point out a few of the root causes of business failure:
- Two cultures cannot exist in a small company
- Overnight success is a myth
- Failure to plan is planning to fail
- When you run out of money you make bad decisions
- Innovation requires Invention PLUS Commercialization
What are the major sections of your book?
The book covers 12 crucial months inside a Silicon Valley Startup. It is divided in seven sections that show the development of the story. Inside each section are several short chapters. There are 62 chapters, and epilogue and a tone-setting Silicon Valley prologue entitled “Pranks As Prologue”.
What is the best piece of advice for an entrepreneur you’ve ever received?
Build a brand, not just a product. Products have a finite life cycle, but Brands endure. Products can be reverse engineered, Brands can’t. Brands are a company’s annuity for the future
Give us an interesting fun fact about your book or the research you conducted for your book.
Stories have minds of their own. We began this project believing 100 percent that this company truly was about to change the world. That’s why we started. The other interesting thing is how much you learn from failure, and how much better you become from it.
Is failure a good thing?
It depends. If you learn from it and if you are in Silicon Valley, failure is good. Taking risk and swinging for the fences is how one creates revolutionary products and companies. But it also leads to lots of ALMOST revolutionary products and companies.
In Silicon Valley, failure can actually make you a much more desired commodity as an employee. For a company, “Failing Forward” is the concept you want to embrace, which includes no fear of failing. It is adopting the credo of Thomas Edison who said, “I have never failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways something won’t work.”
Where can people find out more about you and/or your book?
For the book Almost:
- The book Almost is available at Amazon.com—click here to view.
- A website is in development for Almost at: Almostbook.com
- Find him on Linked-In, Twitter, as well as the Facebook page of his previous book, Conquering The North Face: An Adventure In Leadership (view on Amazon.com).
- See CapeCodWave.com
- Brian is also on Linked-in, and Cape Cod Wave is on Twitter.
- Also, see BrianTarcy.com, and Whatzgonnahappen.com (for NFL Picks).
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