Wed, 15 June 2016
In the late 1960s, when Kenneth "Hap" Klopp traded in his corporate aspirations for the life of an entrepreneur, the support network for such endeavors was not nearly what it is today. But Klopp knew he had what it took to run a successful company, and he was right.
After taking over from co-founders Douglas and Susie Tompkins in 1968, Klopp spent the following 20 years as CEO using pre-Internet disruption and brand-building wizardry to turn The North Face into a global outdoor gear brand. Under his leadership, the company played a role in the growth of the outdoor recreation industry itself, and his journey as an entrepreneur is full of timeless wisdom that only comes from decades in the trenches.
Klopp got his start when he took over the family business, following the death of his father, while finishing his undergraduate degree at Stanford. He then went on to complete his MBA while orchestrating the sale of the company. After graduation, he went out to interview for positions, only to find that no one was willing to hire him to run something—they all wanted him to start at the bottom and work his way up— which sounded pretty boring.
Hap’s focus was on consumer goods, marketing, sales and branding, which landed him an interview at Proctor and Gamble. During the course of the interview, he was introduced to the corporate mores that have pushed so many of us to pursue the life of an entrepreneur. In short, P&G expected each employee to wear a white shirt and tie every day, to refrain from the use of nicknames and to dutifully mind their post until an opportunity for advancement was presented. It was settled, Klopp was not cut out to work for anyone else. “I didn’t want any part of it…I didn’t fit into to it.”
As we know, it’s not enough to simply want to break free from the corporate world—you must have a plan or at least a product. Klopp decided to pursue his passion for the great outdoors and acquired The North Face, at the time just two stores in Northern California beloved by a devoted niche of climbers and otherwise outdoorsy folks.
In this interview you will learn: