Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario at home in her new environment [Ventura County Star, Calif. :: ]
(Ventura County Star (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 15--Rose Marcario ran through her career as if she was in a race, trying to become as financially independent as possible, and to reach her lofty career goals as quickly as possible to get above a childhood immersed in hard times and poverty.
But after securing top leadership and financial roles at large public and private companies that focused on little else but turning profits, Marcario took a deep look inward and went through a "crisis of consciousness."
"I began to get an inkling that my values weren't in line with my work life," Marcario said.
In 2008, two years after leaving her role as executive vice president of a private equity firm, where flipping companies to get quick returns on investments is the industry business model, Marcario followed "an intellectual curiosity" about Patagonia Inc., the Ventura-based outdoor apparel retailer.
Patagonia had long been a top player in the outdoor retail industry. Founder and owner Yvon Chouinard had made it and himself famous beyond the outdoor clothing and backpacks Patagonia sold, making environmental awareness and sustainable practices as much a business priority as profits.
That was the opposite of the profit-driven world Marcario was used to. And she decided it was time to switch her lens on success.
So that same year, Marcario took on the dual roles of chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Patagonia's parent company, Patagonia Works. The company oversees Patagonia Inc., the apparel arm, and other divisions focused on sustainable food, surfboards, media and government sales.
As Marcario demonstrated a financial finesse that has enabled the company to consistently turn profits while maintaining its environmental missions and ventures, her dual roles expanded in 2013 to include CEO of Patagonia Works.
More recently Marcario took on greater responsibility when Chouinard and the board of directors put her in charge of Patagonia Inc. in February. The company declined to comment on Marcario's salary.
At 49, she now believes in and aligns with Chouinard's eco-centric business model.
"I'm a total convert," Marcario said. "I don't think you can work here and not be changed."
Marcario's effect on the company has been equally dramatic. In her time there, she has renovated the company's 40-year-old infrastructure, cut the number of factories, focused on product quality and delivery time and put into place a new layer of management to improve efficiency.
The result -- annual revenues have jumped from $400 million to $600 million while profits have tripled.
"This was a skill I brought to the table from private equity and corporate management," Marcario said.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Marcario is how her 20-year study of Buddhism affects how she manages.
"Being aware of the world around you, and being curious, are all essential parts of being a good manager," Marcario said.
It's a quality shared by the Buddhist-inspired liberal arts college, Naropa University in Bounder, Colo., that Marcario aligned herself with last year when she joined its board of trustees.
The school strives to mold students as next generation leaders with a sense of awareness like Marcario and an environmental ethos much like Patagonia. It reached out to Marcario for her "legendary" leadership of the retailer, said board Chairman Jerry Colonna.
Colonna, a former partner with JPMorgan Partners and now a New York-based venture capitalist who works with nonprofits, said as Marcario's friend, he sees her as a kindred business colleague who shares the belief that business can operate in a more mindful way.
"What if we didn't just optimize profits over everything?" Colonna said. "I think Rose epitomizes that -- which is why we wanted Rose engaged at Naropa."
How does he know that? Her ever-present humor, he said, which demonstrates that she leads with love rather than fear. It also is a quality Marcario uses to describe how she manages people, in addition to being "very collaborative."
"In our first extended conversation, we laughed for 55 minutes," Colonna said. "Her first question (on becoming a trustee) was about how much time it would take. Her second question was, 'Is it going to be fun?' And that's Rose."
Since joining Patagonia, Marcario also has had a change of heart about her belief that a public company business model is better than a private one. It was an opinion she gained during five years as vice president of global of finance and treasury for the public semiconductor manufacturer, International Rectifier Corp. in El Segundo, which recently reported annual revenues of around $1 billion.
She also believed that while at General Magic Inc., a public company that had been an Apple Inc. spinoff before shuttering in 2002. Marcario lead the financial operations and served as senior vice president from 1999 to 2002.
"I'm not sure I believe in public markets in the same way," Marcario said. "The closely held, private model is the better model; it's more responsible and more sustainable. Patagonia has been around 40 years and it's been sustainable."
Patagonia credits Marcario with broadening its business throughout Europe, Japan and Australia and helping to develop new high-tech apparel, such as biorubber wet suits that contain 60 percent guayule, a renewable, nonfood biomaterial made in Arizona by Yulex Corp.
But perhaps Marcario's greatest achievement was gaining Chouinard's nod of approval.
"Rose has proved her ability to guide Patagonia both in creating the best new products and using our brand as a tool to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis," Chouinard, now 76, said in a written statement.
Patagonia also has touched Ventura County residents from its longtime base near surf shops in Ventura. Paintings by a local artist of the Los Padres National Forest hang prominently in the lobby. Local environmental groups sing the company's praises.
"Patagonia has been very supportive over the years of what we think are good things to be doing in Ventura County," said Rob Bottorff, chairman of Friends of Santa Clara River. The business donated about $10,000 to Friends several years ago, Bottorff said, which it used to restore about 80 acres near the river to grassland.
Going forward, Marcario's challenges will be boosting Internet sales while creating customer relationships. She also will oversee the $20 Million & Change campaign that funds startups focused on solving environmental problems, and its first official startup, Patagonia Provisions. The new sustainable food arm of the business sells precooked salmon for backpackers and campers.
Despite leading Patagonia's holding company, its numerous divisions and now Patagonia Inc., Marcario says she is not the face of the company.
"I think Yvon is always going to be the face," Marcario said.
(c)2014 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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