This letter is to no one in particular at Lululemon. It could be a customer service manager, marketing director, executive Vice President or maybe even CEO Laurent Potdevin himself.
This letter is to anyone at Lululemon who would find it comforting to know you are doing it right. And I’m not just speaking about your product line, because yes that is all kinds of right, but I’m speaking about your corporate culture.
The values you instill in your employees and the way they carry those values through the customer experience, it’s all working.
Where is this coming from? Let’s take a step back to just over a year ago.
Are you familiar with the movie “Sliding Doors”? The lead character, played by Gwenyth Paltrow, faces a crossroad at the beginning of her day as she descends upon a stairwell at a subway station. In one scenario, she snags her coat on a handrail causing her to miss her train by just seconds. In the other scenario, she does not miss the train. The movie goes on to explore how different her life plays out based on the outcome of those two scenarios.
In life, we also have these scenarios. A missed train or bus; a missed green light; dorming on the fifth floor instead of the fourth floor freshman year in college. The outcomes of these varying experiences affect who we meet, who we become friends with and the direction are lives go.
At the age of 40, I have had many “sliding door” situations. I can pinpoint two that I would label as “life changing.”
The first was a phone call I made that ultimately led to an internship during college, which led to my first job out of college, which led to another job, which led to meeting my wife, which led to … well you get the idea.
The second of these moments was in February 2014 when I decided to attend a free run club meetup organized by the Lululemon store in La Jolla, California. The announcement, posted on Facebook, promised a healthy dose of hill work. This was something I needed because I was running the “hilly” La Jolla half marathon just a few weeks later. Had there been no mention of hills, I probably would not have attended. I didn’t really have any other incentive as I was already participating in another run group and I wasn’t necessarily looking to find another social group. I just wanted to learn a little hill running technique.
I showed up, met Lululemon run ambassador, Sheri Matthews, and had a great workout. The following week I returned and eventually became a regular attendee through the spring and summer.
During those months I met a lot of people and I got to know them as we shared running miles. I also learned of another free workout group, November Project, and started regularly attending those workouts in late August. At this point I was inadvertently expanding my social circle and getting into the best shape of my life.
Many of the people I was training with each week were employees from the various San Diego based Lululemon stores. I was also meeting other ambassadors such as Helen Cloots and newly crowned run ambassador and November Project San Diego co-leader, Lauren Padula.
Through my interactions with ambassadors (whether at a workout or a casual conversation) and the employees (whether at a workout or shopping) I was also learning more about Lululemon’s culture.
I saw how these people were setting goals and committing to them. I saw how nonsense of the past didn’t bother them and it was all about forward thinking. I realized that the life we create is just that … it is the life we create. It doesn’t need to be dictated by someone else. Only we have the power to write our own history and make the best of whatever “sliding door” we take.
I also watched as people around me were leaving their jobs and diving directly into a life that means something to them.
And so I did the same thing.
After years of pondering and 13 years in the same government job, I walked away to build up a mobile DJ business that I have half-committed to for the past decade. The decision to do that was not an easy one. But I realize the trigger to make that decision all stems back to that one day I said “yes” to attending a hilly, Lululemon run club workout.
You’re doing it right Lululemon. The values you instill in your employees means they carefully choose who their local ambassadors are. It’s not just someone that looks good in your clothes, but someone that also breathes the same values you hold important.
These employees have also become my friends, both offline and online.
When is the last time you “Facebook friend requested” a retail sales clerk … probably never?
I’ve started to brand myself as both a fitness and yoga DJ, providing beats for Lululemon shoppers and one very special yoga event at Parq San Diego nightclub.
Running the 2015 Seawheeze Half Marathon
Now this journey has come full circle.
This past week I descended upon the homebase of Lululemon in Vancouver, B.C. to participate in the annual pilgrimage of runners and yogi’s at the Seawheeze Half Marathon. It served as the perfect bookend to this summer, which of course started in May when I quit my “day job.”
Here I was, in the beautiful city of Vancouver, with my strongest supporters, my wife and daughter who cheer me on in life and in running and I was set to run a race orchestrated by a company that has brought so many other supportive friends into my life.
Coincidentally, two of them -- the aforementioned, Lauren and Sheri (shown in the photo on the right) -- were official pacers, running about 20 minutes ahead of me. It was poetic that ultimately Lululemon was what led me to these ladies. They’ve helped me set and achieve personal goals by following in their virtual footsteps, setting the pace for the next chapter in my life. But on this day, I was literally following them, en route to a 1 hour and 57 minute finish time.
At the end of the race -- as they do everytime I am working out with them -- there they were, with a big hug and high five.
I suppose the only way to end this would be to say thank you. Keep treating your employees right and they will continue to treat your customers right. It’s amazing how that philosophy trickles down.