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    HIBT Lab! Cotopaxi: Davis Smith

    enMay 18, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Strong Leadership and Collaborative Teamwork in the Face of UncertaintyIn times of uncertainty, staying optimistic and working together as a team can help companies overcome challenges and pave the way for long-term success. Strong leadership and collaboration are key.

      In the face of extreme uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis Smith, founder and former CEO of Cotopaxi, took a proactive approach to leading his team. He focused on staying optimistic, uniting his team around their mission, and working together to solve problems. Despite challenges such as store closures and reduced travel demand affecting sales, the company transformed over the next six months. Rather than resorting to layoffs, the team cut executive salaries and collaborated to innovate and solve problems. These efforts ultimately positioned the company for success in the long term, demonstrating the effectiveness of strong leadership and a collaborative team approach.

    • How Cotopaxi overcame pandemic challenges by innovating and shifting sales focusCotopaxi adapted to the pandemic by producing masks and shifting sales to outdoor essentials, leading to their first profitable year, employee bonuses, and continued growth. Focus on opportunities, not just challenges.

      During the pandemic, Cotopaxi faced challenges with supply chain and reduced sales due to travel restrictions. However, their focus on innovation and creativity paid off as they began producing masks, which saw a high demand. Their shift in sales to outdoor essentials also helped them turn a profit and grow significantly in the years that followed. Despite the difficulties, the CEO remained focused on seeing opportunities in the challenges and leading the team through the tough times. This approach ultimately led Cotopaxi to its first profitable year, which allowed them to pay bonuses to their team and continue to grow even more in the following years.

    • Cotopaxi's Shift to a Fully Remote First ApproachCotopaxi's CEO and team overcame fear during the pandemic by focusing on strategy, resulting in cost savings that allow the company to fly in team members for on-site meetings and events while keeping the team connected through daily videos.

      During the pandemic, Cotopaxi's CEO and team shifted their focus from fear to strategy, leading to a decision to become fully remote first. Though their headquarters in Salt Lake City is largely empty, some employees still choose to work in the office daily, while Cotopaxi flies in the best talent from all over the world. The shift has resulted in cost savings that the company uses to fly in team members for on-site meetings and events. Though remote work presents unique challenges, CEO Davis Smith sends daily videos to express gratitude and keep his team connected.

    • Creating a Connected and Innovative Remote Work CultureTo create a successful remote work environment, prioritize meaningful interactions and use virtual tools to facilitate team building activities. Don't forget to prioritize employee happiness and mentorship opportunities for younger employees.

      In a remote work environment, it's important to create opportunities for meaningful interactions and innovation. Companies can still come together in person, but also utilize virtual tools like Zoom to host innovation tournaments, virtual hikes, and other team building activities. While remote work can be isolating and lonely, it's important for companies to prioritize employee happiness and provide mentorship opportunities for younger employees. Although there is still room for improvement, companies like Davis Smith's successfully navigate the challenges of remote work and maintain an innovative and connected culture.

    • How Mentorship and Sustainable Energy Practices Built Cotopaxi's SuccessCotopaxi's success was built on intentional mentorship and investing in sustainable energy practices. By creating a brand that makes a positive difference in the world, they have achieved long-term success through ethical practices and investing in people.

      Cotopaxi's success is attributed to intentional mentorship, investing in challenging areas, and the founder's mission to make a meaningful impact in the world inspired by a young boy he met in Peru. While their approach may not work for every company, Cotopaxi's focus on sustainable energy and ethical practices have bridged them to a sustainable energy future. With natural mentors and intentional discipline, the mentoring process has remained successful. Their success lies in investing in people, both internally and externally, to create a brand that makes a positive difference in the world.

    • The Power of Friendship and Pursuing Dreams: Davis Smith's StoryA simple act of kindness can have a powerful impact on someone's life. Pursuing our dreams and maintaining strong friendships can bring us joy and fulfillment even during challenging times.

      Davis Smith's heartwarming story of finding his childhood shoe-shiner friend in Peru, despite only knowing his first name and one picture, serves as a reminder of the transformative power of friendship and the importance of pursuing our dreams. After reconnecting, Davis helped Edgar achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a tour guide by supporting him through a three-year program. Despite facing challenges, such as the pandemic, Davis and Edgar remain in touch and their friendship continues to inspire. This story showcases the impact a single act of kindness can have on someone's life.

    • Founder of B Corp Cotopaxi discusses virtual tours, giving back, and building a sustainable business.Davis Smith shares his journey of incorporating social and environmental responsibility into his business while creating unique opportunities to give back and innovate during challenging times.

      Davis Smith, the founder of B Corp Cotopaxi, shares how he came up with the idea of creating a virtual walking tour of Cusco amid the pandemic, and the success it brought to his business. He also discussed Cotopaxi's commitment to donating 1% of their revenue to charities and nonprofits and how they have exceeded that in the past. Smith believes sacrifice and discomfort make individuals and businesses better, and Cotopaxi's mission to fight poverty is the reason they exist. Despite their growth and producing more products, Cotopaxi remains committed to using recycled and upcycled materials to mitigate their environmental impact.

    • Cotopaxi's Mission: Sustainable Gear and Impact WorkCotopaxi uses remnant, recycled, and responsibly made materials to create sustainable outdoor gear, and has a chief impact officer to ensure they're doing the most good possible. They aim to find solutions for products that end up in landfills and encourage other businesses to follow their lead.

      Cotopaxi, a mission-driven outdoor gear company, focuses on using remnant, recycled, and responsibly made materials to create products that are environmentally friendly but still useful. The company has hired a chief impact officer to oversee their impact work and ensure that they are doing the most good possible with their resources. However, they also acknowledge the challenge of creating products that inevitably end up in landfills and are working to find solutions to this problem. While striving for perfection is important, Cotopaxi believes that mission-driven companies must not let it hinder progress in solving big problems, such as poverty. They aim to lead by example and encourage other businesses to follow suit. Aspiring to be the best at doing good, Cotopaxi recognizes the importance of self-doubt and constantly evaluating the impact of their actions.

    • : The Importance of Measuring Impact and Being Intentional with Charitable GivingCharitable giving requires intention and measurement in order to make a real impact. A buy one, give one model is not enough. It's also important to prioritize personal relationships and acknowledge the toll that running a business can take.

      Co-founder of Cotopaxi, Davis Smith, emphasizes the importance of being intentional and measuring impact when it comes to charitable giving. He stresses that a buy one, give one model is not effective in solving problems, drawing from personal experience growing up in the developing world. Instead, Cotopaxi focuses on education, healthcare, and livelihood training, sponsoring the education of over 19,000 children last year. Smith also reflects on the toll that running a business can take on personal relationships, citing his strained relationship with his cousin and former business partner. Time may heal wounds, but it's important to acknowledge the pain of lost connections and strive to maintain meaningful relationships.

    • Former CEO Steps Down to Serve Mission in BrazilSometimes, personal values and a desire to give back can trump financial and professional gains. Leading by example can show others that life is about finding ways to lift others, even if it requires making sacrifices.

      Davis Smith, the former CEO of Cotopaxi, stepped down from his role to serve as a mission president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Brazil for three years. Despite this decision not making financial or professional sense, Smith and his wife accepted the opportunity as it aligned with their values and desire to give back. They want to set an example for their children and demonstrate that life is about finding ways to lift others. Smith is just one of over 400 couples and 60,000 missionaries in the church who have made similar sacrifices for a greater cause.

    • Cotopaxi CEO Takes Family on Three-Year Mission Trip to BrazilDavis Smith, CEO of Cotopaxi, plans to remain involved in board meetings and will meet with new employees quarterly. He has confidence in his leadership team and believes they can handle anything without his constant involvement.

      Cotopaxi CEO, Davis Smith, is taking his family to Brazil for a three-year mission trip and will remain somewhat involved with the company during that time. Smith is excited for his children to have an international experience like he did as a child and hopes to inspire young missionaries during his time there. He plans to continue attending board meetings and meeting with new employees quarterly, but trusts his leadership team to successfully run the company without him. Smith has confidence in his team, especially CEO Damien, and believes they can handle anything without his constant involvement.

    • Leaving the CEO Role: A Mission to Cement Company Values ForeverDavis Smith shares his decision to leave a CEO role to serve a mission and preserve company values. He hopes to create an ownership model that benefits employees and helps to transform capitalism.

      Davis Smith, founder of Cotopaxi, discusses his decision to leave his CEO role to serve a mission and cement his company's values forever. He talks about the sadness that comes with leaving a CEO role, but also the excitement of doing something that comes from a deep place inside. Smith shares his admiration for Yvonne Shinard and Patagonia, who made a bold move to protect their values and mission in perpetuity by giving away ownership of their company to a trust committed to environmental causes. Despite not owning 100% of his business and having investors, Smith hopes to create an ownership model that benefits past and present employees of Cotopaxi and helps transform capitalism.

    • Doing Capitalism Differently: The Mission-Driven ApproachCapitalism can prioritize doing good over profit. Finding investors aligned with a company's mission can lead to positive impacts on both society and the planet. Young people can make a difference by prioritizing social and environmental causes.

      Davis Smith, founder of outdoor gear company Cotopaxi, believes in doing capitalism differently. He is inspired by the idea of finding investors who are aligned with the company’s purpose and mission and committed to making the world a better place. He believes that there is a better way to do capitalism, one that prioritizes doing good over profit. Smith acknowledges that the current system is leaving people behind and destroying the planet, and he hopes that young people will be inspired to make a difference and do even better than Cotopaxi. He sees overconsumption, waste, and poverty as the biggest criticisms that future generations will have of our time.

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