*Disclaimer and Disclosure: we do not have any financial/business relationship with Arc'teryx or Beyond Clothing. Pictures are of my personally purchased and owned jackets.*
Happy Father's day everyone!
Father’s Day has been a little bit difficult for me since my Dad passed away 13 years ago. I was lucky enough to have an entrepreneurial father who shared many of his hard earned life lessons with me. In reflecting on these lessons today, I’ve been thinking about the PR issues we’ve seen over the last couple of days at one of our favorite technical outerwear brands: Arc’teryx. As a result, I wanted to share three of these lessons with y’all in the hopes they are helpful.
For those of you who are not aware of this public relations fiasco, an Arc’teryx corporate sales employee rejected a purchase inquiry from a “weapons manufacturer” based on “industries in which we align our brand.” Arc'teryx, via Soldier Systems Daily, has released a statement "clarifying" their position. Both emails are below.
This got me thinking about three key lessons my Dad taught me, so it is probably appropriate that I’m writing this on Father’s Day.
Above: look at the incredible attention to detail in Arc'teryx design and execution. Does this look like a company that makes "errors" in the details?
The three business lessons that stood out are:
#1 Culture is king. It may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility.
#2 The free market is run by the Golden Rule: customers have the gold, therefore they make the rules.
#3 Customers are free to spend their hard earned money however they please.
Dad lesson #1: “Your company culture is King. It may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility.”
When you have a company, everyone needs to be on the same page. Good, bad, ugly, doesn’t matter - the actions of all team members are the responsibility of the company, and more specifically, the leadership. This email may not have been the fault of Arc’teryx leadership, but it is definitely their responsibility. It is incumbent upon leadership to train, equip and set every team member up for success. Was that done here? Not sure. Arc’teryx, we’d love to hear directly from you in the comments below! Was this a failure of your leadership, culture and training? Or, was this not a failure at all? Something tells me that this employee did exactly as she was trained. Just look at the attention to detail on this Beta AR jacket. Does this look like a company that misses on details like training?
Above: Does this level of detail and craftsmanship look characteristic of a company who lets company representatives share corporate policy "in error?"
Dad lesson #2: “Son, the free market is run by the Golden Rule: customers have the gold, therefore they make the rules.”
Just like Arc’teryx had the choice to sell to a PRC (People's Republic of China) owned company (which was probably the best decision for them at the time) we have the choice to not buy from them as a result. All decisions have consequences. Arc’teryx likely has plenty of customers for whom supporting PRC-owned companies isn’t a moral, ethical or patriotic issue and that is ok. Those customers have freedom of choice too. But, today’s market has decided that values (Pro 2A, Pronouns, Made in USA, sustainability, etc.) matter. So, consistent with Dad lesson #2, they do. You may not like this construct and that is ok, but it doesn’t matter what you think of other people's buying habits. It only matters what the market thinks. For some, embracing market reality might feel clinical or even harsh, but that doesn’t matter either because if you don’t like it, you too have the power of choice to not participate in it.
Dad lesson #3: “Customers are free to spend their hard earned money however they want.”
It is as simple as that. There is so much talk about this group, that group, whatever. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that we customers have the freedom to decide where, how and when we spend our hard earned dollars. If you earned an honest day’s wage with an honest day’s work, (read: no unemployment fraud), you do what you want with it. It is incumbent upon companies to provide a compelling value proposition that meets and/or preferably exceeds the amount of money for which they are asking for their product or service. This value proposition is purely in the eyes of the consumer, so if the consumer wants to include company values, country of origin, ownership or whatever else they want to include, that is their choice. Some people may not agree with how you prioritize your purchasing decisions, but that doesn’t matter because it isn’t their money. This is the beauty of the free market. This is the beauty of freedom, liberty and the power of choice.
Above: my insulated soft-shell jacket by Beyond Clothing at a SOAR LE Patrol Rifle Operator class in January 2021. This soft-shell jacket was made in America.
As a follow-up to this point, customer service is not the responsibility of the customer. It is the responsibility of the company. People saying that this customer should have asked to speak to a supervisor or questioned the reply email of this customer service representative is absurd. How is it this customers responsibility to dig into corporate policy? Answer: it isn't.
Death by a Thousand Cuts: Made in USA is more than a label
If you care about freedom and liberty in this country, then finding ways to not support the PRC economically, no matter how big or small, is the best thing you can do to advance liberty. This goes for citizens not just of the United States, but for those who cherish individual freedom of choice the world over. Computers, semiconductors, apparel, medical supplies, advanced weapon systems components, the list goes on. As long as the world depends on PRC manufacturing, capital, and natural resources (to name a few), we will not be truly free of their influence. If you are interested in learning more about our passion for Made in USA and countering China's trade transgressions, click here to read our op-ed in the Washington Times.
The PRC are the masters of Total War (Information, Economic, Kinetic), this includes consumer spending. As Sun Tzu says (ironically): “Attack where your enemy is weak. Do not attack where they are strong.” Economic stability is a critical point of weakness for the Chinese communist party because they depend on economic vitality to remain in power, so attacking their pocketbook one dollar at a time is not just wise. It isn’t just patriotic. It is a matter of survival.
Sure, we aren’t going to do it overnight, but this isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. Moving spending to non-PRC owned businesses one buying decision at a time matters. It will make a difference. It will add up and it will weaken the PRC. It will help us bring American jobs back, paving the way for American Security and American Prosperity. This is the "death by a thousand cuts."
We aren’t going to win this non-kinetic, economic and cultural war by continuing to spend our money with companies who have a vested interest that runs counter to our own. Today, it is $700 jackets, tomorrow it could be computers, but we have to start somewhere. If you think this start small approach won't make a difference, you are wrong and I have a subscription to Brilliant.org (universities are a complete waste of time and resources) I'd like to give you so you can brush up on your basic economics classes. Alternatively, you could ask any hedge fund manager who had a short position in a meme stock. Complacency is exactly the attitude the PRC is counting on you having to keep their machine going. They are counting on us doing what we almost always do: defaulting to convenience. Let's prove them wrong.
As free people in a free market, we can do this together, one dollar at a time.
Personally, I will be moving on from Arc'teryx and looking for alternatives. Right off the bat, I plan to look at Kuhl (USA-based, but made overseas I think), Beyond, Wild Things and Mantle Clothing. Over time, I will look to sell my Arc'teryx pieces one at a time, as I find replacements with other Made in USA and/or brands not owned by the PRC or any other regime aligned against the United States. No, I'm not going to do anything rash or stupid like burn all my Arc'teryx gear or throw it out. No, this won't happen overnight. No, this isn't part of "Cancel Culture." This is me putting my money where my mouth is and doing what I can to help dilute the power base of the PRC.
Again, this is a marathon, not a sprint. But, my days of making any new Arc'teryx purchases are over until they are owned by a group with interests that don't run counter to those of the United States. Like most things in life, this is subject to change based on new information, changes of ownership, etc.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on these topics. Should Arc'teryx be forgiven? Will you be switching brands? If so, to whom? How do you plan on supporting Made in USA and/or moving your spending away from PRC companies? Sound off in the comments below!
That is all we’ve got for now, so remember:
Culture is King
Customers have the gold.
Spend your money how you damn well please.
Happy Father’s Day everyone and until next time, #StayFrosty®.
Justin Li, Co-Founder and CEO of Qore Performance, Inc., is a second-generation entrepreneur and a first generation son of a Chinese immigrant father and a Florida-born mother. Justin was born and raised in Southern California and currently resides in Northern Virginia where Qore Performance is located, for now.