Taking the ‘White Roads’ to Success

Gary mixes personal cycling adventures with business advice. Insightful.

Ask Gary Erickson – Clif Bar founder – about his favorite bike rides, and he’ll tell you it’s those “white roads” in the Alps. Those are the narrow, winding roads – usually steep – that you’ll only find on maps with a lot of detail.

It’s here that Gary has had more than enough adventures to fill a book, which he does in Raising the Bar, ably weaving in ride stories and business philosophy that explores taking the more difficult “white roads” to business success.

Perils of partners
And what an adventure it has been. Anyone considering starting a business with a partner is well advised to read Gary’s honest assessment of the perils of partners. On another level, it’s a well documented blueprint for business leaders seeking a balance between profits and social responsibility.

All too often, American companies beholden to shareholders take the “red roads” to growth, more concerned about the bottom line than the quality of their products. The red roads on Europe’s maps are the more heavily traveled.

Gary will have nothing of that. He and his wife Kit put sustainable growth at the forefront. It’s a company with “mojo,” not afraid to take chances, but equally dedicated to employee personal growth and community involvement outside the office.

Nice touch for a meeting room.

New headquarters
Recently I had the opportunity to visit their new corporate headquarters in Emeryville, an industrial enclave sandwiched between the San Francisco Bay and Berkeley.

Already rated a top company to work for by Forbes magazine a few years back, Clif Bar has raised the bar. The building – an old valve factory, unused for decades – is state of the art, upgraded to LEED standards for green building certification. Among the perks is a child care center, multiple exercise rooms, and offices bathed in natural light from spacious bay windows.

Bike art hangs above the kitchen entrance.

Clif Bar has not forgotten its roots. According to Gary, “cycling is where Clif Bar got its start. It’s still at the core of our business.” Look up in the open office area and you’ll see dozens of bikes and components, as well as other core sports paraphernalia. “We call our hanging art ‘the Comet,’ Gary says. Cool stuff. Any interest in selling that Colnago? Clif Bar on Facebook.

Gary, right, meets employees and visitors during lunch.

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