Lululemon’s Kool-Aid is Tasty!

There is an old Hindu saying that you can’t spell culture without cult. I think it was from the Thuggee cult, made popular by the third best Indiana Jones movie, Temple of Doom. Or maybe I just made it up. Whatever the case, the point is that Lululemon is pretty awesome.

HISTORICAL FACT: a few months ago I started doing Yoga, which I wrote about, and which also involves a lot of people wearing Lululemon everything…

Fast-forward to last week, when I organized a trip to Lululemon’s Store Support Centre for 15 of my students – who may or may not attend a local top 100 global business school – and it goes without saying that visiting the world’s leader in the creation of black-stretchy-pants was incredibly edutaining. Here’s a creative interpretation of how it started:

Hostess Chloe: “What have you heard about Lululemon’s corporate culture?”

Awesome Student: “It’s cultish.”

Hostess Chloe: “Yes, we hear that a lot.”

John [to himself]: “Where am I?!”

The talent that Lululemon rolled out – and the four women who spoke to our group reflected the exceptional talent within the organization – simply oozed the company’s core values, which are nicely outlined in this article’s quotable graphic, as well as right here.

Personally, I really like their “fun” value: When I die, I want to die like my grandmother who died peacefully in her sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in her car. This being said, a blogger named, I kid you not, Yoga Dork had little praise to offer for Lululemon’s latest prank, a pretty wicked April Fools joke involving their new e-commerce site.

Thing is, at least half of you who checked out the link to their values tuned out because it got a little weird. And that’s okay. Whether Lululemon hires people, designs products or sells black stretchy pants, they’re looking for fit with their culture. By the way, if you’re thirsty I have some delicious Kool-Aid for you to drink…

Going through the company’s values, our hostesses simultaneously made me feel ridiculous for wearing a suit (they were attired in, you guessed it, various shades of stretchy material), inspired by how a shared vision can motivate people in unique ways, and, most importantly, they made me very skeptical of what the company was selling (metaphirically and physically). So, I did the only thing there was to do, I went home, put on the super-comfy Lululemon pants that my special lady highly recommended I purchase and started learning more about Vancouver’s coolest company.

Sure, analysts and experts and “the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business” claim that the company’s stock is soaring because of a combination of style, values and being in possession of an outstanding, nichey product. Added JMP Securities analyst Kristine Koerber in an interview with the news agency: “It is one of the few growth stories in retail left. Who’s growing sales 55 per cent and putting up close to 30 per cent comparable same store sales?” Okay, fair enough, Lululemon will be a billion dollar company soon.

But what about all the good stuff that this humble blog values, such as corporate social responsibility and the environment? Well, as it turns out, according to cool-things-guru Don Tapscott and his blog, Wikinomics, Lululemon is a collaborative, visionary leader when it comes to CSR initiatives. Media juggernaut, the St. Catherine’s Standard, begs to differ, uncovering (two years ago) that Lululemon lied about the organic content of its clothing. Look. Global business is a dirty bus- um, you get the picture. Check out Lululemon’s site and judge for yourself. If you have an opinion, be sure to engage with their bloggers or share you ideas with one of their many store “ambassadors” and or Attraction Ninjas.

One of my students said it best: “it was amazing to see a company actually do everything that we’re taught in school about what it takes to inspire people and get the most out of them.” She’d be a great fit for the black-stretchy-pants community, by the way.

I’m not saying I’m personally ready to drink the kool-aid, but I’m not not ready, either – because it tastes really, really good. Besides, I’ve already got some wicked fitting pants, right?

- JCH