Raising the Bar by Gary Erickson and Lois Lorentzen, hardcover, 352 pages, Jossey-Bass (2004), ISBN: 0787973653
In 1990 Gary Erickson lived in a garage and spent his time rock climbing, racing bikes and playing jazz trumpet. A 175-mile bike ride fueled by inedible energy bars changed his life and sparked the idea that with a $1,000 personal investment, his mother's culinary expertise and a passion for creating a product that was superior to any on the market, he could create the Clif Bar. Flash forward to 2000: Clif Bar is one of the major players in the energy bar market, taking in $40 million in sales annually, and on the verge of being sold for $120 million. Conventional wisdom told Erickson that selling was his best and only option to keep Clif Bar going, but his gut told him otherwise. "Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business" by Gary Erickson and Lois Lorentzen chronicles the rise of Clif Bar from homemade energy bar to a $100 million business that retains its top market position while remaining privately held and true to Erickson's founding principles of passion, responsibility and sustainability. Just as Clif Bar evolved out of Erickson's passions, life experiences and abilities, "Raising the Bar" is told through the lens of his life. Erickson's business success and philosophy rises out of a personal history of following his instincts, staying true to his passions, and making calculated risks – whether exploring unpaved roads in Europe, trekking in the Himalaya mountain or climbing in the Sierra Nevada. Exploring the challenges and rewards of keeping his company private, Erickson started with bringing back the company's "mojo" after the almost-sale wreaked havoc on employee morale. After starting weekly company meetings and "Mojo Homework" – encouraging employees to think about companies that once had energy and passion and lost it – Erickson integrated the employee responses into plans to keep the company's integrity, and its "mojo", intact. Clif Bar's energy, he found, relied on the core values that made it so successful from its early days – a belief that return on investment is not just about money, but consists of sustaining the brands, business, people, community and the planet. The Clif Bar community is of paramount importance to Erickson's definition of success. A non-traditional office environment encourages employees creativity and playfulness. Operating on a "work hard, play hard and recover" cycle, the Clif Bar offices include an in-office gym, climbing wall, concierge service and other resources to be sure that employees can find the appropriate work/life balance to bring their best to the company. From home-made bars in plain paper wrappers to continually expanding brands and business, "Raising the Bar" is the inspiring story of Erickson's journey to uncharted territory in life, and in business – continually taking risks and striving towards a different perspective and paradigm of success.