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Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business: The Story of Clif Bar Inc.

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In April of 2000, Gary Erickson turned down a $120 million offer to buy his thriving company. Today, instead of taking it easy for the rest of his life and enjoying a luxurious retirement, he's working harder than ever. Why would any sane person pass up the financial opportunity of a lifetime? Raising the Bar tells the amazing story of Clif Bar's Gary Erickson and shows th In April of 2000, Gary Erickson turned down a $120 million offer to buy his thriving company. Today, instead of taking it easy for the rest of his life and enjoying a luxurious retirement, he's working harder than ever. Why would any sane person pass up the financial opportunity of a lifetime? Raising the Bar tells the amazing story of Clif Bar's Gary Erickson and shows that some things are more important than money. Gary Erickson and coauthor Lois Lorentzen tell the unusual and inspiring story about following your passion, the freedom to create, sustaining a business over the long haul, and living responsibly in your community and on the earth. Raising the Bar chronicles Clif Bar's ascent from a homemade energy bar to a $100 million phenomenon with an estimated 35 million consumers, and a company hailed by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. four years in a row. The book is filled with compelling personal stories from Erickson's life-trekking in the Himalayan mountains, riding his bicycle over roadless European mountain passes, climbing in the Sierra Nevada range--as inspiration for his philosophy of business. Throughout the book, Erickson--a competitive cyclist, jazz musician, world traveler, mountain climber, wilderness guide, and entrepreneur--convinces us that sustaining one's employees, community, and environment is good business. If you are a manager, executive, business owner, or board member, Raising the Bar is your personal guide to corporate integrity. If you are a sports enthusiast, environmentalist, adventure lover, intrigued by a unique corporate culture, or just interested in a good story, Raising the Bar is for you.


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In April of 2000, Gary Erickson turned down a $120 million offer to buy his thriving company. Today, instead of taking it easy for the rest of his life and enjoying a luxurious retirement, he's working harder than ever. Why would any sane person pass up the financial opportunity of a lifetime? Raising the Bar tells the amazing story of Clif Bar's Gary Erickson and shows th In April of 2000, Gary Erickson turned down a $120 million offer to buy his thriving company. Today, instead of taking it easy for the rest of his life and enjoying a luxurious retirement, he's working harder than ever. Why would any sane person pass up the financial opportunity of a lifetime? Raising the Bar tells the amazing story of Clif Bar's Gary Erickson and shows that some things are more important than money. Gary Erickson and coauthor Lois Lorentzen tell the unusual and inspiring story about following your passion, the freedom to create, sustaining a business over the long haul, and living responsibly in your community and on the earth. Raising the Bar chronicles Clif Bar's ascent from a homemade energy bar to a $100 million phenomenon with an estimated 35 million consumers, and a company hailed by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. four years in a row. The book is filled with compelling personal stories from Erickson's life-trekking in the Himalayan mountains, riding his bicycle over roadless European mountain passes, climbing in the Sierra Nevada range--as inspiration for his philosophy of business. Throughout the book, Erickson--a competitive cyclist, jazz musician, world traveler, mountain climber, wilderness guide, and entrepreneur--convinces us that sustaining one's employees, community, and environment is good business. If you are a manager, executive, business owner, or board member, Raising the Bar is your personal guide to corporate integrity. If you are a sports enthusiast, environmentalist, adventure lover, intrigued by a unique corporate culture, or just interested in a good story, Raising the Bar is for you.

30 review for Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business: The Story of Clif Bar Inc.

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amy Moritz

    This is the story of Gary Erickson and his journey with Clif Bar. It starts with Gary walking away from selling the company for a lot of money and turns into a hodgepodge story (perhaps eclectic is a better word) of business, bike riding, climbing and personal integrity. While he does talk about the negative, about how his company (and he) lost its way, it's not an in-depth read. And he repeats himself. A lot. Perhaps by design because it drives home the central message of the book -- that it's This is the story of Gary Erickson and his journey with Clif Bar. It starts with Gary walking away from selling the company for a lot of money and turns into a hodgepodge story (perhaps eclectic is a better word) of business, bike riding, climbing and personal integrity. While he does talk about the negative, about how his company (and he) lost its way, it's not an in-depth read. And he repeats himself. A lot. Perhaps by design because it drives home the central message of the book -- that it's important to stay true to your values and life philosophy, that sometimes the best way to succeed in life is to follow your gut rather than a cookie-cutter approach, that being all-in yourself is often the best way to keep your vision. He motivated and inspired me to create my own vision as a starting point, then develop ways to enhance and stay true to it. His "white road" vs. "red road" (entrepreneurial vs. traditional) analogy can be tweaked not just for any business but for any life plan. And his approach to business and employee relations makes me wish Clif Bar was located in WNY and I had a marketable skill to work there.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kendal

    Recommend for those interested in Clif and in sustainable and thoughtful tips/insights into the tough decisions involved in starting, running and stepping away from a company.

  3. 5 out of 5

    MsSmartiePants ...like the candy...

    Had a nice time at the Clif Family Harvest Festival in St. Helena. In response to the nice event, which was attended by "Mr. Clif" (Gary Erickson), I am now reading his book entitled Raising The Bar. (on my Kindle) Rating Synopsys: 4 of 5 stars because the content bogs down in the last quarter of the book, relying heavily on semi-interesting Clif programs and stats. Great great beginning! Told in honest and direct language describing how Clif came about, supported by interesting stories of hiking a Had a nice time at the Clif Family Harvest Festival in St. Helena. In response to the nice event, which was attended by "Mr. Clif" (Gary Erickson), I am now reading his book entitled Raising The Bar. (on my Kindle) Rating Synopsys: 4 of 5 stars because the content bogs down in the last quarter of the book, relying heavily on semi-interesting Clif programs and stats. Great great beginning! Told in honest and direct language describing how Clif came about, supported by interesting stories of hiking and biking adventures all over the world. Inspirational on a couple of levels! From a business point of view, the lessons and guidelines developed from the author/founder's personal experience and mistakes. The use of real analogies make this information easy to relate to and remember. Not interested in 'business'? Read it anyway! Just for the stories of hikes and bike adventures. It will inspire you to "take the white road"! Not sure about your business idea? Read it. Then read Guy Kawasaki's Reality Check for further how-to. It will help you greatly by telling you what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do. So there you go!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Entered this book with a bit of negative bias simply because it looked to be "a pat on his own back" by Erickson. Finished it pleasantly surprised on several notes: While he's not shy about telling of his own accomplishments, he avoids self-adulation, just tells his story. He made his case well for maintaining the private ownership status of Clif Bar Inc., the pros and cons of venture capitalists, and a strong case for corporate responsibility to its products, its people, its community and the p Entered this book with a bit of negative bias simply because it looked to be "a pat on his own back" by Erickson. Finished it pleasantly surprised on several notes: While he's not shy about telling of his own accomplishments, he avoids self-adulation, just tells his story. He made his case well for maintaining the private ownership status of Clif Bar Inc., the pros and cons of venture capitalists, and a strong case for corporate responsibility to its products, its people, its community and the planet. Words were backed with ample evidence. I commend this book to those business people interested in a "white-road experience" and viewpoint in the corporate world. (TIP: "White-road experience" is a term used by Erickson in his book and refers to map markings of roads in France on his bicycle journey.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    The company that Gary Erickson has built and maintained is amazing. I think I'd like to work there. Gary and Clif Bar Inc. have an incredible attitude about work, sports, the planet, and life. The book that Gary Erickson has written is not very good at all. I only survived because of the company it portrays. This book is repetitive. It kills all the best anecdotes by putting any sense of mystery into these weird red subheads. Sometimes it tries too hard to make analogies. Then it repeats some mor The company that Gary Erickson has built and maintained is amazing. I think I'd like to work there. Gary and Clif Bar Inc. have an incredible attitude about work, sports, the planet, and life. The book that Gary Erickson has written is not very good at all. I only survived because of the company it portrays. This book is repetitive. It kills all the best anecdotes by putting any sense of mystery into these weird red subheads. Sometimes it tries too hard to make analogies. Then it repeats some more. The Clif Bar label appears in some modified form no less than 10 times. The first label is a curiosity, the label that explains the company's finances is annoying. At least the leading is large...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Ferlaino

    [ potential spoiler alert!! ] I read this years ago... it may have been one of my first books I read about "business leaders", and I still remember it well. It was a very realistic take on what it's like to build a business, from the day you have the idea right until the growth. I especially liked that their business idea came from their own struggles - they created the bars for themselves to go on their big bike trip through Europe but when the market didn't provide for them, they did it themse [ potential spoiler alert!! ] I read this years ago... it may have been one of my first books I read about "business leaders", and I still remember it well. It was a very realistic take on what it's like to build a business, from the day you have the idea right until the growth. I especially liked that their business idea came from their own struggles - they created the bars for themselves to go on their big bike trip through Europe but when the market didn't provide for them, they did it themselves. I also remember being mostly interested in their decision to stay a public company and how important that was to them. At the time, I thought that was a unique business point, as many typically have a goal of going public, so that stuck out to me a lot. I'd recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    What an engaging story about a young man who followed his gut, created a better-tasting energy bar to suit his tastes, and started a company that grew to be well-recognized and appealing to an outside buyer. Gary was offered $120 million for his company, but he just couldn't do it - he stepped away from the sale. I'm not a hiker or biker but appreciated the adventures he shared and admired his passion for taking "the white roads" instead of the "red roads". I found myself finishing the book and What an engaging story about a young man who followed his gut, created a better-tasting energy bar to suit his tastes, and started a company that grew to be well-recognized and appealing to an outside buyer. Gary was offered $120 million for his company, but he just couldn't do it - he stepped away from the sale. I'm not a hiker or biker but appreciated the adventures he shared and admired his passion for taking "the white roads" instead of the "red roads". I found myself finishing the book and wanting more - what is Gary doing now and how has Clif Bar, Inc changed in the intervening years since this book was published (2004)? I'll be one of the first to buy his sequel.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Niniane

    Entertaining stories about cycling and finding his life partner. The author tries to paint himself as a risk taking, off the beaten road, maverick who cares about social causes. He says the way to do this is... maintaining 100% ownership, so that no one else has any stock or can make money when the company value goes up. He acknowledges this comes off as "greedy and selfish" but then brushes that off. The next few pages, he talks about how he wants to leave hundreds of millions of dollars to his Entertaining stories about cycling and finding his life partner. The author tries to paint himself as a risk taking, off the beaten road, maverick who cares about social causes. He says the way to do this is... maintaining 100% ownership, so that no one else has any stock or can make money when the company value goes up. He acknowledges this comes off as "greedy and selfish" but then brushes that off. The next few pages, he talks about how he wants to leave hundreds of millions of dollars to his kids. In another book, his wife complained about how he left her with their newborn while he went on a 2-week sport adventure overseas. So it is another book of a founder who wants to keep all the control and money, but paint himself as a noble guy. But the cycling parts are interesting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Gary Erickson has a fantastic story and great advice for people who want to be a leader, business owner, or adventurist. This book started out REALLY strong. His experiences will keep you turning the page, until he stops talking about them in the second half of the book and starts only talking about Clif Bar the company. The second half of the book drags a little and becomes extremely repetitive. However, Clif Bar's story is remarkable and Erickson's adventures are inspiring. I would recommend t Gary Erickson has a fantastic story and great advice for people who want to be a leader, business owner, or adventurist. This book started out REALLY strong. His experiences will keep you turning the page, until he stops talking about them in the second half of the book and starts only talking about Clif Bar the company. The second half of the book drags a little and becomes extremely repetitive. However, Clif Bar's story is remarkable and Erickson's adventures are inspiring. I would recommend to anyone who likes Clif Bar, biking, adventure, or is interested in starting a business.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Barbosa

    It took me a long time to read, but it was a great book! It's an inspiring book on how to create a culture in business or even outside of business. And I connected with this book with Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull and how they run their businesses. I have started my own business and this book helped me with things that might happen to our company. And how to think long term from running a public vs a private business. I eat Clif Bars intentionally because of this book. It took me a long time to read, but it was a great book! It's an inspiring book on how to create a culture in business or even outside of business. And I connected with this book with Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull and how they run their businesses. I have started my own business and this book helped me with things that might happen to our company. And how to think long term from running a public vs a private business. I eat Clif Bars intentionally because of this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kyra

    Gary Erickson's book is a thought provoking book on a "white road" company. One with a culture different then the profit oriented publicly owned companies that will do anything for profit. Instead this is a journey to create a healthy company that has held the values it started with which include treating people, the environment, the consumer, and all partners with care. A valuable lesson for me! Gary Erickson's book is a thought provoking book on a "white road" company. One with a culture different then the profit oriented publicly owned companies that will do anything for profit. Instead this is a journey to create a healthy company that has held the values it started with which include treating people, the environment, the consumer, and all partners with care. A valuable lesson for me!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Bennett

    What a great book with a great story. I learned so much about Gary, Clif Bars and business. Gary is physically active throughout his entire life and career with Clif, a very promising outlook for those thinking physical well being has to be set aside when pursuing business goals. I also learned how important Jazz is to making business choices. This has been an inspiring book to read and learn from.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gopal khatri

    Good and amazing story of Gary Erickson and his journey with Clif Bar, Clif Bar's Integrity and Passion in Life and Business * Epiphany *Joy *White Road/Red Road *Nine Values *Solo *BBPCP : SG&A, EBTIDA *Magic Jazz Good and amazing story of Gary Erickson and his journey with Clif Bar, Clif Bar's Integrity and Passion in Life and Business * Epiphany *Joy *White Road/Red Road *Nine Values *Solo *BBPCP : SG&A, EBTIDA *Magic Jazz

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Lee

    An uneven read. Some moments of great insight, some issues with book organization. Love the red road/white road analogy and the five aspirations.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mw

    GREAT content and stories about the early days at Clif bar. The story jumped around a lot though and it sometimes felt like the analogies were a stretch. Enjoyed reading it!

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Dembeck

    Great story about a company with personality and purpose that goes beyond profits.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bronson Reed

    Great business leadership read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Tosti

    A classic how I did it story with heartfelt emotion layered with the right combination of business advice and anecdotes. I've always been a fan of the brand and am even more so after learning about all of the unique employee perks and benefits the company provides. A classic how I did it story with heartfelt emotion layered with the right combination of business advice and anecdotes. I've always been a fan of the brand and am even more so after learning about all of the unique employee perks and benefits the company provides.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I read this for work! My boss must love me, because I actually complete homework assignments. I'm such an unbelievable nerd. Anyway, this is an actually interesting business book, if you can believe it. The owner walked away from selling his company at the last minute, to continue on as a private business, even though everyone told him he would fail. A large part of this book is about entrepreneurship, which reading about always makes me feel like I have no self esteem or confidence. Which I don I read this for work! My boss must love me, because I actually complete homework assignments. I'm such an unbelievable nerd. Anyway, this is an actually interesting business book, if you can believe it. The owner walked away from selling his company at the last minute, to continue on as a private business, even though everyone told him he would fail. A large part of this book is about entrepreneurship, which reading about always makes me feel like I have no self esteem or confidence. Which I don't compared to someone who takes massive business risks. It's basically the story of a successful small business. I found the story of Luna bars most interesting. They were developed and released and the company only predicted 1 million in sales the first year. Sales ended up topping 10 million and Luna Bars have become even more successful than the original Clif bars. Anyway, a good read for someone who wants a little more insight on how a small business is run.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gene

    Great perspective on how to run a business and specific tactics and ways of thinking. As a small business owner myself this book gave great guidance since Clif is also concerned with social responsibility and quality of life and those are things we are taking into account as we grow our own photography studio. As we've grown Orange Photography we've come across some similar challenges like venture capitalists and other investors interested in the company but have always resisted. We're growing o Great perspective on how to run a business and specific tactics and ways of thinking. As a small business owner myself this book gave great guidance since Clif is also concerned with social responsibility and quality of life and those are things we are taking into account as we grow our own photography studio. As we've grown Orange Photography we've come across some similar challenges like venture capitalists and other investors interested in the company but have always resisted. We're growing our own business organically and this book has some great insights (didn't want to post any spoilers!) :)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    I am quite impressed with Clif Bar & Co. after reading this book. The passion with which Gary Erickson lives his life and runs his company, helps to make this a creatively constructed story. He seamlessly intertwines his love of sports with his business and management philosophies. How many people can say they walked away from selling their company and making $60 million? The book is worth reading for that story alone, but of course there are many other great tales that make this an entertaining I am quite impressed with Clif Bar & Co. after reading this book. The passion with which Gary Erickson lives his life and runs his company, helps to make this a creatively constructed story. He seamlessly intertwines his love of sports with his business and management philosophies. How many people can say they walked away from selling their company and making $60 million? The book is worth reading for that story alone, but of course there are many other great tales that make this an entertaining and quick read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marin

    I enjoyed reading the story of the company CLIF Bar. The stories of the bicycle trip through Europe motivated me to get through the book. I also liked reading about the culture of CLIF Bar. The way the book is written is in the style of a management book. As a result, it actually feels a bit dumbed down and simplistic, in addition to being repetitive-you read the same catch phrases numerous times. Overall, easy to read, but you may lose interest as you progress due to the "recap" nature of the w I enjoyed reading the story of the company CLIF Bar. The stories of the bicycle trip through Europe motivated me to get through the book. I also liked reading about the culture of CLIF Bar. The way the book is written is in the style of a management book. As a result, it actually feels a bit dumbed down and simplistic, in addition to being repetitive-you read the same catch phrases numerous times. Overall, easy to read, but you may lose interest as you progress due to the "recap" nature of the writing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Other than the obvious "Berkeley" cultural influence/paradox, Mr. Erickson seems to be a genuine entrepreneur. I applaud his ability to see what's important to him, and how he infuses his influences into his business. Two many Harvard Business School types have been driven by bottom-line-shareholder-value in their corporate management. There is value in having the right staff and uniting them with a unique vision. Only time will tell where Mr. Erickson is correct in his vision. I like the white Other than the obvious "Berkeley" cultural influence/paradox, Mr. Erickson seems to be a genuine entrepreneur. I applaud his ability to see what's important to him, and how he infuses his influences into his business. Two many Harvard Business School types have been driven by bottom-line-shareholder-value in their corporate management. There is value in having the right staff and uniting them with a unique vision. Only time will tell where Mr. Erickson is correct in his vision. I like the white road analogy; excellent read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Fantastic book describing the story of the creation and principles guiding the creation of Clif Bar. It's amazing to see where Gary Erickson had came from living in a garage (I kid you not) to the influence that Clif has today. It shows you that it is possible to create something out of the blue and make a difference. I really like the five aspirations for the Clif Bar company as well and they measure toward those goals. If you are interested in creating a better life, this is a great roadmap. Fantastic book describing the story of the creation and principles guiding the creation of Clif Bar. It's amazing to see where Gary Erickson had came from living in a garage (I kid you not) to the influence that Clif has today. It shows you that it is possible to create something out of the blue and make a difference. I really like the five aspirations for the Clif Bar company as well and they measure toward those goals. If you are interested in creating a better life, this is a great roadmap.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rob Bloom

    this is just a pretty interesting read for those familiar with clif bars especially. just an authentic story of guy starting in his mom's kitchen to building a small but might company that fervently sticks to its belief in the sustainability of the employees, the customers, the suppliers, and the environment...even resisting the temptation of a lucrative sell out to a major conglomerate. Just an inspiring 'business' story...if you think an outdoorsy, organic, rock climbing CEO will appeal to you this is just a pretty interesting read for those familiar with clif bars especially. just an authentic story of guy starting in his mom's kitchen to building a small but might company that fervently sticks to its belief in the sustainability of the employees, the customers, the suppliers, and the environment...even resisting the temptation of a lucrative sell out to a major conglomerate. Just an inspiring 'business' story...if you think an outdoorsy, organic, rock climbing CEO will appeal to you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carli Connally

    The first half of this book is excellent! (The second half was not that interesting to me.) He talks about how he made some very difficult decisions in his business and the philosophy that he has for business and life. It is not so common that you see people make decisions like this, and I really respect him and hope that others take courage from this book. This was one of the few books that once I start it, it was hard to put down (until I got about 1/2 way through.)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Suze

    I read this book because of what I had heard about the strategy of Cliff Bar & Co. I found Gary's adventures interesting and exciting, and I am glad to know more about the story of the company. However, the way they are put together is just silly. It would have been better as two articles - one about Gary, and one about the company. It's a quick read, though, and, as a result, I don't feel like it wasted too much time. Feel free to skim! I read this book because of what I had heard about the strategy of Cliff Bar & Co. I found Gary's adventures interesting and exciting, and I am glad to know more about the story of the company. However, the way they are put together is just silly. It would have been better as two articles - one about Gary, and one about the company. It's a quick read, though, and, as a result, I don't feel like it wasted too much time. Feel free to skim!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Fascinating. Gary Erickson and his values based organization are the polar opposites of the Gordon Gecko "Greed is Good" generation that has brought upon us today's financial turmoil. Many years ago, I worked with a man who viewed Gecko and that phrase as both his idol and aspiration. Needless to say, being around this guy made me sick to my stomach. It is refreshing to read Gary's story. If only there were more companies and leaders like him... Fascinating. Gary Erickson and his values based organization are the polar opposites of the Gordon Gecko "Greed is Good" generation that has brought upon us today's financial turmoil. Many years ago, I worked with a man who viewed Gecko and that phrase as both his idol and aspiration. Needless to say, being around this guy made me sick to my stomach. It is refreshing to read Gary's story. If only there were more companies and leaders like him...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    An interesting read about the founding of Clif Bar, the makers of energy bars and other running treats. It was an interesting story and I enjoyed it. His personal business philosophy is different than my own, but I still learned from his stories about taking the "white road" instead of the "red road". In other words he recommends taking the roads you ride on when you do long bike rides and not the highways where cars drive. I found it enjoyable, but a little slow at parts. An interesting read about the founding of Clif Bar, the makers of energy bars and other running treats. It was an interesting story and I enjoyed it. His personal business philosophy is different than my own, but I still learned from his stories about taking the "white road" instead of the "red road". In other words he recommends taking the roads you ride on when you do long bike rides and not the highways where cars drive. I found it enjoyable, but a little slow at parts.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Davey F

    Good read in the first half of the book with stories of the partnership and trying to get funded. Applicable knowledge for entrepreneurs. As the book went on I found that he made connections between life and Clif Bar Company a bit far-fetched (e.g. Jazz and his company..). The second half was more promotion of Clif Bar and what they are doing, as opposed to story telling, that is it got more Biographical.

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