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Lesson #1: Plan for the Long Run If You Want to Run Long
Bean wanted his company to be around in the long run, and he ran it with that goal in mind. During the Great Depression, the state of the economy was testing businesses throughout the country. Some fell, some survived. But, it was Bean’s eye on the long term that allowed his to not only survive but to succeed. Every dollar in sales that the company made Bean insisted on reinvesting back into the company. He could have played it safe and saved the money, but he chose to put it behind the company, speaking to its endurable nature and his faith in its long-term possibilities.
It was not only Bean’s financial strategy that gave the company its long-term appeal. Bean’s products themselves were high quality, traditional items that were not only comfortable and durable but also timeless in appearance. From leather moccasins to long red woolen underwear, he was focused on creating goods that had a history. He knew products that had a strong past would also be the ones with the brightest future.
Bean’s advertising was also focused on aligning his company with the long tradition of hunting and fishing in Maine. His ads featured paintings that contained outdoor scenes and stories typical of Maine. In doing so, he gave customers the image of a company with a stronger history than it actually had. He embedded L.L. Bean within the social landscape of Maine and made it a part of the state’s cultural identity.
When Bean first created his Maine Hunting Boot, he knew he had a winning product on his hands. And, he knew that if he was smart about running his business, it would be a product with no less demand 100 years down the road. He was right.
Bean engaged in a prudent financial strategy of continually reinvesting his profits back into the company, in order to ensure it a steady stream of growth. He also made sure that his products would not only last a long time in terms of their durability, but that they had a long-term appeal. He did not want to be in the business of creating goods that were good today and gone tomorrow. Otherwise, he knew his company would be gone tomorrow too.
L.L. Bean remains one of the most popular companies for outdoor equipment and clothing, and that is no accident. Instead, it is the result of a well thought out plan on the part of its founder. He was in it to win it.
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