As one of the key sponsors of Chris McCormack, Conrad Stoltz and Shonny Vanlandingham, Clif Bar co-CEO Gary Erickson certainly had quite a bit to smile about recently, but it isn't all about World Championship titles and racing.
Slowtwitch: Thank you very much for your time Gary.
Gary: It’s my pleasure.
ST: How good of a time did you have in Kona?
Gary: Kona was fantastic. To be in that beautiful setting, surrounded by the world’s best athletes and then to watch TEAM CLIF BAR athlete Chris McCormack take the title for his second time – it was mind blowing!
ST: At what point did you know that Macca would win?
Gary: After he won in ‘07, I knew he’d win again. He told me himself. And kept telling me. He was determined, he was focused and I just knew the time would come.
ST: How long have you supported him?
Gary: Chris has been a member of the Clif Bar family since 2001. He is an advocate for nutrition that focuses on whole foods and simpler, organic ingredients, making him a perfect partner to Clif.
ST: Conrad Stoltz followed up that great day in Kona with another win in Maui. Do you think he was more inspired by Macca's win or your trumpet playing at the Clif party?
Gary: Definitely my trumpet playing [with a laugh].
It’s been a great period for CLIF’s athletes. Macca won Kona. Conrad won his fourth XTERRA World Title and, that same week, our Luna Pro Shonny Vanlandingham won her first ever XTERRA World Championship, at age 41.
And, on top of all of that, our San Francisco Giants just won the World Series!
Life is good right now.
ST: When you think back to the time when you came up with the Clif idea, are you in awe how much has changed with the brand over the years?
Gary: It was twenty years ago this November that I was on a 175-mile bike ride and had the epiphany to create a better-tasting energy bar.
For all that has changed from then until now, so much has stayed the same. We built Clif with a promise that we would strive to sustain our business, brands, people, community, and the planet. We’ve put in a lot of work and know we have a lot of work still to do.
ST: Word is that you just moved into a unique green building. Can you tell us more?
Gary: The new headquarters is a dream come true. The building itself has allowed us to raise the bar on environmental sustainability and has given us the opportunity to create an even better work environment. We’ve installed a large smart-solar array that we anticipate will provide nearly 100% of the office electricity needs, reused and repurposed a lot of our building materials and used a biophilic design principle, which incorporates natural elements from the outside world in interior work spaces.
In terms of the new (and improved) work perks, we now have on-site childcare, an employee operated café and an expanded wellness center with a weight room, a 40 ft. horizontal bouldering wall, a yoga room, dance studio, shower/locker facilities, access to five on-site fitness trainers and two massage rooms.
ST: The roof will seemingly have the largest solar array in North America. Somehow you and Clif don't really strike us to be about superlatives.
Gary: When it comes to solar power, unfortunately size still does matter. Today, it takes a lot of panels to power a building of our size. Hopefully in the future, the technology can become more compact and accessible so that it can be used in many more situations.
ST: For many people when dealing with building green, they wonder about the return on investment. How much of a driver was ROI with the new headquarters?
Gary: Clif Bar & Company has never been singularly driven by ROI. If we were, we probably wouldn’t have decided to go organic in 2003. We chose to remain an independent company, which gives us freedom and flexibility.
Unlike most companies, which have one bottom line, Clif Bar has five bottom lines: sustaining our business, brands, people, community and the planet. All five of these goals, which my wife, Kit, and I refer to as the "Five Aspirations," are of equal importance. Before anyone at Clif Bar makes a business decision, we think about how it will affect these five areas. The new headquarters is just one example of this.
ST: When will it be completely finished?
Gary: It’s almost there. We’ve completely moved in – dog beds and all – and are now just waiting for a few final touches to be made. The 40 ft. bouldering wall was recently installed, our exterior sign should be up soon, and our “smart” solar array should be completely operational by early 2011.
ST: What else is new at Clif?
Gary: Things are good at Clif and we’re working hard to make things even better. This past June, Kit (my wife and Clif’s Co-CEO) and I were able to give 20% ownership to our employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. And, we’re working hard on the launch of our newly reformulated CLIF SHOT Energy Gel (which, we’re proud to say, Chris McCormack used in his Kona win).