Business Intangibles – Timberland and American Apparel

December 19, 2006


I am a big believer in business intangibles contributing heavily to the success of a business.  Running a business with ethics and the community in mind are intangibles that may initially seem like a “nice-to-have”, but in many cases it will the be the X-factor for success. For a small business, this concept may be hard to prove, but we can look at a number of big businesses that have proven out this concept in spades.

I have come across two such businesses recently.

The first one I discovered one night when I caught the tail end of a Colber(t) Repor(t) (side note: everytime I hear Stephen Colbert pronounce his name and the name of show I crack up. I love watching the beginning just to see if he’ll pronounce the T in Report…still waiting).  Jeffrey Swartz, the CEO of Timberland was a guest and he was raving about his company’s ethical policies.  What I love about this is that I am a big Timberland fan, I love their shoes and I recently picked up a Timberland jacket that is designed just right, the pockets are perfect which is a big thing for me.

Just today I read that American Apparel is being bought and going public and lo and behold they have a very good ethical reputation.  I don’t have the same personal experience with their product, but a number of stories point to their company philosophy on ethics and employee satisfaction.

Both of these businesses are competing and succeeding in a more and more difficult and competitive clothing industry. They both put ethics and community in their mission statements and from the news stories that I have read have an excellent reputation for this.

I believe that we will see more companies with a strong focus on ethical operations succeeding and beating out the competition. If a small business has these ideas ingrained in their philosophy and principles, they will be starting with a solid foundation for success.


about the author

Co-Founder & VP of Operations, FreshBooks Levi is a professional engineer with a BEng from the University of Victoria. Before co-founding FreshBooks as the VP of Operations, Levi managed projects at Apex Systems Integrators Inc., where his clients included Canadian Tire, Nestlé and Parmalat. Levi’s long term goals include: never losing the contest to wear shorts to the office for as long as humanly possible, some day growing back his mullet he had in the eighties and getting on the jumbotron at the Raptors game at least once a year.