Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Patrick Kruse and I am the founder and director of R&D at Ruffwear. Over the years I have had the opportunity to wear many hats, product designer, marketing, photographer, sales, supply chain. These days I focus my efforts on my passion, R&D and product design and should question come up I might be the guy who shares wisdom from those experiences.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
The most recent is the epiphany that building a product is about connections with people. These days I think about the product more like some form of art. My sense is that much like art when a product connects with its audience, people’s appreciation goes beyond the surface of solving a challenge by connection to the whole experience. How a product works, looks, makes us feel, elevated our experience into something really special. These experiences and in turn drives us to make a better product.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
I have made lots of mistakes along the way, so it is hard to pinpoint just one. I have been asked this question in the past and I must admit that I have fumbled in my attempts to answer the question about mistakes or failures. I have struggled to recognize failures or mistakes because I grew up in an environment where we didn’t have mistakes or failures, we had opportunities to learn and grow. My Mom once told me, “If you are not falling you are not learning” after a ski lesson. So failures or mistakes are opportunities for learning and those experiences have a positive meaning for me. If we have to call them failures, I would say I like to fail often and fail small rather than experience a huge failure or mistake that places myself and others in harm’s way. The greatest lessons that have come from these lessons over the years is to know that I continue to learn and grow through personal experiences as well as others who share their wisdom and experiences with me.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
The relationship between humans and dogs has been around for 17,000 plus years. I don’t see that connection changing between humans and dogs anytime soon. But I see a growing trend in the acceptance of dogs in our culture and society. If you go to Europe dogs are accepted in a way that is more inclusive than we have in North America.
I also recognize the growth in competition as well, and I embrace it. Competition keeps everyone honest and pushes people to think differently. We want to continue to drive forward, and good healthy competition is what allows us to do this. I am not a fan of competition that is simply a copy of our intellectual product or using the same pattern or materials to solve the challenge. What I really enjoy is when someone brings something to share that elevates the game, and in turn, elevates our communities.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Beware of the sage who says so. The ways of the past are not necessarily the way forward. There are a lot of rules that have been in place as far as raising money, marketing, or business cultures that don’t apply in today’s environment. Today we are able to connect with our customers and find out who they are and what they need without a middleman or interpreter. The minute you lose touch with a customer or your reason why is the minute you have lost sight of who you are building your product for.
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
I have become better at saying no to offers that seem too good to be true, saying no to outside observations and contributions that don’t align with our ethos. We tend to be motivated by doing right by our customers and business partners and doing what feels good for everyone with skin in the game. By focusing on what we believe we know and what we are confident in doing we seem to be continually rewarded with our successes.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
I am not a big business book reader and having a young daughter in my life has allowed me to re-read lots of children’s books. A lot of wisdom and great lessons come from children’s books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, or James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl are just a few of the great examples. These books continually share with us that treating each other with respect, dignity and kindness are the building blocks for success. Both personal and professional. Exploring the world with open eyes and remaining open to amazing experiences will allow us to invite curiosity into our lives.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Stay hungry stay foolish, have fun and approach business with enthusiasm in a playful way. When people see you having fun they will usually want to join you or your organization and want to be part of the process. We all want to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work as long as there is a reward and some fun involved. Ignore the naysayers, critics, and people that have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
I have two:
– “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” -Thomas Edison
– “Stay hungry Stay Foolish” -Whole Earth Catalogue