Much has changed since 1912, but some things remain the same. The values that the company's founder, L.L. Bean, was raised to believe in were simple and deeply ingrained. Nature is something to be revered. Family ties are a priority. Being neighborly is a matter of course. And "do unto others" is not just a saying, but a way of life. When L.L. launched his company, he believed so strongly in the Golden Rule that he made it the foundation of his business.
L.L.s Golden Rule
"Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings and they will always come back for more."
–Leon Leonwood Bean
L.L. understood the value of a satisfied customer. Along with his Golden Rule, the 100% satisfaction guarantee has been in place since the first pair of Maine Hunting Shoes was sold in 1912.
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
We make pieces that last, and if they don’t, we want to know about it. L.L. himself always said that he “didn’t consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and the customer still satisfied.” Our guarantee is a handshake – a promise that we’ll be fair to each other. So if something’s not working or fitting or standing up to its task or lasting as long as you think it should, we’ll take it back. We want to make sure we keep our guarantee the way it’s always been for over a century.
L.L.'s philosophy concerning the value of a customer has also withstood the test of time. The following definition of a customer was a favorite of L.L.'s and is as critical to L.L.Bean's success today as it was during L.L.'s tenure:
What is a Customer?
A customer is the most important person ever in this company – in person or by mail.
A customer is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him.
A customer is not an interruption of our work, he is the purpose of it.
We are not doing a favor by serving him, he is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.
A customer is not someone to argue or match wits with. Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.
A customer is a person who brings us his wants. It is our job to handle them profitably to him and to ourselves.
The L.L.Bean Stakeholder Concept
Leon Gorman clearly took his grandfather's lessons to heart. Early during his term as president, Leon introduced the "stakeholder concept." Leon felt strongly that as a values-based company, L.L.Bean should have as its purpose to add value to everyone who had a vested interest in the company. L.L.Bean's success depends on how well the company meets the objectives of its stakeholders. He described L.L.Bean's stakeholders as customers, employees, stockholders, vendors, communities and the natural environment.