You should know about Brunello Cucinelli.
He’s the billionaire founder of a $450 million fashion brand. His company is valued at more than €1.6 billion, and it’s fueled by his radical approach to business.
This is a collection of the best things I’ve learned from him.
1. He donates 20 percent of profits to charity, through his foundation.
The foundation’s mission is “to support any initiative enhancing knowledge, protecting the land and its monuments, highlighting the value of tradition, promoting spiritual and daily values of mankind.”
2. He sets strict working times.
His team starts the day at 8am and have a hard stop at 5:30pm, after which work is forbidden.
He says: “Human beings are much more creative in the morning after a good rest and after devoting time to themselves and their families.”
3. Fair work never steals people’s souls.
Cucinelli says: “I have always claimed that the human being should work a fair amount of hours, that is eight hours a day, and after that it is necessary to devote time to your spirit, your soul and your body.”
4. Improve your home town.
His company is based in a small town called Solomeo, two hours away from Florence. He’s used the company profits to build a theater, a new clocktower, and a school for artisans.
He wants to create a Borgo dello Spirito — a “Village of the Spirit.”
5. Give people moral and economic dignity.
His whole team enjoys a daily locally-sourced lunch for 90-minutes every day. In service of his values, he built a 16-feet high, 80-feet wide monument which says: “Tribute to Human Dignity.”
He says: “Man needs dignity more than bread.”
6. Make the world beautiful.
His philosophy is a blend of enlightenment and romanticism, which comes to life in his light-filled factory.
His obsession with beauty is so strong that he asks employees to drink out of glasses instead of bottles when they sit at their desks.
7. Share your mission by writing online.
Cucinelli shares his philosophies on the brand’s website. His essay titles define the company’s ethos: “The Decline of Consumerism in Favor of a Fair Use of Things,” “Humanist Artisans of the Web” and “Address to the Masters of Labour.”
8. Relax on the weekends.
Employees aren’t allowed to send emails on the weekends, so they can enjoy rest, contemplation, and family time. He quotes Emperor Hadrian who said: “The daily business, the daily life, the daily chores, kills the human being.“
On the weekends, I aspire for “otium.”
It’s a Latin word for leisure. But it’s not the American kind where you sit around and do nothing. It’s the Roman kind where you play sports, contemplate life, and consume great art.
— David Perell (@david_perell) October 3, 2020
9. Transform the pain of your past into beauty in your future.
Growing up, Cucinelli saw how unjustly his father was treated at work. After watching him suffer from a “malaise of the soul,” he set out to build a company defined by beauty, craft, and fair working hours.
10. Stay local.
He sources his cashmere from goats in Mongolia, but his headquarters is still based in a small Italian village, where most of his workers live. One 90-year old resident said: “Before, this place was a sh*thole, but Mr. Cucinelli has given the place some dignity.”
11. Surround yourself with ancient wisdom.
On the weekends, he keeps technology at a distance so he can look after his soul. He decorates his surroundings with tributes to novelists and Greek philosophers.
“The true way to nurture your soul is philosophy.”
12. Trust your gut.
Cucinelli dropped out of engineering school when he was 24 years old. In business, he avoids moving too fast or being rushed. He likes using cashmere because it can for multiple generations and people don’t throw it away.
13. Heed ancient wisdom.
Cucinelli wants to enhance the spirit of his hometown instead of changing it. That means honoring tradition and the essential culture of a place. To improve it, he follows a classical architectural style that’s “the physical embodiment of his ideals.”
14. Live in the relentless pursuit of culture.
His self-imposed reading curriculum draws from a pantheon of sages from Socrates to Saint Benedict. He says: “I am very rigorous with myself. You have to take care of the mind with studies, the soul with prayer, and then your body.
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