OUTSIDE MAGAZINE lists Drake Cooper as the 11th best place to work in the U.S.

Yesterday, a representative from Outside Magazine called to let us know we made their Top One Hundred Best Places To Work list for a second year in a row! After a 26 ranking last year, this year I’m proud and very humbled to say Drake Cooper holds down the number 11 spot.

I’m going to tell you a story that I’ve not told very many people. It’s not really about Outside Magazine but it is about what they represent. I don’t share this story often, not because it’s any big secret, but because it sounds a bit movie-script-made-up. However, it’s the truth. Truth in advertising, as they say.

Around 1993 I was living in Nashville, Tennessee flipping through the pages of my favorite magazine, dreaming of my next big adventure. As I let my imagination run to wild spots all over the planet, I happened upon an ad for Idaho. The image was of a group of people having a great time in a raft rolling down one of Idaho’s big rivers and the headline read ” “Bake, boil and shred this potato.” So you are probably wondering how I remember these specifics from somewhere around twenty years ago. It’s memorable because I cut that ad out of the magazine and I kept it. The undiscovered aura of Idaho spoke to me and, well, I was listening.

Soon, I found a frame and located a hammer and nail and made it a permanent part of my office. When a recruiter called me completely out of the blue a couple of years later to talk about a startup in Boise, Idaho, I said, “Of course”. In 1996, the first weekend my brand new bride stepped foot in this state, we joined friends on a wonderful river trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon and while staring up at the night stars and breathing in the vast remote mountains, we fell in love with Idaho. We never looked back. Three kids and many ski weekends, bike adventures, backpacking and river trips under our belt, this place is home and will always be.

It would be some years later that I would meet Bill Drake and learn about his advertising agency. From him I learned that business is really about people. And he told me running this sort of business was like no other. “You can’t run it from a spreadsheet”, he said. Creative people want to thrive in their craft and they need a structure that allows flexibility and support but doesn’t put them in a rigid environment. It’s not an easy business to run, regardless of the fact that it looks like it would be. It requires long hours and is totally fueled on passion. We do what we do at Drake Cooper because we love this craft. To keep that passion alive one has to occasionally get away from the devices and eThings and reset the headspace. My best ideas come on the saddle of a bike. My clearest thinking about a big problem might be after talking it out with a buddy on a chair lift at Bogus Basin.

That Idaho ad now resides proudly in my home, along with many adventure photos of friends and family. It was produced by Bill Drake’s agency all those years ago.

Nature recharges us and it opens up possibilities. It’s our organic cathedral where spirits are lifted and worries subside. In Idaho, the cathedral is in our back yard, open and accessible to all. I live for the outdoors and I wouldn’t be in this business in any other place. And I wouldn’t want to do what I do with any other people -from the amazing Drake Cooper team, to the wonderful clients we are fortunate to serve – I am really living my dream.

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A shout out to other companies in Idaho making the list this year too. Congratulations to my close friend, whom I’ve shared a few river beers, ski days and bike rides with, Pete Gombert and his team at Balihoo as well as our good friends up in Sun Valley, Smith Optics who have been on the list for several years.

Here’s some background on how companies are selected :

Outside’s “Best Places to Work” project celebrates innovative companies setting a new standard for a healthy work-life balance. The list was compiled with the help of the Outdoor Industry Association and Best Companies Group. The yearlong selection process began with an outreach effort that identified a wide range of non-profit and for-profit organizations with at least 15 employees working in an office in the United States. Participating companies were sent confidential employee-satisfaction surveys and employer-questionnaires to collect information about benefits, compensation, policies, job satisfaction, environmental initiatives, and community outreach programs. The experts at the Best Companies Group then analyzed the results and selected the companies that best enable employees to pursue active lifestyles while also supporting their social and environmental contributions.

-j